May 29, 2020
Did you know that 67% of Bostonians haven’t changed their socks since the State of Emergency was delcared? It’s a fact. You are living passively in a sad epoch known (by me) as “pandemic-induced post fashion.” Still, many of us, eyes bleary, spend our nights, days, day-nights, whatever time it is, binge watching shows on Netflix and thinking “I could rock those pants. I could make those shoes…werk?” Apathy towards public presentation, driven in part by the idea that world will end soon so nothing matters, has collided with our low-level mourning over the prospect of a continued Trumpy, virusy world. And so you wear your outfit: old Thai fried rice stained sweatpants and the hoodie with the wrists stretched out, dangling like a flag at half-mast… outside the old mall no one goes to anymore.
But if I told you that it doesn’t have to be that way, would you believe me? Cause it don’t! Take it from many of the city’s progressive queers, who don’t happen to find being fashionable and making the movement work to be mutually exclusive. No, no, some find that the two pair quite nicely together, (not unlike thai fried rice and sweatpants). Enter Misty Cranston-Bates, creator of @theprincequeen: creative maker and queer, a leader in liberation-oriented community mental health, who has joined the good fight in using her fashion-based art to fund COVID-19 efforts. I caught up with Misty recently and we spoke about her custom painted bowtie hustle, the relationship between fashion and personal expression, and how buying one of her Prince Queen bowties will help fund a very important grassroots COVID-19 effort, the Mass Redistribution Fund.
Bowties offer that little touch that can make the outfit. They reveal that the person who wears them has dressed with intention. There is also a quirky element that serves as a reminder to not take life too seriously.
Freedom in fashion means bold and brave expressions of visual self. Sometimes that can look like wearing loud colors, or unexpected textures, or fashion that manipulates any prescribed or assumed dress code. It means to truly feel free in what you are wearing and to own that freedom. It means wearing what you wear with pride.
Historically, queer people have used fashion to break free from conformity. In this way, my queerness inspires how I design and transform the traditional black bowtie. I use paint as a medium to do this.
I have many fashion icons, but if I had to choose a few I would say Missy Elliot, Elton John, and Janelle Monae. They all convey freedom, creativity, and bold statement in their fashion.
MA Redistribution Fund works to support community organizations that address marginalized people who have been hit by COVID the hardest. This includes priosners, low income families, undocumented families, those facing housing instability, and those experiencing job loss.
I think we are all getting more creative in these times. This shows up in our ability to adapt and shift under the current circumstances. Being resourceful itself requires creativity. People are out here making face masks. In this way creativity is survival. Neighbors are singing together from their doorstep to show collective support. Local poets are using video platforms to host open mics. I talked with someone the other day who is working on a visual installation representative of political injustice during COVID.
Dressing up is fun even if you cannot go anywhere. So buy a bowtie and provide mutual aid at the same time.