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Closet Cases: Queers on What We Wear

Megan Volpert, editor

Et Alia Press

March 2020

Other

Center for Cabinet Box: Queers on What We Wear is that we are what we wear. The identity we project and the identity we aspire to be communicated to others through our choices in self-presentation. Each of the 75 people featured on Cabinet Box consciously deciding what to wear because their clothes, jewelry, scarves and shoes – oh, especially shoes – make a statement.

With a perfect 8.5 “x 8.5” square design and dynamic quality art photographs, it’s easy to consider Cabinet Box as a coffee table book. But coffee table books are fun to flip through just for their visual appeal, and usually don’t include interesting personal essays like those that complement every photo on Cabinet Box.

In “A Brief History of My Underwear”, Gerard Wozek reflecting her mother’s belief that she must always wear impeccably clean white underwear made in a washing machine as chemically as possible. His devotion to the traditional boy’s pants was so serious that six packs of Fruit of the Loom underpants were standard gifts, from birthdays to Christmas.

Going out for Wozek means admitting his desire for something bolder than ordinary boy’s pants. Wozek described many phases in trying the color and style of underwear as he became more comfortable with his sexuality. Finally, and happily, he admitted “his obsession was identified as strange” with men’s underwear. “No one will find bleach in my laundry basket,” Wozek concluded. “I’d rather wear a rainbow.”

Max Voltage, a genderqueer musician, wrote “My Gender Is”, a long-winded list of clothes, accessories and identities. Like Wozek, Voltage enjoys expressive and extreme expressions, “boxes in boxes” and “infinity scarves made from recycled sweaters”. Gender binaries were destroyed with Max’s “nail polish and bow tie” and “eyeliner and glitter beard”.

Voltage biography statement said that they are members of “Turnback Boyz, a strange time traveler boy band, where they play ‘Peter Pansy’, the fiddle violinist of the future.” Max is a classically trained violinist, combining their “artistic sensitivity and radical politics” in the fusion of music and fashion. The photo accompanying Max’s writing shows them wearing bright floral shirts and traditional striped pants with suspenders, leaning on the violin.

Likewise, Ben Pechey described how dressing as someone who is not binary “makes you feel light and happy”, as can be seen clearly in the accompanying photos. Pechey wore a swaying black dress with pink flowers and pink heels that matched the pointy toe. Their faces showed the joy they were describing, being captured with full laughter, their mouths open. Noteworthy is Pechy’s statement that their intention is not to make a political statement or to cause a reaction but rather to just have fun. Their biography notes that “growing up, they never saw or knew anyone like themselves. Now they are very comfortable with who they are and are actually present in the community.”

Indeed, strong threads that stretch Cabinet Box is the level of comfort and self-celebration that Pechey explained. Being able to inspire others who don’t adhere to gender to wear what they want and enjoy their self-presentation is another theme that echoes throughout.

The youngest of the individuals featured was 12-year-old Desmond Napoles, also known by his stage name Desmond is extraordinary. He was inspired by RuPaul Drag Race before he started kindergarten, and according to his website, appeared on the show when he was seven years old. “I believe there is no wrong way to drag,” he said, noting that “there is potentially a really great outfit.” In his photo, Desmond’s excessive eyelashes and excessive facial paint reminded Twiggy of the 1960s.

Tig Kashala writes that “as a costume designer, I am always interested in fabric as a way to create characters and portraits – playing with contrast and unity.” This sensibility informs their own fad, saying that although their style is not meant to be a statement, it seems to make a statement anyway. “I carry queer on the soles of my feet and I walk with purpose.”

Mindy Dawn Friedman writes about his love for bow ties, which he considers subverting the gender paradigm in fashion. He remembers his admiration for seeing a picture of Marlene Dietrich in a bow tie and hat, a clear image functioning as inspiration.

Although Cabinet Box Not necessarily a fashion book, many of the people featured, such as Tig Kashala, have some relationship with the fashion industry. “Fashion violations by Friedman have graced the runway at New York Fashion Week.” He considers himself a “visual activist”, a term that tends to be adopted by many of those included in it Cabinet Box.

Uzo Ejikeme writes that “strange communities thrive in authenticity; therefore, it is equally important for us to use fashion to express our identities, which we deeply value.”

Like all individuals in Cabinet BoxEjkeme points out that fashion is a verb for the LGBTQ + community, using style and artifacts to build a self-image that is a statement and truth. This book celebrates that sensibility, creating a happy feeling in self-expression.

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