Not gonna write up Saturday or Sunday tonight; suffice it to say that I've mostly had a good time this weekend. Made some new friends, reconnected with some old friends, attended various thought-provoking and/or entertaining panels and readings, had some good food.

But for now, just a side note about a particular aspect of tonight.

When I was packing for WisCon, I considered packing my black suit (to wear to the fancy-dress portion of Sunday evening), but then I thought:

  • Carrying the suit (in my garment bag) is a pain, and adds another bag to check, and so on.
  • I've been wearing this suit to pretty much every dress-up event for the past, what, eight years or so? Something like that. And I still like it, and I still rarely get a chance to wear it, and I still get compliments whenever I wear it (esp. with the blue tie and nice shirt and cufflinks) but I think I'm not gonna bring it this time.

So I decided not to dress up on Sunday. But then I thought: hey, Mary Anne gave me a sarong a couple years ago that I've never actually worn, and I could wear a silk shirt in hopes of getting petted, and that would be reasonably fancy. But I don't want to take my dress shoes, so I'll just wear my normal black-and-white Converse sneakers, and it'll be less fancy but kind of fun. And if I decide not to dress up at all, it's not like the silk shirt and sarong take up much space in my luggage.

So that's what I did. And this evening I ironed the sarong, and looked up how to wear one online, and wore the sarong and the silk shirt to the evening's festivities. (Though I may well have gotten the length wrong; I couldn't quite tell how long it was supposed to be, but there was a horizontal seam about halfway up so I decided that was probably the waist.)

I enjoyed the cognitive dissonance: on the one hand, I'm wearing a skirt, so that's kind of a genderfuck thing, which most people at WisCon seem to appreciate, and which I'm a little uncomfortable with doing myself (though I appreciate it in others) but is kind of neat to try every once in a while. But on the other hand, a sarong is actually gender-appropriate clothing--it's just gender-appropriate clothing from another culture, like a kilt only less well-known in the US. So to some people it looked like I was cross-gender-dressing, while to others it looked like I was engaging in cultural appropriation.

Some people said, "Nice skirt!", and I thanked them but smugly (tongue-in-cheek) corrected them, explaining that it was a sarong, and thus manly and not at all girly. And some people said "Nice sarong!" and I thanked them. And one person called out, "Hey, Jed! Nice sarong!" and when I turned to thank her, added, "But you've gotta lose the socks!" I thought about going barefoot, but wasn't thrilled with that idea, and it hadn't occurred to me to bring flats to wear with the outfit, so I just stuck with the cheerfully mixed message of the sarong plus the sneakers and black socks. (And a couple of other people said the shoes really made the outfit, so there you go.)

I did have a moment or two of mental gender weirdness, especially when I was getting dressed and realized I would have no pockets, and I told Karen I might wear my usual waistpack, and she said don't, so I thought about finding a man with pockets to carry my stuff for the evening. :) (The waistpack is an ongoing point of minor contention between me and various others; I find it incredibly useful and exactly what I need in many contexts, but, as I think someone (perhaps Nick M?) pointed out long ago, even a black waistpack is just not as cool as the people who wear them may think. At any rate, it's certainly not dressy; I don't wear it with my suit, for example.) In the end, I just carried my camera and cell phone in my hands all evening, and kept my room key in my shirt pocket.

But for much of the evening, I felt reasonably comfortable in the sarong. It was kind of interesting to realize I couldn't really sit down on the floor in it, but that didn't really get in the way; I just sat in a chair. And the sarong was slightly constricting of motion, but not all that much. And it never started to come undone. But mostly, the part of my brain that's concerned about gender-appropriateness seems to have been convinced that I was wearing male clothing. I found it much less self-consciousness-inducing than the sari a few years back.

I seem to recall that one of the things I found disconcerting about the sari was that my back was exposed, which pretty much never happens in public normally, and made me feel kind of vulnerable. So the fact that I was wearing one of my usual silk shirts with the sarong may've helped me feel more comfortable with it.

Sadly, the silk shirt did not increase petting. (What do you have to do to increase petting around here? In the old days, at parties at home I could wear a silk shirt and everyone would pet me. These days, not so much.) But I did get a nice back rub from Dan. (Which I think I failed to thank you for. Thank you, Dan!)

Various people took photos, I think, so I imagine they'll pop up online sooner or later. If all else fails, I took a self-photo after I got back to my room, so I'll eventually post that.

Anyway. It's nearly 3 a.m., and unlike the past couple nights, I'm wide awake. But I think I'd better go try to get some sleep.

But I wanted to note in passing, entirely unrelated to any of the above, that I saw at least 41 SH fiction authors here this weekend, at least 5 of whom I hadn't met before. We've bought stories from just over 200 authors, so just about exactly 20% of our fiction authors were here. I am pleased.

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12 Responses to “Sarong”

  1. M. C. A. Hogarth

    My fashion censors must have burnt out long ago on my love of clothing from different cultures and time periods, because clothing to me doesn’t gender-assign people. A man in a cassock or a robe is still a man even if he’s got the fwoosh going on. It’s how he walks in it that makes his gender identity. Men and women walk very differently. 🙂

  2. Wayman

    I really liked this entry, Jed. I’ve been thinking a lot about gendered clothing recently, partly as a continuation of years of thinking about it but partly spurred by the recent 90-degree weather and my wardrobe consisting mostly of denim (and I hate hate hate shorts). I have one pair of “man capris” that I bought in the Netherlands, which are wonderful, but well, one pair ‘n’ all. Dunno that I’m going to go out and buy a skirt right away (which I’d like for a lot of practical and personal reasons, but which would be extraordinarily difficult for a lot of social and workplace reasons) or a sarong (which would be almost more jarring at work, in a way), but it’s encouraging to hear that you had such a positive experience here.

    M. Hogarth’s comment about walks is something I’ve observed before, and played with, but I don’t know to what success. It’s a very true observation.

  3. JessieSS

    Sorry I missed that! I wish we had more fwoosh male clothing in the U.S. I remember the first time I saw a man strutting around in pseudo-medieval robes and realized that it was easy to make a dress be really, really butch. Everyone knows that pants can be very feminine. (Insert here my ongoing observation that it’s much more legit for a woman to aspire to maleness than vice versa.)

  4. Jay Hartman


    Post that picture, of you in the sarong!

    I have a kilt and have worn it a couple times..once to our office holiday party and once to a scotch whiskey tasting event at my house. I always wear it with my Bonnie Prince Charlie and my tuxedo shirt and black bowtie. And of course I wear it with the sporran (man purse, highly convenient), as well as the special hose and flashing. No, I do not wear it “regimental” style!

    The absolute best thing? The simple adjustable velcro closure mechanism in the kilt that allows you to give yourself another inch around the waist very, very easily…makes the kilt the most comfortable thing I own, and I wish I had more occasions to wear it! (I will send you a picture, Jed, if you want.)

  5. badgerbag

    You were cute as a bug in the sarong! It looked good.

    A very small thin shoulder-strap messenger bag works for formal stuff-carrying. But you can also just put your ID and your money in your sock.

  6. Jed

    M.C.A.: Interesting. But I think of cassocks and robes as male, or at least gender-neutral, clothing. So what about a man who’s wearing a very femme evening gown, or a miniskirt, or a Catholic schoolgirl outfit? Does that still not seem gender-inappropriate to you? …That’s an honest question, of course, not sarcasm; I’m just curious. …I was previously unfamiliar with the term “fwoosh”; unfortunately, a little online research leaves me still uncertain what you meant by it, though I think I got the general idea. Can you elaborate? …Interesting about walks; I’d been told about the differences between gay men’s and straight men’s walks before, but I don’t know if I notice the difference between men’s and women’s walks. Further research (on my part) is indicated.

    Wayman: Well, it’s worth noting that WisCon (esp. during the dress-up evening) is a very safe space for such things. (Though I think Jackie M got some weird flak for wearing a tie; I don’t know what’s up with that.) On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that a certain male member of the class of ’88, whom you know although you may not know this about him (but I don’t want to mention his name in public), wore a denim skirt for a significant period at Swat, and I always got the impression that most people took it pretty much in stride. But that was 20 years ago; don’t know how things have changed there in that regard.

    Jessie: Neat re a dress being butch. I don’t think I’ve thought of it that way before–but I’ve definitely seen a pretty butch guy wearing a flowy skirt, which seems similar to what you’re talking about.

    Jay: See the link Haddayr posted. I’ll also probably post my self-portrait eventually, but it didn’t come out so well. …Yes, please do send me a kilt photo. (If you want, you can post it to a Picasa Web Album but mark it as non-publicly-visible, then email me the URL; I promise not to link to it.) I had no idea you even had a kilt! …Re sporran: I see the waistpack as the modern version of the sporran, but apparently I’m alone in this. …Nifty re adjustable closure.

    Jackie: Cool! Thanks! …The reason the link didn’t work is that you had an extra space in the middle of your a href tag; I’ve removed the space, and the link now works, so I’ve also removed your followup posting.

    Badgerbag, whose real name I’m not sure I’m allowed to say: Aww. Thanks! Speaking of cute, I have some photos of you as well. Will post soon. …Yeah, Mary Anne tried to get me a messenger bag for Xmas, but it had a velcro closure (although I recognize the value of velcro, I just don’t like it), and it doesn’t look formal to me even though I’m willing to believe it is. Perhaps as I get more used to them I’ll be willing to switch to one–certainly I disliked waistpacks for years. Possibly because they were mostly called fanny packs.

    Haddayr: Thanks for the photo! Pix of you forthcoming soonish.

  7. JessieSS

    Well, I was thinking more of something like this, which is essentially a dress by modern standards. I am also mostly thinking of actors for whom this costume means “I’m in charge and I’ll cut your head off without thinking twice” but, you know, I did completely buy it. It’s true that something specifically coded female in my home culture would be harder. I think? Maybe it would depend on the man.

  8. Jacob

    I’ve worn a kilt many times (mostly, but not exclusively, in kilt-appropriate settings such as Scottish dancing) and to me they seems completely masculine, even though I’m not Scottish. I will note, though, that it makes a big difference (to my eye) if they are worn “properly” — a kilt that falls with the hem just at the middle of the kneecap looks very masculine to me, while one that’s a bit shorter or longer looks much more like a skirt (again, to my eye). Someone who knows about proper Scottish dress pointed that out to me; before he did, I was aware that kilts sometimes looked more masculine than not, but wouldn’t have been able to point to why.

    My point being that, for some of this it’s-masculine-in-its-
    home-culture-but-looks-feminine-here type of clothing, there may be a “correct” way it’s worn (in its home culture) that would look masculine here too. Or maybe not.

  9. Victor Raymond

    Ambrose Bierce’s definition of the kilt aside, I’ve found that wearing a kilt is socially ambiguous, for much the same reasons you mention for wearing a sarong. Left to my own devices, however, I’d wear a great kilt (the older much-folded plaid) rather than the modern kilt. The modern kilt seems like a very adapted and almost “fake” costume, and the older great kilt is simply sometimes easier to wear – and seems more masculine, as well.

  10. M. C. A. Hogarth

    To me, it’s less that a femme dress or schoolgirl outfit is gendered and more that it just doesn’t look good on a guy. I think some people would say that ‘accentuating your male body’ is a gendered thing for you to do with clothing, but to me it’s just an aesthetic thing. A dress made to flatter a woman is going to look silly on a guy. You should find a dress that flatters a man’s shape, emphasizes the triangular/rectangular build, rather than trying to make something designed for someone with breasts and hips look good on someone who doesn’t have them.

    Does that make sense? This may be an artistic point of view; I’m not sure.

    Fwoosh is a term that was accidentally coined to go along with my artwork and (I am guessing) has broader application elsewhere… it’s the sense of flowing lines. It seems to also apply to fiction, where Fwoosh means not just good scene-setting, but a sense of flyaway romance/beauty.

    Hope this helps. 🙂


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