How to Dress Well, How to Feel at Home

Oct 3 2019

I love clothes a lot. I’m not a fashion expert or historian or critic in the slightest, but my favorite thing about any event, especially ones attended by queer and/or trans folk, is that it’s also a runway, without any need to explicitly name it as such. Some of the smaller queer venues in Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago are places I’ve come into my own personal style, largely through watching others. This means that part of my agenda while settling into Athens was to observe the fashion trends within queer daytime and nightlife crowds, as way of trying to notice who wore what and what it meant for their role in the scene. I’ve noticed that DJs, designers, photographers, painters, queens, writers, dancers, etc. all dress similarly within these sub-identifications, but there are a few unifying trends I’d like to mark. Alongside that, I am attempting to note the differences and similarities between queer Athenian style(s) and the looks I’ve seen back in the States.

I’ve gotten to know a few fashion designers in Athens, and after having run my observations past them, I want to share the three major trends one should follow if trying to go out in Athens:

  1. Wear all black, don’t forget to accessorize.
  2. Wear sunglasses outside, inside, or both.
  3. Add some street-style art or words onto your clothes with permanent marker.

//

Earlier this month, I attended the opening of Anima I, a solo exhibition by contemporary Greek artist Jannis Varelas, hosted at the Benaki Museum (Pireos). The show featured a series of paintings, sculptures, costumes, photographs, and process footage from Varelas, as well as selected objects from the Benaki’s collection. The paintings were portraits of Varelas’ friends and neighbors wearing full costumes, a few costume pieces, or nothing on their bodies. The models varied in age, assumed sex, and body type–which was refreshing to see–though these were the only variations. After the portraits were painted, Varelas distorted and embellished them with organic-line shapes & symbols, reminiscent of the crayon-scribbled “graffiti” of young children. Probably due to these surreal visual layers, the gallery-space felt transformed into an alternate universe—one where the body loses some of the conservative boundaries we’re taught it ought to obey.

Witnessing this exhibition felt particularly emotional for me, mostly as a queer person living in a new city, away from the queer & trans artists I call home, but also as a queer writer attempting to imagine what the queer body can be beyond what the cis-heteronormative world dictates for it.

//

Of course, not all of the queer people going out in Athens are from here, so fashion trends from cities like London, Paris, and Berlin make their way into the mix. This international variance means that the trends break down into even more sub-categories, and that there’s a noticeable difference between DJs from Berlin and DJs from Athens, which I find pretty funny. Not to mention the looks I’ve seen at that fall outside of all noticeable trends, one of my favorites being someone who clipped butterfly barrettes onto every inch of their hair, top, and belt.

All this in mind, I feel I’ve seen what makes the queer Athenian fashion scene unique as well as completely connected to trends from around the world. One major difference I’ve noticed between the scene in Athens and scenes in the US, which I hope the US might catch on to with more passion, is wearing a larger amount of secondhand clothing that has been entirely redesigned or embellished. Even the people creating “new” clothing in popular boutiques or small labels emphasize sustainability and use vintage materials wherever they can in their work. All in all, I’ve noticed more similarities than differences between the queer fashion of Athens and cities in the US, which I find has helped me feel more at home and comfortable socializing.

//

I attended Varelas’ show with a friend from Paris–another queer artist–staying in Athens for a month, and we marveled at the wild connectivity we felt with this art challenging a global violence as pervasive as anti-queerness, and how easy it was to forget we were somewhere thousands of miles away from the local communities we love, know, and feel held by. To hold identities so tied to marginal / countercultural spaces, as many queer people have proclaimed, can make the unfamiliar (straight) world feel full of more danger than places you might feel welcome in. Despite this, the knowing nods and gestures on public transportation or out on the streets I’ve shared here with other artists and queers continue to ground me in ways that make Athens feel simultaneously huge with possibility, and as comfortably small as my friends’ apartments back at home in America.