I stood, staring in the mirror at a Target in Philadelphia after I slid on a pair of ripped skin tight jeans and a simple blue and white stripped top with an open neck and it felt right. I had been wearing clothing cut for girls since I was a child, but I always did it in secrecy and it was never something that I had actually picked out. It was always clothes belonging to my mother, exaggerated Halloween costumes or dress-up with the few friends I had who I could trust with my being a transgender girl. The instances of trying to find an appearance that lined up with how I felt internally when it came to gender was never something resonant in the clothing I tried on until I bought some myself with my own money. I dove into fashion very slowly, but it didn't take long for me to figure out that I loved the idea of clothes mirroring my personality or my mood. I didn't jump in head first and buy dress after dress or layer up with earrings, necklaces and other accessories, because I'm still a very jeans a tee shirt kind of girl, but the power within finding yourself and your identity through clothing and finally reconciling a part of your gender identity that had long been denied was powerful. Those jeans don't fit anymore, and I hardly ever wear that top for the same reason, but I don't think I'll ever get rid of those clothes, because they were "me" in a time when I was first finding myself, and when I was figuring out what kind of a woman I wanted to be. Fashion has been a huge part of that. Now, whether I'm wearing skirts or jeans, black or white, flats or heels I'm always myself, and that freedom was resonant in the first year of my coming out. Now clothing is just a normal everyday part of my life, but I still get a thrill out of finding something that is so resolutely me that I must own it, or at least try it on, and I'm still obsessed with gazing at clothing.
What I find most interesting about these two Susan Seidelman films is their insistence upon fashion being a defining characteristic for these women and for her lens.
When Seidelman shoots her characters often times it is from the feet up, but it's not about a sexual gaze or the leering of bodies, but instead it's to get a full look at an outfit. Her lens becomes a mirror that moves from heels to hose to dress to necklace to make-up to hair, and it's almost always shot through the eyes of a character who happens to be a woman. There's a lovingness in gesture towards this camera movement that screams "Look at this outfit!", that personifies a covetous feeling that is most present in Desperately Seeking Susan's role model as New Wave Goddess imagery through Madonna, and it's entirely about the ensemble instead of the body which makes Seidelman's lens feel intrinsically linked to clothing. In turn this makes the way she shoots women to feel both a celebration of women and femininity.