Zoe’s Queer Looks donation is an everyday, all-black ensemble, consisting of skinny jeans, a fitted long-sleeved top, a choker and a pair of lace-up heeled boots. This is the sort of outfit that Zoe feels most comfortable in. ‘I’m 4ft 10,’ she says. ‘If I put on a pair of heels I always feel more confident.’
Zoe is originally from China and, having been adopted by an English family as a baby, grew up in Portsmouth. She hasn’t always gone about her day-to-day life in outfits like this one. ‘I feel so much more comfortable wearing this kind of thing in Brighton. Especially with the chokers and the platform boots and a lot of black and maybe even ripped jeans; I feel like I can wear more of what I want to wear in Brighton as opposed to when I was living in Portsmouth. Brighton, just as a general city, is so much more open and so much more accepting,’ Zoe tells us. Before leaving Portsmouth, she felt compulsion to dress in a style that she describes as ‘girly’, for fear of being judged otherwise. ‘I don’t know what a stereotypical bi person looks like,’ she laughs, ‘but before I felt pressure to look more feminine and that also meant to look more straight. Moving to Brighton alleviated that.’
In the past, Zoe’s found that expressing a bisexual identity isn’t always straightforward. ‘Being bi’s quite strange because in my experience, people have understood that less than if I could have told that person I was gay,’ she tells us. This occasional confusion is something that Zoe sometimes enjoys, however. She tells us about a time when a colleague commented on her dress sense, and its ambiguity in regards to channelling her sexuality. ‘I liked that,’ she admits; it meant that she was no longer dressing definitively ‘straight’.
‘When I was growing up I think I always cared too much about fitting in and the popular people at school,’ Zoe admits. ‘I think I thought that was the be-all and end-all and nobody told me that there’s more to life than that. I was very concerned about wearing and looking like whatever was the accepted “way” at that point, and being accepted by the people I was surrounded by. There were times I’d wear things and think to myself: “I’m just wearing this for the sake of fitting in or looking cool at school.” Looking back now, that was such a silly thing to do.’ Today, Zoe still looks to her surroundings for inspiration, but from a far more self-assured position. Way more than by fashion magazines, her dress style is influenced by the place she lives and the people around her; friends, colleagues, people in the street. ‘My role models are everywhere,’ she explains.