One Can Seem to be Everything and Nothing at all Through The Use of Clothing; Alter Identity Project

November 22, 2013 (3.5 hours)

   This was my first day of dressing up as a homeless person. I had planned out all of my experiment in Los Angeles but since I will be connecting this experience with some past personal experience I decided to start my project in my home town, Riverside, CA. On this day I wore some ripped levis pants, a white t-shirt, an old purple wool sweater, a ripped white sock and some red sandals. I decided to go to my old house, I went there to pick up some old clothing that I could then wear for further days. Dressed as a homeless I felt as if I fit into the chaos of all the broken glass, the old toys the wood covering the windows and the old cars. Once I got some clothing and a little back pack I decided to walk with absolutely no destination in mind, I walked throughyo my old neighborhood remembering the way I once judged homeless people as I would watch from my window late at night. I believe that Riverside people differ from LA people, in that I believe people judge more in Riverside because it is a smaller city. I walked over and made my way to the old local thrift shop, there I dug in their “FREE” box of clothes, and I took about two pieces of clothing. There were two men outside washing cars for church donations and although they saw me they did not say anything to me. From there I walked to the church, my family and I have been going for all of my life, I thought this would be a great place to take this experiment because I wanted to play with the morals of people. I wanted them to feel bad as they drove by in their new cars seeing this homeless girl sitting in front of the church steps. Since there were only about five other people in the streets aside from me, mostly everyone who drove by turned and looked at me. They would just stare, no emotions no nothing just a blank stare. But there was this one young man (probably in his thirties) who when he saw me, he looked up to the Virgin Mary mounted on the top of the church and made the sign of the cross. This touched me because I felt as if though he felt somewhat sad seeing me there, it made me realize that religion still plays a role in the way we perceive each other.

November 25, 2013 (6 hours)

     This was the second day of my experiment and I wore red and black checkered pants, an over-sized white t-shirt, an LA blue baseball hat, a ripped sock and some black sandals. With me I carried a green reusable bag that I brought with me from Riverside and my cardboard sign. I took with me enough change to catch the bus that took me to down town LA. At the bus stop there was a man, he was also homeless, he looked at me a couple of times but did not say a word to me. As I stood there I started noticing how little I felt compared to the world, I also noticed how slow times seemed to be passing. Once the bus arrived I got in and started putting my change in the slot, it did not accept some of my coins but the bus driver told me that it was fine to go ahead and sit down. I went and I sat down next to an old man, he kept looking at me all through the ride. Out of all the people that boarded the bus there was only an old lady that decided to sit next to me. The whole bus ride, I received tons of stares. Once I got to my stop I got off of the bus, and I started walking towards Seventh Street. As I walked purposely really close to rich restaurants, I caught people’s stare from the corner of my eye. I walked about five blocks down towards Los Angeles street, then I walked back towards Grand street and I sat outside the Macy’s plaza in holding my cardboard sign that read “Anything Helps God Bless”. As I sat there I observed the different reactions of homeless people, middle class people, and rich people. Mostly all the homeless people noticed me, some even saluted me but they did not try to make any conversation. The middle-class people did not even look my way it was if their head were mounted to high up in the sky that they did not even notice my existence down below. And lastly the people of wealth, dressed in business attire did notice me and for some reason a lot of them would reach into their pocket but no one gave me money that night. That night I remembered feeling so close to earth for once in my life, I felt as if I was not connected to society. It was freezing cold that day, and it made sad to think about how thousands of people all around the world are homeless and have no other choice than to bear all types of harsh conditions. As I sat there this young guy sat close to me, I believe he was waiting for his bus, I also noticed two homeless men also asking for money near me. Then came one of the securities on a bike, and I noticed the two men get up really fast and start walking away, I stayed. After the security guy rode passed me, he suddenly came back and stopped right next to me, I got scared I stood up and I left. It was then when I noticed that I did not have any change but a twenty-dollar bill in my pocket, I knew I needed change to catch the bus so I decided to go to into Walgreen and buy something. I was scared at what the employees reactions towards me would be like but I did not care I needed the change. The minute I walked in one of the employers looked at me and kept saying different codes over the microphone, I felt as if they were warning everyone that I was in there. This brought to mind a quote from our book that said “fashion is but a principle of social distinction and assimilation”, I then realize dhow true this quote is for our eyes only see fashion then we assimilate that fashion to a social class. I decided to purchase water because all that walking got me very tired and I was very thirsty, as I went up to pay for it a girl cashier rung me up. She treated me extra nice, she asked me how my day was going and I responded good but in a very sad way, she did the transaction and told me to have a great day. I opened the water as soon as I got out of the store, it was the best water I ever had. I could not stand the cold anymore and decided to go back; I got home around 9:30.hbobsup

                                             (Before & After Pictures)

November 27, 2013 (2.5 hours)

  On this day I decided to stay near my apartment, the CSULA area. I wore some skinny jeans of mine, the white t-shirt, one sock, a brown hoodie and my grey beanie. On this day I had very heavy makeup and I tried hiding my face with my hair. I sat outside of the liquor store located on valley. About 90% of the customers of this store are students and they did notice me but were very casual and just ignored me afterwards. The one thing that stood out for me this day was that after I had done some dumpster digging, I turned around to head towards my apartment again and this car was pulling into the liquor store parking lot and I clearly remember a guy yelling “hey perra” which means “hey bitch”. It made me realize how the words that we throw each other in our society really affect the way we think of ourselves. It reminded me of the readings of how when we are going through our adolescence, the words other say to us truly do affect us. This phrase would have hurt me if I were out there just being myself, but since I knew I was playing another role I just acted as if I did not hear him. But it did make me realize and think about the name-calling that we sometimes let out of our mouths thinking that it’s funny but in reality we do not see the damage we are doing or we do not realize how stupid and uneducated we look saying calling these people certain things. I related this day’s experience to the following phrase from our book, “To extent that a person is taken as an image, he is taken as an object, not a subject.”, I felt as if though this night I had become an object of humor to some part of society.


                                                (Before & After Pictures)

November 30th , 2013 (3 hours)

    On this day I wore again my ripped levis jeans, a white blouse, the old purple coat and my red sandals. And once again I teased my hair and did very heavy makeup. I decided to dress up one last time in Riverside to take some pictures of me in my family’s new house and also to take a picture if me with my dog because if I ever was homeless, I think that the only possession I would want to have would be my dog. Another reason that I went out with my dog is because in Riverside about 90% of homeless people have dogs and since my dad has volunteered and worked in the homeless shelter, he always told me that homeless people preferred to feed their dogs first than themselves. Having my dog in my arm gave me different feedback for people would notice my dog and they would have pity for me. I went to down town riverside and they gave me compliments on my dog and some even wanted to pet her. It was funny how my dog was a distraction to the fact that I looked like a homeless, I felt as if though my dog was a bridge connecting me back to society, because somehow they acknowledged my presence because of her. There was no doubt that through this project I had become a sort of different type of person in society, Indentities Through Fashion stated that “fashion becomes a way of expressing one’s difference.”, and indeed I took fashion and made myself stand out from society, I made myself stand under society. Society saw the difference and although it was hard for me to understand some of their actions I knew that I was supposed to stand out in order to make this experiment work.


                                                  (Me and Precious)

December 1st, 2013 (7 hours)

    Today was my last day dressing up as a homeless person and I wanted to do thing a little bit different. I wore some skinny jeans, white socks and sandals, a white t-shirt and a hoodie. I did tease my hair but I did not do it too much, I felt as if though I was exaggerating it a bit too much and so I toned it down a bit. During this project I noticed that I was ashamed to show my face so I would hide it under a lot of makeup, with my hair all over my face or with my blue hat. I realized I was holding back, I felt that I was being a bit too narcissist in the sense that I was still caring what people thought about me even though I am not even homeless, so I decided to show the world my soul, for they do say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I prepared myself, took my little green bag, with my sign and made myself into down town LA, there I sat again in front of the Macy’s plaza, the reactions were the same although I noticed that more and more men were noticing me. I got a picture that night then I made myself over to La Placita Olvera, I felt really out-of-place, I remembered our reading and discussion on identity and how it is shaped in part by our culture. Prior to me going there I expected them to treat me with less respect and they were actually really nice, In the sense that I felt that they felt pity for me. One thing that did surprise me was the amount of men that were trying to talk to me. The first man looked at me and kept looking at me as I was crossing the street into the Placita Olvera, then he finally asked me if I had any cigarettes I nodded my head no and he then asked if I knew anyone that had some I acted as if I did not know what was going on and he apologized and walked away. Then I sat down on a bench by myself and more and more homeless men started to come out they looked at me and greeted me but not in a nice way, rather a sexual way it was the first time throughout all of this project that I truly felt scared. I continued to sit there I knew I could handle it a bit more, then a homeless man passed by and looked at me he said a couple of things but I do not believe he was all there in his mind, I simply ignored all comments I acted as if I had no consciousness what so ever. Then I saw two young guys about my same age, walk towards me they looked as if they were in gangs and homeless, the first time they walked by me, they noticed me then left, then they came back and I felt as if they were thinking about the worst thing to do to me I could not wait to go home. My anxiety was up and it was the first time in my life that I ever felt like a man wanted to do something bad to me, I knew it was time to go. I started making my way down to the union station because I wanted to see the reaction of tourists and the Metro workers. Many of the people at the union station did not mind my presence there, and I felt that they did not even care that I was homeless because they would come near me, and sit or just simply walk passed me. The Metro people were all still very nice and the only time when I felt that they were judging me was when one of the security guys started following me. I just kept on walking outside the station there I walked passed this homeless guy who sells chips and other snacks on the corner of the union station. I had to ask him to take a picture of me sitting in front of the union station, he was so confused and I felt really bad. On this day I did make a couple of bucks but I took them and gave them away to other homeless people that were at the Placita Olvera.


                                 (Before & After Pictures)


(Picture of me sitting in front             (Picture of me at the Placita Olvera)    (Picture of me sitting in front of the Union Station)

of the Macy’s Plaza)

Project Response:

     When I was giving the choice of choosing an alter ego to play with I immediately wanted to do something esthetically, I was thinking of dressing really gothic, but I knew that I wanted to do something else with this project. One day as I was having a conversation with Jennifer she jokingly suggested I should be a homeless, and it really got me thinking about how interesting this would be to experiment with. I knew that throughout this entire project I wanted to learn something, not just about society but about my own self. Another big reason that I chose to dress up as a homeless person was because I wanted to relate it to something that happened to my family and I during the summer. On April 25th we received a letter saying that our house had been sold, at that time I was living in LA but the news hit me like a cold bucket of water to my face. I have always been lower class, I was not born into a rich family but I always had a roof over my head and I grew up appreciating that every single night. But when my family and I lost our house I felt so lost we did not know what to do and at that time without even looking like a homeless we were homeless. Now I live In LA and my family has a new house, but for some reason there are certain times when I sit there and feel as if I do not belong, some part of me still feels that this new house is not my home. I have come to the conclusion that some of these alter egos are not just all about the looks; they are some unconcissness state in our persona.

       There was no doubt that through this project I had become a sort of different type of person in society, Indentities Through Fashion stated that “fashion becomes a way of expressing one’s difference.”, and indeed I took fashion and made myself stand out from society, I made myself stand under society. Society saw the difference and although it was hard for me to understand some of their actions I knew that I was supposed to stand out in order to make this experiment work.

     For me this project was far more than just another art project, it helped me understand how fashion plays a big role in society and it also helped me grow as a person. It opened my eyes to view society as it truly is and not just what I see on TV and in movies. It also made me see that we are so vulnerable to clothing and looks, for we love to judge others just because of what they have on, but if we were to really think about it under any fabric there is a human being with the same quality and traits as anyone else. It’s funny how fashion can change one’s whole life because it just takes one look to title you a millionaire or a homeless person.  This experience helped me comprehend that sometimes you just have to dress up as someone else to know your identity better.

PS. If you ever have the chance and the will to do as I, and dress like a homeless person you definitely should it is not embarrassing at all rather it is very rewarding.

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