As the creative mastermind behind @closetvomit, queer style influencer and expert Ashley Ballard has been known to live their life proudly and unapologetically — both on and off social media. This commitment to authenticity is illustrated by their fashion-forward, gender-fluid outfits, an expression of Ballard’s gender dysphoria, which is viewed as the disconnect between one’s assigned sex and gender identity.
Fortunately, Ballard has mastered the art of dressing with gender dysphoria. And they’re here to offer helpful tips on jumpstarting your own style journey, as well as their favorite fashion picks.
How would you describe your personal style? And when do you feel you nailed it?
“I have a foundational style that feels true to me — edgy, boxy, and neutral, but also unexpected. I love platform boots, stainless steel, big collars, and interesting cuts, but I always find myself investing in timeless, high-quality staple pieces to pair with the statements in my closet for a polished look. What I love most about my style is that it’s open-ended, and I see trends as challenges to branch out, try new things, and share them with my fans. My style is a conglomerate of my values, influences, dreams, and life experiences, so it doesn’t fit in one aesthetic.”
How has gender dysphoria informed your style?
“I’ve lived my entire life independent of gender. It’s just how I was raised, so it has been a natural part of my clothing choices. When I describe my gender to people, I always say I’m like an American Apparel unisex sweatshirt — I don’t see myself as someone who participates in gender, and how I show up in the world is something I hope inspires people of all identities. Because I live my life independent of gender, it’s extremely liberating when making style choices. I style myself the same way I live my everyday life; I go headfirst into what makes me happy without doubt, without reservation, and without fear.”
What do you look for in clothing?
“For me, quality is everything. I have an established sense of style where I know that I will reach for the same pieces again and again, ready to style them in new and exciting ways, so I try to find things that I will be able to wear season after season. A key value for me is also having a delicate balance between luxury and accessibility. I enjoy luxury, but I think that we can find just as much quality and inspiration out of secondhand, vintage, and pieces at a lower price point as we can out of high-end labels. This is also a core value for me when I create content — showing my audience that true style isn’t reserved for the deepest wallets.”
Where do you find style inspiration?
“This is something I love to talk about. I believe that what inspires you the most informs your style, whether it’s conscious or not. I find that my biggest influences come from film, music, strangers on the street, and what my younger self aspired to be. Living in New York City, the culture is so rich and has seen so many phases that I borrow from as well (‘00s indie sleaze, anyone?).”
What is something you wish you could tell your younger self?
“Don’t ever let go of being different, and don’t let the criticism of others dull your shine. This is actually advice I need to hear now, too, ha!”