Since being released from prison in May 2017 via a commutation by President Obama, Chelsea Manning has quickly and adroitly readapted to civilian life. While a lot has changed over the last seven years, for a tech savvy millennial like herself, the learning curve doesn’t seem to be particularly steep. She’s already become a force to be reckoned with on Twitter, skillfully shutting down her many trolls and haters with a charming optimism and clear-eyed view of the realities and foibles of modern culture, buoying her supporters with her signature hashtag, #WeGotThis. And it seems that same no-nonsense approach to life extends to her personal wardrobe as well as Manning begins to define her sartorial aesthetic now that she’s living as an out, trans woman, going shopping with Vogue‘s Sally Singer and sharing a bit of her in-depth knowledge of fashion history in the process.
As it turns out, prior to her release, Manning was already in touch with the editors at Vogue, taking her own measurements with “a makeshift tape measure composed of strips of 11-inch notebook paper” and writing down detailed notes on her personal taste, telling Singer, “jeans (boot cut, yes; acid wash, NO); denim (‘yes, but careful, it’s not the ’90s’); prints (‘it’s a matter of discretion . . . no animal print leggings, no puzzle pieces’); shorts (‘not low around the hips and not high-rise like a lot of shorts are now’); colors (yes to black, naturals, pinks, purple, blue; no to white, green, citrus, metallics, red); yes to pencil skirts, but no to minis or midis or anything longer than a cargo short.” She also kept a folder of inspiration photos that largely featured “professional looks in which a sharp-shouldered tailoring anchored flowy, distinctly feminine separates.”
This detailed itemization of her personal taste allowed the editors at Vogue to put together a little capsule wardrobe for Manning prior to her release, consisting of “featherweight knits, pull-on trousers, yoga pants, [and] backless mules.” They also tossed in a red lipstick, for a little pop of color.
But despite providing the magazine with such a strict list of fashion guidelines, when out shopping Chelsea slowly realized that rules were meant to be broken, gravitating toward the unexpected, as Singer writes, “Manning had professed a wariness of prints and volumes, yet she literally jumped for joy in a floral corset laced sundress with a tiered skirt by Rodarte because she’s a video gamer at heart and it touched her inner Daenerys.” But she still favors function over form, tending towards things with “lots of pockets and secret places to put things; keep IDs, credit cards, thumb drives,” steering clear of an ’80s denim all-in-one, however, saying, “I’ve already worn a jumpsuit. Might be a sore subject for me.”
In terms of fashion muses, she credits Queen Elizabeth I of England for being “unquestionably feminine and unquestionably strong at the same time: She defeated the Spanish Armada!” and Marie Antoinette who “broke a lot of French high-fashion norms,” though she admits she was, “terrible in her politics.” In the end, Manning says “I have myself figured out…I’m not trying to be feminine or masculine in look.” Instead, her aim is simple: to “live beyond definitions.”
Were you surprised to hear Chelsea’s style icons? What style do you think she’d look great in? Sound off below!