How Clothing Connects Us: The Couple Who Sees Style As a Source of Affirmation
For our first editorial in 2020, we’re telling stories about how clothing connects us. We spoke to three pairs — one connected by love, one connected by family, and one connected by a shared idea — to highlight how the simplest pieces of clothing can become the tie that binds two people with different perspectives and senses of style.
Jazzmyne Robbins and her partner Kate Kuczynski have the kind of love story that could warm even the coldest gay heart. They met on Instagram through a queer dating account called @personals (which has since evolved into a dating app called Lex). Kate posted, Jazzmyne replied, Kate’s friends told them to reach out. Kate initially refused, saying there was “no way they could date a model.” Finally, they connected, and now each describe their relationship as the most affirming and significant of their lives.
They’re not the most obvious couple; Jazzmyne is a model, influencer, and popular Buzzfeed Talent with As/Is with over half a million followers on Instagram. Kate is a high school teacher with a private account (after all, they have students to consider). Their senses of style are totally different, but the connection they’ve found to one another through clothing has changed both of their approaches to dressing. Here, they talk about how clothing plays a big role in their relationship, and how they affirm each other, no matter what.
ON HOW THEY'VE IMPACTED EACH OTHER'S CONNECTION TO CLOTHING
Kate: I identified as non-binary for years before Jazz and I met. But I didn't really embody my gender identity fully, because I was still trying to kind of toe the line between, "How are people going to see me? Will people understand?” and what I actually wanted to wear. I wanted to be comprehensible for others. Jazz really saw me for who I was, and helped me to express that — she taught me how to stop toeing that line. She helped me fully step into myself. She believes me and the things I say about who I am. In the past, people have tried to poke holes in the way I present myself, but she just takes my word for it and tries to uplift that and let it shine, without reinterpretation.
Jazzmyne: Being with Kate has reminded me to not get stuck in my own comfortability. Watching them find themselves, and experiment — it’s allowed me to try things more openly and freely as well. Seeing Kate wear different things like mesh, or their binder, or whatever it is, I realize that it doesn't have to be one way or another, and I feel more open to experimenting for myself.
ON WHERE THEY STRUGGLE WITH STYLE, AND HOW THEY HANDLE IT
Jazzmyne: To be honest, any time I’ve ever questioned myself, Kate is there to 100 percent re-a-fucking-ffirm that I look amazing in literally anything. They’re great to have right there when I’m in my feelings about how I look. For so long, I would focus on the things I didn’t like about my body or whatever — now I just put on what I love and I don’t think about it.
Kate: I don't think I'm there yet. In general, my approach is: I'm not dressing for the benefit of anyone else — especially if they're not like me, or if they're not trans. I'm not trying to make sure that I'm considering them. So I'm not at the point Jazzmyne is, where I love everything ever that I wear, but, whether I love it and not, it's just my decision. Nobody else is being considered.
ON HOW THEY SUPPORT EACH OTHER WHILE GETTING DRESSED
Kate: There's two ways that the story can go. One way is, I don't give a shit and I just wear what I'm already wearing and figure everything will be fine because it's not my red carpet. So I just sit back and weigh in on whatever Jazzmyne is trying on. I'm just like the jury, laying in the bed in my already-wrinkled clothes. Or, it's the opposite where Jazz has an outfit that she knows for sure is going to work, and she's excited to wear it. Meanwhile, I'm fretting over the lowest button on my button-down and I'm just like, "It's too tight." And I'm just fully breaking down — like literally, completely breaking down — because it turns out men's patterns are cut with a straight line through the hips. Again, it can go one of two ways.
Jazzmyne: In a lot of my past relationships I've been in situations where the people I'm dating are very insecure about what they look like compared to me. I've had to change my thought process a little bit, but also I know it's not like that — it’s really refreshing and great. But when Kate is struggling to find something to wear, I always at least try to affirm them, and give an opinion. I’m pretty fucking honest with them. Granted, I pick out all of their clothes.
ON CONNECTING TO EACH OTHER BY GETTING DRESSED
Kate: We don’t conform to one another, but I think if we can pull off a little hint of coordination, we lean in that direction. We went to an event and Jazzmyne wore vinyl pants and a tank top and a lot of chains — it was a very sleek, hot, goth look. I wore chinos and shirt buttoned all the way up. It was also black, though, so it was coordinated, but very much our own shapes and textures and general style. It’s nice, because in the queer community if you're dating someone with a similar gender expression, sometimes that's a “thing,” especially if people aren't fully realized in their genders. Sometimes it gets a little touchy, and you have to become a foil to each other. But I think it's nice that we don't care about that at all. Neither of us are threatened or have our identities challenged by how the other one expresses themselves.
Jazzmyne: We have a lot of fun with stuff. I feel like Kate always leans into a more obvious menswear vibe. They’re never going to be the one in a dress, or in a skirt, or anything like that. Style-wise, they’re definitely more of the constant in the relationship.Sometimes I'll dress more street style or androgynous. Sometimes I wear a little off the shoulder sundress, I do love looking that way with them. But I also like the very opposite; us just both doing our own thing, together.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.