I have a confession to make: in terms of reactions to my clothing while I lived in my small hometown, I've been lucky.
At home, I have never been asked, "Are you in a play?" I have never been called names. Nobody has ever tried to look up my skirt to see "what makes it poof." I have never been asked if it's a costume, never been accused of having a fetish or of it being a phase. I have only once been asked if I was going to a play, and that was by a friend who thought I was a little extra dressed up that day, which I was.
My mother occasionally asks me if that is what I wore, or what I am wearing, but that's my mother and she will ever be operating under the delusion that I will one day become irrefutably normal.
Other than that, the responses I receive are always, always always positive, or, at the very least, so neutral that one would be tempted to believe that everyone goes out to the grocery store like that. I don't know if it's just that the times I ventured out are the times when the older generation of my hometown are running errands or if the stores I visit are extra positive or if I just happened to live in an extraordinarily weirdness-positive town, but the responses I got are always nice.
I occasionally had older ladies tell me that they used to go out dancing in outfits like I was wearing or compliment me on my rhinestone skeleton hand necklace while I went through the line at church for Wednesday night supper before choir practice (no, I am not kidding).
Older gentlemen tipped a hat or held doors open for me.
Shop owners told me that I look adorable. One even informed me that I looked like an American Girl doll (I had just purchased a vintage Sterlite suitcase and was wearing a very vintage-inspired Lolita look).
People my own age either simply did not gawk or told me that my shoes were cute.
The ladies at church love my tentacle barrettes, which they always mention when I visit.
As I said, I don't know why people react in this way. I'm not so sheltered as to believe that the reactions in all small towns will be this way, and I have certainly become aware that, since I moved, I've entered a whole new environment that is either less welcoming or less aware of the strange things I wear. But, for those who are afraid to jump out into the world of weird in their clothing, I just want to say that there is hope. You never know when the old ladies at church or the random mother on the street will compliment you. Positivity comes in all shapes and sizes. You will find someone, or even a town full of people, who find your style to be amazing and are unafraid to tell you so.
But you won't know until you try.
The hardest part, when people are positive, is to know what to do. You might be tempted to think that they are mocking you, but, unless they're obviously making fun of you, just act in a polite manner. Thank them, smile, and move on.