When the pandemic hit and Dylan Mulvaney lost his job touring with the musical Book of Mormon, she’s moved on to arguably the nation’s biggest stage: TikTok. Now, Mulvaney has become one of the platform’s viral stars, amassing eight million followers with her “Baby Days” series, where she creates videos highlighting her transformation journey. That success has led to more offline opportunities — walking New York Fashion Week, speaking at Forbes Power Women Summit — but Mulvaney’s posts are still instant recognizable, in part due to her signature wardrobe: colorful, well-dressed knitwear; playful accessories; and, at the end of the year, a Tiffany & Co. heart necklace. “I want people to have a familiarity there,” Mulvaney said. “When they come to see my videos, they know what they will get.”
ELLE’s series Our life clothes decipher the fashion choices of powerful women, discovering how fashion can be used as a tool for communication. Below, in her own words, Mulvaney celebrates her 200th day “Girlhood Photo Series” by sharing her no-nonsense style approach and the story behind one of her most filmed accessories.
I’ve always had a pretty good sense of style, but growing up, I felt very limited in the area of boys’ clothing. As I entered my teenage years, I was attracted to black and gray – colors that resembled my ongoing gender dysphoria. I’m attracted to women’s clothing, but whenever I choose a certain shirt or dress, there’s always a voice in my head: “What will people think?”
I’ve dedicated my life to being an actor, and I’ve accepted the submission of the industry as I try to fit the stereotype and masculinity. I finally succeeded in getting a role in the musical Book of Mormon, but at the cost of finding your true gender identity. I’m living my dream, but there’s no room for transition. When the pandemic hit, and I lost that job, I thought, “There’s no part to play, so I can finally be myself.” I went back to living at home with my family, and I ended up visiting my best friends on a farm. One was Lorraine, the most wonderful woman I know, in her sixties and a shepherd. Lorraine’s wardrobe bursts with color. She would dress me up and take me into a field with sheep, and for a moment, I had adopted her feminine style. These clothes are out of my comfort zone, but make me feel beautiful and happy. It takes a really strong support system to find yourself and find your style, and for me, having these friends play with is essential.
Fast forward to now and I feel like I can finally wear and access things I’ve always wanted from my childhood. Like a child, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is my favorite movie in the whole world. When I was bullied in high school, that would be the way out for me. I will watch Holly Golightly and think of how Audrey Hepburn is the ultimate female icon and role model to me. At Catholic school, I would see all the girls receive their Tiffany jewelry for Christmas, and I was envious. But growing up as a boy, I couldn’t ask my parents for anything from Tiffany’s; it doesn’t make sense to conform to social norms. So this year, when I signed up for my first major archival gig of Pride month, I said to myself: I deserve that Tiffany necklace.
Now it becomes my armor. I sleep with it. I shower with it. In a way, it was really for me when I was younger. It’s for Dylan who cried in his sleep while watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s Looking forward to better days. It represents the obstacles I had to overcome to be able to buy it and have the confidence to wear it. This necklace means I’ve finally allowed myself to give in to my desires.
These days, my wardrobe is so colorful, like a pack of Skittles. I love looking at outfits and accessories as outfits and adding them to my wardrobe for a character. This necklace could be Audrey Hepburn, but it could also be Reese Witherspoon in Legit Blonde. For a while, I dressed like a toddler, because when I was transitioning, I was in that teenage phase. Now, I find myself evolving into this woman — looking for more luxurious clothes or feeling like I can wear a power suit and still feel feminine.
Women are not outsiders, it helps a lot, especially when new to transgender. So to our allies: Give us a moment. It’s easy to judge someone, but we’re thrown into a world we don’t know yet. Give us the grace to figure out our style, who we are, and who we want to be seen as. Make sure we have the resources we need. You know how there are baby baths and wedding bathrooms? My goal is to give transgender newcomers an air of space. That was a lot when you first came out, and to be able to give someone their first Tiffany necklace? What a dream.
With the ‘Baby Days’ series, I’m looking to pick up all the pieces of the puzzle left behind in my childhood. “
I want everyone, wherever they are on their journey, to have the confidence to wear and shop what they want. Because now, I really care less about what people think of me, and that’s really good. You don’t have to have a lot of colors or patterns every day, but when you do, I urge everyone to give in. A lot of the time, our inner child tries to step out and play. With the “Baby Days” series, I’m trying to pick up all the pieces left behind from my childhood, and I think there are women who watch my videos trying to do the same. We’ve all been programmed to see our femininity as a weakness, and we have to turn the story over. When I wear this necklace, I don’t consider what others will think. It’s just a part of me. I used to dress other people, and that got me nowhere. Now I dress for myself.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Madison is a writer/senior editor at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture. When she’s not online, you’ll most likely find her napping or eating banana bread.