When the pandemic hit and Dylan Mulvaney lost her job touring with the musical Book of Mormon, she turned to the nation’s arguably biggest stage: TikTok. Now, Mulvaney has become one of the platform’s viral stars, garnering eight million followers with her series, “Days of Girlhood,” where she makes videos highlighting her journey transitioning. That success has led to more opportunities offline—walking in New York Fashion Week, speaking at Forbes Power Women’s Summit—but Mulvaney’s posts have remained instantly recognizable, in part due to her signature wardrobe: colorful, chunky knitwear; playful accessories; and, as of late, a classic Tiffany & Co. heart necklace. “I like people to have a familiarity there,” Mulvaney says. “When they come to watch my videos, they know what they’re going to get.”
ELLE’s series Clothes of Our Lives decodes the sartorial choices made by powerful women, exploring how fashion can be used as a tool for communication. Below, in her own words, Mulvaney celebrates day 200 of her “Girlhood” series by sharing her unapologetic approach to style 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 boy’s clothing department. As I stepped into my teen years, I gravitated toward blacks and grays—colors that echoed the gender dysphoria happening within me. I was drawn to women’s clothing, but whenever I picked up a certain shirt or dress, there was always a voice in my head saying, “What are people going to think?”
I dedicated my life to becoming an actor, and I was at the submission of the industry as I tried to fit the mold and be masculine. I finally succeeded by landing a role in the musical Book of Mormon, but at the expense of finding my true gender identity. I was living my dream, but there was no room to transition. When the pandemic hit, and I lost that job, I thought, “There’s no part to play, so I get to finally be myself.” I was back living at home with my family, and I ended up visiting my best friends on a farm. One is Lorraine, the coolest woman I know, who’s in her sixties and a sheep herder. Lorraine’s wardrobe is exploding with color. She would dress me up and put me in a field with sheep, and for a moment, I adopted her feminine style. These clothes were out of my comfort zone, but made me feel so beautiful and fun. It takes a really strong support system to find yourself and find your style, and for me, it took having these friends to play dress up with.
Fast-forward to now, and I feel like I’m finally able to wear and access the things I always wanted from my childhood. As a kid, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was my favorite movie in the entire world. When I was being bullied in high school, it would be my escape. I’d watch Holly Golightly and think how Audrey Hepburn was the ultimate female icon and such a role model to me. At Catholic school, I would see all the girls get their Tiffany jewelry at Christmastime, and I’d be so jealous. But growing up as a boy, I couldn’t ask my parents for something from Tiffany’s; it didn’t make sense to fit the social norm. So this year, when I booked my first big hosting gig during Pride month, I told myself, I deserve that Tiffany necklace.
Now it’s become my armor. I sleep with it. I shower with it. In a way, it’s really for my younger self. It’s for the Dylan who cried herself to sleep watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s wishing for better days. It represents the hurdles I’ve had to overcome to be able to purchase this and have the confidence to wear it. This necklace means that I’ve finally given myself permission to give in to my desires.
These days, my wardrobe is very colorful, like a Skittles packet. I love looking at outfits and accessories as costume pieces and adding them to my wardrobe for a character. This necklace could be Audrey Hepburn, but it could also be Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. For a while, I was dressing like a toddler, because as I’m transitioning, I’ve been in that girlhood stage. Now, I see myself evolving into this woman—finding classier clothes or feeling like I can wear a power suit and still feel feminine.
As much as womanhood isn’t about the external, it helps a lot, especially while being newly trans. So to our allies: Give us a little time. It’s easy to cast judgment on someone, but we are thrown into a world we don’t know yet. Grant us grace when it comes to figuring out our style, who we are, and who we want to be perceived as. Make sure we’ve got the resources we need. You know how there are baby showers and wedding showers? My goal is to throw trans showers for new trans people. It’s a lot when you first come out, and to be able to gift someone their first Tiffany necklace? What a dream that would be.
With my ‘Days of Girlhood’ series, I’m working on picking up all the pieces that were left behind in my childhood.”
I wish everyone, no matter where they are in their journey, would have the confidence to wear and shop for what they want. Because now, I truly care less about what people think about me, and that feels really good. You don’t have to be in loud colors or patterns every day, but when you want to, I urge everyone to give in to that. A lot of the time, it’s our inner child trying to come out and play. With my “Days of Girlhood” series, I’m working on picking up all the pieces that were left behind in my childhood, and I think there are cis women watching my videos trying to do the same. We’ve all been programmed to look at our femininity as a weakness, and we have to flip the narrative. When I wear this necklace, I don’t consider what other people are going to think. It’s just part of me. I used to dress for other people, and that got me nowhere. Now I dress for myself.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Madison is a senior writer/editor at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture. When she’s not on the internet, you can most likely find her taking a nap or eating banana bread.