Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Seven Days in Sweats

Why Clothes Matter
From the Blog of: Christa Taylor
Writer and guest blogger Margaret Everton conducts a week-long experiment on why we really are what we wear.

I will never forget my middle school tennis partner who, before one morning bell, professed, “The clothes don’t make the person; the person makes the clothes.” The aloofness was cool, the adage wise. But she didn’t believe herself. I knew how many outfits she had tried on that morning.

I didn’t believe her either, and scoffed for years at such trivialization of the role that attire plays—yet I wonder. Am I putting too much emphasis on the impact that clothes can have? As long as I look clean and covered, how can clothes determine how I navigate through this world? As a freelance writer, I can wear whatever I want. So I will. I will document one week of my life wearing only my black track suit to determine if what I wear matters.

Track suits are underrated. Slimming, collar up: I’m Jackie Kennedy ready for tennis. Refreshing to put no effort into myself. This could become my uniform. I feel fine. I think I’ll get tea.

Husband: Do you have a cold? [Glancing at my outfit]
Me: No. This might be my new uniform. Might be the new me. It’s function-meets-comfort.
Husband: Meets pajamas.

Slouch clothes. Fun for the ol’ college slouch day. Not so fun when I’m trying to feel professional and serious on a phone interview I’m conducting.

What are the odds that this week I run into a girl from high school? Former rival dancer now guest lecturer at the local university. And I had wanted to appear so on top of the world if ever we reunited. Did I detect smugness in her smile? Seriously, what are the odds?

I’ve been in this clothing store for ten minutes and no employee has approached me. I’m invisible, unkempt. A woman with poise (and a killer pink scarf) just entered—she owns the room. Like moths to a flame, the three employees approach her. I slink away between two racks of sweaters and leave the store.

Groceries. Tea and—nooooooo. The wife of my husband’s colleague. She can’t see me like this: sloppy, not on top of my game enough to match her lawyer-turned-stay-at-home-mom intelligence and verbal wit. Jeans, boots, cream sweater—her simplicity approaches brilliance. Turn away. I can hang at the back of the store until she leaves. Drop the tea and walk slowly away. No, drop the tea and run.

The end of the day and the experiment is finally over. Jeans, blouse, vintage satin clutch for dinner with my husband. Wow, he says, you look amazing. Confidently I enter the restaurant. A woman taken seriously. I admit that I expected to determine that clothes do matter, but I didn’t anticipate to discover why. Conscious dressing can get bad press as materialism exemplified, but clothes that reflect our identity boost our confidence. Whether we’re most at home in a wool gabardine suit and heels or yoga pants and a tank, we should represent our most authentic self. To any onlooker, I’m just a girl in a shirt, but I sip my Pellegrino and feel like a supermodel. Nobody in the room cares about what I have on; it wouldn’t alter their evening if I still had on my track suit. But it matters. It matters to me.

Clothes Matter, Simplified:
*Well-fitting tailored jeans cover a multitude of sartorial sins.
*Sunglasses and a scarf or hat transform Bad Hair No Makeup Girl into Jackie Kennedy look-alike.
*Voguish purses or shoes exhibit attention to detail and respect for self.
*Vintage costume jewelry creates a uniqueness to an average ensemble.
*A wrap can be a signature piece that serves as a shawl or scarf (and ups the ante) for several
*Yes, track suits give grace to those quick errands, that early brunch, or those “off days.”
Just do yourself a favor and don’t wear it seven days in a row.


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