When was the last time you dressed up? Was it for a Zoom date? A work meeting? Or was it some time last summer?
Archetypes can be used as a way to get to know yourself more intimately, helping you to choose clothes that feel more authentic and appropriate to the roles you are playing in your day to day life. We will explore how this can be done by reflecting on some of your favourite characters and tuning in to yourself with mindful questions, and some examples to get your imaginative juices flowing.
What are ‘Archetypes?’
Archetypes, as coined by psychologist Carl Jung are “universal, archaic symbols and images that derive from the collective unconscious”. These take the form of fundamental characters such as the Lover, the Hero, the Jester, or the Caregiver.
We see archetypes presented in stories, whether that’s in the books that we’re reading or the films that we’re watching. Fairy tales, in particular, draw upon the use of archetypes, but there’s no reason why we can’t use this framework for human identity as a way to experiment with our own roles in society and build outfits around the characteristics we possess.
I’ve chosen a couple of Netflix favourites to illustrate my point. In the Netflix series The Queens Gambit, we see Beth go from a young Orphan to Hero and Muse. As she becomes a giant in her field, she makes a conscious wardrobe transition from one that is childlike, clumsy and innocent to amplify herself as a stylish, successful, multi-faceted woman.
In the Netflix film My Happy Family, we see Manana appear worn out and tired with her busy demanding family life. Her hair is dishevelled and she seems to blend into the clothes that are wrapped around her consolingly. As we see her take control of her life and create a space of her own, we also see her hair become tamed, and her garments reflect her newfound sense of freedom. It’s a very subtle shift, and I think this character is a great example of the light and the dark side to the archetypal Mother/(Caregiver).
How can we use archetypes to creatively inform our clothing decisions?
This is where your very own creative touch will come in. Denim for me might symbolize the Mother, yet to another person, it might symbolize the Rebel. The point is, when you identify your very own archetypes and tastes, you will feel more embodied and so, you will rock whatever outfit or selected accessory you go for.
Here are some simple steps to help you tune into your body and find which ones resonate with you:
1. Identify archetypes.
Who are some of your favourite characters from books, TV and film? What characteristics do they possess?
2. Identify symbols, imagery, shapes and colour
What visual associations come to mind when you first think of these archetypes? For example, extravagant gowns and jewellery for the Ruler, mixed prints and bright colours for the Jester.
3. Identify your own taste
What might some of your own, unique associations be? You can see examples on my Hero mood board below.
The backdrop for my Hero look is an image of the Scottish countryside. I don’t know if it’s because of the number of films that I have seen that feature strong archetypes (think Outlaw King), or if it’s because for me a Hero archetype is symbiotic with nature. The rough terrain combined with splashes of colour blown by a strong wind conjures up images of horses (which are inherently symbols of strength) and feelings of freedom. The first piece I selected is an antique locket necklace. The Hero is someone who holds their loved ones close to their heart and is a person of honour. Having such a trinket close to the chest acts as a symbol of intimacy. Next, I picked a sheepskin coat, in a longer length to maintain a feminine aesthetic. Lace-up knee-high boots are practical and quite frankly, badass. And finally, a natural glowing makeup look to reinforce the values I associate with the Hero: open, bold, kind and true.
Have a play around and see what you can create. There is no limit to who we can be.