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Using clothes as self-improvement

I have moved cities multiple times over the past several years. Each time is equally nerve-racking as it is exciting, but the one thing that makes those moves bearable is the anticipation of figuring out who I’m going to be, aka what I’m going to wear.

Fashion, for me, has always been about finding my place in the world. Blazers in an office? Too stuffy. Writing at home in sweatpants? Too casual. Writing in a boujee coffee shop wearing a hot pink jumpsuit and cat-eye glasses? Just right.

You see, who we are comes out when we’re wearing something that is precisely us. The colors, fabrics, and silhouettes that we’re attracted to end up attracting the life we want. From friends and partners to jobs and hobbies, fashion is a powerful force that pushes and pulls us into the life we crave — IF we dress for it, that is.

Facing The Facts of Fashion

You’ve heard the famous fashion quotes that have given us energy and confidence when we need it most — sayings like “Dress for success,” “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it,” and “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life,” — all hold serious merit when it comes to figuring ourselves out as we move from one life transition to the next.

More often than not, when we’re feeling low about ourselves, we turn to fashion for answers. It can be difficult to articulate the power of style through the written word, but we all know how special a certain dress makes us feel, or how we are flooded with inspiration and creativity when putting on that one skirt. To that end, I make the argument that fashion is little more than a feeling.

To me, trying on new clothes is like trying on new selves. Of course, there are other factors that play into how we dress, including where we live, what we do for a living, and who we spend our time with. I believe these influences to be the essence of life, giving us permission (or not) to say what we want to say, do what we want to do, and yes, wear what we want to wear.

Straight From The Experts

Colourful and charismatic personal stylist Anna encourages her clients to “dress how they want to feel,” stating that to be yourself you have to get to know yourself, which requires “lots of trying on new clothes to see which ones make you feel most alive.”

Anna does a lot of inner work with her clients on their style personality and style identity claiming, “When you know your style identity, you are free to dress however you want.”

This is something that both takes time and evolves over time, and there is no “right” or “wrong” in the process.

Fashion stylist and image consultant Jenni Lee emphasises that each of us have endless facets of ourselves to explore, noting that clothes are the easiest way to uncover the different personas we want to step into.

“A lot of women have limiting beliefs based on what they have soaked in from living in a patriarchal society and negative ideas passed down from family,” JenniLee says.

“I am continually coaxing and supporting clients to play with clothes, to try things on that are out of their comfort zones so they can physically experience what it feels like in their body to wear other styles and to see themselves in other personas.”

Finding Your Signature Style is a Journey

Whether you’re shopping in a vintage store, luxury boutique or your own closet, I think we can all agree that each item of clothing we put on, a certain feeling is evoked. This, after all, is essentially what we are all dressing for each day, isn’t it? That one feeling we are trying to grasp, may it be pride, professionalism, boldness or contentment.

And those feelings, just like our style preferences, change and evolve over time.

When I lived in Chicago, for example, I was single and childless with the world at my feet. My style, not surprisingly, matched how I felt about being young and carefree in a bustling city. It was fun, loud, playful, and energetic, just like my personality. 

Now, as a married woman and mother of two residing in Connecticut, that fun and playful me is still intact, but I have learned to lean into the chic and elegant flair of the East Coast.

The point is not to blend in, but to appreciate where you’ve been and where you’re headed. And there is no greater measure to do so than with fashion.

I spoke to Sara Holzman for Marie Claire about how we can use certain clothing pieces to empower and enable us to become who we strive to be!

“We have mental associations with clothing, based on the people who wear these pieces. When we wear the same clothes, we subconsciously embody the traits we associate with those people.”

“The more we wear a piece, the more value it holds, in turn, these pieces take on a life of their own.”

“Virtual life means we haven’t seen each other’s shoes in a long time, but they’re the first thing we see in real life. As we continue to socialise, now is the time to use an incredibly strong shoe to make your mark.”

“Jewellery enables people to inject their creativity into an outfit, a special piece will help you differentiate yourself in a meaningful way.”

Find the full piece here.

I spoke with RTE to discuss the shift in what we are wearing post pandemic, most of us are finally able to take a more creative approach by dressing up!

“Over a year spent in loungewear can cause some to experience ‘loungewear fatigue’ due to the way we’re hardwired to be attracted to novelty hence the embracing of bold styles.”
“Similarly, studies have shown that outlandish dressing has a type of tension release dimension because it can act as a form of escapism which will appeal to many after the tumultuous nature of the last 18 months.”

You can find the article here.

All dressed up with nowhere to go. That’s been me at least once per week since lockdown started. On this blog, we’ve gone on and on about the power of comfort dressing. One of the (very) few good things this pandemic has given us is the ability to be comfortable daily. However, and I can’t stress this enough, giving up the glam life is not recommended. 

Read more: Can loungewear make you better at your job?

Your clothes can help you experience different realities

Although we are limited by things like cultural norms and money, your clothes are still a powerful tool of self-expression. They can help you enhance certain aspects of your identity and even embrace traits you never knew existed in you. You should think of your clothes as a roadmap that helps you navigate these different realities but what you may not know is that your clothes can also help you escape your current reality. 

We’re currently living through one of the most trying times of our lives. Around the globe, people have lost their jobs, their loved ones and any sense of normalcy due to COVID-19. You may be trying to simply get on with it but it’s important to develop strategies, no matter how small, to help you take your mind away from the doom, gloom and uncertainty and one way to do that is by playing dress-up. 

Femme Luxe Black Tie Front Organza Mesh Sleeve Crop Top - Dash
Top (gifted): Femme Luxe Black Tie Front Organza Mesh Sleeve Crop Top, Jeans: River Island wide leg jeans in light blue

Playing dress-up is a form of escapism

Playing dress-up is not just for kids. Doing a full face of make-up, styling your hair and wearing a sultry dress are all acts of playing dress-up because right now, the places we would normally showcase these looks are restricted. Engaging in these acts when you’re stuck at home can seem ridiculous but it can also constitute a powerful force that can positively affect your mental wellbeing.  

Recently, a friend of mine remarked that she felt silly for wanting to buy a new pair of heels that caught her eye. I’ll tell you what I told her – there’s no need to completely suppress your shopping habits even though right now they may seem out of the ordinary. Studies have shown that “extraordinary” shopping experiences can be cathartic and can act as a break from daily habits that too often leave us feeling stressed and underwhelmed. We’ve all become increasingly aware of sustainability and the damaging effects of overconsumption. So, rather than regularly whipping out your credit card, you can mix in a few new pieces with those that haven’t seen the light of day since lockdown. The most important thing is that you make playing dress-up your new weekly ritual. 

Fashion psychology
Top: John Zack velvet cowl front top in lime

Certain clothing styles can release tensions

Wearing clothes that are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of everyday life act as a symbol for you leaving that life behind, even for a few hours. Studies have shown that people have fun by simply engaging in the act of wearing outlandish, sexy or even eccentric outfits which contributes to a feeling of escapism because “clothes in themselves carry this tensions release dimension”. 

Femme Luxe Emerald Bardot Cowl Neck Ruched Midi Dress - Malia
Dress (gifted) Femme Luxe Emerald Bardot Cowl Neck Ruched Midi Dress - Malia

We’re living in highly politicized times when even wearing a mask (please wear a mask) is seen as a form of social commentary and frankly, it’s tiring. Ultimately, your clothes should be an area of your life that brings joy. While comfort is important, you should attempt to get ‘all dressed up’ at least once in a while to embrace the power of your wardrobe to help you escape the bleaknesses of your day-to-day life; even if you have nowhere to go and even if it’s just for a little while. 

In the comments, let me know what pieces you’ve missed wearing this year.