Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Why It Matters What You Wear (...with no pictures today lest I offend...)
A woman with whom I used to be close friends once told me in a rather nasty tone that she despised "people who just want to be seen." She was waiting for me to finish dressing and putting on my make-up so we could attend an event together, so I get it that she might have been annoyed that I was being slower than she wished in my despicable process. We're still friends (sort of ) so she shall remain nameless here. Not that I need to worry about her seeing this ... she would never be caught dead reading a style blog. She is one of those really, truly admirable folks who spend the majority of their time striving for a better world, and I love her for that. But frankly, she'd be more successful in her efforts if she stepped up her own personal presentation a notch or ten. She spends a substantial amount of Facebook time complaining that she is under-employed in spite of her fabulous talents. She can also afford to step it up a bit. Just saying.
We are both from old-school feminist roots, but one of the strongest feminist platform planks has always been in support of the freedom of all women to choose ... not just in reproductive issues ... but in how they choose to dress to face the world each day. How they choose to be seen in response to that freedom. If you don't think that matters, then imagine for a moment that you could not wear pants in public or were forbidden to leave your house without covering your head for modesty.
And all this is important because if you step out into the world at all, you will be seen. So, in a long overdue response to her comment, I contend that, since it is inevitable that you will be seen, it is basic civility and a sign of respect for those who will see you to give them at least something interesting to look at.
What you wear makes a difference. Some days, it's only a minuscule difference; putting on a cute cardigan on a day at home alone will keep you warm and cheer you up if it's a cardigan that you really like. But your appearance can also inspire others if your confident (or elegant, or minimal, or edgy, or charming) turnout matches your competence in professional and personal activities. You can support and flatter a friend if you show up at her social event looking like you give a flip about her success as a hostess. She didn't put all that effort into putting together a nice time for friends for you to arrive looking like you just finished cleaning your bathroom and decided to honor her with your ultra casual presence. She should love you any way you look, right? Sort of. How you dress or don't dress says something about your respect for her.
We all have those buds who are so invested in being the one who is so busy with grave and thoughty matters that, year after year, they show up in mom-jeans, running shoes and tee shirts with pictures of precious pets or socially relevant (but invariably trite) slogans on them. The message is that we must never, ever think that they waste time on anything so trivial as dressing up. The other message that they put out is, whether they know it or not, that they are not fully present in the world we all live in together. And that they are just not bothering to pay attention to the people and events that are shaping the era we live in right now. Whether they know it or not, they have made a style choice, and reflectively, a deeper life choice. Yikes.