Sunday, 2 August 2015

Why Getting All Dressed Up Matters

It seems so frivolous at times to be thinking/writing/reading about style when you consider all the horrible things going on in the world today - the refugees in the Calais, the war in Syria, the economic crisis, the renewed polarization of the world's politics (West vs. Big Bad East all over again), not to mention the environmental issues - or should these be the primary concern? Violence, corruption, poverty are rampant in my own country as in many other corners of the world. I read the papers, I watch the news, I know about these things - I'm not living under a rock. However, as desperate as these make me, I have no solution, no concrete action to take. Focusing on my family, my little universe, a few friends and the everyday is what I can manage and where I'm needed the most, so that is what I do.

An important part of staying on top of the everyday is organization and routine. I can manage chaos in small doses and at times, but constantly - it drives me crazy. That is why a streamlined repository for clothes, shoes and accessories, aka The Closet, is a must. Wardrobe space is precious in our apartment which means I have to be on top of things regarding the number of items I own. The situation is still a far cry from a carefully curated collection of items I love and enjoy, but I'm getting there slowly. Yet, this post is not about wardrobe organization. It's about why these things matter to me. Or, in other words, why personal style helps save my life in the madness of daily living.

Structure: getting dressed for the life I live first thing in the morning gives structure to my day. If I'm staying at home with the kiddos, it's the track suit bottoms and a t-shirt or an oversize men's shirt (my dad's), mundane, plane, but if it's clean and it fits, is made of cotton or other natural fabric - it's all that I need. Staying in my pj's past the breakfast time and I already feel anxious. If I'm dressed for the daily activities, then I can get on with them and that helps me stay focused and not just waste away the hours watching crappy TV all morning (although we've established that I do that sometimes as well;) Also, doing my face and hair is a part of this routine and even if I don't leave the house all day, I want to feel pulled together. I know this stems from the need to control the often uncontrollable in life, but it helps me.

Presentation: I work in an office environment where casual dressing is considered a no-no - no jeans, no casual Fridays, none of that. I have to look pulled together and exude a sense of authority as I often participate in meetings with officials where the corporate dress code is to be observed. As I spend most of my time at my job, that means that most of my closet is work clothes. I am, however, not the pant suit lady. My aesthetic is just different, more bohemian, less strict. So I find middle ground in order to comply. My blazers are soft, less structured and certainly not boxy (although I've recently found what represented a holy grail of unattainable clothing chimeras for me - the perfect black blazer), but in block colors. My trousers are of a classic cut but with interesting prints. I do wear pencil skirts as these hug my curves in all the right ways, but they are of interesting, textured fabrics. And I accessorize big time - scarves, jewelry, shoes, bags - you name it. This helps me stay true to myself while at the same time presenting the best version of me to my professional environment. I have ascertained in numerous occasions that the way you look may make or break a meeting, a presentation. Done properly, it projects the right image to your coworkers, partners and lets you achieve what you set out to do more easily. Which leads us to ....

Communication: Getting the right formula with the outfits also lets me show loud and clear to the world who I am without having to explain a lot. If you want to read the messages I give out through my clothes (and people do so, even if subconsciously), you may gather that I'm an open and forthcoming personality with a positive outlook, yet serious and determined when required. You may also understand that I'm a bit quirky with a flare for the unexpected. Or, at least, that is what I would want you to understand about me. That is what I get dressed up for and what I want to project with my overall look. This is an important part of non-verbal communication and I believe a vital one.

Appropriateness: Showing up so that your outfit matches the situation - the ultimate mastery of social context. It means to not show up over or underdressed, to not show disrespect, but primarily to feel good in what you're wearing and look comfortable. It is only when you're bien dans sa peau that you can really be appropriate and presentable. It's when you are wearing the clothes and your look, not the other way around. And that is the trickiest bit, the one that requires soul searching, understanding of the self and translating that knowledge in your wardrobe. I believe that is a life-long process, wisdom that is not attained lightly. But it is also the process I enjoy and the trial and error part is what makes it fun.

All this maybe reading a bit too much into what you put on yourself primarily not to walk around naked and protect your body from the elements. You can look at it that way. I prefer to look at it as an essential part of who I am, an opportunity for learning and growth and a process that makes me more considerate, less wasteful and more temperate as well.

As of mid September, when the real life strikes again, I will have to have this process down pat however. My outfits will have to be planned a week in advance (same goes for my elder daughter), laid out complete with all the trimmings the night before and put on in the morning with a very small margin for error - there will just be no time to change my mind. That means the next few weeks will be spent culling my wardrobe, distilling only the most essential items for the coming season, and loads of washing and ironing. Wish me luck!

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