Monday, September 8, 2014
Clothes make the (wo)man
That said, while I gleefully abandoned wearing skirts & jackets (and -- especially -- pantyhose!) every day -- I care about my appearance. I like to look good, because when I think I look good (or at the very least, presentable), I feel better about myself, more confident and capable of facing the challenges of the day. I drive dh nuts sometimes, standing in front of my closet, debating what I should wear today: What would be appropriate for the occasion (even if it's just a brief run to the store to get milk)? This outfit or that one? Do I feel more like purple today, or black? V-neck or crew? Should I wear a cardigan? (Check the weather.) Which earrings to go with it? Would adding a bracelet be "too much"? Can I get away with wearing my comfortable (albeit beat up) shoes?
Packing for a trip of any sort is an exercise in anxiety, because I feel like I should be prepared for any eventuality -- and how do I know what I'll feel like wearing on any given day? (Yes, you make do with what you have, and six days out of seven, it's usually just fine, but there are days when I put on my grey sweater while thinking longingly of the much more appropriate red one sitting in my armoire back home.) And for a special occasion -- our nephew's recent engagement party, for example -- I will obsess over finding the perfect outfit to wear, weeks in advance. Once I have the key pieces, I turn to jewelry & shoe choices, as well as nails & makeup. (As I was applying my eyeshadow that day, I realized that the blue I pulled out of my collection, to match the navy blue of my top, was actually more of a violet. Horrors!! And it was getting too late to remove it all and start again with a more appropriate shade.)(Needless to say, I survived.)
(Whereas dh happily throws on the first thing his hand touches in the closet, and will wear (& re-wear) the same thing over & over -- not to mention committing fashion faux pas such as wearing a red T-shirt with green shorts. "You can't wear that for Christmas Eve -- you wore it five years ago," I will say as I search his closet for a more appropriate outfit. "How do you remember these things??" he says, no doubt privately thinking "and why should I care?")
That's why Heather Mallick's column in last Saturday's Toronto Star resonated with me so strongly. "For every dress and shirt, there is a reason," the headline reads. Mallick was promoting a new book by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, called "Women in Clothes." The authors surveyed more than 600 women (famous & not, including Mallick) with a detailed questionnaire (which you can also fill out) about what they wear and why. Questions such as: “With whom do you talk about clothes? What is your cultural background, and how has that influenced how you dress? Do you notice women on the street? What sort do you tend to admire?... Can you recall some times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?” And on and on. The responses make up the book.
"I now realize," Mallick writes, "that I had been subjected to either a skilled police interrogation or the therapy session of a lifetime." (My own reaction, reading the list of questions -- now more than 80 (!) -- was that each one could provide fuel for an entire blog post.)
I found and bought the book later that night. :) I will let you know what I think when I finally get around to reading it -- although I suspect this is the kind of book you can dip in & out of at leisure.
Does this book sound like something that might interest you? What sort of a relationship do you have with your clothes?