By Dr. Julie Davelman
You have a cocktail party tonight. You walk into your closet and assess the situation. How do you make the decision about what to pick?
Do you tend to go for the tried and true? For the latest of the season? For something that will stand out and make people remember you? Or, do you close your eyes, pull something random off the hanger, and hope for the best? There is a time and a place for each of these approaches, but have you thought about how you decide which one it will be today?
As you survey your closet, ask yourself, “Do these clothes reflect my style?” You can think of style as the message you are trying to send with your clothes. The message may be, “I want to be comfortable,” or “I am up to date on the latest fashion,” or “I bet you have not seen anything like this,” or even “I don’t care about style.” No matter what item you wear, it does send a message. When picking your outfit of the day, aim for something that makes you feel most genuine— the most like you—today. Try to see whether it matches your sense of self or the way you want to present. For instance, imagine putting on a piece of clothing that is at the peak of fashion, but you don’t recognize yourself in it. In that case, it doesn’t really matter how many designers think this is the way to go. On the other hand, if you put on that piece and realize that looking at yourself in it makes you happy, then this is the piece for you. It is never just about “style,” it’s always about “your style.”
The next thing to think about is who are you dressing for. If you are dressing to honor the authentic you, that’s great. But if you are dressing in a particular way because that look is expected of you, then maybe it is time to reconsider. Do you catch yourself thinking, “I can’t wait to wear this?” or is it “What will people think when they see me in this?” The goal is to present yourself in the way that makes you feel confident and beautiful. You are dressing so that you enjoy your look.
So let’s get back to dressing for the cocktail party. What will it be? Will it be the classic short black dress, a dress from a designer you know everyone will recognize, or a unique piece you found in a small mom and pop boutique that
you are sure will be like no one else’s?
Now, let’s say that you are always known for making a statement with your clothes and are always wearing something that is a conversation-starter, but you are not up for that much attention today. You can probably
accept that although you are known for unique clothes, it is more important to honor yourself and do what is right for you. When you choose among these, try picking the item that makes you feel the best instead of the item you think others would approve of.
You also can’t overlook the financial component of style. Can you or should you change your wardrobe annually to reflect the latest trends?
The answer to this question is just as individual as style itself. It depends on your motivation. If you enjoy refreshing your wardrobe every season and have budgeted for that, then go for it. But if you find you are feeling pressured to buy new things regardless of how much you like them, or whether this is the best use of your money, then it may be time to reconsider whether “keeping up” is worth it for you.
There may also be a compromise, where you hold on to the staple pieces that make you happy while each season setting aside a budget to get a few new things that either help you stay on trend or stand apart from it, or a little from each category–whatever feels right to you in that season.
The takeaway is that what matters most is how you feel, not what you wear. Your clothes should be your way of honoring your self-perception and dressing in a way that makes you feel true to yourself. There is no shame in fitting in, and there is no shame in standing out. Choosing clothes should not make you feel pressured or create anxiety.
If that is what your wardrobe is doing to you, then it is worth taking the time to understand what the problem is. Maybe it’s not the clothes that need to get more comfortable, but the person wearing them.