why do we wear what we wear?

i invite you to think long and hard about what drives you to dress a certain way, what motivates you to get dressed each and every day.

what are you trying to express to the world via the clothes you wear?

***

some feel that dressing oneself is fundamentally about sex or sexuality, that what we wear is mostly influenced by the desire to attract a mate, or to continue to please the lover we may already have.

do you feel that is that true? do we put clothes on our bodies ONLY to appear attractive to others in a sexual way? is that the be-all, end-all ultimate end game in aesthetic self-expression?

or, is the sexuality/self-expression connection claimed by some too simple, too narrow of a supposition to explain our sartorial motivations?

***

could it be that wanting to appear sexy is, or could be, merely ONE of a myriad of things people want to express through the clothing they choose to wear?

perhaps are we trying to express OTHER things when we get dressed every day.

could it be that the motivations behind dressing oneself, behind each and every ensemble, are numerous?

i believe that people choose to dress a certain way in order to express a vast number of different ideas or intentions. a few, paltry examples (to which you could add to via comments, if you were so inclined!):

-they may want to appear smart or educated
-they want to be seen as someone with taste (sophisticated or ‘cultured’)
-they want to appear different, set themselves away from the “crowd (whatever that crowd may be)
-they want others to see they are trendy, i.e. keeping up with the latest trends, running with the current crowd and it’s zeitgeist
-they may want to appear rich, or perhaps the complete opposite, someone to whom expensive things mean nothing
-they may wear things that are strictly utilitarian: their clothes may be a uniform, that may facilitate or compliment their profession or an activity in which they participate
-others may want to appear as if they belong to a certain subculture
-for still others, modesty may be a big consideration (due to religious or cultural concerns)
-and of course, as mentioned above, some may want to appear sexual, or sexy, whatever that means for a person and the type of person they are seeking to attract.


one or several of these things may be at play in why we create and wear a given outfit, depending on the person and the setting (culture, geographic location, etc.) in which they find themselves.

perhaps there more reasons not even mentioned here that are at play. or maybe none of those mentioned or unmentioned are at play at all.

***

perhaps something else motivates us to wear what we choose to wear?

maybe getting dressed on a given day is also influenced by situational factors…

sometimes, as humans, we appear or seem to dress a certain way in certain situations to express a particular feeling, to somehow fit in, or meet certain expectations. we might change our style to accommodate other outside influences or factors. we might change our look slightly or put any desire to be ourselves in check.

i can see a person making an effort to dress differently (than their personal norm) in any of the following situations (again, surely there are other examples):

-when going on a job interview
-when attending a church service, temple, or other religious space
-when meeting a mate’s parents or family
-when working at a conservative office or place of employment
-when attending a wedding, a ceremony, or other formal, organized event


does the event or location to which one is going motivate their aesthetic choices, color what they choose to don that day? or does it not matter or figure in at all?

***

and what about bodily concerns?

we might wear clothing in a certain way in order to strategically conceal or reveal certain areas or draw attention to a certain part, or away from another part. one can use layering and mixing of certain pieces of clothing or the addition or placement of accoutrements to draw others eyes in one’s intended direction.

-some want to appear larger/smaller in general, or may want to have certain areas appear large/smaller (bust, hips, legs, waist, shoulders, you name it)
-again, covering the body in general, or parts of it, for modesty concerns (religious cultural…thinking of things like head scarves, long skirts, concealing the wrists or ankles)
-revealing parts of the body for cultural/religious concerns (thinking of indigenous tribes around the world who might say, reveal the breasts as a suggestion of femininity or fertility)

***

me?

in thinking critically about what people in general may consider motivations for their self-expression, i have of course also put some thought into what my personal motivations are in expressing myself through clothing, i.e. why i dress the way i do. so, i’ll spill them!

day 11.
(drawing attention to my waist, not the bust — september 2005)

one of my biggest concerns when it comes to clothing choices is what will flatter my body, and it’s natural shape, i.e. make it look it’s best, aesthetically. i am almost completely all about drawing attention AWAY from my chest. i’m short to average in stature, very busty, and small to average elsewhere proportionally (at least, i was before getting pregnant!). for as long as i can remember, i have been trying to visually minimize or detract attention from my bustline (if possible, it’s not always easy!). i do not want any cultural association with breasts + overt sexuality to come into play with what i wear, or make people think that i’m all about my breasts. the idea of such makes me personally feel uncomfortable…because my chest size is genetic and not something i chose to own. i honestly don’t even like them much and wish i didn’t have such mammarific abundance. as such, it’s something i choose to downplay, if i can.

the aforementioned bustiness lead to skin issues in my teens (stretch marks, *sigh*). i am so embarrassed about the state of my skin in that area that i always feel the need to cover them up. i never wear shirts that dip low enough to reveal these scars, and if i do have on a top or dress that could possibly reveal those stretch marks, i’ll often wear a tank top as a layer underneath said dress or top in an attempt to conceal them.

when i wasn’t pregnant and prevented from doing so to a large degree, i tried to draw attention to the area under my bust, my waist, as well as my hips and legs, which were proportionally smaller. what choices did this lead to for me as far as clothing and accessories are concerned? belts to define the waist, very skinny/narrow leg jeans, tights, or leggings to emphasize the relative smallness of my legs (at least, my calves)….for starters. i’m still attempting some of these tricks, though the shape of my body is currently in flux.

5.2.2006
(covered up with layers at the bustline/bodice, skinny look from the legs downward — may 2006)

it also occurred to me the other day that one of the reasons i wear my hair in a bright color and favor insanely large, colorful shiny and interesting earrings (and short necklaces as well) is to draw attention toward my face and away from my bust.

additionally, i am someone who ideally wants to be seen as being intelligent, creative, artistic by the world at large. besides the bodily image concerns, these more cerebral, expressive considerations have long been a motivator for me when it comes to getting dressed, at least since middle or high school. i want people to believe that i am a little bit of a risk-taker, idiosyncratic, unusual, a little different than the rest of the pack, someone who thinks differently or behaves differently than others, someone who has an open mind. ways i might and do express these inner desires outwardly might include: wearing daring color combinations (that i’ve usually given a great deal of thought to), wearing pieces with interesting design in the way of detail or overall structure, or by attempting to mix pieces i have in what i consider to be exploratory, experimental, innovative way that works within the aforementioned body concerns and restrictions i mentioned above.

1.12.2008
(all about the crazy color combos here, natch! — january 2008)

like many, i suppose that i also want to appear ‘young’ to a certain degree, or at least, ‘young at heart’, whatever that means! though i am quite happy to be the age i am (32, thank you very much) and believe that age is not an issue and certainly not a detractor from true beauty, i also have a desire to savor what particles of my youth that might remain…if any! i must say, however, that youth, to me, suggests joie de vivre and as mentioned above, a certain sense of open-mindedness…these are traits i want to continue maintain in myself and attempt to exude in some way even as i age, if i can. this sense of youthfulness, i hope, will be tempered with wisdom gleaned over time (about style, and life in general)…and i hope that bits of both are somehow expressed through the pieces and parts i choose to wear.

wanting to appear sexy is, honestly, probably the least of my concerns, the very least of my stylistic motivators. if, by an off chance, i appear to be sexy to someone, anyone, it’s not intentional on my part. i’ve been married to the same man for 10 years this year, still completely in love with him and not looking to snag anyone else! my husband is a very accepting, open-minded person, and doesn’t seem to have any overt or strong opinions on what i choose to wear. he wholeheartedly supports my desire to dress for myself (or to suit/address whatever other aesthetic/sartorial motivations i may profess), as long as doing so makes me happy. all that said, i’d have to argue that i am not dressing with the explicit aim to “catch a mate”.

issues of comfort also come into play as a motivator for me when getting dressed: i live in a mild climate (the san francisco bay area). it’s often cold, foggy and windy, even in the “summer”, and the temperature can and does shift over the course of the day, from almost warm to downright brisk. therefore, should i not want to freeze or be uncomfortable, i must dress appropriately. this means layers: scarves/cowls, hats, jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, leggings, tights, pants, boots, socks, etc. things that can be removed or added at will, with concern for comfort and the latent temperature in the area i find myself at a given moment.

10.12.2007
(my version of work wear! — october 2007)

and when it comes to dressing to address any professional concerns: granted, i am VERY modest about my body and want to cover it up/hide certain parts, as detailed at length above, but i feel that i am less modest in my color and design choices i general, even when i am at work. i feel that i can get away with this alleged ‘wildness’ or creativity with my professional clothing choices because a.) i mostly work from home, and b.) when i do work in an office, i can ‘get away with’ creative clothing choices because said office is very relaxed and has no explicit ‘dress code’. the laxity and open-mindedness of the dress code and what i choose to wear to said workplace is, i should mention, is probably a reflection of both the industry in which i currently work (software/websites/a start-up) and the stereotypical culture of the san francisco bay area: it’s generally very liberal, and very relaxed, almost to a fault (pun intended!).

i am sure that’s not the end of what motivates me as i put together an outfit on any given day…but it’s certainly a beginning of an exploration and explanation of what makes me tick…’why i wear what i wear’.

***

so, as i implored at the beginning of this post:

what about you?

what motivates YOU when you are getting dressed everyday? what might explain YOUR specific clothing choices, your special and specific idiosyncratic personal spin on self-expression?

58 comments

  1. Fer Funchal

    Tricia, I love your blog, but it’s the first time I comment in here. For me, I would say that most of what you said applies (I want to be seen as “creative” and “young to a certain degree” too), except that I don’t dress to cover my bust (it’s medium sized, and I kind of like my cleavage), but my tummy. I hate it hate it HATE IT! you have no idea! even when I was younger and รƒยผber skinny, I had a bulge in my belly, and my waist was not very flattering either. trying to hide my tummy is my number one concern when it comes to dressing, I suppose. after my tummy is concealed, I feel free to be creative, and play with colors, materials, etc.

  2. Ilka

    Hi Tricia, I have been reading and loving and been inspired by your blog for so many years, and have always lurked and lurked (even when you demanded lurkers to come out from the shadows and reveal themselves!) but for some reason I never felt like I could post anything, until reading this post now. So, here goes …
    I wear what I wear because I want to seem slightly different from others, but I am not as adventurous on the outside as I am inside, so often I will try on an outfit in my head, but it never makes it out into the real world. Or I will buy items of clothing that end up hanging in my cupboard and never being worn. As a teenager I loved hats, and I would buy hats but I never felt brave enough to wear them because I think that hats do attract attention, and I wanted to look nice, but I didn’t want to be looked at.
    My style changes quite a lot with my mood, and I have different ‘uniforms’ which I turn back to regularly, as they have worked on previous occasions. I also seem to have several personas – the work me (whom I used to hate when I worked with accountants in London, but now I quite like her because I allow her to wear more interesting clothes, which are more a reflection of the real me, because I work with architects now! Weird, I know), the clubbing me, the me who is going out for a meal with her parents, the me who is going shopping with her husband, and the me who is staying at home, and they are all quite different!
    I really enjoy reading your blog because you are so brave and impeccably stylish, and seem to be able to wear all your clothes with such confidence and pizazz. I grew up in a society which was very conservative, although at the time I was oblivious to this (South Africa in the 70s and 80s) and I think this has had a huge impact on me, albeit subconsciously. The fear of expressing myself freely has filtered into what I feel is ‘ok’ to wear.
    Like you, I don’t feel comfortable with looking overtly sexy, or wearing revealing clothing, but more because I don”t want people to think I am trying to attract that kind of attention, so I think that sometimes I come across as being quite conservative, which I find frustrating.
    Reading your blog and seeing what you and all the fabulous wardrobe remixers wear has given me so much more confidence in trying different things, or wearing things which might make people look twice, which I am eternally grateful for. Thanks so much for being so inspiring and thought provoking.

  3. Inez

    I dress to:

    1. satisfy my inner fantasy life
    2. flatter my curvy figure
    3. creative outlet

    I do consider if I have sex appeal, but I feel that comes more from my state of mind and scent.

  4. katie

    what a thought provoking topic. . . . thanks for starting this tricia! i really love this question and hope a LOT of people answer it! ๐Ÿ™‚ i am always curious about how people develop their personal style.

    for me, I feel like a lot of my style is driven purely by the lifestyle I have and my daily activities. I don’t like to buy a lot of clothes, so what I do buy has to be very versatile: for work in a fairly conservative office, church, a low-key social life, etc. I try to be as creative as possible within that framework but I don’t find it that difficult since a lot of things I’m drawn to kind of fit in with my overall lifestyle. I’d say my style is sweet and feminine, not too frilly, but I like puffed sleeves, red shoes, a line skirts, that kind of thing. i would hope that my clothes give the impression that i’m a friendly and creative person, and I think they do most of the time. also, i rarely ever dress in a revealing way, mostly because i’m just not into that kind of attention, but also because i live in a cold climate and would much rather wear a scarf and sweater than a low cut top. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Claire

    When I get dressed in the morning I want to:
    a) feel happy, beautiful, and different from others
    b) be comfortable and prepared for what my day entails

    I do not like to wear anything that is obviously trendy because I really dislike “throwaway fashion” and want to keep (and wear) my clothes for years without looking dated.
    Though I am confident about my body, I don’t like to show it off too much. If I bare my back I will try to keep my thighs concealed and vice-versa. I like subtle sexuality.
    I feel uncomfortable appearing too casual or messy, even if I am just going to school or the supermarket. I think I inherited this attitude about style from my grandmother who always dressed impeccably well and even wore her pearls to aerobics class. I didn’t see her without lipstick until she was on her death bed!

    What a thought provoking post, Tricia!!

  6. vasiliisa

    First, thanks for writing these thought provoking posts! I think of this kind of stuff quite a lot but rarely find the time or energy to blog about them, these days.

    I do believe that dressing up is very much a social thing, and also a gendered thing (which is hardly the same as a sexual thing). I find that for me dressing “feminine” is way more important than dressing “sexy” (as I define these terms). It is an aesthetic choice, and a political one (celebrating my gender). Moreover, it’s psychologically important for me as an academically inclined overachiever ๐Ÿ™‚ to NOT dress as (a stereotype of) such. Dressing feminine is a part of that game, as is being artsy-creative and experimental. That is probably the biggest social factor that affects my style choices.

    It is obvious that dressing “feminine” can be also a part of the game of attracting mates. But I do play it for other reasons, too. I’d also like to point out that even for heterosexual women, a major “audience” are other women, not (just) men.

    I have no huge issues with my body, but comfort is a major factor for me. What is comfortable is a highly personal thing, of course. My body has different demands than someone else’s; luckily mine hasn’t been demanding that I stop wearing heels, for example :). But it will not be happy if I wear peep toes in the Finnish winter! For me, avoiding too hot/too cold is a biggie, and something that does create restrictions.

    Then, of course, I just plain happen to be a visually inclined person, who loves colours, shapes, and textures, and playing with them ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. pinkpillsanity

    Hrm, I suppose the crux of what I choose to wear is a sort of rebellion.

    But not in the way most people would think. I’m 23, and for the most part (minus the lovely wardrobe remixers I’ve seen), I simply cannot stand the way girls my age dress. If it’s not sweatsuits and pajama pants it’s short shorts and short skirts… and those Ugg boots. Sure, some people can pull that off rather lovely, I just think people my age are, well, too casual. I’m a student and a young professional, so I really try for a certain… conservative quirky look. I try to keep my clothes in good condition, never wear sweatpants in public unless I’m going to the gym (or biking, but even then, I tend to just wear light cotton), and would rather something be too loose than too tight. And even if I’m late for class, I attempt to wear something a step up from jeans and a t-shirt if possible, if only by wearing a jacket, as I do not own any sweatshirts anymore.

    What I end up with is a nice base wardrobe, blazers in every neutral color (and recently a lovely dark green one), jeans in every basic color (you can wear jeans and not look like a bum, they’re classic, I wear them to work all the time), and a lot of button up shirts. Some print t-shirts if they’re interesting. Loads of tank tops to go under things. Since the weather out here is extremely moody, I’ve gotten good at layers. Where the quirky comes in is my accessories; I’m addicted to hats. Fedoras, caps, and even those pillbox hats. I also love scarves, gloves, and shoes (especially sneakers, which goes more with the quirk, I suppose). I make a lot of my own jewelry these days, too.

    People have always given me hand-me-downs because I have always been thin and a little short, with hardly any curves to speak of. This has made me learn how to alter clothes, though it’s been slow going. I’m very inspired by the 30s-40s and the steampunk subculture, which fits in my “cover more” type of mindset. I appreciate that kind of sex appeal most of all, the kind that’s about what you’re not seeing, and less of what you see. I tend to go a little less girly and more androgynous, partly because I work with a lot of guys and partly because it just flatters what little of a figure I have anyway.

    So, yes, it comes down to a bit of a rebellion. I want to be respected, but not look like a drone. To be taken seriously, but be somewhat memorable. Be adult, but not lose my youthfulness. Tall order, maybe.

  8. Jackie/fabfrock

    What a terribly excellent question you’ve posed and explored here!

    There are so many factors.

    As a kid (and teen!) I was always playing pretend games with my sister that grew increasingly sophisticated; dress-up clothes were often a component from the days of our “prairie” game where I tried to make a “corset” out of a pillowcase and string, to the years running around in the woods with capes, to the videos we made where we conveyed different characters with different outfits.

    Clothes are a way of exploring different personas, and reflecting my moods, or sometimes improving my mood. I’m more likely to dress up when I’m in a bad mood and I want to transcend that grumpy, everyday self that rolled out of bed. I like to express my yin and yang with outfits that are very feminine or by wearing ties and men’s shoes. I also have had a lifelong interest in other cultures and time periods, so I love vintage clothes and the sense of history they convey, or clothes reminiscent of other places.

    I’m eternally grateful that I do have a darn good figure, and I like to show it off, although I’ve never been the type to bare much skin. I think some of the sexiest clothes have a sense of restriction or concealment. (Like the necktie, which I find one of the sexiest and most useless garments going, on man or woman…) I’ve been with Dade for nine years so I’m not trying to woo a mate, but I do still like to feel like I’m hot, and even though Dade loves me just the same in my at-home writing slob uniform, he likes certain clothes on me a lot, too.

    I also just like being a nonconformist and I think clothes can be art and the world can always do with more art. I want to stand out a little in a crowd; even though I can be very shy I’m also sort of a ham and I like a little attention!

  9. lisa

    this is a really great post. (another really great post!)

    i think my primary motivator is comfort (physical and psychological, the latter ruling out going for, like, sweat pants) – layering because i’m often warm, long tops with jeans or else dresses/skirts because my back is long and i feel awful by the time my day begins if i spend my bike ride trying to avoid exposing a swathe of my back, thin knit clothes (lots of jersey) because i rarely sit still and they work with that, flat shoes because i’m clumsy, no button-down shirts because they always end up gaping or popping open, etc.

    second to that comes the shapes and colours that do it for me from a design perspective – the colour palette of mondrian grid paintings (with black dominating instead of white, curvy silhouette, variations on standard lengths (bolero cardigans, 3/4 sleeves, cuffed trousers). i love pattern but rarely find it in the right cut. in terms of work, i’m an architecture student working in architecture offices outside term time, and so if it’s clean and neat enough, not much is verboten. i’m experimenting lately with short skirts with legging or opaque tights, which i had feared because i’m not that slim, but i like the silhouette so we’ll see. one thing that appeals to me is that i am working on my grand plans for tattoos, and i like the idea of the colour and pattern of them against block-coloured clothes, with me as the ornament. (tattoos seem not to be a big hit with a lot of people i meet in architecture but i now have a technical drawing on my wrist, so i am hoping cover-up is never necessary outside exceptional situations – say, client meetings – as it would be a comfort issue.)

    i tend to emphasise my waist because my bust is big and my waist:hip ratio is pretty noticeable, so i can look twice my weight if the waist is lost. i don’t hide my bust but i don’t appreciate it being the only thing people look at, so i rarely wear anything too low-cut and tend only to avoid high necklines because they increase how big my bust looks. i am single but a lot of what i find attractive in friends is a sort of post riot grrrl, zine librarian sort of aesthetic, so while i might project subculture a little bit in part to assert that aspect of my interests to potential mates, it’s not exactly most people’s idea of sexy. i also have a thing for a sort of 1950s british seaside buzz.

    as an aside, i quietly wonder sometimes if i got rewired as a kid to view the aesthetic archetypes in _grease_ as the ultimate, and if so, how! the straight up rockabilly-by-numbers look bored me to tears, but i borrow a lot from both the men and the women.

  10. Leah

    Mon-Fri I’m subjected to a fairly strict school dress code of black & white. It doesn’t sound too bad, but it’s restricted to a white top (preferably shirt) with a black blazer/jacket and black bottoms of some description. No denim, no strappy tops, no casual looking items. Ideally, they would like suits, but as they are expensive they do allow a little flexibility. In summary, during the week I lack motivation to dress as I desire simply because of this ‘dress code’.

    On the weekend however, I’m free to go as crazy as I’d like to! Which usually isn’t that crazy to be honest. I think I’m inspired by ideas I’ve seen around me (through wardrobe remix/blogs/random people on the road etc.), what I feel like wearing that day, what the situation is and what suits me. I like to think I have no particular affliction to categories which I think a lot of people my age (nearly 17) have. I think where I live affects what I wear to some extent and I crave an environment where you can be as creative as you like, with no supposed right or wrong – I’ll find it one day! Errm, I don’t think I’ve found all of my preferences yet, as in what you would define as my ‘personal style’ – but maybe dressing up is like an endless journey of self-discovery? I suppose if we’re always changing and growing as people, this would be reflected in what we choose to wear.

  11. Marie

    I dress stylishly and the way I think looks flattering on my body, but at the same time, in a way that won’t get strange weird perverted guys to call me “hey baby…sit down beside me…”

  12. Lily

    Hey Tricia — I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your thoughts on dressing your body type. I have a body shape VERY similar to yours (petite with big boobs on a small frame) and I’ve always noticed the way you compose outfits to balance everything out and avoid looking top-heavy — and thanks to you, I’ve been able to use some of the same techniques and make sure I look cute but in a way where everyone isn’t staring at my chest. So thanks!

  13. sarah

    what about books/ideas/film/art? Is this strange? The best example I can think of was, after reading Mrs. Dalloway for the first time a few years ago, becoming very passionately interested in acquiring a lightweight, drop-waist summer dress, and increasingly interested in deco fashion. It’s the best, most recent example I can think of, but I know it’s not the only one. I think there’s a definite correlation between literature I’ve been reading or the movies I’ve been watching, even the food I’ve been cooking or the art I’ve been looking at – and how I dress. Whatever has been saturating my mind, my palette, my body seems to naturally find expression in what I want to wear.

  14. turtletrbl

    Thanks for showing us how you dress! I find your style aesthetically pleasing and always wondered how you put yourself together.

    I’m a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids so my style is somewhat limited by that, in the sense that stuff must be washable and relatively durable. However, I find that I have more freedom to explore since I’m not a corporate drone. I started sewing my own skirts because I wanted goth/punk skirts that weren’t too short or too long. I don’t like to show my upper thighs, and I DO like being able to sit down so I had to start making my own clothes.

    I also find that my dress is inspired by what I read and see. Some of my recent style muses include: Alice in Wonderland, Eloise, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character in Secretary, The Crow, Bizenghast, Aubrey Beardsley, Dorothy Parker, Tallulah Bankhead, and Japanese schoolgirl uniforms.

    I do tame things down around church folks, and particularly my parents who are very conservative. I dress to express my fun side and/or personality, not to be sexy per se, but I’m aware that the tattoo and skull designs I like are offensive to some. Fortunately, my husband finds anything plus a skirt to be maddeningly sexy, so he likes the way I usually dress.

    I’m also one of the ONLY people I know who wears Doc Martens for the reason they were invented — as orthopedic shoes. I have hideously messed-up feet from years of running and they prevent me from putting a foot wrong and cracking bones or exacerbating stress fractures.

  15. pamela

    See now, this is the second time I’ve noticed (probably my inattention to some detail) that you work. And here I thought you spent your days thrifting, and actively doing the great textiley sorts of stuff I always want to get around to, and somehow never do. Where do you get the energy?

    Why dress the way I do? I’m a child of the seventies. I love love love wrinkly, drip-dried linen, and velvet. And jeans. I can’t ever seem to get away from wearing those, probably because they are cut closer than most pants, and flatter my slightly disportionately amplish hips more than many dressier versions of the bifurcated garment.

    Oh, and yes I dress to hide certain flaws, and to accentuate certain assets. I’m the one wearing long (usually rumpledy linen) sleeves all summer because I somehow missed the tutorial on how to keep your upper arms from going completely to pot. *flaps gently in the breeze* I’m breathing down the neck of my first half-century, but my body (other than the afore mentioned upper arms) is still in decentish shape; I’m not as weighty as many of my contemporaries, and I like to show that off a little with flattering cuts.

    The asthetic I look for in clothing is simple cuts which often refer to the shapes of peasant clothing from various cultures. I like fit defined by tucks, smocking and the like, and generally relaxed shapes. Most of my clothes are solid colors, allowing focus on the cut and texture (linen! velvet! denim!)

    One thing I still can’t figure in my dressing. Show me a piece of fabric in a wild pattern, and I can’t resist it. I’m a surface design student, hoping to make that my career, and I love to create highly patterned fabric concepts. But I constantly wear solids. You’d think I’d go for the pattern, wouldn’t you? Obviously I compartmentalize, but why? I guess maybe it’s as simple as the fact that I can’t stand back to appreciate the pattern if I’m inside it!

  16. Violetwired

    Thanks so much for these intriguing questions and for dissecting your style so openly. You really think about fashion in a unique and provocative way. For me, this is a simple one to answer – I am into all things creative from knitting, to writing to painting, to film-making, to getting dressed in the morning. I see fashion as just an extension of my art and other creative pursuits, especially as 80-90% of my wardrobe is thrifted, and you have to have imagination to be a good thrifter! I am very very very comfortable with myself and my fashion choices. I think it’s irrelevant whether it comes across as sexual or not, or anything who cares what other people think?? What I wear makes me happy.

    Also, I think people can be very influenced by where they live. Vancouver BC, Canada is not exactly a fashion mecca – partially because it rains all the time, partially because we don’t have the same amount of choice and selection of shops and clothing as the US and Europe, and partially because people are kind of timid about expressing themselves through fashion here. So part of the reason why I pay so much attention to international trends is due to the desire to shake things up around here.

    You should pose this question on wardrobe_remix too…

  17. bestie

    i always wonder about this — about how people come up with their outfits and the myriads of things that influence a person’s daily wardrobe choices.

    as for me, i started REALLY thinking about what i wear when i started college. all throughout my younger school years (up until high school!) i was uniform-clad 5 days a week and my school had so many rules imposed on the students that no one really tried to stand out from the crowd. at least, fashion-wise.

    anyway, i got accepted to our country’s premier university, the state university that everyone tries so hard to get into. so when i started going to school there, i made a very conscious effort to look like i deserved my *apparently very limited* slot and that i was just as good as everyone else. but at the same time i tried very hard to stand out from the traditional jeans-and-tshirt combo the students are so fond of there. i started getting nice comments about my outfits, and i must admit i liked them a lot. and after some time, i think i kind of dressed more adventurously and creatively for them — for the comments and compliments, because they blew so much air in my head that i couldn’t help but feel good about myself. i am not being arrogant, because the truth is, studying in my university has brought me to my lowest of lows. walking along halls side-by-side with the smartest students in the country can really make you doubt yourself, i must say. so the fashion thing made me felt like i had a bit of an edge, at least, as shallow as that may sound. but it gave me the willpower to get up everyday and show those kids i can do it, too.

    now, i have just started a job (the details of which i am not too comfortable to share, but it is a great job with endless opportunities) and i really like it. it’s quite a different environment – more adults and their ‘adult stuff’ which i hardly experienced before – so it took me a while to dress like i normally would. for a few weeks i went to work wearing jeans and very boring tops. but as soon as people warmed up to me (and i to them) i started dressing more nicely and i am currently pushing the boundaries of normal work attire in my office. (at least i’d like to believe so.)

    but generally, i dress to stand out and look as approachable and easy-going as i can. i have never intentionally dressed up to look sexy, but it never hurts to cinch your waist and stuff like that. haha. also, i very seldom consider climate when dressing up, which is probably a first. i find that my body’s very cooperative and wouldn’t start sweating horribly even if i’m wearing layers in tropical climate. (of course, if i were in winter weather i’d pile on layers all the more.) and finally, a lot of my outfits are really influenced by bloggers and wardrobe_remixers, because let’s face it: those guys rock the most.

  18. kasia wska

    thank You, Tricia, for this post.
    i can’t reply right now – i really have to come back to this and rethink.
    i think that first of all i want to feel comfortable in what i wear – but this is not really true, as i buy a lot of things lately:-)
    greetings from poland – k

  19. Casey

    oh wow… tricia this is a great, thought-provoking post! I really enjoy pondering and chewing on these ideas of what motivates different people to dress certain ways. (my sister and I often discuss this, mostly because the differences in the way each of us dresses from the other is so pronounced!)

    I have real issues with the idea that dressing with care, taking an interest in fashion, etc. is somehow considered as a way to appear sexually attractive to others. I spent a good deal of my teenage years in a fundementalist offshoot of Protestantism, that tended to espouse that fashion=sex=bad. and so when we broke away from that group, it was amazing to find other people who looked at clothing like art-supplies: it is supposed to be fun, express your own needs, emotions, the person within.

    which is pretty much what motivates me at this point with my clothing choices. as I’ve become more comfortable with myself and who I am as an adult, I’ve started to explore more styles, colors, cuts, etc. and I certainly tend to dress based on how I feel on any given day. sometimes that means I play up a very girlish, almost doll-like look. the last few days I’ve been obsessing over a very 1960’s “Brigette Bardot” look; bouffant hair, winged eye make up, heels, short little skirts. basically I like to project whatever aesthetic is fascinating me at the moment into my clothing choices. that means that I tend to be all over the map, but it certainly makes me happy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ lol.

    I also, like you, tend to take into account areas of my body that I’d rather not show off to the world at large. skirts are one of my wardrobe constants, and its largely due to wanting to cover up my upper legs, which are large (and somewhat flabby… rofl. been working on that, but one can’t always beat out genetics. haha!). out of necessity I tend to shy away from skinny jeans, leggings, and other pants styles that will emphasize this. I have also been finding myself more and more using wide belts–or other midsection details–to break up my torso. I am somewhat freakishly long-waisted, and so I try to play up the fact that I *can* wear 5″ wide belts without a problem (and take away from the problematic legs too. rofl!).

    definitely where you grew up/live has a huge motivating factor in how one dresses–and I’m not just referring to the environmental factors of any given geographic location. having grown up in and around washington, dc, I know that some of my clothing choices tend to sometimes either blend in (in the case of how many black pumps I own), or deliberately stand out (at with my large collection of brightly colored vintage garments). in areas like southern california for instance, I do look very “east coast” compared to everyone else. in the northeast, I sometimes look more “southern”. I daresay even if I move to another area of the country/world, I’ll still hang on to the “mid-atlantic look” in some way because where I have spent the past 22 years of my life *has* influenced my garment choices.

    I’ve probably rambled for too long. lol. I find this topic so fascinating; I could honestly chat about it for hours!

  20. betty

    I dress primarily for comfort. Until this year I’d never even worn heels. I was terrified of falling in them! When I’m buying clothing I find myself drawn to patterns more than anything, bright colors next. I like tea dresses or 50’s style day dresses.

    Cost is a huge huge factor for me. I’m a single mom in the midst of a transition from one state to another. I’ve never had much money to spend on my wardrobe. As a result almost everything I own is thrifted or vintage (less vintage since it’s more expensive, obviously). I don’t think I have anything in my closet that cost more than $100 – sad to admit. But I enjoy thrifting and finding unique pieces that appeal to me.

    My style stands out, for the region I live in. Most of the other mothers my age have a uniform that they all stick to religiously – sweat pants, crocs, camo jackets, etc. Do I even need to say ick? My family and friends think I’m an odd dresser but after being a member or wardrobe remix and perusing fashion blogs I don’t feel as odd-girl-out as I once did.

  21. Mandy

    Hi Tricia,

    Long, long, long time lurker here, so I feel compelled to reply as you have given me so much inspiration and food for thought over the years.

    This may get a bit heavy later on as clothes really can be a deep thing, all wrapped up in our sense of self, personal psychology etc. So I’ll start with the simple things, I am hour glass, marilyn monroesque curvy, so I sometimes feel I look slutty and get unwanted attention even in sloppy jeans and a t-shirt, conversely I feel the need for figure-hugging clothes otherwise I feel fat or matronly. So it is always a balance getting that right. I do do the stove-pipe jean as, like you I have slim legs, however unlike you I have wide curvy hips, and all those fashionistas say you shouldn’t wear them with a shape like mine, but I pooh-pooh that, there is nothing wrong with celebrating an overtly feminine form, and the fashion world should do it more This is not to say that skinny women aren’t feminine, my best friend is like an ironing board, tiny and straight up and down, and I think she is the sexiest woman ever, and she thinks the same of me, she calls us the ironing board and the hour glass. (This is a purely platonic relationship, btw!!!!)

    Now the heavy bit….I have suffered from social anxiety (SA) for many years, but for many years I didn’t know that that was the problem. So when I was in my late teens and 20’s, before I realised I had SA, I used to obsess and obsess and obsess about clothing, to the extent that I had several different wardrobes to cover all the different types of people I had to mix with. This was way beyond dressing conservatively for work etc, it was more like trying to dress for each and every tiny unit or sub-group of people I knew. Now I realise that it is all SA stuff, I don’t think it is even about fashion, it is about the fact that I wanted so desperately to fit in and I thought that having the right pair of shoes etc, would make that magically happen.

    Now I’m working on self acceptance, and feeling comfortable in the slightly off-beat, quirky clothes I wear now, some people think I look really cool and some people think I look really bad, but that doesn’t matter, what matters is that I am expressing myself, and being true to myself.

    Thank you so so so much Tricia for being a part of that process.

    Mandy.

  22. julie mack

    Hi Tricia! i love your blog (& w_r!) & it’s also my first time commenting here. You do ask such fantastic questions.

    I think what I’m trying to express through my clothing changes each day. Some days, I want to channel Audrey Hepburn, other days Hackers or more geekstyle; i also like vintage & feminine things as well as adrogynous things. It varies on what my inspiration is that day. I think as standards though, I want to be seen as creative, quirky, eclectic & well put together. I work at a style magazine so this can be a bit of a dilemma when girls are regularly dropping $600 on a pair of shoes (which I so cannot afford; but don’t even think I would if I could). Their concept of fashionable is a lot different than mine. But I still want to be accepted by the snotty girls, without becoming snotty myself. It’s a weird balance to try to maintain.

    I also want to be comfortable- so I very rarely wear heels anymore. Jeans are a pretty big part of my wardrobe as are tee shirts but I still need to look a little professional (we don’t have a dress code either) & my age (24, soon 25) and not like I’m still in high school (but still not in suits!). I’m still trying to figure out what my style mission is, exactly; though I don’t think style should ever stop evolving.

    As for the body part I try to disguise? It changes from day to day. I don’t like my legs very much so I don’t usually wear mini skirts (without tights anyway). Otherwise, I’d have to say that I try to find a balance between skin & silhouette. I don’t want to look trampy but I also don’t want to look frumpy.

    I think that I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to have separate styles for different audiences. Work is a free-for-all; my family has adjusted to my quirky habits as the years go by and I’m a heathen so church isn’t really an issue. I definitely have different levels of formality that I can adhere to but nothing is ‘required’. I’m also uninterested in attracting a mate since I’ve got one already! But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to look saucy sometimes.

  23. josephine

    Hi, I have loved your blog for a long time now for the mix of fashion & craft & thought-provoking topics you put to us…

    I’m 24 and I live in the UK. I live in a fairly affluent town near to London and lived in London for a few years until recently. I dislike the way the girls dress around my hometown, it’s almost exclusively skinnies/leggings with a band t-shirt, leather jacket and big cotton scarf. And they all have carefully styled ‘messy’ hair. To me it’s a kind of New York dive-bar hipster type look and it’s all the same same same!!! It makes me feel old! Don’t get me wrong, I love my skinny jeans, but for the love of God why do they all have to dress the same??!!

    It goes without saying that in London girls/women dress much more individually/creatively. I loved being able to wear whatever I wanted (and I don’t have an out-there style) and not be looked up and down by other girls in the street. Individuality is valued and celebrated which it obviously should be!

    I actually think that a lot of women dress for other women, I know I do. I don’t give a hoot what boys think, ok so I’m in a stable relationship but I was the same before he came along. I do, however, care what other girls think. It must be a throw-back from school, you don’t want the other girls to whisper behind your back!

    I’m the same as you and many of the other ladies who have left comments here in the sense that I don’t want to look sexy. I don’t dress conservatively but I feel self-conscious if my cleavage is on show. I think it comes from sitting on the London Underground being leered at by disgusting older men who clearly see nothing wrong in that. That’s why I stopped putting anything on show, men who leer/are attracted to that aren’t worth getting to know. A lot of young men aren’t bothered by us being overtly sexy, most of my male friends find it off-putting in fact. Maybe that’s just a reflection of the people I know/want to know, but most of them agree that sexiness comes through in subtle ways, often ways that the girl is totally oblivious to.

    Another big factor for me is dressing to look different from my friends. My two best friends, while l love them dearly, dress in a way I really don’t like. And I guess dressing differently is a way to disassociate myself from them sartorially, so observers won’t lump me in the same category (or whatever) as them.

    Anyway thanks for the interesting thoughts, you’ve really made me think!

  24. stereoke!

    Great post and insight.

    I believe my main motivation for the way I dress is the weather. I feel out of place if I stand out of my environment. Not to say I don’t like to dress with standoutish pieces, but fabric and color are huge factors for me. I think I tend to branch out in a different way via pattern, cut, and with subtle detail or accessorization.

    I’ve come to the realization, especially after becoming addicted to wardrobe_remix, that I dress in a rather subdued palette, comparatively.

    I like to accentuate my legs as well; I believe they are my most pleasing feature. I try to hide my waist at all costs. I also now know that on some sort of level, whether it be conscious or not, is that I don’t like flaunting my tattoos. I have made a lot of style decision that revolve around covering them. And it’s not an insecurity of them, it’s just that usually I don’t want to engage in the world so openly and tattoos seem to be an open invitation to start talking with me. Unfortunately, it’s not usually the most exciting company either, it’s the dude at 7-11 payphone wanting to show off his tweety bird tat on his back.

    With all of that said, I have a fear of bright color that I wish I could get over. I see all of these lovely colors on you (Tricia) and on the w_remixers and I try to make an effort to incorporate more color and I just can’t seem to do it!

  25. Tricia Garrett

    Dear Tricia
    I’ve been enjoying your blog pages for a while now. I’ve started to consider my dress again a lot more over the past year after a long period of disregarding it. Like your other readers I have my problem areas (legs) and my good features (waist) which I have to consider. My job and the things I get up to in my free time, tend to be messy, active and exposed to miserable British weather conditions. As a result I have to spend most of my time in practical clothes with paint, glue or mud over me. BUT… I have some lovely clothes, chosen often because I fell in love with the fabric/ colour/ detail and many I’ve had for years and years. I just got out of the habit, and lost confidence, for dressing the way I like. I’m really keen on second hand too, mixed with a bit of homemade. Good shoes and boots however are a must. I just feel crap in cheap, weak shoes. My style is casually pretty I suppose but the colours have matured, a bit, over the years. I’m 46!

  26. Maria

    Love, love, love this entry. I was just thinking about this the other day. I know that when I was younger I definitely dressed to attract sexual attention. I kept my hair long and blonde, wore clothes that emphasized my breasts and figure and wore high heels. I had a lot of fun with this image and the attention it afforded me. However, at some point, I sort of outgrew it. I cut my hair off and dyed it brown (my natural color) – oh, the looks on my coworkers’ faces when I came back to the office after the hair appt!! Priceless. Suddenly, after the hair change, my wardrobe felt like it belonged to someone else. I went through a few years of transition (that I am still kind of going through). Besides the hair, my lifestyle has really changed over the last few years. I bike everywhere (a big wardrobe impact); I mostly work from home (hello pajama-mama); I am not out 3-4 times a week trying to meet my next conquest (happily settled); I feel like my age is finally showing on my features (i am 35); and, finally, I have committed to getting my spending under control (which has been helped along by my unemployed-graduate-student status over the lat 1.5 years). So all these things! I think that I have definitely felt like a fish out of water. “What to wear” was a question that I was constantly facing . . . with the answer ultimately being “um, biking pants again”. And it has been okay because I have been focused on other things in life. But, over the last year, I have been feeling like there is something missing in my life. Fashion!! Not necessarily what is in the latest issue of Vogue (although I love high fashion), but my own personal fashion. It is hard to truly express myself in fleece and spandex. Sexy!! I work out hard for my shape, but don’t really emphasize it anymore. So, for the past few months, I have been actively finding days where I can dress up. I have started shopping more at secondhand stores and vintage stores (this is also related to the environmental aspect of it), which has allowed me to be more creative. So, why do I dress now the way that I do? Well it depends! But, mostly, it is because I realize that my clothing communicates my mood, my activities, my understanding of design, of how certain things show on my body, etc. I communicate with my clothes and the message changes almost daily!

  27. Maria

    Love, love, love this entry. I was just thinking about this the other day. I know that when I was younger I definitely dressed to attract sexual attention. I kept my hair long and blonde, wore clothes that emphasized my breasts and figure and wore high heels. I had a lot of fun with this image and the attention it afforded me. However, at some point, I sort of outgrew it. I cut my hair off and dyed it brown (my natural color) – oh, the looks on my coworkers’ faces when I came back to the office after the hair appt!! Priceless. Suddenly, after the hair change, my wardrobe felt like it belonged to someone else. I went through a few years of transition (that I am still kind of going through). Besides the hair, my lifestyle has really changed over the last few years. I bike everywhere (a big wardrobe impact); I mostly work from home (hello pajama-mama); I am not out 3-4 times a week trying to meet my next conquest (happily settled); I feel like my age is finally showing on my features (i am 35); and, finally, I have committed to getting my spending under control (which has been helped along by my unemployed-graduate-student status over the lat 1.5 years). So all these things! I think that I have definitely felt like a fish out of water. “What to wear” was a question that I was constantly facing . . . with the answer ultimately being “um, biking pants again”. And it has been okay because I have been focused on other things in life. But, over the last year, I have been feeling like there is something missing in my life. Fashion!! Not necessarily what is in the latest issue of Vogue (although I love high fashion), but my own personal fashion. It is hard to truly express myself in fleece and spandex. Sexy!! I work out hard for my shape, but don’t really emphasize it anymore. So, for the past few months, I have been actively finding days where I can dress up. I have started shopping more at secondhand stores and vintage stores (this is also related to the environmental aspect of it), which has allowed me to be more creative. So, why do I dress now the way that I do? Well it depends! But, mostly, it is because I realize that my clothing communicates my mood, my activities, my understanding of design, of how certain things show on my body, etc. I communicate with my clothes and the message changes almost daily! I have even been contemplating submitting some outfits to wardrobe remix!!

  28. Morningsminion

    First, I’ll say that I’m a long time lurker and I really appreciate your blog as a fun and intelligent forum to discuss self expression as it emerges through what we choose to wear.

    I’m 26 years old and I just became an attorney two years ago, so my main issue with clothing that I face now is how to express to the community of lawyers that I work within that I am a professional to be taken seriously, which is complicated by several facts: (1) I’m fairly young to be an attorney and I look very young, (2) I’m a woman practicing in courtrooms dominated by men, (3) I too have a large chest that I have consistently made great attempts to conceal, and (3) I enjoy dressing with color, texture, and a dose of vintage flair, but I’m firmly ensconced in a world dedicated to making everyone look the same.

    The breast issue is a very serious one I think, and it has always been a marvel to me that I have naturally what is supposedly coveted by others, but my chest has been nothing but a burden to me since I’ve been in eighth grade. In my profession, I feel that my “sexuality” as evidenced by my larger than average chest (um, duh), is used as a means to diffuse my intelligence and standing as a lawyer. I guess it is fairly easy to hide a large chest under button up shirts and suit jackets, but it takes some considerable effort on my part to find just the right fit. Even then, I find myself unconsciously checking the middle two buttons on my shirt throughout the day just to make sure I’m not experiencing the dreaded “gapping” around my bustline. Sometimes, I feel like it’s such a burden to dress with this self conscious mindset. It makes shopping for work clothes and getting ready for the day such a downer… and now that I’m working, dressing for work constitutes most of the dressing that I do during the week (and then after I reach home, exhausted, I unfortunately retreat into to the “blah” of sweatshirts and big pants).

    So then, beyond trying to avoid looking like the busty lawyerette, there’s the problem with the conventional working wear of america that is so bland. I circumvent this in part by indulging in my affinity for vintage shapes and styles. Even though I might show up to the office departing from the blandana republican tradition, my dress is essentially conservative… because it is inspired by the 1940’s and 50’s… or that’s how I like to see it. Perhaps there is merit to a system of justice where everyone is dressed alike, kind of like the rational that gets applied to arguments for uniforms in schools. If everyone is dressed the same, then their minds and not their bodies are the focus of attention. But in the meantime, I’m thinking that an important part of me is going to wither away if I encase myself in a black suit and blue shirt for the rest of my professional life.

  29. Melissa

    During the work week, I try to maintain a professional appearance and usually dress for comfort. I work in education, so I don’t often wear anything too wild. I think my style is pretty simple anyway, but I sometimes will wear one piece that is unique and stands out, like a great print or funky pair of shoes.

    While in high school, I dressed as a non-conformist and wanted to show that I was different than everyone else. I did a lot of thrifting back then and was way into bowling shirts, ties, Converse, skinny jeans, and paisley. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that my tastes have matured a bit more, but I still love being stylish and trying to find a way to express myself through my fashion choices.

    During weekends and leisure time, I like to try and put together outfits to wear that are fun, chic, mod, and make me feel good in my skin. And I completely agree with vasiliisa in that sometimes I feel like I am dressing more for my girlfriends than the opposite sex.

  30. Annie Butterfly

    I dress to:

    1. Flatter my body shape… which means trying to make my top half appear smaller, while showing that my bottom half is quite slim.
    2. Be funny! Many of my outfits are quite comical/colorful and they make me and other people smile.
    3. Embrace nostalgia. I often long to have lived in a different era, so I compose an outfit to reflect that longing or to bring back carefree memories of my past.
    4. Reflect my mood…. feminine, masculine, gypsy, sporty, groovy, prim & proper, whatever.
    5. Show that I’m not a follower…. that I’m happy being ‘me’ and don’t want to change to fit in.
    6. Satisfy my creativity. Outfits are what I daydream about in my spare time.

    Sometimes I’ll have to be careful of where I’m going, like when I attend church I’ll make sure my skirt isn’t too far above my knees, or that I have no cleavage showing.

    Being ‘sexy’ is usually the last thing on my mind. If I want male attention, all I have to do is show my ample bosom! But that is the very thing I’m trying steer clear of. I just wear what I love, and if I happen to appear ‘sexy’ along the way, then so be it. But I think that many of my outfits would actually scare guys away, coz they’re pretty ‘out there’!

    And comfort is usually not a factor in my choices. I love to wear heels, and will often wear them even if I’m going to be on my feet all day. It’s agony, but ultimately satisfying ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Alyssa

    This was a great blog to readรขโ‚ฌโ€although it’s something we all obviously decide every day, I’ve never read about it.

    I’d say that in choosing my outfits, I like to appear proportional and color coordinated most of all. I dislike things that are awkward or not proportionate… so I tend to dislike my short legs!!! I like to appear organized and comfortable… I’d say appearing sexy is the least of my concerns. I just like to FEEL pretty. ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Tcat

    – Must be able to play in it
    – Must be able to nurse in it (I have been nursing for almost 4 years straight, just not the same kid…)
    – Must not look like clone

  33. Maya

    I have big boobs aswell and so alot of the way I dress is to make myself look proportional. Being top heavy with long skinny legs means that I mostly wear tights, short skirts with volume and something streamlined on top. I have to be able to sit down for long periods of time without getting uncomfortable (at school) and have to be quite agile. I also try to base my outifts on occasions for example going to see a ballet I would base my attire lightly around the shapes and colours of ballet.
    Sexy isn’t an imporatant thing to me and with the boobs I have I don’t need to really do anything to enhance sex appeal. I also like to show that I have my own individual style and try to stand out while still remaining composed and stylish.

  34. jesse

    Wow, what a great question. I also start by trying to dress the body shape I have, a bow-legged 5’2″ hourglassy shape. My 2nd consideration is whether I am covering my tattoos (for work since I am the “boss” of 3 folks) and if what I’m wearing can be deemed work-appropriate but still look “smart” — and still kind of ID as someone who was punk like 15 years ago! i.e. creative, fitting, “smart”/”sharp” and not canned Ann Taylor. (My success rate is another story!)

    I am pretty modest all things considered so if I am wearing skinny jeans/wedges, I like to have a voluminous top. Or if I am wearing a fitted top, the pants shouldn’t be that fitted or I should wear an a-line skirt.

    I am also usually cognizant of looking like I tried too hard. I like to wear one or two “spike” pieces but then casual-down the rest. i.e. skinny jeans, patent wedges, princess sleeve short sleeve sweater and ’40s bag. Or H&M scoop neck cotton shirt, Vivienne Westwood vintage skirt, AApp tights and flats with a cartoony clutch. You know – nothing too serious or dramatic. More plain and clean lines with a pop here and there. It kind of grounds me so I don’t need to “overthink” an outfit.

  35. miss fitz

    I’m a reporter, so when I go to work, I dress to blend in and to not attract undue attention to myself. I dress to put other people at ease, especially when confronting or questioning them about sensitive topics. So nothing flashy, and no shoes I couldn’t tear across a giant parking lot in. My work “uniform” is versatile, fits the temperature and goes just about anywhere. But it includes bright red lipstick when I deal with emergency response folks – police, firefighters, EMS, etc.

  36. miss fitz

    ps- I also need all kinds of people to take me seriously. I’ve wondered sometimes while enjoying the wardrobe remix what the heck everyone does for a living.

  37. Elissa

    Very thought provoking post, Tricia!

    While it would take forev to breakdown my motivations, I’d have to say that as a rather curvy petite girl with a high, small waist, I tend to go for things that either take these proportions to extremes when I’m feeling especially badonkadonk, but typically, I like to look balanced and sleek and seek interesting proportions. I also love to wear “midi length” skirts, because I find that flash of lower leg/ ankle to be very alluring but wonder if it’s the wrong length for my height. I tend to go for straight-cut jeans, because skinny jeans highlight my middle too much and wide flares make me look shorter or too x-shaped for my liking. I like vests because they frame the breasts and cinch the waist attractively, and don’t tend to show too much boob because it doesn’t fit my aesthetic, either… too bad showing boobs automatically places you in “bimbo” category! But when I do go for a lower cut top, I make sure that my collar is high and not too much shoulder is showing (it’s a chic-er silhouette). I avoid peasant blouses, scoop necks and square necks (unless they’re fairly high) at all costs!

  38. Material Girl

    Oh lovely, I’m so excited to read everyone’s response here! Your question–why do we wear what we wear?–is basically the starting point of my whole blog, so what a treat to be able to read people’s thoughts in a different forum. I have to think more before I answer for myself, though…it’s always easier said than done, isn’t it?
    xox MG – http://www.amaterialworld.net

  39. super kawaii mama

    Interesting post and comments here. I did a post that dipped a toe into this topic about a week back too.
    For me there are some simple considerations:

    Must be child friendly – this is often pushed to the limit. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I want to come off looking like someone I’d like to meet myself.
    It must make me feel confident.
    It must highlight my better features and not those I am more self conscious of.
    It must be fun.
    Most of all, I want to make an effort to look my best and put together at all times to be a great example for my girls, teaching them how to dress and express their creative selves.

  40. Caroline

    I’m a bit of a lurker here, but this post finally convinced me to break my silence.

    I dress to fit in. I dress to signal to other people that I’m like them. I dress appropriately to situation – I’d never wear my interview suit for anything other than an interview. Even in an office environment I dress very differently to most of my co-workers in order to express my creativity. But mostly, I alter my typical look slightly to signal my part within a group. So f I’m going out with my more casual friends, I’ll dress down a bit – maybe remove one of my multitude of hats (though I’m still not especially comfortable seen out in jeans). If I’m going out with my goth friends I’ll go a teeny bit more revealing than usual and include some tartan or a collar. As a rule I’m always overdressed for any given situation – which I would rather be – but I tone it up or down to encourage acceptance.

  41. elliebelle

    I love the way you think through things. You seem so thorough and so interested. It’s great. For me, when I get dressed, I want to be comfortable, cool, and cute. I live in a small town in the midwest, so its definitly more of a conservative look. But I love to see what type of combinations I can come up with. It seems that some days I’ll have a theme – like “Greek Fisherman” or “Paris Chic” or “West Coast Laid back style” – all quite watered down of course. But I guess I like to see what I can come up with working within the restraints of “mall shops” and a small budget. I am also very short and petite – so I want to seem tall (even though I favor flats!) and mature. When you are small, people seem to think of you as a kid – so trying to get past that can be difficult. So that too is a concern of mine when getting dressed. I think sometimes I dress to be sexy – but usually that’s only when I am planning to go out with my boyfriend – it certainly wouldn’t be an everyday concern of mine.
    What a great post! It really made me think about my own thought process as well as others around me.

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  45. Sarah

    Hi there, I may have commented this before, but I want you to know that:
    I love fashion and style and attitude.
    You and your site and your community of remixers have absolutely tranformed my garmentual life!
    You have given me confidence to just go for things that I think may look good, to mix it up, to just try, to not take things too seriously and to love dressing up and mixing up. And to bring things together in a way that I wanted to but wasn’t really sure how to. It makes dressing fun and a little adventure. And the reactions of others have been so positive too. I haven’t changed, just things came together in a more confident and put together way.
    I love your site, your style and what you and your community brings to people.
    You’re a legend! ThanksXXXXXX

  46. laura

    this was an interesting and great post! (:
    i think i’m motivated by similiar things as you:
    – flattering my body (i’m quite tall and have a small bust which i both don’t want to show too much)
    – look creative and a bit different than everyone else
    – being comfortable
    – feeling good at the special place or on the occasion i’m attending (mostly school, but i dress a bit differently when going to parties etc.)

  47. Ally

    I am also very busty– but I have always felt that accentuating my waist made me look even more top heavy– because I am so short waisted my breast look like they come straight out from my waist. It’s an extra challenge. Also, for most of my life I have shied away from dressing “sexy” as the attention I would get would be OTT.

    I don’t necessarily want to hide my breasts anymore– I have made peace with them, but I still want to dress somewhat modestly. Revealing a peek is sexier anyway.

    But really I dress with a sense of humor and whimsy– I like to take a bit of a risk when I get dressed. Maybe it’s the contrarian in me! When I see other people doing the same it totally excites me and fills me with joy. I wish more people were lighthearted and daring in what they wear– it would make life a lot more fun.

  48. Rachelle Nicolette

    basically, i dress in what makes me happy. i end up wearing a lot of dresses. lots and lots of dresses: sundresses, shifts, t-shirt dresses from american apparel, anything. i don’t like how pants feel.

    work is a different story. i’m a lawyer, and i try to avoid the work-suit look. i like sexy secretary outfits: blousy blouses and pencil skirts.

    also, i like to look like i’m put together. there’s a difference between that and looking like you’re trying too hard. of course, i avoid the latter. a good collection of colorful, cute shoes usually saves me if i’m running out the door.

    great post, tricia!

  49. la_meow

    i usually dress for comfort, i love jeans and cotton materials. i also like to find stuff that flatters my figure. i am attracted to odd, bizarre, beautiful, colorful, kitschy and arty things, so naturally i like clothes like that.

  50. Design for Mankind

    Oh my Lord; I feel like I’ve just had a style lesson that I should be paying for! Thanks for the visual tour into your style (which is fantastic). I would reveal why I dress the way I do, but unfortunately, it has every bit to do with my lack of laundering motivation and an over-abundance of my husband’s work shirts. Eek!

  51. Miss

    I look younger than I am (24), so I avoid anything too “cute,” and probably err on the side of not being feminine enough, except Sundays when I wear skirts to church. I don’t dress super-casual for the same reason. I’m a computer programmer, so at work I try to find a balance between dressing professionally and fitting in with a traditionally geeky profession.

    I love sleek, simple lines, which generally translates into a classic look with few accessories. However, I’m happiest when I take occasional risks and indulge my own whims, so I do have some funky pieces and looks. Color-wise I adore black, white, and red. I don’t feel very skilled at working with color (and feel disorganized if I wear too many at once), so I wear those a lot.

    I don’t aim for “sexy’ per se, but I do wear clothes that fit well and are attractive. I generally concentrate on the overall look rather than one particular piece, and it all has to work aesthetically. I know what works on me and looks good, and if I’m wearing something that’s not quite right, I’m less confident.

    Could go on and on…what a great topic! I wish I could listen in on some people’s thoughts and decisions as they stand in front of their closets each morning.

  52. lyn

    ha….i’m always trying to PLAY UP my tiny chest and slim waist – while downplaying my hips/thighs/butt/legs! just the opposite ๐Ÿ™‚ really enjoyed reading about what goes into your choices.

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  55. Richard

    I came to your website by accident, and I loved your photos. I love the outfits. I have a very simple reason on my part why I wear what I wear, and I just see something, and never with the though of whether it’s socially acceptable, but if it represents my attitude correctly. Which explains why I can see someone(most likely another male) with an outfit I really like, even admire, but would not even think of maybe buying an item/outfit of the same sort. So in my case, I have alot of mute colors that seem to be influenced, not intentionally, from the Mod, 20’s, 80’s, late 70’s era’s, and with no bright colors. I don’t like to draw attention, because a personality comes out truthfully in talk and getting to know someone. For instance, I love meeting people because they often have an idea of who I would/could have been in their minds, and then to show a different personality is an interesting experience. I do hair professionally, I happen to also skateboard, bike, and make music. I also happen to be straight, and all those things, plus the “vintage” wear throws people off guard. Maybe I just enjoy seeing people humbled by the fact that a homeless guy can be a different story.

    That’s all I have. Not sure if it enlightened anyone, but there you have it.

    -R

    P.S. Again, I love the outfits!

  56. Brittany

    i’m doing a presentation for the international baccalaureate program on why we wear what we do actually
    your blog was so helpful! thanks:)