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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?