Pretty Is As Pretty… Dresses?
(Story by Mir, from Woulda Coulda Shoulda)
We've all heard the phrase, "Dress for the job you want," right? When it comes to my "professional self," I've always adhered to that old adage. When I meet clients, go to conferences, or am otherwise representing myself as a business entity, I dress professionally. (Let's not get into the irony of this, given that most writers are believed to work in their pajamas 24/7.) And there are differing understandings of what dressing professionally means, too, but let's just say that when I'm "on" in the business sense, I'm generally wearing a nice dress, or a skirt and blouse, or nice slacks, etc. I don't go meet a client in jeans. I probably don't give a lecture in a t-shirt. I clean up pretty good and know when to do it, is my point.
Now: I've always known that dressing accordingly boosts my confidence in those situations, too. It's a win/win because I look like someone a client can depend on, plus I feel capable and well-equipped. Rereading that sentence makes me want to punch myself in the face, and then punch society in the face. Really, I have to depend on my clothing for that extra confidence boost? And clients would judge me if I wasn't dressed to match some outdated societal norm? I weep for humanity. (And then I do it anyway. That's a whole 'nother essay.)
Anyway! Assuming I've bought into this particular set of conventions about how people "should" dress and all of that, I've known for a while that I really do feel different (better) when I'm in a high-pressure situation and I'm dressed nicely.
Hence the experiment, but not for work. See, life has been a wee bit stressful around here lately. Like, non-stop-angst level of stressful, with work and lots of other things taking the backseat to what feels like one family crisis after another. On a rare day when I don't have to leave the house, I putter around in my pajamas until lunchtime or so, then shower and don old jeans and a t-shirt; on the (much more common) days when I have to taxi children around to doctors' appointments and such, I wear slightly-less-old jeans and double-check that my t-shirt is clean. Heh. And I feel… stressed. Because life is very stressful right now.
So it occurred to me that maybe if I applied the same principle about clothing to my non-work life, it might help.
For two weeks, every single day I had to show up at school, the doctor's office, or even just do a grocery run, I pretended I might run into someone important. And then I dressed accordingly. No, I didn't go shopping for milk in a ball gown, or anything, but I wore skirts and dresses and nice pants. I wore make-up every day (not a lot, but I am not usually a make-up-every-day person). I wore cute shoes, and jewelry. I got a lot of compliments (mostly from people who've only seen me in jeans).
And I felt… stressed. Because wearing something cute doesn't change the stressors in my life one bit.
I'm all for doing what works for you; if dressing up makes you feel better, I think that's awesome. But I was a little disappointed that the "magic" didn't seem to carry over into my personal life the way I'd hoped it might. Then again… it was kind of a relief to know that what I'm wearing isn't exactly a matter of magical transformation, either. I'm okay with that.
Can you influence your mood with your clothing? Do you think you should be able to?
(read more Mir here)