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Taylor’d with Style: Just Because

By JeanAnn Taylor

colored in line drawing of a line of women in various styles of dress

Since the last time I sat at my laptop to write Taylor’d with Style, a lot has changed. Okay, that’s an understatement. Here we are in a new year, and as a nation we are as uncertain and confused as we have ever been. Sometimes, in the midst of chaos and conflict, what we wear may seem insignificant and trivial. In fact, trying to look our best may feel pointless when we are forced to stay home and away from our family, friends, and jobs. What’s the point of dressing nicely when we are frustrated because we can’t work on our goals and dreams, or depressed and frightened about the mumblings of another civil war? Why get dressed at all? Why not stay in our pajamas and plop down on the sofa with a big bag of chips? It’s cold anyway.

This is why: our clothing choices affect our mental state in a direct and significant way. What we wear impacts our self-respect, self-motivation, and sense of dignity. The truth is that when we dress and look our best, even when home-alone, we feel better. We are more motivated to accomplish something, we embody more confidence, our complete mindset takes on a more positive demeanor. It also influences our living conditions. Taking the time to dress encourages us to take the time to clean our space. Who wants to sit in filth or clutter when wearing a pretty skirt, fashionable pair of slacks, or even just a nice pair of leggings? A clean and clutter-free environment is proven to encourage creativity, enhance self-worth, and offers a more relaxing atmosphere.

The term “enclothed cognition” explains this phenomenon. Many studies show that we subconsciously adopt the characteristics of the clothing we wear. Women in the 70s began wearing “power suits” to give them an edge of confidence and authority. Imagine these same women sitting in a boardroom wearing blue jeans and flip-flops—it’s not the same image. The confidence that comes from an appropriate and professional portrayal leads to making better decisions. Physicians who wear white lab coats are proven to be more focused and make fewer mistakes than those who wear casual streetwear. Children who wear uniforms to school are less likely to stray from their studies. The simple fact is that people tend to behave in ways that are congruent to how they look.

Dressing well is not vanity. Our clothing influences how we are perceived and therefore how people respond to us. Like it or not, we are judged by what we wear. How we are judged and subsequently treated then translates into how we feel—and so goes the fashion/life circle. What we wear tells the world how we feel about ourselves and reveals our level of respect to others.

Suffragists understood this concept. They used their sense of style and dignity to their advantage. Even as they fought for women’s rights, they embraced their womanliness by wearing the feminine fashions of the day. They kept their integrity and self-respect intact even when they were scorned or thrown into prison. They understood that to be taken seriously, they had to present a professional and respectable image.

I recently read The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin. The story is about fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli and their entangled lives during the beginnings of World War II. Even as the War crept closer to them, they continued to dress well. “Dressing well is resistance, revenge, pride, a form of control over forces that try to control us.” The following excerpt sums it up accurately: “What we wear gives messages about our beliefs, our hopes, our fears, from the everyday blue jeans of rebellious adolescence to the power suits women felt necessary in the 1970s. And when our clothing choices are made for us by others, part of our identity is threatened, some of our freedom is removed.”

An interesting fact I learned from The Last Collection is that one of Elsa Schiaparelli’s granddaughters, Berry, died in one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. This is simply a reminder that all we have is one moment at a time, so why not dress up, just because.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a mechanics shop wearing a dress with cute boots and a beanie. In our ultra-casual, haphazard culture, I know I stood out as three people stopped to comment on my outfit. Even in the mist of the current mayhem—and in a dirty mechanics shop—their compliments lifted my spirit. How we dress sends a powerful message of who we are individually and collectively. I hope we can start the New Year by wearing clothing that leads to feelings of confidence, happiness, and authenticity. Every morning, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel today?” and then dress accordingly. What we wear matters. Think about it. Who would Wonder Woman be without her red cape?



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