Monday, May 6, 2013

Clothing Power!

So, Merry's post got me thinking about style. Personal style is in many ways, a flashing neon sign directed at other humans. It signals such things as mood, confidence, personality type, daily activities, duties, and sometimes what you ate that morning. I don't care how much you say you don't judge people based on clothing. You many not be "judging" but you are analyzing. We all do it; it's an ingrained method of understanding culture and the individuals within it. Because this analysis is ingrained and largely subconscious, changing your personal style is an excellent way to mess with people's heads. I do this often.

For instance:

My little demon <3
I like to walk my dog with a Pashmina scarf (wide, shawl-like type with elaborate patterns) wrapped around my head if it's misty. This mostly happens in the wintertime. My dog is a wild animal and needs all hands on deck to manage. Umbrellas are out of the question, and most jacket hoods are too small and slip off. My head's not that big, I promise. I suspect the industry just thinks hoods are for looks only. Like fake money, and almost as disappointing. Anyway, I walk my dog with my head wrapped up when it's misting. My neighbors then go from smiling, waving, chatty people whom I've known for years, to nervous little critters. If I wave, they scurry back into their garages with heads bowed and a clear lack of actual purpose. My neighbors think I'm a Muslim when I have the scarf on. They run away because they think I'm a terrorist. Or, perhaps I've got it all wrong and they think me a leper. Either way, these kinds of reactions made me quite curious at the power of a scarf.

OK, that's me in a blanket, but you get the idea.
So I did a little experiment all winter. It was windy, so I could be justified in bundling up. It's not like a tried this in the summer. When I used a "normal" knitted scarf and wrapped my face, nobody gave a flying squirrel about it. When I used the Pashmina, cashiers flinched, nobody was available to help me in the aisles of stores, and people actually stopped their cars more than 3 inches from my kneecaps in crosswalks. It was weird.

It makes a nice tribal wall decoration, too!

Another for instance:

For my college graduation jewelry exhibition, I had made a wild necklace from computer cord and zip ties. It didn't really fit with the collection to be in the show, but it was fun to wear, so I borrowed a hot-momma black dress, popped on the necklace, painted my lips bright red, and went to my show. Those of you that have been to art shows know that strange people infest art shows, so I shouldn't have stood out as much as I seemed to. People asked to take pictures all night, even in the streets, like they were tourists. I went downtown for fro-yo later and somebody got out of their car to shout "Lady GaGa!!" and point at me. Still not sure if they were kidding, drunk/blind, or actually thought Lady GaGa was present. Several people clearly thought I was some kind of celebrity and I almost caused an accident because some driver was gawking. The fro-yo people even treated me like I was a very important person who had paid a surprise visit and whom they were desperately trying to remember the name of.

The best part of this whole thing was not the attention or the stories to tell later. It was the fact that, in that dress, with those red lips, with that spikey wild "necklace" on, I felt invincible. In one of the strangest outfits I've ever worn in public, I felt more confident than I ever could in my own clothes. I walked tall, ordered my fro-yo like I owned the shopping center, and stared directly back at the gawking people. Normally, I'm terriblyshy towards strangers. My words get all knotted up and I forget to look at people. Not in that outfit! (I've always thought it's impossible to be shy in red lipstick.)

So, while I don't believe that clothes are the end-all-be-all to "making the (wo)man," I have to honestly say that it often makes a huge whopping difference.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE the article. Your points are right on. What we wear and how we present ourselves DOES affect people whether they are "judging" or not. When I used to have to hire people, their appearance when they walked through the door told me a whole lot about what they knew or thought about us as an organization and what they knew or thought about the job in particular.

    FYI...for you younger set...jeans and a t-shirt are NOT professional dress and WILL count against you for most professional jobs!

    Love the observations about the Pashmina. There have been studies about perception based on body shape, weight, decoration and clothing. They all affect how others perceive us.