This article was first published in the Stabroek News Friday edition on the 28th April, 2017.
I remember taking one of my first semester courses at college, The Psychology of Fashion, and thinking what on earth did I just pay money for. In my narrow-minded purview it ended up being a shortsighted judgment. When you sit and think about it, you realize just how much of an effect the clothes we wear have on psyche. Simply think about the person you become when you get dressed every morning versus whom you are when you put on house clothes in the afternoon.
Alison Lurie puts it like this: “Long before I am near enough to talk to you on the street, in a meeting, or at a party, you announce your sex, age and class to me through what you are wearing—and very possibly give me important information (or misinformation) as to your occupation, origin, personality, opinions, tastes, sexual desires, and current mood. I may not be able to put what I observe into words, but I register the information unconsciously; and you simultaneously do the same for me. By the time we meet and converse we have already spoken to each other in an older and more universal tongue.” (Lurie, p.3)
People constantly speak about the importance and lasting effects of a first impression. When you apply this unspoken language Lurie speaks of you realize the significance of our instincts and initial judgments.
As human beings we interact with dozens of people on a daily basis. Not just those that we physically meet and speak to, but also the people we pass on the street and just make eye contact with. When you really break it down, what you wear becomes significant even to the serious businessman who is always wearing a suit and tie. They may deny an interest in fashion and clothing, but every day for them is carefully calculated based on what they want people to think of them when they walk into a room. The same goes for the person who actively dresses down— they may want people to think that they don’t care about how they look, or that it’s not a priority, and do so by dressing a certain way.
In my own personal experience I’ve used clothing as a way to express myself my whole life. I somehow figured out this unspoken language and learned how to use it when meeting different types of people. Currently, however, I’ve found that I put less and less effort into grandiose outfits and have adapted a work uniform, dark wash jeans and a white shirt, that I wear every day. I realized that even through this I’m saying a couple of things to people. I’m trying to look put together even though I don’t really have the time, but in the same breath there’s also a level of nonchalance in my new uniform that I think comes with the understanding that sometimes it just doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Fashion allows you to become someone, and to get away from the person you think you are, just by getting dressed. It is an opportunity for you to say things you wouldn’t dare say aloud and be something you can take off at the end of the day.
Who are you when you get dressed every morning?