Why Clothes Matter
"People shouldn't judge you for what's on the outside. It's the inside that counts."
"You're a stylist? Like for clothes? Why is that even a job?"
"But can't people pick their own clothes? Why do clothes even matter?"
If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of those phrases muttered I would be able to dress you, me, and every other person in town from head to toe in Chanel Haute Couture. (For those of you who aren't "fashion people" that's a whole helluva lot of dollars)
I was thinking about that very thing tonight. Personal style has been something that has defined me as long as I can possibly remember. Certain items hang in my closet that I will never part with just because of the memories stuffed away in their pockets.
Clothing and accessories have a way of transporting me throughout time in the same way that smells and songs do for others. There's a sudden feeling of overwhelming joy that washes over me every time I hear the opening of "Rocks Off" for instance that reminds me of the time that I bought a copy of Exile on Main Street with the last twenty dollars to my name because I felt it fed me more than food. The same feeling happens when I look at a vintage Versace dress that hangs on a garment rack in my office. I drove nearly three hours to get that dress, and it was worth every single mile I put on my already beat up car. Sure, I didn't have AC, but I had Versace.
Every single time I go to reach for the Chanel purse I bought myself on its shelf, I giggle a little bit. That bag was the holy grail of all accessories for me, and it finally signaled that "I had made it" in this industry. That bag has the same effect on me that my very first vintage dress ever did. I remember thinking that if I was really going to commit to being my true and authentic self that this was the beginning. The very loud and very flammable dress hangs in my bedroom closet. I can actually see it out of my line of vision while I write this. While the dress no longer leaves my house, it's a friendly reminder to keep in mind that sixteen year old me would think that I am a total badass and would be thrilled to know that my inspiration and ability to never quite fit in are now paying the bills.
When I meet with a client that's a bit skeptical about the process of being styled, I assure them that I can help bring out all of the best parts of them while helping them find their tribe of fans. We are deeply tribal beings by nature. Back in caveman days it was wearing different skins or leaving drawings inside of our dwellings to let people know who we are. Native Americans had tribes with different garments to signal to others who they were. Our brains still work the same, so we might as well play into that advantage rather than fighting it.
I like to relate everything back to The Beatles in this case, Let's be honest, I like to relate everything back to The Beatles no matter what. Their manager Brian Epstein (who in reality was the first stylist for a band ever) saw some talented guys, figured out who their target market was, and marketed them to that demographic with the fastest and most powerful tool-style. He took something shocking like long hair and tight pants and turned it into an empire that's still going nearly sixty years later. Americans had never heard of these guys. But they knew that there were British musicians coming over, and judging by their photos, they were pretty weird. After Beatlemania and a few trips down LSD lane, their look evolved and their fans followed suit. But their fans couldn't have found them if Brian never decided "Hey, these guys are great, but let's clean them up a bit." Can you imagine if he decided their original looks were good enough? We might be seeing Paul McCartney on a leg of the Happy Together tour at our local state fair instead of selling out arenas. Sure, talent makes up a big portion of making a star...but it's a total package.
What about those of us who aren't musicians or don't have any desire to be in the spotlight? Should we still care about presenting ourselves in a stylish manner to the rest of the world? Absolutely. I never understood why people would dismiss the first chance to define themselves before anyone else got to. We are judgmental beings my nature. Why not play into it instead of against it? When I see a woman who is put together I am much more likely to respect her. If her head is held up, shoulders back, and she made an effort to put on jeans and a nice jacket instead of ratty sweat pants then that sends me the message that she respects herself, and is therefore worthy of me respecting her. When I see a woman wearing something that I like it usually means that we are kindred spirits and something in me likes something in her. If we have similar taste in clothing, it probably means that we will have something else in common. I've made some of my closest friends online actually, by commenting on each others' outfits of all things! I always tell people that dressing in a way that feels authentic to you is the quickest way to communicate who you are to people before they get to judge you. Sure, they might be wrong in the long run, but wouldn't you rather start out with an advantage? I sure would.
There is also something to be said about effort and being strategic with your choices about what goes on your person. I chose to buy nicer bedding for a more luxurious feeling when I went to bed. My pjs are high quality because they feel better and are a bit more glamorous than my old go to of ratty sweats. In the same way that you buy yourself flowers to cheer up your home, or change a paint color on your wall to spruce it up, you can do with clothing. Knowing that I have a fairly well stocked arsenal of beautiful clothes that I mindfully select every single day provides not only relief, but enhances my mood before my coffee even has time to kick in. Why wouldn't I give myself all of the advantages I possibly can? Also, clothing is the only art form we are legally obligated to buy. Shouldn't you make the most of it? You can't walk outside in your Picasso painting, but you sure as heck can turn yourself into a work of art before you start your day.
So, long story short...Clothes DO matter. They matter for a myriad of reasons. Whether you want to express your personal style to meet your tribe, to help your art reach its audience, or to just feel good about yourself, but effort into your style and it will pay you back tenfold.
You wear it well.