I’ve been struggling my whole life with my identity, trying to see where I fit into the world, and I’ve always used clothes as a short cut. Putting on certain clothes has always been a way to look like I am someone in particular – a corporate professional, a bohemian artist, whatever – even if I wasn’t really sure this was who I was, who I wanted to be, or who I should be.
I’ve spent too much time putting on clothes instead of doing the hard work of figuring out the answers to all of those tough identity questions.
Putting on a tailored suit makes you look sophisticated, powerful, and professional, but it doesn’t actually make you those things. I think we forget that. Even though at various times I have tried on various looks – punk, corporate, beachy, cosmopolitan, rich, sexy – that didn’t actually transform me into any of those things. I always remained me, just me dressed in a costume. But we should be wearing clothes, not a costume.
If you are playing dress up, wearing certain clothes because you are trying to appear to be a certain person, you are wearing a costume. If you are wearing clothes because they are clothes that you like and that you feel comfortable in, you are expressing your identity through fashion, dressing from the inside, and this is how you should be using clothes.
You will never be able to achieve the “perfect wardrobe” until you start putting on clothes that express the real you. If you are dressing up in clothes that you think should be the real you, but aren’t, then you are just covering up a problem.
I wanted to write about shopping and style partly because I wanted to explore this issue. Yes, clothes embody our dreams like nothing else in our lives. They can express our creativity and be a vehicle for self-expression. But the quest for clothes has a dark side too, and it’s easy to fall into a trap. We can let shopping and dressing be a shortcut. We can put on clothes that make us or other people think we know who we are, instead of trying to figure out who we are and then dressing in clothes we like.
So what is the secret? How do you make sure you don’t fall into the trap?