Getting dressed, for some, is much more than just putting on clothes. It’s a ritual, an intimate, sacred act that reflects our certainties and our fears. Dressing up can act as a personal reminder to appreciate ourselves, or some message to the world. The act of getting dressed is not just a creative undertaking, but a way to comfort ourselves and physically prepare for whatever we are facing in life at any moment in our lives. How we dress can be used as armor to protect ourselves, or a way to communicate our feelings without having to say anything.
In the book Women in Clothes, authors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton interview 639 women, asking them questions ranging from “Was there a time in your life when your style changed dramatically?” to “When do you feel most attractive?” The book has very few pictures, and instead of focusing on the clothes the participants wear, the authors are more interested in the act itself of getting dressed, and the thought processes involved for different people. The book highlights the sentimental and sacred nature behind getting dressed while sharing the stories of a diverse group of people and their individual relationships to the clothing they wear.
Similarly, StyleLikeU, a mother-daughter video making team, discusses the significance of getting dressed and how it factors into people’s lives. Each episode of the StyleLikeU YouTube series titled “What’s Underneath,” features an interview with someone who, throughout the interview, slowly takes off all their clothing while answering questions until they are in their underclothes, showing the world quite literally what’s underneath all the clothing: the person. The participants are from all walks of life, and each interview is inspiring in a unique way. The goal of the “What’s Underneath” project is to promote self-acceptance while understanding how getting dressed helps people on their individual journeys to loving themselves.
Both Women in Clothes and StyleLikeU examine how the act of getting dressed shapes people and reflect their attitudes. Personally, I have always used the act of getting dressed as a way to cope with life and express my emotions and ideas. Feeling comfortable in your clothes is an extension of feeling comfortable in your body, so the act of getting dressed is a daily affirmation, a moment of reflection, a reminder to appreciate and love yourself.
Not everyone enjoys the act of getting dressed to such an extent, but for those of us who do, how we dress is an important component of who we are. The ritualistic act of getting dressed, of combining pieces of clothing to tell a story or convey a message, is a form of healing, coping, and strengthening ourselves.