One of the hallmarks of maturity is knowing what’s right for you. My childhood (perhaps like yours) was peppered with “well, if everyone else was jumping off the George Washington bridge…” Which of course is code for “it’s not really you, dear.” In theory, as we mature, our inner “it’s not really you, dear” voice becomes strong and clear. Of course, many many mistakes must be made along the way. Most of us are not born with the gift of clarity. Some must slog through several academic majors, or colleges, before they find what suits them. Some, must do this sorting and shifting with romantic partners. And of course what suits us at one point in our lives is bound to feel ill-fitting at others.
Nowhere is this more visibly apparent than in fashion choices. What suits us, physically and emotionally, changes over the years. Ideally. I won’t pretend that the world isn’t filled with people who are wearing acid washed jeans and shoulder pads; unironically. I chalk that up to one of two things; 1) complete lack of (inner or outer) resources) 2) associating their decade of choice with a happier time in their lives. The rest of us, for better or worse, are more susceptible to the siren song of marketing and retail.
Unless we are in possession of a coloratura inner critic’s voice or an indispensable insightful and candid friend, we need a little outside help in navigating the myriad of wildly inappropriate choices out there. There are some simple (although perhaps, not easy) steps to take:
- Know oneself – not necessarily in some meditating on a mountaintop, or involving a hand mirror way. Know what you like about your body. Have a realistic sense of your life (there’s nothing so sad as a closet full of gowns with price tags still attached.)
- Own a full-length mirror and use it. I bought my first one ten years ago after an unfortunate “patriotic clown” work outfit that just slipped by me (until I got to work that is.)
- Unless you make a career of reinvention in the public eye; know the difference between costume and clothing. If the item enjoys a prefix, that is your hint (ex. Running/Tennis/Athletic shoes, Yoga pants, Gardening clogs, Bathing suit, Cone bra, etc.) These clothes will tell you where and when to wear them, you don’t even need to cultivate your inner voice.
- Cut, Clarity and Color, it’s not just for diamonds. The cut of the pant, dress, skirt, blouse, jacket, MUST flatter. (The goal is always to look better in clothing than one does naked!) Please note: Flatter is NOT synonymous with Camouflage. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is looking at someone in an oversize garment and thinking; “Wow, I bet she is really tiny under there!” Clarity: Is the piece/outfit you? Does it make you feel fabulous? Does it clearly express what you’d like to express about yourself? Color; it’s not an abstraction. Liking color is not the same thing as color liking you (think back to that elusive guy in high school.) The color, like the cut and clarity, must do something for you. Clothes must earn their keep.
Simply put, life is too short to not feel fabulous as often as one can. If you have never experienced the bounce in your step a well-suited outfit can give you, get moving. The most effective way to train your inner voice is to use it. Try on new things. Often. No doubt, mistakes will be made along the way. However, if I had never spent the day as a patriotic clown, I would not realize how important the cut of a pant really is. Or that red, white and blue, should rarely be combined in the workplace, unless one is in the military, or circus.