What I'm Trying to Say, Is...

I have recently finished a remarkable book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style", by Cintra Wilson.  

Amongst a wealth of fascinating observations and ideas, is this singular notion:   what we put on our bodies, every day, provides a very intimate snapshot of our inner selves - warts and all - to anyone who knows to look.

Mind = Blown.

In the book's introduction, Ms. Wilson notes, 

"Your style is your visual interface with the rest of the world... The way you dress reveals both what you know about yourself... and also what you don't.   When you compose an outfit, you are creating a statement that is, essentially, a shorthand mini-autobiography."

She goes on to add, 

"Your outfit can give the clothing-attuned eye a flood of semi-impressions - a peek into your bank account, an up-to-the-minute self-esteem update, and a periscope into your bedroom (to name a few). ....  an outfit can sum up a human being like a two-sentence TV Guide film synopsis".

I'm absolutely enthralled with this book.   I finished it about ten days ago, and I'm already re-reading it.  This book has changed how I look at people and what I notice about them, via their sartorial choices.   It is an exciting new language that I suddenly comprehend.

This book also prompted me look more closely at myself.  What am I trying to say to the world?  I've never quite thought of it in this way.   I knew that I wanted to 'appear' a certain way, but this goes so much farther - it is active, unspoken communication, via clothing and shoes.

Over the past two months, I have been wearing the same 'uniforms', over and over again:

1)  High-necked, fitted knit top + wiggle skirt + stiletto heels
2)  High-neck, very fitted knit top + skinny jeans + stiletto heels/low-heeled equestrian boots/low-heeled pumps

My topper is either a leather moto, a black knit jacket or a black zip cardigan.
Jewelry is simple:  pearl or diamond studs, a few matching bracelets.   
Hats are either cadet caps, a faux-fur Russian cossack, or a wool beret.
My bags are either large black handbags, or small colorful cross-body bags.
I always wear hosiery with the skirts, in the fall and winter.

The common denominators for my outfits, is that everything is covered up and very fitted.  Clothing is stretchy, for ease of movement.   Dark.  Sleek.  Spiky.    I think my love for sci-fi uniforms and sado-chic fetish is clearly presented.

What am I saying with my sartorial choices?    I was astonished at how clearly and quickly the answer presented itself...

"It's all here for you to see - but it is veiled, wrapped up, because I am a sacred mystery.   I'm not here for you to gawk at.   You're going to have to look me in the eye, smile, and speak clearly.    If you want to see more, you're going to have to 'see' me first, for who I am:  an intelligent, reasonable, human being, and you are going to accord me the time, attention, and respect that I deserve".

There is a societal trend to 'overshare'.   On social media, in conversation, on television, and in our collective manner of dress.   This trend makes me uneasy and uncomfortable.   I'm not that conservative, and I don't dress to hide my body.   Even though I am fully covered, my body is clearly outlined within the clothes.   I am happy with my figure, even with my weight gain this year.   However, I have a large bust, and I dislike that being the focus of attention when I first meet people.   I also dislike that many people - men and women both - seem to want to judge my intellect by my bra size, or the shape of my behind.

I go out frequently with friends and colleagues, in social situations.   Sometimes I know everyone in the room, but more often, there is a sea of strangers standing between me and the friends I'm meeting up with.

There is a clothing trend out there, that I see on women of all ages, where their 'going-out' outfit consists of a dress that is low-cut, strapless, strappy or sleeveless, and very short.   These little lampshades are inevitably paired with ridiculously high platform sandals, held precariously to their feet with inadequate straps.   There is usually a lack of hosiery.

I want to say there is nothing wrong with this outfit, but I cannot.   In my opinion, there are several things that are glaringly wrong.   In the absence of large amounts of alcohol, none of these women ever seem fully at-ease with themselves, in this attire.   Also, this is a chilly protoype to wear when it's below 65 degrees outside.   And this type of stiletto platform seems exceptionally heavy and awkward to walk in.

And need I say it?   Men don't seem to know how to behave or talk to women dressed in this manner.

What response do I get, in my fully-covered get-up?   With strangers, it's mixed.   For some people, how I dress is off-putting or intimidating.   On the surface, this isn't an open, friendly look.   For the person whose gaze goes past the outfit, to my eyes, the outfit doesn't matter, because I am an open, friendly person, and I wear that on my face.

For the people who know me, they are either complimentary, or non-committal, and we move on with our lives and have fun.

Have you ever considered your clothing in this manner?   If so, what is your message?   What would you like your message to be?    Do your choices reflect this?


Pret a Porter P at: December 30, 2015 at 8:19 PM said...

Sounds like an interesting read.
You know what suits you and feels good on you, and there is a confidence in that. That you can get dressed and go on with life. It's much better in a weird glitter dress that yes I see people that are too uncomfortable in.
I like to read Yohji quotes about how he designs, unfortunately I just can't "get" his clothing:
“Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all black says this: "I don’t bother you - don’t bother me".

La Belle Demimondaine at: January 2, 2016 at 1:35 PM said...

The book is a fantastic read, at some point I need to write a full review. There are so many interesting aspects, not least of which is the anthropological, societal, and psychological aspects of style.

I love Yohji's quote - but I think there is more to black than that. It is elegant, it is appropropriate for most situations, and yes - it is divinely lazy.

I admire Yohji's designs, but I can't see myself in any of them. I'm a short, busty gal, and I think his clothing needs that tall, willowy figure to 'display' properly. If I wore them, I'd need to accessorize with a shopping cart full of cats and empty cans.

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