Monday, June 9, 2008

The Shirt on your back -or- How to get dressed

What's the big deal? You wake up, you get dressed.

Clothing, like almost everything in life, is a paradox. Clothes can make your life miserable or charming. "Clothes do not make the man," and yet, the right clothes for you, can make you a happier, more confident, comfortable person. Wearing clothing that isn't you can make you feel rotten, affect your experience of an event, or uncomfortable in something too tight or too short.

"Don't judge people by the clothes they wear." And yet, we do. The clothing you choose to wear speaks volumes about you.

There are trillions of choices out there. Who are you and what will you wear? What is your style? Why does something look good on someone else and look terrible on you?

Understanding your personal style is a process that can take years. Your personal style can change in your different careers and lifestyle changes. When I worked in the public affairs department of Exxon Corporation in New York City, I wore the constricting, unimaginative uniform of the 80's career woman: silk blouses, stockings, conservative skirts, tailored jackets. I never felt good about these clothes, or the job. These were not my happiest years. I own none of this clothes today.

A few years later I became a copywriter in an ad agency, and I dressed stylish and creative wearing the high fashion of Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Agnes B. I was much happier. I spent a fortune on clothes, none of which I own today, either.

That's because I became a mother and my style changed again, into quick to put on easy to care for clothes that babies could throw up on. I spent a lot of time on the floor too with the babies. So it was jogging clothes, leggings with big tops, jeans.

Then I moved to the tropics where clothes faded and lost its shape in a matter of months due to the calcified water, bleaching from the sun, extreme heat, and mildew. My friend Jean Cappello came to the rescue. "The secret to tropical dressing is to get yourself to the Gap or Banana Republic and buy some great cotton and linen pieces and wear them for six months, then throw them out and start over." Which is what I do and now I always look fresh and stylish.

Some people don't care what they wear. Others obsess. As in everything, the secret to clothing happiness is moderation. You want to get to the point where you enjoy your clothes, dressing is easy and fun, and shopping is not a bother.

Experiment with clothes. Have fun, try different things on. See what looks good on you, what feels good on you. Of course you'll make mistakes from time to time. To be expected. When you find yourself attracted to the same thing, over and over, you'll know it's you.

Tomorrow: my best clothing tips.

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