Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Clothes Shows: Uniformity v. Individuality

I often give out gold stars to people who are wearing appealing apparel, donning something that makes me smile or makes me think, two of my favorite things.

This morning I failed to pull out a star but should have to a neighbor whose flirty socks-and-flats look brought a definite sparkle to my morning.

When I commented to her about them, complimenting the look, she offered up that she needed the pick-me-up they brought.

"I hear you," I said. "I always look to the little girls for fashion cues, on the things that just make you happy 'cause you like it and you just don't care."

She looked at me. "You know.." she said and nodded. She has two adorable girls and being with them and all their friends, I'm sure, sparks loads of ideas, plans for fashions those of us facing forty square in the face often fear.

I have a four-letter word for that fear. I gave a gold star to an older 60-something lady at the grocery store the other day for saying *%#@ to that fear, to wearing a fabulous sun-yellow chenille sweatshirt I couldn't help myself but to touch when I told her I loved it.

"Well, thanks Sweetie, thanks so much!" she enthused as brightly as the sweatshirt.

I walked away toward checkout, kicking myself for not having given her a star. But then, as luck would have it, she showed up in my line. Her smile was contagious, her funny comments too. I gave her a star. She deserved it. She was dressing and playing the part. I loved it.

This morning, I saw a friend who I know works in a pretty casual office setting wearing a suit.

"Meeting?" I said.

"No. I just wear a suit sometimes."

I nodded. "I totally understand. Sometimes you just have to put on something that will put you in the right frame of mind."

"That's right," he said. "Sometimes you just have to put on the uniform."

Amazing how much what we wear can make us feel, how a certain "uniform" can literally unify us toward a common goal, especially one we might not be feeling like working toward.

Example: Eli's 8th birthday. It was a camp-out party, which began with a nature hike through the wilds of Prospect Park and ended with a sleepover in a tent hung from the rafters in our living room. (City-living sometimes demands ingenuity:)) I prepared for the event by buying bush hats, water bottles they could sling across their chests and fanny packs filled with trail mix, a granola bar, a fruit leather and a bug catcher.

As the boys wrestled their way to the door up to my apartment, I stopped them and formed them into a line, giving them instructions on what they would be receiving upstairs and what they needed to do with it (put on the hat, fill the water bottle,etc.) I marched them upstairs. After a few weak complaints and threats not to wear the hat, not to don the fanny pack, uniformity won out. We walked to the park calmly in formation and the day, until the end, when the sugar from the smores we'd made in the park kicked in, they kept in line. I am convinced fully that it was the uniform.

Before that day, I understood vaguely the concept of how what we wear can have an affect on our individuality versus our conformity, but it had never really sunk in. I now don't think it, I know it: what we wear matters, it changes us, whether we realize it or not.

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