This is the fifth post in a series about how getting dressed, even when you’re only going from your bedroom to the living room and back again, can have an enormous impact on your mood, your sense of self, and how well you handle stress and change. I know very well the temptation to wear only stretchy pants and sweatshirts when working from (or just staying) home; I also know the insidious ways in which giving in to that temptation ate away at my ability to fight through mental fog and maintain a healthy headspace.
I learned through trial and error, by working from home over the past ten+ years–and then, as the result of some dark days, actively altering what I wear over the past two years–that there are some basic guidelines I can employ when getting dressed each day that give me the tools and the margin to intentionally improve my outlook and mental health. I’m sharing them here in hopes they’ll create a framework where we can have a bigger conversation about how sewing our own clothes allows us a window through which we can feed our hearts and minds.
For the introduction to the series, visit this post, and for a deeper dive, join us at the League of Dressmakers, where we’re developing this topic in greater depth, complete with silhouette guides, sewing pattern suggestions, video discussions and live chats!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my debt of gratitude to Elaine, a League of Dressmakers member who pointed me toward Stasia’s Style School–I confess that I completed only the first two lessons of Style School, but the impact of Stasia’s message from just that little taste was so huge for me. Her newsletters are a delight to read, and her TEDx Talk will change the way you think about fashion.
I love that Stasia doesn’t encourage you to go out and buy all new clothing–she challenges you to THINK IN A NEW WAY about clothes you already have, and to consider that it isn’t the STUFF that is making the difference, it’s the viewpoint each of us brings. The biggest influences in the guidelines I’m sharing–Brené Brown, The Holistic Psychologist, Harriet Lerner, Stasia Savasuk, even George Bernard Shaw–all encourage me to challenge my own assumptions and re-frame my experiences. That one idea, that I don’t have to start over but rather can view through a different lens, extends so naturally to getting dressed.
The fourth and final principle I follow is this: create new styles using what I ALREADY HAVE on hand, built specifically around the goal of getting outside-me in line with inside-me. The act of intentionally selecting what to wear based on how you WANT TO FEEL rather than how you CURRENTLY FEEL was so transformative to me. I stalled out completing the lessons in Style School because I took that idea and CONSUMED it, then ran and ran and ran with it. I have seen tangible benefit in my everyday life from simply working deliberately to create a vision for the Best Version of Me, and then BE that each day through how I dress and how my clothes make feel.
It doesn’t work every day. This isn’t a magic bullet. I yelled at my kids this morning FOR TALKING, you guys. (Seriously.) So please don’t infer that my goal here is to boss or soapbox or become pedantic as if I have The Answers. What I’ve learned from all those names I mentioned, and from counseling, and from just like, living with other humans, is this: there is no finish line. There is only forward motion.
It’s less like a race than it is like bowling, you know? It’s not that I will some day have it All Figured Out. It’s that EACH day, as I move through the world next to the people I love, I want to veer toward the center, avoid the gutters, knock over as many pins as I can and keep in mind that there’s ALWAYS ANOTHER BALL COMING, so on the days when I miss and have to eat that seven/ten split, I can forgive myself and keep on rolling.
I must have internalized the underlying assumption that there’s a goal line in my sewing, too, as if it was some kind of contest that could be won. As if the items I was making existed outside of how they made me feel? Looking at clothing I’d made myself over the years and asking WHY I wasn’t wearing certain pieces pushed me to consider the disparity between how I wanted to feel and how the clothes made me feel when I wore them–and to pursue ways to combine items I already owned with items I discovered along the way, creating new silhouettes and color palettes and EMOTIONS and INTENTIONS.
This is not a small thing. I think sewing clothing gets a slightly better rap than “fashion” in the general sense, but there’s still an undercurrent out there that clothes aren’t “serious,” that somehow how we dress–which we all agree is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and how we wish to be seen by others–is shallow? Or unimportant, bordering on meaningless?
My experience has been the opposite. Changing how I felt about getting dressed didn’t change how other people treat me–it changed how I TREAT ME, and that impacted how I think about myself, how I respond to others, and how I value my relationships. In the end, it both required and allowed me to look closely at the frame through which I was experiencing the world, and do it ON PURPOSE.
This last principle, getting dressed ON PURPOSE and WITH PURPOSE, is summative of the other three, I suppose, but I like that by asking it to stand alone, I’m challenging myself MOVING FORWARD. I can more freely eliminate items from my existing wardrobe that aren’t serving me, and I can be laser-focused on what new things I choose to make so they will ALSO serve me. I am maintaining the momentum that these ad hoc, organically-developed guidelines have offered me, and folding that growth into….whatever comes next.
There’s a lot more to say about all these ideas, and I’ve developed a lot of them into a series for the League of Dressmakers. We talk about silhouette, balance, fabric selection, and which patterns can be used again and again to create a closet that’s an intentional reflection of the best parts of you. We would love to play with you over there–learn more here about the League!