Stop With The Jeans Every Day. Stop.

This is the third 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!

2.  Jeans are no more than once a week, including weekends

I wore jeans every single day for…five years? Maybe?  Seriously. EVERY DAY. Outside of date nights or special occasions, I pretty much grabbed my jeans from the bench at the foot of our bed each morning, threw on a clean tee shirt and my favorite cardigan, and that was “dressed.”  I had a closet FILLED with dresses and skirts, but I never, ever wore them, and when I did, I thought I looked weird. IMG_6754 I probably did–to eyes that were accustomed to seeing me in the same jeans every day.  Forcing myself to switch it up, to wear skirts or dresses or curve-hugging knits, allowed me to see my own body in a new light, to get used to viewing my shape with different silhouettes, and to learn to love my legs again.  Our brains are wired for familiarity and routine.  Changing that routine requires re-wiring, which causes us to experience RESISTANCE: the craving inside your brain for homeostasis, for things to remain the same, in a familiar path.  Your brain doesn’t care if that familiarity is UNHEALTHY, only that it’s the SAME.  Even my eyeballs were against me breaking out of my rut, y’all. So not wearing jeans every day required me to feel way more UNCOMFORTABLE than I wanted to feel.  I mean that physically, because there’s a reason we all love our jeans; but I also mean emotionally, where my jeans had become my woobie, in a way. IMG_6445 Jeans are…a little lazy? They go with EVERYTHING, so it was easy to feel “dressed” when I threw on the first thing that came to hand.  I didn’t think, I just moved ahead with my jeans, mindlessly.  I was asleep at the wheel, and while I’m talking specifically here about getting dressed, there is no doubt that the same statement applies to a whole season of my life, where I wasn’t engaged or truly processing in a way I’m proud of. What was hard in jeans was to feel PUT TOGETHER, and that sense of haphazardness threaded itself through my whole day.  I was less motivated, less enthusiastic, less productive, kind of all the time.  It’s not the jeans’ fault, they had simply become a crutch that allowed me to begin to believe my own excuses.  Taking them off the table and putting myself in a position of NO excuses, of not wearing jeans EVEN ON WEEKENDS when I was doing “nothing,” had the unexpected consequence that ALL my days began to feel more consequential.  Every day was a little more special. The rule is that I wear jeans exactly ONCE per week, and no more.  That includes Saturday or Sunday–I wear jeans ONCE.  And you know what?  Sometimes I don’t wear them AT ALL.  No jeans.  At all. I have to ask myself more questions when I get dressed.  I have to consider: separates, or a dress? solids, or prints? too much texture? not enough color? There’s more THOUGHT in my dressing now, and that requires that I show up, awake and aware and ON PURPOSE in a way that I didn’t before.  And the real kicker is, I didn’t even KNOW before that I was asleep at the wheel!  One small change, outlawing jeans more than once per week, turned out to be enough to shake the tree and keep me alert. I also get a LOT more work done.  That alertness trickles down into my attitude and my expectations, so that when I sit at my desk, my back is a little straighter and my brain is functioning more.  That could be because getting dressed takes a little longer now, which means my coffee has more time to kick in?  I mean, I’m not ruling that out–but I’m also not mad at it.  I get a lot more boxes checked on my planner each day, and I feel more satisfied with my efforts, to the point that where I used to put my children in bed each night and head back to my computer, now I settle in with my husband and we spend that time TOGETHER. Not wearing jeans made my marriage better.  You heard it here first. I want to reiterate that this series is NOT AT ALL about buying more clothing, or even about sewing more clothing–I have pretty strong feelings about conquering my own tendency toward greed. So I want to be sure that in pointing out that I’ve limited wearing jeans to <1 day per week it doesn’t sound like I’m saying, “Ditch your denim and buy ALL NEW STUFF!” My hope is to share that small changes made in deliberate ways have created ripple effects that have impacted EVERY PART OF MY LIFE, and I think the same can be true for you.
There’s a lot more to say about all these ideas, and I’ve developed a lot of them into a conversation 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!

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  • Mary Parker
    April 22, 2020 at 6:47 am

    I think your guidance boils down to this:
    *Wear the other things in your closet.*

    It’s easy to think what we wear doesn’t matter, but wearing jeans all the time turns into a uniform. The definition of uniform is “remaining the same in all cases and at all times; unchanging in form or character.” I realized when EVERYONE wears jeans, from babies to great-grandmas, it was time for me to make a change.

    If what we are seeking in our work is generating magic and a call to action to make changes (buy our products, our services, our ideas), then we can’t wear a uniform. We have to wear something that matches the level of effort we expect to expend on a project or concept. We have to show up dressed for work.

    So, wear the OTHER things in your closet! They’re waiting for you!

    • Deborah
      April 22, 2020 at 11:16 am

      I agree with this, whole-heartedly. I have observed, even in the writing of these posts, that what I most craved was to get dressed on purpose, and to observe the transitions in my day that moved me from one part of my identity to another. I have come to feel strongly that the ubiquity of jeans prevents us from giving those other parts of our…personality? spirit? identity? room to be seen and to take risks and to enjoy rewards, they’re almost an armor on their own. Getting dressed for LIFE matters, but becomes unconscious if we aren’t mindful. LOVE your insight that “everyone wears jeans, from babies to great-grandmas”–such a wise realization!

  • Liebs
    April 23, 2020 at 11:33 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this series. I’ve been struggling with my attitude/motivation and suddenly working from home. I’ve fallen into the habit of athleisure everyday. After I started reading this series, I decided to go back to getting dressed for work everyday and it has been a game changer. The time that I lose with the extra effort for getting dressed, I make up in productivity during the day. I haven’t yet gotten to jeans once a week, but just by putting on pants with a button has changed my attitude and motivation to get things done. I’ve even picked up some unfinished garment projects because I’m looking forward to wearing them. Thank you so much for reminding me of the way that the effort that I put in on for my outside impacts the way that I feel on the inside.

    • Deborah
      April 24, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      It’s almost shocking, isn’t it? And it doesn’t have to be pearls-and-heels, there are lots of loose dresses and wide-legged pants that are easy to wear yet feel ON PURPOSE. I feel like athleisure fails at giving me room to fully express the ME of me? I don’t completely know how to word that, it’s such a slippery idea–I love the way you’ve put it, that “my attitude and motivation to get things done” changes when I am deliberate and intentional about getting dressed.

      And YES!!! to finishing projects!! I was in THE BIGGEST FUNK at the sewing machine, for sooooo long, couldn’t sew a thing, didn’t want to–and as these habits have become more automatic, I’m really creatively inspired–but also way more interested in homing in on a very few really great projects to make, on purpose. Can’t wait to see what you’ll finish up!! 🙂