That fashionable feeling

My worries have been building over the last few weeks – we have a wedding to attend and for this I have a dress to fit into. I fitted into it in June (just) and since then I’ve been doing more activity but haven’t noticed much of a change in shape. And now I’m back at husby’s family home being fed. So I was anxious that the dress would no longer fit. Anxious to the point of not wanting to try it on and find out that it didn’t fit. Anxious to the point that I actually packed a back-up dress and back-up pair of shoes in case it all went horribly wrong.

Why not just try the dress on before I left so I wouldn’t have to pack extra? Why not just find out and have done with it? Because all the while I was living in anxiety that the dress might not fit, I was living with the potential that it still might, and clearly this feeling was the stronger of the two.

This morning I bit the bullet and tried the dress on. Not only did it fit, it fit marginally better than it did before, and instantly my spirits were lifted. I felt all girly and ready to go out and be seen in my beautiful dress. And then as I got changed again I began to think. And I wondered at how odd it was that wearing a dress made me feel like being seen and going out. Like being admired. I hadn’t felt like this minutes earlier in my pyjama trousers and old t-shirt, nor did I feel like this now in my old cut-offs and vest top. So is it that what we wear actually makes us feel different?

I suspect not.

My assumption would be that there is some kind of entrenched cultural self-fulfilling prophesy at work here – my culture esteems girliness (at times) and broadcasts (largely through the media and advertising) its particular take on what constitutes girliness (fun, beautiful, feminine, well dressed, playful, charming) so when I put on a dress which fit that notion, I then fitted that notion and began to feel the things which that notion entails.

I wonder if this works in other areas too; whether someone who puts on a smart suit feels rather dapper and carries themself more elegantly; whether someone who puts on a soldier’s uniform feels protective and ready to defend; whether someone who puts on a boxer’s outfit feels more aggressive; whether someone in a maid’s outfit feels somewhat subservient; whether someone who puts on a tramp’s rags feels less worthy, disposessed.

I suspect they might, but equally I suspect this coalescing of clothing and feeling is unique within cultures.

For instance, if this morning instead of my dress I had put on the traditional outfit for an Aboriginal woman, I probably would just have felt uncomfortable, for the clothing and all its cultural traditions and expectations are utterly unknown to me. Similarly if someone managed to convince a member of one of the remoter tribes of Papua New Guinea to don a suit, I suspect they would feel equally out of their depth and uncertain.

And so it is back to the old cultural expectations and our collective proclivity to pay attention and become infused with them even to the point that our mood can be altered by them without our noticing or considering how this occurs.

Time to start finding our sense of worth outside of our apparel, methinks.

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