Reader Jess sent me this question via e-mail:
How does one reconcile her clothing choices with days when you’re truly down? Sometimes I want to put clothes on as armor, assuming that if I look put together, my less-than-together mental state will be disguised. But there are other times when I am feeling particularly angsty and want nothing more than to sulk around in a hoodie. I should add that I am a graduate student, but most of my classmates do dress up to some degree, so I can’t exactly waltz in wearing my nubby slippers.
This will sound like a cop-out, but I think ALL dressing choices on difficult days are correct. You know yourself, you know your needs, so do what you think is best and it will be best. If you want to be in loose, soft, unconfining clothes to pamper your body and soul, do it. If you want to “fake it till you make it,” dressed to the nines as a means of lifting your own mood, do it. Only you know what’s best.
But if you wake up feeling out-of-sorts and simply cannot TELL what would be the most beneficial in terms of dressing choices, here are a couple of considerations to mull:
- Are you in pain? Nothing makes menstrual cramps, migraines, or injuries unbearable like a tight belt, pinching shoes, or a stiff blazer. If your body is already uncomfortable, don’t add to its woes with uncomfortable clothes.
- Do you want to be invisible? If your blues are more psychological than physical, consider how much social interaction you can tolerate. If you’re an extrovert who thrives on activity and discussion, wearing something fun or funky may get you rolling along a path to wellness. If you’re an introvert who recharges on quiet alone-time, wearing something quiet and innocuous may allow you some healing invisibility until you’re back to normal.
- What’s the norm? Jess pointed out that, due to social circumstances, she can’t exactly go full scrub. Probably couldn’t strap on a tiara and a set of Lee Press-on Nails and expect her peer group to accept her spirit-lifting garb without comment, either. Dressing brightly and boldly to lift your spirits is a tried-and-true practice, but be sure to adjust to your specific circumstances. If altering your daily wear drastically won’t pass and you don’t want to deal with the flak, do something less noticeable. Wear bright, cheery shoes with a neutral outfit. Throw on a necklace your grandmother gave you. Make subtle choices that will cheer you from within.
- Is there a threat? At a former job, I had a coworker who would regularly haul me into a conference room, ALONE, and berate me. On a day that I knew such a confrontation was inevitable, I wore all black, lots of studs, boots, slicked my hair back tight. I was afraid, but I felt as “armored” as I could be in that getup. If what’s upsetting you is some sort of threat, dressing to intimidate or impress can really help shore you up.
Again, the choice is truly yours. There is nothing wrong with using stylistic choices to snap yourself out of a wretched mood, and there is nothing wrong with reaching for the leggings and squishy sweaters to coddle yourself. Do what feels best. And if you don’t know what’s gonna feel best, cruise through the above questions and see if they can help guide you.