Dressing can be a chore. If you’re grappling with body image woes, work in a critical or intolerant environment, or are dealing with chronic pain, peering into your closet each morning may prompt more anxiety than elation. But I firmly believe that striving to dress joyously is a worthwhile endeavor. For all of us. Because we’ve all got to wear clothes every day, and the clothes we choose broadcast information about us to the observing world. And because the clothes we choose can be protective or celebratory or expressive or soothing, and what we wear can change the path we take for the day.
Dressing is powerful. And so it should be joyous.
Here are some ways to ensure the dressing process is joyous for YOU:
Work around negativity
Frequently, the biggest, strongest roadblock to joyous dressing is negative feedback from outside sources. It can seem impossible to wear anything but your most unremarkable clothing if you know that anything more daring will be met with unwelcome commentary. But there are ways to both build your courage and deflect nasty remarks. Start by amassing pieces and tools that contribute to your desired or goal look, then wear them in small enough amounts that it feels like your little secret. Then try cultivating allies: Talk to a select few people about why dressing this way is important to you, so that you have some supporters amongst the dissenters. And then give my tried-and-true favorite comeback a whirl: Laugh. When someone makes a rude remark about your outfit, just laugh and say, “Hahaha, I know! Isn’t this WILD?” Own it. Never apologize. Then walk away.
None of these techniques is foolproof, and your unique situation may make them all seem utterly ludicrous. But the point is this: There are ways. You don’t have to surrender a potential source of joy to buzzwreckers or bullies. Formulate a strategy, take a deep breath, and go forth dressed fabulously.
The second biggest, strongest roadblock is self-critique. Whether you believe that your body isn’t “good enough” to pull off a certain skirt, or are convinced that you’re not stylish enough to wear a trendy dress, your own fears and apprehensions constitute a very real impediment to dressing with joy. So try faking it. Throw on the skirt before you can get too freaked out about it, and just GO. Pull on that dress and strut through your day like a superstar. It’s been said before, but bears repeating: Confidence is the most powerful beautifier in the universe. Believe in yourself and you can wear anything. And if your belief is wavering, fake it.
Wear sentimental pieces
Gorgeous clothing that has been beautifully designed and expertly manufactured is thrilling to wear. But the most threadbare tee or scuffed-up shoes can prompt more joy than gorgeous designer duds if those well-worn items have sentimental value. Whenever I wear a dress that my mom made for me, or a bracelet that my dad bought for me, or shoes that my husband gave me for Hanukkah, I feel exponentially happier. Every time I glimpse what I’m wearing, I feel loved and cherished. There is no quicker path to joyous dressing than embracing garments that hold emotional meaning.
Embrace color, texture, and shine
Matte black is eternally chic, but bright red, vibrant yellow, rich purple, and electric blue invigorate both wearer and observer. Sequins and studs add interest and excitement to a garment. Lush layers, draped cloth, richly textured fibers make bodies feel sensually fulfilled. Neutrals are cool and classic, but when you’re aiming for joy, go for color, texture, and shine.
Explore figure flattery
Do NOT interpret this mandate to mean “figure out how to make your big bits look smaller” or “buy clothing, shoes, and accessories that make you look tall and thin.” In my opinion, figure flattery is so much broader than most style experts would lead you to believe. Flattering clothing lies flat against your body. Flattering clothing doesn’t pull, pinch, or subdivide. Flattering clothing works with your eyes, hair, and skin tone. Flattering clothing creates a silhouette that pleases your eye. And all of these things have value because when your body is flattered as you wish it to be, you feel like your best self.
Is it always going to be this simple? No. Will following these exact steps lead to a guaranteed lifetime of joyous dressing? Probably not. Will there be days when dressing joyously falls to the bottom of your priorities? For sure. But again, those of us who move about in non-nudist circles must get dressed every single day of our lives. Many daily tasks are extremely difficult to transform into celebratory affairs: I brush my teeth willingly but without emotion, I do the dishes religiously but grudgingly, and there’s not much I can do to infuse these tasks with my own brand of joie de vivre. But dressing? Dressing CAN be joyous. And I choose to make it so.
As can you.