Some time ago, fellow blogger SP wrote about her decision to do away with all her outfits that are not jeans or tops that can be worn with them, with an interesting discussion ensuing in a string of comments. GB was one of those who commented, and then did his own post about clothes and what they mean to him. SP's post made me want to write about the topic as well, and here I am - so, thank you, SP, for being the original muse behind this post :-)
Actually, it is not the first time I address this; if you go to "Fashion for the shallow-minded" under my header, you will find some more insight into the Librarian With Secret's mind regarding clothes; I won't attempt to avoid repeating some of what I wrote before.
For the majority of time, throughout civilization, strict dress codes were in order. The ruling classes determined who was to wear what, and if, say, a peasant woman in Medieval times would have somehow gotten hold of a garment in a colour not allowed to her class (purple or royal blue, for instance), she would have had to face dire consequences.
In many cultures around the globe, such strict dress codes are still in order (I am not only referring to the burka), and not all of them have a religious background. Until not that many decades ago, in my part of the world fashion dictate reigned, and it was virtually impossible to find anything in the shops that was not in fashion but maybe would have fitted one's body shape a lot better. Today, at least where I live, there is a huge choice of garments, coming in all sizes, shapes and colours (and I am taking full advantage of this choice!), and although dress codes are still largely in place in the business world, it is widely accepted to actually go as you please no matter what the occasion, and only the size of one's body and purse along with personal taste and style determines what we wear.
While my clothes do not need to come from any particular designer or have to have a certain label attached to them (matching price tag included), there are a few shops where I hardly ever leave without finding at least one item to take home. The reason for that is simple: I am of such average size that there is always something there that fits me. Whether there is something there I like is a different question, of course. But, unfortunately, there almost always is...
I say "unfortunately", because while to many ladies, my wardrobe will seem modest in dimensions, I know that I own far more clothes than what I truly need, and therefore I have set myself a rule some of you have been thinking about adopting for their book cases: one in, one out (or, even better, one in, two out).
Since I am quite good at rules and sticking to them, I have indeed gotten continuously rid of items in exchange for the new ones I brought, so I am doing well in that department.
But why do I want all those different clothes anyway?
My choice of clothes dipends greatly on the occasion (work or play? work outside, at a fair, seeing a customer, at the office with my boss, or from home? a walk across the fields or into town centre? going to the opera or to the pub quiz?), the weather (-18 Celsius, as seems to be the norm these days, or +35, which makes most people seek the shade whereever they can but sees me positively thriving; rain and puddles on the pavement, or dry and warm enough for sandals? am I going to have to go there and back on my own two feet, or will someone drive?) and, last but not least, my mood.
While I may sometimes be in the mood for something more glamorous, the outside factors I have no influence on do in the end determine what I wear.
This does, I must admit, sometimes prevent me from looking the way I would like to for a specific occasion, but most of the time, I can reconcile the voice of reason with my own ideas of what I want to be seen in.
Getting dressed is part of daily life's fun for me; I enjoy putting together an outfit in my head first, and then in front of my wardrobe, and enjoy the feeling my clothes give me for the day (or the night). The whole process is a lot less time-consuming than it may sound; I am usually dressed within a few minutes and do not waste time in front of the bathroom mirror doing my hair (there is nothing to "do" there anyway) or putting on make-up (except for those special occasions, but even then, it is a question of five minutes - I wouldn't even know how to go about all the complicated stuff many women do with their hair and face every day!).
I also like caring for my clothes, arranging them neatly (more or less) in my wardrobe, ironing them, etc. Yes, I honestly like to iron. It gives me peace of mind; I am doing something with my hands while my mind can be occupied with something else. When I am on my own (which is usually the case while I am doing such householdy things), I like to listen to an episode of "In Our Time" on BBC Radio4's website.
For special occasions such as going to the opera (or, as was the case on New Year's Eve, a posh restaurant), deciding on what to wear and getting dressed up is part of the overall experience for me, which is one reason why I would never dream of wearing just jeans for such an event. A night at the opera is certainly not an everyday thing in my life, but indeed something very special, and I like to express this specialness by wearing clothes that I do not wear everyday.
Also, even though I know the artists on the stage can not see me in the darkened audience (and should not be distracted from their performance anyway), to me it is a sign of showing them respect for what they do, all the hard work so many people (and certainly not just those visible on the stage!) have put into this, creating an unforgettable evening. It IS a lot of hard work, it deserves respect, and that respect, for me, ends not with paying for the ticket and being quiet while the show is going on.
Don't get me wrong - by saying that, I do not wish to imply that the many people who decide NOT to dress up for special occasions are not showing respect to those who make it all work for them. I am convinced they enjoy the performance as much as anyone else, and do not take it for granted that they have the possibility of being there. This is entirely my personal opinion about the subject, and why it matters to me what I wear.
The same is true about invitations to friends; of course there is a difference between a lavish dinner and an informal party where 50 people squeeze into a 2-room flat and spend the evening, bottle or glass in hand, standing because there are not enough chairs, chatting to the other guests and having a relaxed good time. But still, an invitation means someone wants me to be at their place, and I want to show them that I feel honoured by their appreciation of me, and I show this by dressing nicely. And I feel just as relaxed and up to the fun in a pretty dress than I can in a pair of jeans.
When I am the host and my guests arrive, I do of course notice what they are wearing, but I do not judge them by it. If someone comes to a party of mine and they are in jeans, this won't mean they will never be invited again - I may even be wearing jeans myself :-) (And, frankly, I am much more often at other people's parties than I am hosting my own anyway.)
So, the shallowness of getting dressed up (or down) is not really that shallow after all, is it? In fact, quite a lot of thought goes in there, and to wear the same kind of outfit day in, day out would feel much too uniform-like to me. Again, I emphasize the last two words: TO ME. Not necessarily to anyone else!
And naturally, this post is a good excuse to post some more pictures to show you examples of my day-to-day type dressing up and down: