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OPINION: Why Dressing Well Can Be Empowering

Unpopular opinion: it actually really matters how you dress. As you read this statement, you may find yourself bristling or annoyed. How dare I tell you what to wear? You don’t have thousands to spend on runway clothes or hours to spend getting ready every morning. However, this simply plays right into one of the most common misconceptions about fashion: that there is one thing that you have to wear or one style to which you must adhere. Stay with me here and allow me to explain how dressing well can actually be really empowering.

Firstly, I want to address that obviously the ability to even think about style comes from a point of privilege. Style and dressing well are obviously not the first things on the agenda of many individuals and that is completely understandable. However, I believe that if this is something that is available to you, then you should take advantage of this opportunity. I think that style is something that can be truly life changing and empowering if used correctly and that is what I will be addressing in this article.

Another thing that must be addressed is the difference between style and trends. This is one of the biggest places where the average person gets stuck when trying to shop or dress. Trends are fleeting product of fast fashion. An example of a trend is a 90’s black lace choker. They are popular and often seen right now, but will they be in style this time next year? Probably not. Trends are fun, but also can be frivolous and potentially unflattering when building a wardrobe. If you buy something that is a trend, you must be prepared for the fact that you might hate it in as a little as a month or two.

Style is a much more permanent strain of fashion. The great thing about style is that style is completely individual to the person. The Journal of Experimental Psychology cites a study conducted by two professors at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago to demonstrate the link between clothing and confidence. In this study, two groups of people were given white coats. One group was told their coats belonged to doctors and the other group to painters. The group wearing “lab coats” actually showed a strong increase in ability to pay attention as compared to the other group. This shows that it is less about the actual clothing, but about the symbolic and emotional associations that we have with them. This is why you can feel equally self assured in a sparkly red dress or your dad’s T shirt from the 80’s. When we wear things that we associate with positive traits, we actually are able to encapsulate those positive traits.

Style isn’t about spending huge amounts of money or waking up three hours before class to get ready. As a college student, I know that most of us (myself included) do not have limitless funds and energy. However, style is about wearing things that give you confidence. It’s not about attempting to be some model on the runway that you will never be, it’s about enhancing the best parts of who you are. Style doesn’t have to mean buying the newest pants that everyone else is wearing. Some of the best style springs from the creativity of repurposing items you already have into new outfits that make you feel empowered.

Additionally, style is about fit. There is a huge emphasis in our culture about being thin and small, no doubt reinforced by stick thin celebrities and magazines that tell us that the next five pounds lost is the key to our happiness. However, one size certainly does not fit all. Next time you shop, ditch the number counting and go for what actually fits you. Don’t dress for the what if, dress for the right now. “If you deny the reality of your body or your life, you’ll never be able to dress any of it well-even the parts you love,” says Stacey Clinton, author of The Truth About Style. “You have to see it all to work with any of it.” It is entirely more flattering to wear a size 10 that hugs your body in a great way than to try to squeeze into a size 8. Wearing well fitting clothes is one of the best ways to look polished and put together.

Style is about dressing for the part. The truth is that you aren’t going to wake up feeling confident and excited every day. You aren’t going to show up to every job feeling confident and prepared. You aren’t going to go on every date feeling like the there are many fish in the sea. Style, however, is a way of putting yourself one step ahead of self doubt. Style is a way of portraying confidence and poise, even if that is the farthest thing from what you are feeling. It may seem superficial, but clothing makes a statement about who you are and where you want to go,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, America’s leading expert on business etiquette. “Personal style has always played, and still plays, a crucial role in the career trajectories of leaders.”

About the author

Mackenzie Leveque

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