CLOTHING IS NOT ARMOR
The “perfect” wardrobe won’t protect us from the pain of life.
A great outfit doesn’t make us immune to suffering.
Our favorite “skinny” jeans don’t make us skinny.
We can’t hide our shame with a baggy sweatshirt.
CLOTHING COVERS OUR BODIES
There’s no doubt we feel better about ourselves and sometimes life in general when we wear “nicer” things, or things we love, but your dog can still die while you’re wearing your favorite cashmere sweater, and you can still get fired wearing your best suit. Nothing can protect you from life.
I’m not trying to diminish the role of clothing in our lives, after all, things matter. Clothing is a great tool we can use to boost confidence, show our creative side, or just have fun, but when clothing becomes something we rely on to act as a distraction, and mask what’s going on inside, it becomes a crutch, and an obsession. I know, I was there. Obsessing. And still today, even though I’ve recognized what I was doing, I have moments when I think “if I just had THOSE jeans”…
Why did I obsess for so long over having “the right” things in my wardrobe, and why did I collect so MUCH STUFF?
I discovered that I was trying to create the life I wanted via my wardrobe; I was trying to fill emotional needs with clothes. And I thought I could actually slowly transform my life in to the one I wanted by adding one (or two) items of clothing at a time.
I was addressing the dissatisfaction I felt with my life by putting up a wall of clothing around me; my perfectly chic, comfortable and drapey outfit would both show the world that I am strong and creative, while at the same time protecting me from disappointment and the pain of failure.
But clothing is not armor.
My feelings can still be hurt even while I’m wearing my favorite James Perse dress.
I can still feel lonely wearing my soft & cozy Inhabit cashmere sweater.
My Eileen Fisher harem pants don’t protect my ego when I feel under-appreciated.
It’s time to stop elevating our clothing into something it’s not; it doesn’t have to be so serious. (this coming from someone who writes and thinks about clothing ALL THE TIME!) As I get further along in my minimal journey, I am starting to let go. I am starting to appreciate the freedom that comes from just living in the moment and appreciating what IS, and from just wearing what’s appropriate & fun, not my suit of armor.
How have you used clothing as armor?
*hat tip to the October 2014 issue of Lucky magazine and the article “Flawless” by Kayleen Schaefer for making me think about this issue in this way.
See The Minimal Closet in the WSJ! Then read more in The Minimal Closet series (new posts on Thursdays):
Yes, sort of .. mostly as a cover up for weight gain .. I still hold on to ‘fat’ jeans .. ugh, why I don’t know.
MonicaP´s last blog post ..Modern Outlander Style Clothing
I don’t use clothing as armor anymore, but did when I was younger. Sally McGraw of Already Pretty, however, thinks that one’s wardrobe can solve any situation in life. (She recently has posted about it.) I disagree with what she writes, and am just using her as an example of the opposite philosophy. Clothing yourself in costumes might be fun for Halloween, but reality demands a different approach. Sorry, for slightly digressing from your original point.
Grechen Reiter says
i think that’s completely natural though, monica. we’ve all done it; i definitely have days when i just want to hide myself. (and actually right this moment i’m wearing denim shorts i cut off from a pair of 3-sizes too big jeans because i’m bloated and feeling BLECH).
Grechen Reiter says
digressions are always welcome here 🙂
to be fair, i don’t think sally meant her post in such stark terms (although perhaps her wording could have been different…); i think she was focusing on changing your style/clothing as a small change that’s sometimes easier to make than bigger changes, like changing careers, etc. i definitely don’t believe that changing your style or your clothes can change EVERYTHING, but facing my closet and my “clothing demons” head on changed a lot for me. of course, i did that at the same time that i was doing internal work and coming to terms with the emotional reasons i had acquired too many things, but it still helped…
I’m glad that you don’t mind my digressions:). I think, though, that Sally focuses almost exclusively on style as the “be all, end all” of existence. Obviously, it isn’t. At least, for most people not in the fashion business. What we wear is fairly superficial, as opposed to who we are. “Clothes might make the man” or woman but when we disrobe, we’re still the same old person with all of our foibles and frailties. Personal style is never a substitute for psychological/spiritual growth. Grechen, you’ve done both the inner and outer work necessary for meaningful change. Kudos for your courage, you’re inspirational!
Great point, RJS! I need to keep doing the inner work, because after reading this post, Grechen, I had an “AHA moment.” I really have been using my clothing as armor. And no matter how pretty someone tells me I look in an outfit, if I don’t believe it inside, it’s not going to mean anything to me. I’ve got to feel pretty INSIDE.
It made me think of a question that occurred to me after your recent post about “booties…again”:
Does anyone else feel like they’re missing out on something if you don’t own certain brands? Such as, “If I was really stylish, I’d own a pair of Rachel Comey or Rag and Bone boots.” Or “I SHOULD own an Acne sweater.” I don’t, I never have and because I was raised to be very frugal (Gee, that was successful! Haha), I don’t see certain brands as being within my reach. Even the idea of saving up for them and then purchasing just doesn’t compute for me. And I probably could if I didn’t constantly buy so much other crap!
Ok, so have at it…explain me to me! (But I think this really has a lot to do with armor, designer armor, so I won’t feel so insecure. Will ponder and analyze…)
Grechen Reiter says
yes, i still feel that way, even though it’s so silly…and i have a pair of rag & bone booties, and so what? i don’t wear them, they’re not very flattering on me, and they don’t make me look or feel like an “it” girl….more like I’m just faking it…
that’s the thing about the minimalist aesthetic looks/personalities that frustrate me ; they make it seem like you must have certain brands to really achieve the right minimalist look. or whatever “look” is en vogue right now. which is complete rubbish. obviously. but we still can’t help but buy into it…
That’s it, I think….I feel like I’m faking it. Shakespeare said it best: “Be true to thine own self.”
I’ve been under the illusion that If I can just get the ‘right’ clothes then I can get on living my life. Trouble is I don’t know what that looks like..
I wear my crappiest clothes everyday while my best ones hang gathering dust waiting for my perfect life to begin..it seems a really sad thing to do.
I can relate! Life is too short, though, to wear crappy clothes.
Val, if only I could follow my own good advice;).
Don’t we all?
My fear is that I will make a single quality purchase and it won’t meet expectations, I won’t love it and there it sits mocking me.
Grechen Reiter says
i get that…happens to me too! hopefully you can return it, then if you don’t love it. if not, sell it, or donate it…just don’t let it sit there, mocking you!
I can resonate with this article. I spent several years building a wall of clothing around me and used shoes as daggers ! 100,000 dollars later, i still felt the same. The emptiness i felt inside was a giant gaping hole and no amount of clothes or shoes or jewelry would be able to fill it; until one day it hit me. My mind had taken enough and so had my body. I started feeling this terrible ache in my shoulders everytime i went shopping. At first i thought, it was probably the $$$ weighing me down, but it was my body’s way of asking to quit emotional shopping. I did. I threw/sold/donated several pieces and for the first time in eight years, i can feel the fog lift from my head.
Now each time i go shopping, all i can do is smile and walk away.