Sunja Link palm print dress | gift from Seven Sisters to review
Just something I’m thinking about today.
I returned last night from a quick trip to see my dad for his birthday over the weekend, and am just trying to get back to work/routine at home now. For me, that means doing all the laundry, putting everything away, replenishing food, and since I left the charger for my computer at my dad’s I have to run out to Best Buy as soon as it opens to replace it.
But I was thinking during all of this (as I was unpacking my bag, noticing how many things I brought with me I didn’t wear), and listening to an American Fashion Podcast on the plane yesterday, what role do I want my clothes to play? What do I want them to DO for me? One of the designers on the podcast has designed “costumes” for Katy Perry, and she herself dresses very girly and feminine, in dresses, skirts, and lots of color. She wants her clothes to be “fun” AND work for her lifestyle. Which made me wonder…
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted my clothes to be fun. I’ve bought pieces in the past that were somewhat colorful, but “fun” has never been a priority for me in terms of my clothes. Maybe when I was much younger, I wanted to look “interesting” within certain confines: not too flashy, or colorful, and always very “neat.” Now, I want practicality, and a sense of ease, most of all. I want my clothes to say to the world outside that I have everything together, that I’m comfortable and aligned, chic, and simple, and sometimes interesting. All while I might be screaming inside that I’m overwhelmed, or unsure, or worried.
I sometimes treat my clothing as my armor, as if it will shield me from difficulties of life, and the outside world. Of course it can’t, and I certainly don’t do that as often as I have in the past, but I still fall into that trap; I think, if I just had THIS bag, or THESE shoes, or THAT dress, then everything will come together.
What I want most of all is to throw something on I can LIVE in. Do everything in, be myself in. Right now, as I go to run errands and replace my charger, I’m wearing my Birkenstock Arizona sandals, Rag & Bone Capri jeans & Elizabeth Suzann linen tunic. And at my dad’s I basically lived in my Emerson Fry organic caftan from last year over my Hackwith Design House bikini, and for going out, I wore the Sunja Link dress you see in the image. I wore it at home for a bit before we all went to Shake Shack for my dad’s birthday dinner, where I played foosball with my niece (and managed to win, twice!).
I actually consider this dress “fun;” It has a lovely print, although it is black and white, and an unconventional shape. It commands attention (sometimes negative), and makes me smile. So, maybe I do want my clothes to be fun. Fun, according to my own definition, obviously LOL.
Like it or not, I care very deeply about what I wear all of the time. I rather like it, honestly, because as I know now, after a lot of thinking and writing about my wardrobe, that I am most comfortable, and most myself, when I am wearing just the right thing. I have a closet full of just the right things now, things I can “throw” on and feel myself in, and that has been worth all the work.
What role do your clothes play in your life? What do you want them to do for you?
I think about this a lot too — sometimes I think I’m thinking about it too much, but then…everyone is allowed to have interests, right? Nothing bothers me more then when people assume caring about/spending money on yourappearance is shallow or frivolous, because we *all* spend money on something, right? My retired father-in-law is so confused by all my clothes, but will drop many thousands on a back-hoe because he likes “improving his land.”
For me, clothes make me feel special. I want to look just a little different from the people around me. I want to feel attractive (my own definition) and confident, and clothing is probably 85% of that for me. When I wear something I spent a lot of time considering, hunting down, and getting a good price for, I feel really good about myself. I suppose I don’t wear things because they’re “fun,” but rather because they’re interesting, unconventional, or valuable to me in some way.
i’ve been thinking about this lately, too. as an early-career professional with a traditional 9-5 job, for the past few years i’ve treated clothing sort of like a problem to be solved. i’ve worked on building a wardrobe that allows me to get dressed quickly (not a morning person!), be comfortable, and look “professional”. but lately i’ve realized that while i feel comfortable and respectable in my clothes, most of the time i don’t feel pretty. i wear a lot of neutrals in classic fits, which often feel, to me, boring and overly practical. so i’m working on figuring out what types of clothing make me feel more beautiful… which is harder than it sounds!
“Like it or not, I care very deeply about what I wear all of the time. I rather like it, honestly, because as I know now, after a lot of thinking and writing about my wardrobe, that I am most comfortable, and most myself, when I am wearing just the right thing. I have a closet full of just the right things now, things I can “throw” on and feel myself in, and that has been worth all the work.”
Yes! I couldn’t express it any better!
I remember one time lamenting to a good friend that I didn’t have any creative or artistic abilities, and that too many people think of fashion as being too superficial and shallow. My friend, very thoughtfully, disagreed with me, saying that the ways in which I approached outfit making and clothes and my appreciation for garment construction, clothing history, and styling made him think that I was very creative. He also said I wasn’t superficial in the least. I was touched by his insight, and it’s stayed with me for a long time now. That anecdote is just to showcase that I really do love thinking about and reading about clothes and finding things I’d love to wear. For me, foremost, I always want my clothes to be comfortable and have some give to them. It’s the worst feeling to be constantly tugging and adjusting on something. Regarding how I want my clothes to “speak” for me when people see me, I want for my clothes to convey a sense of coolness, a slightly punk rocker moto vibe, and practicality. I’ve found that a combo of black skinny jeans or black slouchy pants with a natural fiber white/light colored tee or top with an interesting element (e.g. a dart here or there or distressing), cool kicks, and a leather jacket or bomber makes me feel like the best and truest version of myself. I’ve often said for years now that my ultimate sartorial inspiration, however silly it seems, would be a greaser from the late 1905s-1960s (think The Outsiders or Cry-Baby lol). I’ve also worked in business casual environments and in my early- and mid-twenties would get caught up and frustrated buying things I didn’t like or feel good in, but felt like I had to wear bootcut trousers, button downs, cardigans (I’m a librarian, and this item is like a prerequisite for getting into library school!), and sheath dresses (nothing wrong with these things, of course, just not right for me). I’ve always worked in this type of office setting, but now that I finally feel comfortable showing more of my personality via my clothes and choosing things that I actually want to wear, it’s been a long, slow process this last year and a half of finding items that work for both my personal and work lives and that still feel like me.
I’ve had to struggle and fight with myself for a long time before I could accept my interest in clothes and style as more than just a frivolous and rather embarassing part of who I am. I’ve always wanted my clothes to tell a story about me, just like the attire of a great woman character from a good book would. I basically wanted my clothes to come to mind when someone thinks of me, to be a congruent and significant part of how the world perceives me. My clothes are a costume, there’s no doubt, and they tell a message that I crafted myself. But that doesn’t mean that they project a fake image: I often need them to remind myself of who I am (or who I’ve decided I was), because I live inside of my head so much that I pass by myself in the mirror and I’m surprised sometimes by what I see. We are all so complex, maybe clothes help us bring into focus those aspects of our makeup that we’ve decided are more important and worthy of more attention than others.
Lori´s last blog post ..Wearing black, a feminist interpretation (maybe)
You captured my thoughts perfectly! I think I fell into the trap of clothing as armor for most of my life. I spent way too much time trying to figure out what I was…the way that teenagers do, but I was still doing it well into my 20s. My clothing was part of that. I was constantly trying new styles not because I thought it was fun (it is fun sometimes), but because I thought if I just found that *perfect* look, then I would BE perfect. I would have *found* myself, my purpose, my ultimate career, my passion, etc etc. Never worked out! I was making too many clothing choices based on what other people said mattered, not what truly mattered to me.
A lot of that thinking and feeling fell away when I got pregnant, because I was just too tired to care! And after I had my daughter, I really honed in on the kind of clothes I needed to fit my lifestyle – washable, comfortable, and very specific (fabric, cut, color). My wardrobe is not very “creative” or varied, but that is actually perfection for me, because it just IS. My clothes aren’t trying to be something anymore – and neither am I. I’m just trying to be myself and enjoy that. I’ve shed a lot of baggage since getting older and having a major life change, and I finally feel like “me” with the clothes I have now – which were selected with only MY priorities in mind, and no one else’s.
Your style sounds a lot like mine! I can totally identify with what you are saying. I spent way too many years and dollars trying to find button-downs and cardigans that made me feel like myself – but of course they never did. Same with dresses – most of them I put on just feel wrong.
Amy´s last blog post ..Ponte Joggers
It is so true that we can see clothes as art, which makes them a more acceptable interest. Art itself is not fully accepted as a valid interest or line of work, however, but it has been proven to be an essential part of our experience as human beings and people in various dire circumstances have often chosen to forgo other basic needs (like personal safety or nurishment) in the favor of art.
Lori´s last blog post ..Wearing black, a feminist interpretation (maybe)
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot recently as well! I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so I’m looking for clothes that spark joy. At first, I had no idea what it meant. Then I went through my clothes one piece at a time, and I immediately realized the difference between clothes that spark joy and clothes that don’t. I want my clothes to put a smile on my face when I wear them. I want to have clothes that I feel safe in; I know they are in good condition and are good quality and will not rip/bunch/be see through and make me self-conscious. I want clothes I enjoy caring for, and I look forward to wearing. And that goes for all clothes! I want workout clothes that make me feel happy and energized, and sleep clothes that are comfortable and not fussy.
Grechen Reiter says
oh, that IS hard lindsay! it really takes a lot of trial and error to identify what makes you feel “more beautiful” – i think for me, it’s this dress i’m wearing in the picture because it’s something very “me” but at the same time different enough to make me feel “different” and more interesting, which in turn makes me feel more beautiful? sort of? more special maybe is a better way to put it 😉
Grechen Reiter says
yes, to all of this.
and i feel exactly the same way – about living inside my head so much, and being surprised at the mirror. but then, when i stop to look, i feel right. calm. better.
In the past I haven’t asked myself this question. But in the past few years I’ve been trying to be more mindful in all areas but especially in the areas of spending and how I use my living space. I love design, all design, in everything from font/graphics to homes to clothing. When I was younger I tended to buy anything that the design appealed to me, whether or not it had longevity or was flattering on me. I realize now it was a poor substitute for a much needed creative outlet. I had written fiction and essays as a child/teen, started college as an English major and then switched halfway thru to accounting. I don’t have any regrets about going into accounting. I understand current events, regulations, business, economics and personal finance more than I would without that background and I’m good at it. But I now ensure I also have time for creative endeavors in my off time because that lack of a creative space will show up in other unproductive ways. So now I’d say I don’t want my clothing to be a creative outlet, with the exception of jewelry. I see my clothing as armor too, although I didn’t think of it that way until you said it. I also feel like it’s my uniform. I like to be comfortable, understated, multi-purpose and functional. I want my clothing to be simple so that I can think/focus on other things. I also don’t like to attract attention to myself. I’m quite curvy and could dress to enhance that but I prefer my minimalist tomboy aesthetic as I’m not interested in that kind of attention and it doesn’t feel like me (although I’ll do a LBD wiggle dress in comfy stretchy jersey to a nice dinner out). That said I also like my clothing to be flattering (I’m less distracted if I feel like my clothes suit and fit me well). A flattering fit is a part of comfort. I also like good material, a nice drape and interesting shapes. I stick to a neutral palette with the occasional purple or burgundy and I often mix neutrals now (which I never would’ve done in the past). I think that is where I get my fun in – mixing and layering.
Can we see more pix of this dress that is giving you that smile?
Grechen Reiter says
posted one today, i don’t like it though 😉
it’s been so dreary and rainy here i just haven’t been able to get a good full-size image…
“Fun” is in the eye of the beholder! I find my clothes very fun, although others would probably find them quite boring (Katy Perry, for one). I wear a lot of black, which harkens back to my BB makeup artist days, when I felt ever the New York sophisticate. And then there’s my button front shirts from Frank & Eileen, which I wear with good jeans and booties…I feel chic, simple and modern. My stripes, of which I have MANY…make me feel happy, nautical, fashionable, Instagram-ready 😉 Like me! I think I wear different things for different moods. Who says I have to be consistent? That’s just an arbitrary rule, which is meant to be broken.
Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 says
Clothes are hard. HARD. I actually spent the evening of June 2nd (my wedding anniversary, but my husband was working late because he’s been swamped and the kids were down) emptying out my closet, dividing it by seasons, and recreating a capsule wardrobe.
Yes, I totally get bored! But when I did capsule wardrobes (about 50 things per session), I forced myself to be more creative with what I loved, get rid of what really didn’t work, and not look at things that don’t make sense today (I get stressed seeing wool sweaters in July, and sleeveless blouses in January).
My full wardrobe gives me anxiety – paradox of choice stuff. It’s not even that overwhelming anymore -what used to take up my closet + drawers + racks + tubs in multiple rooms and storage spaces (seriously – ah, the joys of the early days of fast fashion and a heady economy and debt machine) now is contained to at least my actual closet and drawer space in my bedroom (maternity clothing notwithstanding). But if I’m not using it right now, it becomes ugly and excessive to me, so I put it away while it’s not useful.
And when I know I have good clothing in storage, I somehow am able to be more focused and deliberate in my shopping. After having a body that has been in flux for months (babies will be one in a few weeks) and using it and a lack of will or want to shop in stores, I finally put the brakes on my mindless spending and started being mindful again and thinking about focusing on 1. buying better things new that will last, 2. buying secondhand when I need a fun fix, and 3. sticking to a budget.
Which brings me to two purchases I’m actually excited about because they are the first investment pieces I’ve made in a really long time:
1. Frye ballet flats (vs. pair after pair of poorly made black leather flats)
2. A silk Eileen Fisher top that is fun and gorgeous now and that I believe I’ll be able to wear for a very, very long time.
It is really hard for me to spend this much on two items when there are serviceable, if not as well-made or ethical/sustainable, options that are far kinder to my working-part-time-now wallet. But it’s in line with my values — something my shopping habits of the past 9 months had devolved away from.
Yes, yes, yes…to everything you said, Rebecca! But especially “focused and deliberate.”
I totally agree. People rely on their clothes a lot of the time to make a statement about themselves, and everyone has something unique they’re striving for in their fashion choices. I’m so glad to hear you have discovered exactly what you like to wear and what makes you feel most comfortable and confident! That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing!