Why do we dress up? Why do we buy new clothes?
It’s a question that isn’t asked often because there’s nobody in the world who doesn’t know the joy of wearing something new, something that looks good.
A friend of mine in college once took an issue with the fact that I looked like I hadn’t slept before an exam – I hadn’t, I told her, I was up all night trying to study. I was wearing old clothes, no make-up and a perpetual frown. She on the other hand was dressed to the nines, even wearing heels, as if to suggest she had plans after the written test. She said she hadn’t had any sleep either, but she didn’t want to look like it, in fact, she was so nervous about the exam that she just wanted to feel good about herself and wear something nice.
That conversation to me was so revealing of a distinctly human trait. While a lot of times I wear outfits for purely functional reasons, when I wear something I really like, I’m in a better mood. I feel more capable of dealing with whatever comes my way. It’s an instant boost of confidence, filling a need for self-validation I never knew I had. First date? Job interview? A house party? I obsess over my look for each of them as if everyone there is going to notice how the colors on my belt perfectly accentuate my earrings. It’s like my clothes are my armor, something I need to put on to feel better about myself.
I still sometimes think about my electric purple kurta, that I styled with black jeans and all-silver accessories in college. I have such fond memories of going out for drinks with the girls in my perfectly fitted dark blue jeans – it was from the Levis’ Diva collection, and every time I wore it, I did feel like a diva. My trusty denim skirt has stood by me through a decade – I found in a thrift store when I was studying in the UK. I take it out for a spin now and then, even though it sits a little too snugly on my waist now.
There are so many pieces of clothing that make me who I am today, and that remind me of who I used to be. A hot pink dress that I wore on the first day after a job promotion, my bomber jacket I picked up from a store in Tokyo, the kurta I got stitched from my mom’s silk saree for my best friend’s wedding.. I had a hard time giving each of these away when they got old and worn out.
We live in a culture that tells us we need to keep buying, but what if tried to shift the focus to a culture of care instead? I myself have discarded outfits so many times on the basis of just ‘the button is loose’ or ‘there’s a rip in the seam’ but if we just tried to mend them instead of buying new, we could collectively save the world. And it’s so easy – if I just wear my clothes for 9 more months, I can reduce the garment’s carbon footprint by up to 20%.
I love my clothes. The way they make me feel beautiful, the way they let me express myself with colors, the way I look forward to seeing myself in a picture – it’s a dress that made it happen. A dress made me fall in love with myself. And if just by loving my clothes more, I can change a small part of the world, sign me up!