A Train Of Thought: On Clothing, Part One – Why are they wearing that?

One of my friends chooses her outfits like they are a piece of art. She goes in for composition of colour and fabric rather than using the criteria that we are more used to – ‘modern’ style, ‘dressing up’ for the occasion, colour coordination. I love the way she dresses, even more so now that I know why.

Another friend of mine told me that, in some parts of the world, people judge photographs based on the spirit they were taken in, rather than on whether the individuals pictured look ‘good’ or not. I found that intriguing and it tied nicely into the idea of how my other friend dresses.

That, in turn, led me to back to an old train of thought – noticing how I look at other people’s outfits.

Just like any other dame raised in this patriarchal culture, I have been well-trained* to judge what other people are wearing and whether I look ‘better’ than them. I am well versed, at least mentally, in deciding whether someone ‘should’ wear a particular type of clothing, whether it flatters them or whether they look ‘ridiculous.’

However, since I started paying attention to how I think and how my thinking has been influenced (thanks, Feminism!), I have been increasingly annoyed with that automatic internal commentary on other people. I got tired of the waste of time and energy involved in assessing other people – and for no good reason. It doesn’t go with the general empathy with which I try to live my life, and it’s no fun.

So, since I can’t stop noticing what other people are wearing, I decided to start using different criteria to judge it. Now, instead of looking at whether they meet some sort of moving target of standards of appropriateness, I look for their intent.

Were they aiming for comfort? Attention? Moveability? Colour? Excitement? Were they trying to highlight one specific item? Do they look like they are happy in what they have on?

In this photo, for instance, Sharon and I are dressed to kick some ass. Our intentions are clear. (She won, by the way. I need to up my skills.)

In this photo, for instance, Sharon and I are dressed to kick some ass. Our intentions are clear. (She won, by the way. I need to up my skills.)

Now, I’m not spending a lot of effort on this, I’m just channelling an automatic train of thought down a different track. And I’m not generally thinking harsh thoughts about anyone’s outfits, I don’t care that much.

I am a people watcher, though, it’s my inclination as a writer, a storyteller, a coach, and someone with anthropology training, and I am much more comfortable thinking in these terms than in any other ones I learned.

What kind of intentions do you use for choosing what to wear?

Tune in next Thursday for Part Two of this series – ‘But How Do You Feel?’

*Note: I am not referring to my parents’ training me here, just the kind of training you get from living in this society