My favorite class in college was media literacy. I loved it because I've always loved media studies, plus my teacher was amazing and we got to write academic papers about the latent messages in Dixie Chicks music videos.
One of the many things I learned in this class was that media both affects and reflects reality. For example, most sitcom husbands are lazy, immature oafs because in real life a lot of men are lazy, immature oafs, but maybe some of those guys act like lazy, immature oafs because they watch shows like According to Jim and think that's how a man is supposed to act. And maybe their wives accept the oafish behavior because all the wives on TV just roll their eyes and smile when their sitcom husbands, like, set the house on fire. (Hopefully none of my readers are According to Jim fan club members, but if you are, I apologize, and I swear I'm getting to my point.)
OK, so here's where I'm going with the long winded Jim Belushi analogies: fashion is a lot like media in this way. How we choose to dress ourselves each day both affects and reflects our reality, which includes our mood, our self-image, and our self-esteem.
This isn't a groundbreaking idea by any means, but I've been thinking about it a lot since earlier this year when I fell into a bit of a fashion funk. The backstory is I was regularly staying up all night working on my book and another big project, and a lot of those overnight writing fests involved donuts, and during the days I wasn't exactly feeling my best. Specifically, I was feeling bloated and exhausted, so I started dressing to reflect that: wearing loose, generic clothes that didn't reflect my personal style.
My boring clothes were a reflection of my attitude, but they also affected my attitude every day--I felt boring and frumpy when I should have felt energized and creative. Looking in the mirror, I didn't see a beautiful, unique, stylish person. I saw someone who was trying to blend in, to hide a few extra pounds of maple bars and some ever-darkening undereye bags. I felt bad, so I dressed badly, and then I looked bad, so I felt worse. Capiche?
The fact that I fell into a fashion funk while working on a style book was an unenjoyable irony, but it actually ended up being my salvation. I found myself getting genuinely emotional while writing about how dressing better can change your life (corny but true), and realized I needed to take my own advice. I committed to wearing the colors, fabrics, and cuts that made me feel good. I took the time to choose a bold necklace (or 3) in the morning, and I put on my favorite bright blue eyeliner even if I was feeling more blue than bright.
When I put effort into the way I looked, it changed the way I saw myself.
The dressing frumpy/feeling frumpy cycle is a vicious one, but it's an easy one to interrupt. If you're in a tough emotional space, or feeling bad about your body, putting a little extra effort into your appearance can absolutely improve your outlook. You don't need to spend a lot of money--just throwing on a silk scarf you found in the back of your closet, or a $5 floral headband from Forever 21 can lift your mood and change your perspective. Dressing for the life you want is a profound step toward making it happen.
This is what I love most about fashion. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that.