Thursday, September 10, 2009

How I Dressed Like a Sitcom Husband and Lived to Tell the Tale: An Essay on the Power of Personal Style

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.

31 comments:

Rosie Unknown said...

I so second this! Great post!

Anonymous said...

I too have found that whenever I put an effort into the way I look I feel so much better. Great post!

-h said...

i have to admit ive watched according to jim a few times and thought he was pretty funny actually. LOL!

i realize even when i feel like crap or i dont know what to wear, i put on all black and throw on fabulous accessories. my mood can change throughout the course of the day, but if you're dressed in frump, you're just stuck in a frumpy state of mind.


good post. one of my favorite quotes "if you look good you feel good. you feel good, you play good. you play good they pay good. they pay good you live good."
said by deion sanders!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mag said...

This is so true!
Like today, I wore a red plaid skirt and red lipstick, and this is something I don't usually do, and I felt so different! I think wearing different things affects the way I move, and the way you move can make a big difference in the way you look, and I ended up feeling really pretty for the entire afternoon, and that's a moral boost! :D

Great writing, as usual :)

K.Line said...

This is a fantastic post, W. I completely know what you mean.

Christy (Columbia Lily) said...

what an excellent post!!

Kate said...

Well said, Winona! I have thought similar (but far less articulate) thoughts on the matter. Almost thinking I may change for my day of writing ahead!

TINE said...

this was truly inspirational!

grechen said...

i struggle with this every day - while i work 14 hours from home and never go anywhere...you're 100% right though, and you say it brilliantly.

Lauren said...

Oh Winona. I love your blog so. And I don't think anyone likes According to Jim...even the people who watch it.

Michelle said...

This is so true, Winona! I can totally tell a difference in my mood on a day when I feel like I look fabulous, vs. a day where I just grabbed whatever was closest and tossed it on.

Holley said...

Good stuff! Like the others have said, I definitely can tell the difference on the days that I make the effort. I'll have to make a point to remind myself about this on those days that I feel like just throwing on the first thing I see in the closet!

Thanks for the inspiration for introspection!

Veronica said...

Well said. Thanks for this ... I couldn't agree more.

You Portlanders though ... you have the best dang maple bars. Now I want one :)

Katie said...

Thanks for this! This is exactly what I've been going through.. I love your blog :D

x

Daiane said...

very, very true words! i love how you put things into perspective. plus, the sitcom husband part was hilarious :))

xxoo

Anonymous said...

Hello from the most isolated city in the world! and a very conservative one too.

i had hot pink hair (now white blonde) and am renowned for wearing bright colours and jumpers with horses, koalas and pumas all over them because they make me happy.

you're totally spot on.

also, i love that the owrd verification for the post is one letter off being "bunsicle", an iced arse-based treat.

Nina

Staci said...

100% true. I acquired the habit(or neurosis) from my very stylish, lady-like mother of never leaving the house without makeup on/hair done, in pajamas, etc. This has much to do with my own confidence at feeling put together, and isn't about anyone else's opinion of my appearance. Even if it's as simple as taking a shower, the ritual of getting ready to face the world makes me *feel* as though I can conquer anything.

Apocalypstick said...

Has SOMEBODY been rocking the sweatpants lately????

Lisa said...

Beautiful, eloquent post--truly well done. Thank you for capturing so well what we do to and for ourselves every day.
Your blog always makes me smile. Thank you!

littlemissellie said...

I'm gonna forward this to my boyfriend, it should stop him thinking I'm odd when I apply a full face of make up to stay in when I need cheering up!

Leila said...

So true! The worse I feel, the better I dress. It works.

Sal said...

You KNOW I've gotta say amen to this.

jess said...

This is so true! Whenever I am having a crappy day or just feel crappy in general, the first thing I do is take a bubble bath, pick out a cute outfit and do my makeup. It's an instant pick me up!

Erin said...

great post! it's so true. you are the only one in charge of how you feel, and you need to take accountability for your own happiness

Elizabeth said...

I think this could apply to me today...

Kate said...

AMEN! I can hear the my Mom's voice echoing in my head, "Just put on something nice - it'll make you feel better."
Ah, so true - and that goes for the opposite too! Ever try going out with friends for a night on the town after coming directly from, say, work? Trying to get your groove on in saggy trousers, a cardigan and remnants of coffee dribbled down the front... not so much fun.
P.S. This whole television male stereotype thing is totally something that I have recently become very worried about. I am more and more disturbed by my boyfriend's idolization of Homer Simpson, George Costanza and Charlie Sheen's character in that awful "Men" show. I refuse to become a Marge.

Amanda M. said...

Wow. A serious post. And a damn good one. Do more of this. No, seriously. I love the light, fun blogging style, but this was fantastic! I love seeing this side of you. ^_^

Household removals Australia said...

This is so true, I do the same thing too, most of the time especially when I’m feeling a bit worse.

Christchurch Jobs said...

Nice post! Just when I thought I was the only one. hehehe well it’s a girl thing.

Keri said...

AMEN!! this is totally true. if i'm having a bad day i tend not to put make up on or dress cute. then i feel worse about what's going on. even if i'm in a good mood and don't put makeup on or look frump-a-dump my mood is affected.

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