Monday, July 22, 2013

A Year of Dressing UP not DOWN

A little over a year and a half ago I was watching an episode of Project Runway (total junkie!) and the graceful Laura Bennett made some statement or other about how black riding pants and a crisp white button up was her version of sweatpants and a ratty tee, and that it was a slippery slope once you started to dress down.  Something hit me then, and I realized that she was right and somehow in the back of my mind I logged it away as true, important, and actionable.

Previously I had spent 6 months in Japan, where wearing jeans is unpopular and walking out the door without makeup is pretty unusual. The Japanese (and many other societies) put lots of effort into their appearances, whether crazy or sedate. There is no "jeans and t-shirt" in Japan. This struck me as interesting when I was there, but since I wasn't too much in the habit of wearing jeans or t-shirts I didn't think much of and adapted right along with the culture. (I took only my favorite pair of jeans overseas)

What Laura Bennett said on that episode really reminded me of Japan, and re-focused the stark contrast I felt when coming home to America. What were we doing in this first world country when we walked out the door in Spongebob pajamas and ratty old white t-shirts? Really. No think about that. What are we saying, about ourselves, about our culture, about our values? Nothing good, that's for sure.

At some point after watching that episode and having that little epiphany, I decided to make a conscious effort to dress UP, and not down. Contrary to what you may think, dressing up does not always have to involve makeup or mean you can't wear your favorite jeans. What it means is a year of having respect for yourself, and reflecting it in your appearance. It doesn't mean dressing trendy, but staying true to yourself while bringing a level of present-ability to your appearance that shows the thought and effort you put in.

From learning basic hair styles to choosing tasteful or bold accessories, it's often small details that really push you from "dressed" to "dressed up." In this year, I found comfort in walking out the door knowing I looked good, and feeling approachable and attractive for the entire day. It was worth the extra time in the morning.

I've never looked back. I've never wished I was wearing pajama pants in public or wished I had slept in an extra 10 minutes and left my hair sticking out all over the place. Better yet, people notice. You think they don't, but they do. You exude an air when you are dressed nicely. People tell you you look nice. They compliment the things you are wearing and look at you in a different light. After awhile it goes from "you look nice today, what's the occasion?" to simply "you look nice today!" Nowadays, I hear a compliment about my appearance at least once a day. Sometimes from complete strangers, other times from coworkers, friends or family. No matter where they come from, they are endlessly gratifying. The pleasure of looking good to a stranger and looking good to a spouse are completely different, and you really never tire of either. Not just looking good, but the confidence and self assuredness that come with presenting yourself as you want to be seen.

So how did I do it? How did I decide to open up my closets and put myself out there to the world? How did I decide that the things I love that seem too fancy for everyday wear are really acceptable for me to wear everyday? Simple. I committed. I committed to a year of dressing up, and never dressing down. I looked at my wardrobe and removed the things that didn't fit me right, didn't flatter my shape. I got rid of the blouses that popped buttons when I spread my arms. I nixed the pants that sagged too much or were too tight. I stopped buying clothes I loved but didn't fit me correctly. I got rid of the comfy shirts with holes in them or turned them into night shirts. I took these things to a donation center or a consigner depending on their condition. I sold some of them online. I gave them to friends with the right shape to make them work. I went to a clothing swap. I got them out of my wardrobe, and filled my wardrobe with thrifted and vintage pieces that really work for my body and my style. I stopped being shy about wearing dresses or pieces that I would have previously considered too dressy for everyday wear.

Around the same time I made this commitment was when I started selling vintage. I'll have to do another post about how the dress up, not down philosophy and Foxburrow Vintage are so closely connected... and perhaps a post with a few tips for how others can dress up not down without a lot of cost or changes to their wardrobes. Until then, stay inspired.

Some outfits through the year... plenty of learning curve in there!


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