February 27, 2012
I have never been a career woman.  There are some ladies who are born with the vision for their lives complete and intact and work diligently towards their very real goals and dreams.  I am not one of them.  I have many hobbies and interests, but none of them translated into gainful employment.  For me, most of my (rather well-paying – I’m not complaining) jobs have consisted of sitting in a back corner cubicle, doing paperwork all day.

But because I viewed my work as largely insignificant (ok, in the grander scheme of things paperwork is important – but I essentially don’t see it, caught in the miry bog of data entry) there have been days where it’s been a struggle for me not to wear my pajama’s to work.  I'm not kidding.  I woke up the other morning and almost had myself convinced that my thinning, hole-y yoga pants could pass as business casual attire.  They’re comfortable, they’re not jeans, they’re black, and I’m sure nobody would notice the hole at the cuff. 

I’m sure I was just being lazy.   Or perhaps I was feeling bad about something that day – maybe I was struggling with another day of doing a job I felt was un-fulfilling?  I can’t remember.  But I know that I wanted my outward appearance to reflect my inward thoughts and feelings. 

Picture credit
And isn’t that just what clothes are…an insight into one's thoughts and character?  I know that I have had days where I change my clothes three or four times – because I haven’t got the ‘feeling’ just right yet.  You can probably think of at least ten friends or acquaintances that express themselves distinctly through their outer apparel.  I’ve caught myself several times in the middle of department stores thinking “this sweater is SO my friend”. 

But our appearance is more complex than just an extension of our feelings-du-jour.  It can be directly related to our philosophy of life, the virtues we practice or attempt to practice, our dignity and self-esteem, the role we play in society, the authority given to us and it can showcase our moral ideals (or lack thereof).  It even publicizes our religious sensibilities. Appearances really do matter - and your appearance is always saying something about you.    

Outward appearance creates that 'first impression'

The first thing that another person sees of us is our visible features, whether we like it or not.  Read anything on job hunting or interviewing and the first thing you will read relates in some way to your dressing for the position you want.  And this doesn’t only relate to situations where you specifically want to make a good impression, like a job interview.  You are always making a first, second or umpteenth impression.  Although we live in a society that tries not to judge a book by it’s cover, it’s a rare person that is able to thoroughly incorporate the clich√© into their lives.  Our brains are automatically and constantly forming impressions of everyone we meet, even if the people we meet are well known to us. 

Emily Post has a great deal to say about dress.  In her book aptly named “Etiquette” she has these general remarks to share.

      “Clothes are to us what fur and feathers are to beasts and birds; they not only add to our appearance, but they are our appearance.  The first impression that we make upon others entirely depends upon what we wear and how we wear it.  Manners and speech are noted afterward, and character is discerned last of all.  In the community where we live, character is the fundamental essential, but for the transient impression that we make everywhere in public, two superficial attributes are alone indispensable – good manners and a pleasing appearance. And such an appearance is utterly impossible – at least in fashionable communities – without an average degree of smartness.” 

Interesting, isn’t it?  In 1922 when her book was first published, Mrs. Post recognized that character is the ‘fundamental essential’, but that it’s the superficial that people see first, manners and appearance. 

(That being said, I’m not entirely convinced that we shouldn’t occasionally follow our first impressions. I think it’s a matter of discernment...precisely because the outer appearance of others can often represent what is going on inside that person.  Women especially should follow their instincts when say, walking at night or when they are at home alone, on the side of the road and even on dates.  But I only say ‘occasionally’, not ‘always’, because I don’t want to encourage stereotyping or judging every single person the moment you first meet them.  Not only can well-dressed people be deceiving and do just as much harm as the not-well-dressed, but judging the average person based on a 2 second impression is uncharitable and rude. Everyone has their ‘off’ days and we are still required to adopt the highest standard of politeness and manners with the people we meet.)

picture credit
Appearances influence our attitudes

Despite the need for us to practice discernment, politeness and manners with strangers, outer appearance also effects our attitude towards others - and how others perceive and treat us.  I'll give you an example.  I used to work at a hospital in an office directly across from the hospital administrator’s.  Two ladies shared the position of running the whole hospital.  If a nurse called in sick, they had to find a replacement.  If there were no more beds available in a certain wing, they had to figure out where to put the extra patients.  I was always struck by their appearances, both of them.  Each wore heels and business suits every day.  They looked smart and confident, yet they still were friendly, approachable and accommodating.  I could always tell when they were approaching, as the clicks of their heels gave them away well before I saw them pass by the door.  Can you imagine if either of them were ‘goths’ or had multiple, visible piercings or tattoos?  What would you think if a woman with a white face and jet black eye makeup, lipstick, hair and fingernails came to your hospital bedside telling you that due to overcrowding, they had to move you to another, more crowded room?  Or what if she was even in jeans and a tee shirt, or yoga pants?  I think I’d laugh – most likely wouldn’t take her seriously, and ask the nurse if she was legitimately who she said she was (I know who the nurse is because she's wearing scrubs).  As friendly and accommodating as a she could be, the average person would likely not be able to overlook a ‘gothic’ first impression.  

So what now?

As my friend and blogging partner Tess says, "we try to deny it, but we are responsible to and for each other...and how we dress is a part of that.  My own dignity aside, I should show respect for others by dressing neatly and decently, within my means and according to my sense of style."  (She's so smart!!) We have the responsibility to become the best version of ourselves (I know I'm sounding like a televangelist right now, but bear with me)  Emily has a bit to say on the matter too.  
Picture credit

      “Fashion is followed to the letter – therefore they fancy, poor sheep, they are the last word in smartness.  Those whom the fashion suits are ‘smart’, but they are seldom, if ever, distinguished because – they are all precisely alike.   The woman who is chic is always a little different.  Not different in being behind fashion, but always slightly apart from it.  ‘Chic’ is a borrowed adjective, but there is no English word to take the place of ‘elegant… there is no synonym that will express the individuality of beautiful taste combined with personal dignity and grace which gives to a perfect costume an inimitable air of distinction.  The woman who is chic gets the latest model, perhaps, but has it adapted to her own type, so that she has just that distinction of appearance which the sheep lack.”

Did you catch that?  It is "personal dignity and grace which gives to a perfect costume an inimitable air of distinction".  Any old sheep can imitate a fashion to the letter of the law.  But a woman of distinction is honest, forthright, loving, compassionate, charitable, kind, generous and many other things first, and that is the elegance that pervades her whole life.  If you hate your job, that hatred will pervade your countenance.  If I am a selfish miser, that too will be disclosed in what I'm wearing and how I wear it.  

Style and good taste isn't only what I put on - it is but an extension of the many complexities that shape who I am at my very core. Want to try and improve yourself?  Keep working on your faults and increasing your strengths and virtues, and the rest will likely follow.


Post a Comment


What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. Welcome! So glad you're here!


Follow by Email


Popular Posts

Powered by Blogger.