Dressing for the Day

Last week I had a day where I was in casual jeans and an oversize sweatshirt all day, followed by a day of wearing fitted jeans and a polished sweater. The difference in how I felt was remarkable: on the first day, I felt schlubby, had lower energy, and like I had thrown together whatever came to hand; on the second day, I felt put together, productive, and pleased with my appearance.

Day 1, more or less (this was before I changed into jeans):

Day 2:

I’m definitely not the first person to recognize or muse on the power of the clothes we wear to help lift our moods, present ourselves with confidence, and energize us for the day ahead. I’m also not the first person to recognize that having a choice about this – whether to dress down or up – is a privilege not everyone enjoys. (For example, if you have a chronic disease or mental health issue, dressing well might feel like an insurmountable task some days – whereas if you are a person of color or of lower socioeconomic status, you may not feel you can dress down and still be taken as seriously as a white person or upper/middle class person in gym clothes.)

But despite having known what a difference dressing for the day makes and knowing it was a choice I had, I was struck by how strong the contrast was. Thanks to my capsule maternity wardrobe, intentionally picking out clothes that (although not fancy) fit well and looked nice took the same amount of time as throwing on a sweatshirt and scrubby jeans, but felt worlds better.

I once attended an event rather underdressed and let the sense of dis-ease I felt prevent me from connecting with other attendees, only to have a mentor (also my boss at the time) remind me that I can do anything in flip flops (yes, my chosen footwear for said business lunch in downtown Chicago. #collegestudent). I’ve carried that with me ever since and it’s enabled me not to feel frozen or even embarrassed when I run into a parishioner in the grocery store or during school dropoff dressed in sweats and sneaks. But it’s also great to feel like taking 5 extra minutes in the morning – or just being intentional with the five minutes I have – can give me that unexpected boost of being ready to face the world.

Where do you fall on the dressing-for-the-day spectrum? How do you dress if you are working at or from home, or at an office, or if you are retired, or going to the gym and running errands? Have you noticed a correlation between the way you’re dressed and the way you navigate your day?


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