Exterior Trappings, Inner Lives
I read a fascinating article in the Guardian recently on an exhibition of clothing of poets, and how their clothing can tell us about their inner lives. The co-curator of the exhibit, Sophie Oliver, explained “With women, there’s the opportunity to change the narrative a little bit, to show how clothes are crucial to the work and some of the things they are thinking through their work.”
This made me think. Clothing as self-expression is obviously not not restricted to poets, and I’ve written about clothing as self-expression before. But this article made me wonder about how clothing can show your inner life. Does a defined style indicate a defined and organized inner life? Does a lack of a clear style show confusion in your thoughts?
I’ve long been fascinated by an idea of a uniform, and indeed over the past year of school drop-off and pick-up I’ve developed my own uniform. It’s been enlightening how much mental space has been freed because I’m not wondering what to wear–I might debate what sweater to choose that day, but that’s such a small amount of thought compared to choosing what to wear overall. It’s helped me to focus thinking on more important things, to use that energy creatively, to spend time planning for the future instead of wearing ruts over and over for the same topic every morning.
Is my mind more organized, now that I have a defined uniform? I wouldn’t go that far–I’ve been notorious for my mind skipping from topic to topic–but I’ve certainly found that not having to worry about what I have to wear has freed up space for more deliberate and creative thoughts. I still spend time thinking about clothes, but instead of feeling like a chore, I know what I’m reaching for and I’m able to think about things in a way I enjoy–what I love, why I wear what I do, and why I write about what I wear. I’ve always loved thinking about things from an anthropological perspective, and being able to do that now is once again pleasurable instead of a well-worn track.
If you have a uniform, how does that affect your thinking and your way of life?
Ann Mashburn Shetland sweater
Zalo mules (vintage, newer versions here*)
4 thoughts on “Exterior Trappings, Inner Lives”
Emilie Hawtin recently wrote a really fantastic piece about uniform dressing. Her style is somewhat different from mine (and also much more sophisticated!), but I find her thoughts so inspiring and useful. Here’s the link: https://www.permanentstyle.com/2023/02/day-in-day-out-on-uniform-dressing-and-travel.html
Oh, this looks like SUCH a good read—thank you so much for sharing!!
Until several months ago, my closet was overstuffed with so many rarely-to-never worn things I picked up on whims or for “retail therapy” purposes, or things that I sorta liked but that never looked or felt quite right wearing. After I finally parted with these things (via eBay sales or simply giving them away), I realized that I had inadvertently distilled my wardrobe into something of a small collection of uniforms. There are really just a few different kinds of things I’ll wear most days, depending on the season. So maybe I have like, three or four uniforms as opposed to one, but that works fine for me. My only new rule is that any new addition to my closet has to be something I really, really want.
I definitely agree with your new rule! I’m glad that your closet clear-out went well. It’s really satisfying to find your uniform–I also think I have several uniforms, depending on the circumstances. I look forward to writing more about them!