Many-a-friend has approached me during high school and inquired of me the exact same thing:
"Why do you bother to dress up every day? It's pointless."
Au contraire. Personally, I believe that all the clothes we wear should give us a feeling of confidence in our appearance every day, because if you feel good about yourself, others will feel it too. I have made it a dogma of mine to never go out in public in sweatpants or workout shorts and a t-shirt, unless I'm actually headed to the gym, and always attempt to look my best. Why? Forgive me for answering a question with a question when I respond, "Who do you know that looks their absolute best in a baggy tee and flimsy shorts?" For the past couple years, I've put dressing well relatively high on my priority shelf, and if you don't already, I hope you will see the value of doing so by the end of this essay. I'll also be ragging on t-shirts and Nike shorts...a lot.
Before I go on to argue the numerous pluses of dressing nicely, I'd like to first debunk some common arguments and misconceptions I've constantly come across.
One of the main arguments I have met in my discussions about the value of dressing up is the supposed "sexualization" of women's fashion and the "perpetuation of gender roles" through the clothing we are expected to wear. Apparently dresses, skirts, and low-cut blouses are all symbols of our submission to our chauvinistic overlords. But how can one even reference gender roles when talking about fashion? Men and women are inherently different for reasons that we keep trying to avoid explaining to our younger siblings. As much as I believe in equal pay and equality in the workplace, I don't think we can exactly "fight for our rights" when it comes to having or not having boobs. And as to sexualization, I don't believe it's really an issue, for it can be seen in both men's and women's apparel. Guys are just as driven to appear strapping and broad-shouldered as women are to appear big- bosomed and curvy.
Another popular one is ,"You're hiding your true self." I find this one the most ironic, because about 70% of the people who mentioned this argument were, literally, wearing a rebuttal on their sleeve. As they preached how certain fashions completely alter one's appearance, they themselves were clad in an old lacrosse or Tyler's t-shirt. How does wearing a top that flattens out your chest and makes your curves non-existent considered 'showing your true self'?
The entire industry of makeup and fashion is centered around bringing out one's best qualities while simultaneously hiding one's imperfections and expressing one's individual taste. If you're self-conscious about your skinny legs and have a bubbly personality, pair a colorful blouse with some straight-pant jeans and you're ready to go. Have you drastically altered your exterior? No. Have you increased your self-confidence and done away with unnecessary angst? I think so. By putting some extra thought into your wardrobe, not only will you look great, but you'll also get a chance to express your inner-self. Clothing, just like one's choice in music or lifestyle, is just another way to define yourself in the eyes of those around you. We choose to wear certain styles based on how we want to be perceived by others. For example, when you see a group of college kids strolling along the sidewalk (as I've recently done), you can tell by one look at their clothing whether they're Greek Life, skaters, hipsters, or arties. Can a Tylers shirt and Sofies do that? Didn't think so.
"But Julia, in that case doesn't certain clothing become a uniform for some groups?"
The word 'uniform' implies a lack of choice. No one is going to force you into wearing skinny jeans and a gory band shirt, even if you are part of the metal-emo movement. However, I also believe that just because all of your friends are wearing a certain shirt or dressing a certain way does not mean it is imperative of you to do the same. Dress according to what suits you personally, not what everyone else is wearing. By no means do I suggest that you wear skinny jeans if you have absolutely no business doing so. “Just because it fits, doesn’t mean it sits.” I don't mean to sound condescending, but if you know that you’re a bit chunky, leave the spandex jeggings at home. No one wants to see your jiggling cellulite. Only follow a fashion if it beautifies you, because some fashions can be just plain stupid, like Nike shorts, or a sudden influx of tropical fruit-hats.
During my stay in Italy two summers ago, I noticed that even the older women managed to look gorgeous. It was because they didn't try to wear short shorts like they did when they were 20, and they had a lifetime of experience in dressing their best. Clothing should be used to express your own rendition of any current fashion movements, and not to simply be a clone of everyone around you.
The bottom line is: don't wear tropical fruit hats unless you know they compliment your features. I have a great mental image going there.
Now on to the benefits, finally. You've held on this long, might as well read the rest.
The first reason should be enough to convince most of the male populace: an increased chance of getting laid.
A girl with decent looks and a nice rack will have her fair share of guys, regardless of what she’s wearing. However, it is exponentially easier to attract attention in a short skirt and heels than in a hoodie and sweatpants.
Guys have it easy. For while they may be very visual creatures, women are less so. All it usually takes a guy to get a date are very average looks and a suave attitude. However, dressing the part won't hurt your chances either.
Picture this: You walk into a bar sharply clad in a nice, clean button-down and fitted jeans to match. Hear that sound? That’s the sound of every female eyeball in the room giving you a once-over. ZZ Top knew what they were talking about when they sang "Girls Go Crazy Bout' a Sharp-Dressed Man".
We don't wear the same clothes to a party, interview, or date. People dress up for interviews and meetings not because their suit is the most comfortable thing in their closet, but because they know they must look their best and impress their boss. As I mentioned earlier, your clothes directly reflect how you want others to see you. What you wear sends a very clear, simple message to those around you, which is why I can't understand why so many women choose to spend the day parading around in an old, neon green charity event shirt and a pair of Nike's that make their otherwise perky butt look like a formless mass.
We play sports, practice an instrument, and try to make good grades. We all strive to get a good job with which we can buy a nice car and afford a nice house, and stuff that house with nice furniture we think others will find appealing. We put so much effort into keeping up appearances in numerous aspects of our lives, yet so many choose to neglect how they themselves look. One can be the Most Interesting Man in the World, but if he does not take care of himself, he will suffer the same fate as an expensive table with a greasy table cloth. People are going to see the stains before they notice the hand-carved cherry maple legs.
We try so hard to develop ourselves to get others to like us, yet we don't care enough to look pleasant to others? It's gonna be hard to convince people to be interested in what's inside if there's nothing pleasant on the outside. To me, appearance reflects not only lack of interest in fashion sense, but also her priorities. In a way, a disinterest in your appearance is the equivalent of a giant middle finger to everyone around you. Someone that puts no effort into his or her appearance sends the message that they do not value anyone around them enough to look pleasant for them, and, as Adarsh mentions in his essay "Judging by Beauty is Not Superficial", they have every right to do so.
In several of the large, metropolitan cities I've visited, I simply felt invigorated and inspired because I was surrounded by so many beautiful people. But the fact is, people arent any more naturally beaufitul in Europe or California than anywhere else. They just simply view fashion of style as a higher priority than other cities and take the time to change out of their sweatpants before stepping outside. All in all, dressing up not only benefits you but those around you as well by presenting them with another piece of beauty in their lives. I’m not suggesting that everyone swarm Armani Exchange this minute; I simply believe that if the current Nike-short-clad crowd put in a little extra effort into their wardrobe and took better care of themselves, I believe it would greatly increase the mood of feel-good propriety among the masses. In the end, dressing up becomes beneficial for everyone and has no down-side, so why not do it?
-Julia (image enthusiast)
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