Friday, April 17, 2009

The woman should wear the clothes

Not the clothes wear the woman. My mother drilled this into my head as a young woman. "You wear clothes, the clothes don't wear you".

Over the years, I have gone from being a conservative dresser, to short skirts and form fitting clothes, and back again. I have noticed the differences in the way that I am perceived, and treated, and the way I feel about myself depending on the way I dress.

In the past few months, I have returned to a more conservative form of dress. My clothes fit well, but are not tight, and most people notice that the majority of my body is covered with clothing (as opposed to a bikini top and mini skirt which is commonly worn in this part of the country). I'm not talking about post-baby frumpy mummy style, with sweat pants every day. I look put together...wouldn't want my style savvy siblings to be embarrassed to be seen with me. But there is an absence of skin and form fitting clothing. In addition to my conservative attire, most days when I leave the house, my hair is covered. The type of covering changes, depending on my mood, but there is usually some sort of fabric covering my hair.

And I have discovered that there is a degree of freedom when I am dressed more modestly. I'm not sure how to explain it, but it is there. I know that women should be free to wear whatever they want, and I support individual choice about how to dress. But in my personal experience, how I am dressed has a direct correlation to the way in which I am perceived and treated by others. And that changes how I interact with those around me. Not everyone, of course, some people are always nice or polite or respectful, and other are mean or nasty or rude to everyone they meet. But I have noticed that as my clothing became more conservative, and especially after I started covering my hair more often, I navigated my way through life a little differently. I've gotten some rude stars and comments, but overall people are more respectful and polite. Especially men. I noticed this when I was a teenager in NYC, how differently men interacted with me when I had on tight jeans versus a summer dress, and the difference is even more pronounced now. It might not be right, or fair, but that is life.

However, it is not only about other people, it is about me. I change also. It takes a different type of confidence to dress modestly. Dressing modestly is not about shame, like many think. I am not ashamed of my body or my sexuality, the opposite is actually true. I think I look pretty good! I spent a few years try to overcome low self esteem and poor body image, and during that time I wore certain things just because I had something to prove. I no longer have anything to prove, and so now I wear clothes because I like them, I feel and look good in them. And for me, that means that my clothing has a little more material than other women of similar stature usually wear.

The thing that has been most interesting to me is the compliments. I get more compliments on my outfits (from women) and my beauty (from men) than I think I've ever gotten in my life. Many people notice that I look nice first, and then that my hair is covered, and then they do a double take and realize that most of my body is "covered" also. And, I think, that is the way it should be.

1 comment:

Meeeems said...