Getting dressed is something that we all do every day. More than seven billion people wear clothes—every day.
Most would say that we wear clothing to keep us warm. Yet that doesn’t explain why clothing continues to be worn through hot temperatures. Even in cultures near the equator, clothing is worn regularly. In those warm climates clothing may be worn for protection from the sun.
But, what keeps us wearing clothes when there is no requirement for protection? Some may suggest modesty. Modesty, though, is a learned behavior from culture. As you probably know, modesty levels are different in the United States than they are in France which is different than Saudi Arabia.
The common thread (excuse the pun) throughout all cultures is that clothing is used for communication. A police officer wearing a uniform sends a very different message than a Wall Street professional wearing a suit. And either of those people could communicate something completely different in off-duty hours when wearing casual clothes.
Clothing is a visual language. Like any language its messages are communicated in symbols that are familiar throughout the culture. There are many cultures, though, and even more sub-cultures. Learning how to effectively and quickly communicate a meaning so that it is correctly interpreted can be an art.
Knowing that every time you get dressed you’re saying something can have significant impacts on your wardrobe. Some examples are:
- Friends asking if you’re ill – perhaps just because you’re wearing an unflattering color
- A neighbor remarking on weight changes because your clothing doesn’t fit properly
- A co-worker asking whether you’re going to a job interview because you’re dressed up more than usual
Yet communicating the message is only half of the equation. The other half is dependent upon how the observer is interpreting the message that you’re sending. While it is impossible to control how others see you, you are in charge of the message that you’re sending out.
However, if your wardrobe and outfits are consciously constructed, it is unlikely that others will misinterpret your intent. Learning what works for your current body (not the one you wish or are working toward) is a critical life skill. Combine that with dressing for your lifestyle and goals. The messages you send will be sent loud and clearly.