Clothes define us. Whether we like it or not, they do. Clothes are the most outward way that anyone can make a judgment about us aside from our physical presence and our faces. So as you are on street, red carpet, or wherever you happen to be making an appearance, your clothes say a lot about what people think is you.
The New York Times had an article in the Style section on Sunday, January 15, on how Michelle Obama used clothes to help her define her role as First Lady. There is an excellent slide show with the article.
My Thoughts on How Clothes Define Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama is a smart woman. She is also tall and statuesque (not in our usual definition of that, but statuesque, nonetheless). Oh yeah, she’s also African American. I am fairly certain that she realizes that those were equal parts asset and liability. Her mindfulness in how she chose her clothes, and whose clothes she chose to wear, let the clothes speak with her.
I looked through all 51 slides and I can pick out things that I didn’t think flattered her figure (the Narciso Rodriquez at the 2008 DNC). There are things that seem to almost obviate or erase her (I’d call out the European designers on this more than others). But there are many, many more that send just the right message for the event. Always, the things that looked best on her made her look her best. These are often things that clearly were also favored by President Obama. They always seem to shine when they are having “just a couple” moments–even though those moments almost always happen in another context.
What We Can Learn In Using Clothes to Define Ourselves
Michelle Obama chose clothes with clear acknowledgement of their ability to form and impact how people perceived her and her role. She couldn’t make people like her; she could control how they saw her. Maybe she did not always succeed, but few of us have even a fraction of the need to shine and define as she did. It is apparent when she enjoyed the clothes she was wearing, and equally apparent when the clothes were wearing her. We all have those moments where a choice was great, but maybe not really for us.
How We Shine When Our Clothes Define
So what are you most comfortable wearing? I’m not talking about stretchy-waist sort of comfort. When are you most comfortable with how you are outwardly presenting yourself? What clothes give you confidence? How are you dressed when you feel that you are projecting just the image you want? It probably doesn’t matter if that outfit is yoga pants or a sleek sheath. If you feel it, so will other people. They may not like you more, but they will see you differently.
We all have things we love, that don’t love us back. Walk away from clothing that doesn’t love you back. I have a whole list of things I don’t wear (sales people find it maddening). Less because I don’t like them, than because they don’t like me.
Ask yourself every day if the way your clothes define you is what you want. It is easy to change.