There is this great article from Deidre Clementine at Time magazine that discusses the importance of expressing yourself through fashion and how that’s changed historically; she has great quotes like
“ clothes are freedom—freedom to choose how we present ourselves to the world; freedom to blur the lines between man and woman, old and young, rich and poor”
She talks about how this has greatly impacted things like social mobility and quality of life.
Freedom of Style
At the extreme end of things, we have occurrences like women being forced to wear the Islamic “Hijab” or the very recent (pending approval) law to be implemented in France that oppositionally bans any form of the same headscarf covering.
Whatever your politics on the matter, it should be obvious that not everybody enjoys the same freedoms of expression when it comes to style…
Freedom of Style means expressing candidly without interference; any constriction of those freedoms is a limit on your very being.
If you’re not the activist type, it might sadden you to hear these things but you might not feel like it’s all that relevant to you; that’s where you’re wrong...
Wherever you are, you are being influenced daily.
Whether it’s by well-meaning family members, work colleagues or just an aggregate of subliminal effects caused by the totality of both the media and the world around you, you are bombarded.
Even if you’re the furthest thing from a “people-pleaser”, you will still need to comply with society’s push and pull.
Try wearing shorts in a courtroom and see how quickly you end up charged with contempt of court.
Like water filling a cup, you bend to the shape of your surroundings and observe an unspoken societal contract to fit in.
But, where does “fitting in” end and “changing who you are as a person” begin? Where does the daily shapeshifting to appease end up metamorphosing you into something you’re not?
If you’ve been following fashion media for a while now, you’re probably familiar with an urban fashion legend that claims you can own just one outfit and be happy with it.
I call it an ‘urban legend’ because it’s been discussed, attempted and trialled, but never successfully lived. Unless you’re Steve Jobs and don’t believe in showers…
The appeal is almost universal, isn’t it?
Owning one perfect outfit; never having to choose and pick and match, never having to buy and plan again… Achieving some blissful state of Fashion Zen that allows you to express the entire notion of yourself in a single outfit.
The idea clashes severely with the aforementioned societal "need" of being a fashion chameleon, so is Fashion Zen unattainable in the modern world?
Jazabell's journalist Molly once attempted the single-outfit-experiment.
Here is an uber-short version of her Fashion story:
In her 20’s Molly owned just one outfit.
It was her armour, blanket and wingman. She used to wash it in the sink.
People used to tease her about it. She didn’t care. Until she did.
She gave in to pressure, bought “adult clothes” and swapped her outfit for lots of stuff.
At the end of her story, Molly looks like a conventional “adult” but she feels duped like a toddler who just can’t figure out who has her nose...
Molly’s story is promising but it ends tragically, as these things often do…
I like to think that in some Fashion Perfect world Molly would have managed to keep her monk-like MO while also successfully assimilating into an “adult” role without succumbing to outside pressure. After all, if it suited her, what exactly is wrong with owning one outfit?
Well, from her loss we can learn the consequences that can occur when you change your outfits to suit others; you can, for example, end up devaluing your own choices internally to a point wherein you condition yourself to think that your own opinion is irrelevant.
I mean, if you change something you love just to appease others, who’s opinion is your brain going to value going forward?
You can condition yourself to become risk-averse; constantly dressing to not “rock the boat” has generally led to more passivity and eventually submissiveness, neither of which are valued in the modern capitalist world beyond “cog in the machine”.
As you settle for not expressing yourself, you settle for a lesser job, a lesser relationship and eventually, a lesser you. The domino effect is vicious, and the only way to stop it is to not push the first brick; as corny as it sounds, you need to be yourself.
Oppression of Fashion Freedoms
While we're at it, can we stop making laws about what people can and can’t wear? I mean, seriously, c'mon.
Fashion Freedom is a civil rights issue, a public mental-health issue and a major human rights issue, globally.