Food for Thought

Clothes. As women, most of us learn in our early teen years that what we choose to wear is a form of communication, though this learning is often unconscious. For some, the message we get as girls is that clothing defines us. It determines our social status, who wants to be our friend, and how our family is viewed. Other girls are given the message that clothes are practical and incidental. There is no message intended except perhaps that clothing is not important, that we prefer comfort over style, or perhaps that our family cannot afford the latest fashions. This can create something of a clothing caste system that can affect how kids are perceived in school by their peers. There are both intended and unintended effects from the clothing we choose.


In our teen years, many of us start to choose our clothing, clothes that express our individuality (within the limits of our parents’ restrictions course!). Style, fashion, and the quality (read: cost) of the clothing we buy and wear become an expression of who we are. Our choices may reflect our desire to fit in or, conversely, our desire not to fit in. As young women, being perceived as attractive and sexy becomes a priority for many. Moving into our adult years we begin to see more differentiation among women. Some women continue to value style and fashion, others seek to express their status as professionals, many move toward comfort, and yet other women embrace a more dramatic expression of lifestyle or personal uniqueness.


As older women, we often move in the direction of comfort over style. We realize that high heels are uncomfortable, our bodies change and things we felt great about wearing in our 20s and 30s do not fit us quite as well in our 40s and 50s. Society’s clothing styles change and so do our personal styles. As we age, we do may not want to stand out as much; we would rather be comfortable and fit in. Some women don’t even care much about whether things match or give up on accessories all together. Let’s reflect on our clothing journeys.


Questions to Consider:

  • At what age did you begin to care about what you wore and start to view clothing as a form of self-expression?
  • What messages about yourself were you trying to communicate to others, particularly peers, through your clothing choices and how did your parents respond to these?
  • What phases have you gone through in clothing style preferences and how have they changed over time?
  • How much does your original cultural conditioning affect how you judge others’ clothing choices today?
  • If you were wearing something right now that expresses your mood or personality, what would that be?

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