Clothing – A Window Into the Personality of a Person
Dressmaking has always been a passion of mine. I have always been fascinated by fashion and clothing; how clothing can present a window into the personality of a person and how an outfit can completely alter how one feels. I find it so difficult to pack for trips for the reason that I never know how I am going to feel when I awake!
I blame my passion for all things clothes related on my Mother, for they say; ‘like mother, like daughter’.
I have many memories of being dragged around the clothing shops by my Mum and whilst my brothers and I would run through the rails of clothing chasing one another and stealing all the plastic size tags from the tops of the hangers, my Mum would be trying on garment after garment. She would drive us all into town by lunchtime and we would not leave until the last shop in the City Centre of Nottingham was officially closed.
You would think that so much shopping at such a young, tender age would be certain to put me off clothes for life but in fact I went the other direction, I was fascinated! I loved the way my Mum dressed and I could see how the way that she dressed represented her at that particular time, her mood and mindset.
Clothes are an expression to me, they communicate ones values, individualism (or conformity) and most importantly in my mind at least, they communicate how I feel and how I want to be perceived by others on the occasion, be it bright and breezy, professional and serious, relaxed and comfortable to effortless, rebellious etc… This relationship between clothing and our feelings has been researched by many theorists over the years and it is generally agreed that there is a cause and effect, that indeed, clothing can alter an emotion and state of mind and indeed vice-versa:
‘Emotional wellbeing occurs when people dress to either change existing mood or dress because of their existing mood’
(Colls, 2004, ‘Looking Alright, Feeling Alright’)
Before I was able to have a paid job and hence money of my own to spend on clothes I actually wanted, My Mum was my ‘stylist’. Whilst I am eternally gratefully to my Mother for clothing me amongst many other things, I could not appreciate her decisions regarding my wardrobe and its content. There were many battles I would have with my Mum over the dreaded outfit that I would be forced to sport for the next venture out of doors.
Wearing those dreaded outfits made me feel awkward and uncomfortable. As soon as the dress, sailor collar and white knee socks could be stripped off they would be replaced by my favourite pair of jeans and I would return to being me again. This certainly made me realise very early on; the importance and the influence of clothing.
We all love to people watch, I am certain of it. Isn’t this why the busiest cafes are usually the ones that are located in prime people watching locations? How many times have you discreetly looked at a person and imagined the type of life they might lead, what they might do, where they are going or where they are from?
When you consider the limited amount of information you have about the stranger you are viewing and the fact that 80% of that stranger is most likely to be covered by clothing, their choice of clothing surely plays the greatest, influence on your conclusions, be them right or wrong, then of course there is also their facial expression and features.
Sherlock Holmes, albeit an entirely fictional character, solved many a mystery by identifying clues in the clothing of his suspect. Holmes was most perceptive of a persons dress, he would always note the style and condition of a clients clothing. In the short story ‘The Blue Carbuncle’ Holmes has only a battered old hat for a clue, yet he was able to make accurate deductions concerning its owner. He inferred from the hat that its missing and unknown owner must be intellectually inclined, well-to-do but that he had fallen upon evil times and had experienced a moral retrogression. The text below is taken from the Blue Carbuncle and opens with Watson’s amazement at his masters’ conjecture:
“This hat is three years old. These flat brims curled at the edge came in then. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at the band of ribbed silk and the excellent lining. If this man could afford to buy so expensive a hat three years ago, and has had no hat since, then he has assuredly gone down in the world.”
“Here is the foresight,” said he putting his finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer. “They are never sold upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a sign of a certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his way to take this precaution against the wind. But since we see that he has broken the elastic and has not troubled to replace it, it is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly, which is a distinct proof of a weakening nature.
(The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncleby Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859-1930)
For all the reasons above and many more, we can surely conclude that ‘clothing’ has far bigger a role to play than the Oxford Dictionary would have us believe; ‘things worn to cover the body’. It is my belief that clothes are so much more than simply a covering for our bodies, they are a way we can communicate how we feel, how we want to be perceived and most important they provide confidence and this is why I love Fashion, it simply evokes this feeling in me.