In the last post I wrote for tlfw I talked about dressing up and I promised to report back on my experience of making an effort for a week inspired by a Refinery 29 article I had read. In case you missed it here is my first post.
Here I am returning with some conclusions and a little discussion on the psychological aspects of my experiment.
The two main things I learned and experienced during the seven days in which I made the effort dressing up are fairly simple
- It is not always that easy
- It makes me feel good
So, number one. It’s true. Dressing up takes time and effort and some days this is less possible than others. I found that it was easier, in the end, to look through my wardrobe and plan a few outfits in advance and have everything set aside and hanging up the night before. This is opposed to my usual ritual of grabbing the nearest available comfortable or clean garment.
This new habit is one that I have discovered has real value for me. And I am definitely going to try to maintain it. I somehow feel more coordinated and together. Not just aesthetically but mentally. It makes me feel organised and as if I am beginning the day with a sense of certainty, instead of rummaging in a draw of sweatshirt and denim-disorder, which can make my mornings feel the opposite way. Accordingly, a big tick here for the positive psychological effects of putting more thought into my appearance.
A minor yet lovely spanner was thrown in my works for me when I agreed at the last minute that my six -year old niece could stay a few extra nights with me for half-term last week. As a result, I am filled with a new sense of respect and admiration for so-called yummy mummies with glossy hair and coordinating tops and shoes. It is tempting when you’ve been woken up at 5:45am three mornings on the trot to forgo time for yourself, and it certainly isn’t very practical walking in the countryside with a small child whilst you are wearing a full prom skirt and heeled boots as I discovered. Especially when it’s blowing a hoolie and the child has a cob on or you’re on a rope climbing frame thing playing Spider-Girl.
Whether you’re childfree or a mum it can be hard to find time for self-care and I did struggle with maintaining polished nails and blow-dried hair and all the accouterments of dressing up. That said I managed it and in the end and I am glad I set aside the time to do this for myself. I didn’t however, manage a daily blow dry, but I’m not sure most of us really need one. I did do it on at least 3 occasions though and by the end of 7 days – I got the blow dry down to 15 minutes. I feel a weird sense of achievement about this. I mean not equal to my Ph.D. or buying my own property, but a triumph nonetheless.
The only way to do this for me is to schedule the time and stick to it.
I especially enjoyed doing my hair and realize I find this really relaxing. I also feel so much nicer shiny and smooth, than when my hair is curly and grubby. When it is dirty my hair naturally becomes as if I am growing out a really bad perm. It’s at this point it is scraped up in a top-knot (and how I style it half my week). I also discovered a renewed love of hair care products and natural home remedies such as coconut oil. I tried this one evening and the results were brilliant.
Have a think about why you might be skipping on spending time on yourself and appearance whatever that means to you. What are the reasons: money, guilt at allocating the time, apathy, tiredness, dedicating too much of your time to others?
A lot of self-care and empowerment discourse is bound up with consumerism and is a back-handed way to sell women more gear they don’t need. Or it is mildly patronizing. But as my experience proves you don’t need to pay to go to a salon every week, practice at home makes perfect-ish or good enough and you’ve probably got a lot of good stuff in your kitchen (my coconut oil was 99p from Aldi). So don’t let a lack of funds be an excuse.
It may also pay to do a little inventory of your emotional priorities and reallocate some time just for you. 15 minutes every morning when you get up and/ or every evening before bed isn’t excessive or narcissistic.
Let’s be clear about something. I am not in anyway advocating that looks determine your worth. Self-esteem is complicated, in flux, inconsistent and takes much more than a bit of lippy and a nice frock. This is all about how time and effort on yourself can make you feel. Fear not either! I have not turned into some grande dame from a 1950s finishing school. advocating that genuine ladies of refinement must have blow-dried locks to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. It doesn’t matter what you look like at the end of it, what I am suggesting is time spent on yourself can make you feel good about yourself if you don’t already. That is all.
Which leads me to the second point. I did feel nice.
Clothing for me is definitely a reflection of how I am thinking and feeling. Dressing up a little bit makes me feel more positive and as I discovered also makes me productive.
There are even some academic studies to back this up
Professor Karen Pine researches and has published widely on the psychology of fashion. Her work looks at how ‘enclothed cognition demonstrates a powerful link between a person’s attire and the way they behave,[…]’ She has also done experiments to determine that emotional state affects what we decide to wear. She argues
In a low mood, a woman is also much more likely to wear a baggy top; 57% of the women said they would wear a baggy top when depressed, yet a mere 2% would wear one when feeling happy. Women also revealed they would be ten times more likely to put on a favourite dress when happy (62%) than when depressed (6%).
I thoroughly recommend a read of Happiness: it’s not in the jeans by Professor Pine.
Personally, I think it is a really good idea to dress up when you are feeling down in the dumps. For me, it lifts the spirits. I also found it super-fun to be over-dressed! It’s a laugh somehow: a minor act of subversion.
So to conclude my new moto is
‘In times of crisis wear your Sunday best’.