On dressing up. Or dressing down.

We recently took a trip to Colorado to go leaf peeping, and as much as I am not a Fall person, I gotta say, it was pretty great. Exhibit A:

leaf 1 | kourtney thomas

Just another reason why Colorado is basically the only place to be, in all seasons. Aside from that, we were both looking forward to the crisp weather and some sunshine. I mean, we left and it was, like, 87 degrees and 93% humidity (this is not a joke) in Missouri. By the time we got to Denver, I was putting on my puffer jacket. I brought only one tee shirt, and a duffel bag full of plaids. Basically, my dream wardrobe.

We spent the entire ten days camping, so that mostly means hiking clothes followed by camp clothes, and a whole lot of unwashed hair. Again, basically a dream. My favorite thing about being home is that everyone understands, and no one judges anyone because everyone’s predominant wardrobe choices are always comfy and functional. Where the dude in the tights under his cargo shorts would get a lot of points and laughs anywhere else, out West, we all just nod, like, yep.

It takes about three seconds for me to fit right into my groove. Essentially, Patagonia from head to toe, a few local Colorado brands mixed in, a braid, and a beanie. I said as much to Marty one night as we were sitting in our camp chairs watching the sun go down over the lake.

“I sure wish I could just dress like this all the time in Saint Louis,” I said.

“Why can’t you?” he answered.

I immediately responded that I’d be judged, I wouldn’t fit in, it’s not how people dress there, I’d look stupid. To which he replied something along the lines of, “and?”

Dadgommit, he knows. This man always knows. (And thanks to the fact that he’s a fellow Aries, he certainly doesn’t hesitate to call me on it, which I love.)

Because of course I can dress like this all the time, in Saint Louis, and anywhere. It doesn’t matter how anyone else is dressed, it’s totally cool if I don’t fit in (I don’t), and if people are judging my clothes, that’s no concern of mine. Maybe they’re just jealous they don’t have a fuzzy lined plaid. Still, though, there’s resistance.

I’ve talked about clothing plenty previously. I’ve been working with a wardrobe stylist for years now, and I sing her praises, and have these conversations often. That’s how important, how sensitive, how utterly crippling clothing can be. There’s a lot of conditioning attached to the clothes we wear. The choices we make. Regardless of what we actually like and are comfortable in, many times, we’re still told it’s not cute or appropriate or stylish. And since it’s literally the first thing that any human sees about any other human, it’s easy to get insecure about it.

And as far as I’ve come in the past few years, minimizing, going sustainable, feeling really great about a few staple pieces and outfits, sometimes it still nags. The thoughts of getting made fun of, way, way back, for the weird and offbeat fashion choices I proudly made and wore until they were threadbare. The feeling of being torn between complete confidence and total exposure. Sandwiched between wanting to fit in and be “well-dressed” and wanting to actually be myself.

But that abrupt answer really helped lay it out. Really, the more work I continue to do on understanding myself, the clearer it gets, and these little experiences continue to nudge me along. The more I dig, the more I know I will ultimately lean toward confidence and showing up exactly as myself. Not myself in fancy clothes I think I should be wearing.

It’s a process, but it’s getting results. Even just thinking in that brief conversation about what would hold me back from wearing a freaking plaid shirt reveals a lot. It peels back about twelve layers from my childhood and early adult experiences. It exposes quite a few stories about how I see myself based on how others see me and the clothing choices I make in certain environments, situations, locations, and groups of people. It helps to uncover some of those sources of resistance. To see that it’s been a stifling of my self-expression, and since I now lean more every day toward fully expressing myself with no censure, that’s why it bristles a little bit.

And it all opens the door for me to direct my energies where and how I need to, rebuilding my ideas about my expectations and standards for how I dress, and deciding whether I want to adhere to any standards other than my own any longer.

It’s always a choice.

Am I going to remember this and likely live in jeans and plaids for the foreseeable future no matter where I am? Yes. Absolutely. Am I going to wear jeans and a plaid to the next networking lunch I go to? Maybe. It depends. Am I going to think a whole lot more about whether the clothing I choose to pull from my closet for the day reflects me and how I’m feeling, rather than some expectation of how I should show up in the world? You’re damn right.

If the clothes make the woman, then yes, mountain woman it is, through and through.

To dressing up as yourself.


 

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