There’s something about clothes.
As much as we tell ourselves that “appearances don’t matter” and “the real person is on the inside”, clothes can change us. Trying on outfits is like trying on possibilities—each blouse, each dress, each pair of heels is a new personality.
It’s not until you see yourself enveloped in a cloud of white tulle that you can really imagine yourself as a bride.
And it’s often not until you’re clad in a hideous, ill-fitting, polyester tent that it really hits that you’re finally graduating.
As a child, you dress up and try on possible futures—imagining yourself as a veterinarian, a teacher, a firefighter, a ballerina, and of course, a princess.
As an adult, I have found that dressing up has not lost its allure. Trying on clothes allows me to see myself in a new way—to test out personalities and styles, since mine is not yet fully formed.
I remember when I was shopping for jeans at the mall. I was cutting through the dress section at a department store, gazing wistfully at the array of pretty fabrics and colors I passed. I saw this dress—a pleated grey satin number with a high collar that was intricately and beautifully beaded. It looked like something a really elegant woman would wear to a really elegant cocktail party.
“I could never wear that,” I thought wistfully. Aside from the obvious modesty-related reasons (it was too short and too sleeveless), I could think of a litany of physical flaws that would preclude my wearing such a dress. My legs didn’t look good, the halter-type bodice would make my shoulders look broad, it didn’t have a gathered waist so it would look like a tent on me…and of course, I wasn’t elegant.
On a whim, I plucked the dress off the rack and decided to try it on anyway.
Standing in that dimly lit dressing room, wearing a dress I had been sure I could never pull off, was like a revelation to me. I looked—well, frankly, I looked beautiful.
I’d never seen myself in this way before. I could actually envision myself at a party, laughing and talking, looking for all the world like one of those gorgeous, confident women I’d always quietly admired.
I’d always thought that I couldn’t be one of those women. I wasn’t the right type—not quite pretty enough, not quite confident enough, not quite her. But in that dressing room, standing in my underwear, I realized that I had been wrong. I could. With the right clothes and makeup and money, I could.
And just knowing that I had that potential was enough. I replaced the dress on its hanger, pulled my own comfortable, faded jeans and t-shirt on, and looked at myself again.
Something subtle had shifted in me. I realized, or maybe remembered, that I had chosen my life. It was the life of a mother and a wife, and it wasn’t an expensive or impressive or glamorous one. But I had chosen it. And I was happy.