Contributor Andrea Pflaumer talks about how fashion helps us stay visible. Enjoy, darling.
Over the last 18 months, just about everyone got a glimpse of what many older women experience on a daily basis: invisibility. Some people might assume that since the effects of aging occur gradually and over time, older women just “get used to” it. (Hint: We don’t.)
But the sudden and dramatic nature of the lockdown, and the months and months of masking our faces, allowed people of all ages to sense just how powerful invisibility is and how much it impacts our physical and emotional well-being. It is soul-crushing. And it can crush anyone’s sense of identity.
Identity and Visibility
One of the more obvious ways we proclaim and express our identity is through what we wear. Discovering and then growing into our personal fashion style, and then consciously communicating that, proclaims, “Hello world, I am here, and this is who I am.” It’s actually an important part of the development of a healthy and solid sense of self. (It’s also why younger people tend to be more experimental with fashion: they like to try on a different persona to find the one that most resonates with them.)
Because younger consumers are often the driving economic force for what gets created by the fashion industry, that sector of the economy got hit very hard during the pandemic. If there’s nowhere to go, nobody to impress, why would anyone bother to dress up or look nice? So, in order to stay afloat, many retailers in the industry created a new “look” – a very comfortable but boring one: mostly shapeless, mostly neutral, mono-colored, similar-looking athleisure-type clothing worn with flat slides that were just one step up from being actual bedroom slippers.
Explosion of Color
It’s probably why now, as things are opening up more and more, we are seeing an explosion of color (and a lot of skin!) on the runways and in the stores. It’s as though people are throwing open their doors, showing their faces, and shouting, “I’m still here!”
And that’s the point. When we show up visibly, we become, well, more visible and harder to ignore. And we become less likely to sink into despair. Yes, showing up does require making an effort but the physical, mental, and psychological benefits are significant.
Showing Up and Creating Inspiration
In a recent article, author Danielle Steele recounted how she survived 77 days of solitary confinement and 14 months (and thousands of miles) apart from her children during the Paris lockdown. She had arrived there, at her second home, for what she planned to be a short visit during Fashion Week. In order to survive the isolation, she paced around her apartment to get as much exercise as possible and spent time nearly every day on her tiny balcony where she was able to see and connect with the outside world – and get a tan!
Eventually, after a while of living in her “writing clothes” – old cashmere nightgowns and sweaters with holes in them – she made it a point to put on her makeup every day and dress up. And then, she posted images of herself on Instagram, with inspiring, uplifting messages. She turned her monotony into a platform for visibility and inspiration for others. As the saying goes, if you don’t want to be bored, don’t be boring.
Also, there’s a whole body of research about what is called “enclothed cognition.” It addresses the way our clothes affect our mental processes, confidence, and feelings. But even more significantly, it shows how what we wear has a measurable effect on things like abstract thinking and attention – abilities we need to function successfully in the world.
Making the effort to dress well doesn’t just cheer us up. It gives others hope. And, it demonstrates that life can be joyous, long after the pressure of proving oneself in the workforce or in the dating world is gone. It shows that we still value ourselves.
But maybe your priorities have shifted. Maybe the many months of isolation and fear have caused you to re-examine what things are important in your life, and fashion just isn’t one of them. Or maybe you’ve become disheartened and have simply given up.
Both the Artist and the Canvas
If any of that rings true, here’s a suggestion. It might help you see the subject from a different angle. A lot of us have taken up new hobbies or areas of study in the past year. Think of dressing up as an art project. Consider yourself both as the artist and as the canvas. Every time you get dressed, imagine that you are creating a self-portrait and that you want to represent your subject as authentically and aesthetically pleasing as possible.
Doing this simply requires applying some of the principles of art to your human form. That means choosing the colors, textiles, patterns, and styles that most closely harmonize with your features and coloring, and that reflects who you are, intrinsically and energetically. The possibilities are endless and the process is enlightening.
Dress with Authenticity
Dressing with authenticity and a little bit of panache can elevate your mood and make your mind more alert. But maybe best of all, it will make you more visible…and even possibly, irresistible.
How do you use fashion to stay visible? Or, how could you use it to stay visible? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments at the bottom of this page. We’d love to hear from you!
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of the Amazon best-seller Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Perfect Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50 and She’s Got Good Jeans – a guide for how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.
Her new online course is called: Discovering Your Inner Style: An Adventure in Dressing Authentically.
Andrea does in-person and online wardrobe and shopping consultations for women worldwide and blogs at Shopping for the Real You. She is the host of a video collection entitled: Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition where she interviews women in the areas of fashion and beauty.
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