Dressing To Express Yourself

Why dressing to express yourself can be a form of creativity in the bustle of daily life.

When you’re in a flurry of deadlines, are worrying that you’ve consumed a dangerous amount of caffeine, and your sketchbook has been sorely neglected for weeks, your personal style can enter as your fall-back expression of creativity. Wearing a dramatic colour or cut to a lecture, or to work when you are absolutely shattered and would happily curl up anywhere and sleep, helps keep your creativity pulsating, breathing, even if you don’t have time to think about the other art forms or what you want to portray to others. This is because the clothes which you naturally turn to can take the role of auto-pilot and do this for you. 

This, of course, is not delegating fashion and style to a second rate position in a hierarchy of priorities or art forms, in fact, it instead demonstrates how it can be a reliable constant- giving it a higher level of importance. We can’t wear canvases or sculptures( don’t try this at home)(okay maybe if you have insurance)( and please do Instagram the results as I’d love to see the realisation of this idea)(though perhaps it’s already been done?). Because we must wear clothes (to keep warm if for no other reason!). Therefore, art, if we permit it, becomes infused with an essential part of daily living. It becomes a necessity, like armour or a second skin. 

Clothes can give you power, and communicate so many messages. Just think- black for funerals, reflecting sorrow, a smart suit for a wedding, demonstrating that this occasion is meaningful to you, meaningful enough for you to spend your hard- earned money on a posh outfit. Royals wear purple, they wear gold upon their heads, and they wear precious, glistening stones from deep beneath the earth. Or, at least, they used to a bit more, they’re a bit more subtle with the sparkle these days aren’t they? What message does this send to us, and what has it over the centuries? It sends messages about their status, even their own personal worth. In history books, if we have visual sources, someone’s dress communicates a lot to us. I believe that it will never change. And I like that.

So, we’ve touched on how style and dress is a far more accessible, practical expression of art, and how it communicates a message to those around us, and has done so for years. However, the most important point amongst all of this, is the element of individual creativity which can use clothes as a vehicle for its release into the world. Perhaps even what we omit to wear tells others of our personality and creativity just as much as what we do?

When I went through my phase of basically wanting to be a pre-Raphaelite muse, I grew my hair so long that I constantly accidently sat on it, and wanted to simply wear long, flowy dresses and float around ancient woods and lakes bare footed. Then I wished that I was a girl in the 1940s (basically Susan from The Chronicles of Narnia), and I wanted to dress head-to-toe in vintage. Now I like a mix of both vintage and very modern, as I love the juxtaposition. But the whole time, although I was aware of it to some extent, I wasn’t to the degree that I am now that the photographs, films, art, even the writing and music that I was consuming and influenced by was feeding directly into my dress. These, along with my own twists and combinations of these sources and the art and writing that I was creating, were in fact mirroring my choices of dress. Therefore, if you want to be a bit Jackson Pollock today, or a bit Turner tomorrow, just watch which hues you pick, which scattered patterns, or which cuts and textures. Then see how you combine these, and further how others pick up on these clues to make subconscious judgements on your creativity, artistic likes, habits, and personality.

Something I believe very strongly is that you can notice quite easily if someone is dressing without a hint of their genuine character and creativity (because everyone is creative in some way, not necessarily in the traditional forms), and this too communicates to us something about their personal expression. Perhaps their ideas are confused, or they are experimenting with styles or tones, or the materials to paint their self-description. I include myself at certain points of my life, especially in my earlier teen years, in this category too. And this too is excellent and part of self-expression along with human nature- because nobody fits into an exact little box of who they are and stays in that box for their whole life. We are all constantly changing, evolving, and experimenting with our natural tendency to be curious. Why define ourselves by strict labels, rather than letting our creativity shine through with our evolution and originality?

I’m aware that this perhaps makes it all sound really quite serious, but the main thing is to be open to your own ideas. Give your natural instincts a chance to take the lead, and attempt to be not just content, but gloriously happy in yourself, with your uniquely wonderful tastes and personality. This means: wear what you want darlings- express your uniqueness because you’re a long time dead! And also don’t worry if, say, coursework, is stopping you composing music, or drawing cartoons as much as you’d like- because dressing to express yourself can be a form of creativity in the bustle of daily life.

I rest my oxblood, slightly battered, vintage case (which I bought in a French antique shop). 

Anna Gibbs Comment