Do you ever think about who or what you are really dressing for? Is it to look professional and smart in front of a client/audience? Is it for a job or a promotion? Is it to impress someone that you may pass by during your morning commute? Is it to simply look and feel confident? Or is it really just for yourself, to feel comfortable in your own skin?
Style is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s a direct reflection of a personal statement and what inspires you. Other times, there are trends and dress codes to follow that seem to delineate from what the sense of eccentricity that we are taught to embrace. Work wear is an example of where these opposing natures exist. We choose our outfits often to project a desired image in order to give off the best first impression as possible. Maybe you throw on those glasses to make you look smart and mature in an interview to gain more credibility. Perhaps you select your colours appropriately (blue is a colour of trust is a tip that I learned from a friend) to give off a certain impression. Maybe you skip the low neckline and stiletto heels because you don’t want to look too “sexy”, resulting in other people not taking you seriously. On the other hand, we are told that to be successful often means finding ways to set ourselves apart from others – to be unique and find your signature. For some, style is a way of defining an individual trademark – to outwardly express it and at the same time serve as a reminder to self that you really could be who you are.
Having recently visited another country really made me reconsider the essence and necessity of style. What is often associated with aesthetics and vanity has a strong tie to the social, psychological and cultural contexts of being human. I am always very interested in observing the different fashion and style in each city. The diversity is really quite fascinating. For example, I see a group of college students in a certain district who dress in similarly dressy outfits – oversize sweater and a-line mini skirt with pumps. The outfit itself is flattering and has room for personalization, such as colour and detailing. On the other hand, Vancouver is known for its casual West Coast flair and New York has got its fashion-forward cool blacks. Style is a way to fit in and relate to other people around you – whether it’s with the same style of outfit or the same type of outrageously different style. Think abut the time when you commented on a coworker’s new necklace. Boom, that is how a personal connection is created.
Could it be that the feeling of belonging and the search for one’s identity can go hand-in-hand without compromising each other?
Next time you are deciding on what to wear to an office party and you just can’t seem to find the right thing, remember that you are not there to impress. You are there to connect and to relate, person to person.
By Cecilia Huang