The Importance of Being Dressed

It is no new phenomenon, no psychological breakthrough, that getting up, showered, and dressed is a system that perhaps ‘starts your day on a positive note’ and ‘gets you in the right frame of mind’. Throughout lockdown, I know many (including myself) who spent days, weeks and months slipping in and out of variations of pyjamas, sweats and quasi-gym wear. Of course, it sometimes feels a necessity to lounge for a quiet moment, a quiet day – alone or tangled up with someone, undressed and undone. But now, as the majority of our days are spent inside, and there is no indication of change on the horizon, it seems it is ever important to utilise the clothes on our back as a means of signalling to ourselves the different stages of our day, and essential to harness them to keep ourselves gathered and slowly plodding through the coming period of time.     

It may seem a trivial notion that clothing could have such a major impact on the mental states of many, but indeed it seems it is not something that can be completely brushed aside as a fanciful and privileged consideration. In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph during lockdown, psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell explains that “the same way we associate clean and presentable clothing with work and productivity, is the same way we associate pyjamas with relaxation and sleep,” – and although most of us can agree that we have observed some looser interpretations of ‘clean and presentable clothing’ in a lecture theatre, the sentiment still stands: the clothes you wear influence you psychologically and impact (however subtly), your mental perspective for the day. But of course we know all this really, don’t we? Being in my pyjamas at 3pm with my clothes from the last few days scattered across the floorboards doesn’t indicate I’ve had a productive day in any sense  – to those that can say the opposite, I applaud you in what I only hope and assume is your tiny minority.

What is more, for me it is not only the clothes I am wearing that influence my mind this way or that – it’s how I organise my clothes in and around my life, ever-attempting to resist my natural tendencies of wardrobe explosions and chest of drawers that evoke a pick and mix stand gone-wrong.  For most of us, routine is something we crave and require to keep our messy heads screwed on, and dressing can outline this neatly. If I think of those ritualistic things that have soothed me the most, it is having my school uniform neatly laid out in front of my wardrobe in a flat figurine of a girl, it’s wearing freshly laundered pyjamas after a long soak in a bath, or perfectly planning an outfit – all of which are completely against any instinct of mine. 

Of course, the routine of falling asleep in a full face of makeup, cocktail dress and heels after too much wine and dancing at 4am is to be nodded to and respected still: leaning into chaos in fun, but the normally delicious messiness of the world and in fashion is not an offering currently available to us. Caring for yourself obviously extends further than outfit planning and sensible skincare, but for me, forcing myself into a frame of mind of organised splendor is the best antidote to the ever-present feeling I’m not quite living a ‘real life’, drifting around my student house, in and out of isolation.

In times such as these, really anything that can make us feel like vaguely functional citizens of humanity can be a soothing balm on the wounds inflicted by this sad, mad world. I’m not suggesting that putting on a pair of jeans everyday will save you from falling into melancholic lulls or make you a king or queen of productivity, but your denim shell might just nudge you in the right direction – I’m trying to let it help me.


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