by: Gail Goldsmith
My favorite fashion rule came from a man who thinks formal t-shirts are a thing.
One lazy summer Sunday morning, Dad pointed out a tiny hole and dangling thread at the hem of my shirt, sighed, and said “Gail, you’re in college. It’s time to dress like you mean it.”
A brief recap of other remarks my dad had made about clothes and his daughter: “Is that a dress? Huh, you don’t wear those much.” “I’m not sure how bathing suits are supposed to fit, so I asked this friendly saleswoman to help you.” “This scarf is green, so it reminded me of you.” The end.
So I knew this was a life advice moment, and a particularly apt one, as my dad, Colonel Goldsmith, has worn a uniform—BDUs or dress blues—for all his military career, save for during a 9-month environmental fellowship in which he had the respite of business casual, albeit the army’s operational definition of that ambiguous term. Army uniforms are the ultimate in “dressing like you mean it.”
This remark came as I was transitioning out of my high school phase of basic shirt and bootcut jeans to into my college/grad school sensibility of boots, skinny jeans, vintage shirts, black/white OpArt-esque prints, and the occasional dress. Is my look the stuff of The Sartorialist? No, but it works for me because it means taking myself seriously enough to stop my former don’t-look-at-me style mode, which serves study time, hangovers and other relaxed occasions better than grad school classes and functions, going out and Monday night dinners at my community living house.
Is style a form of self-care?
Is crafting an intentional impression through your clothes a crucial part of preparedness?
Is the getting ready routine a calming ritual of ordering disparate elements of your appearance?
A little bit, sure, but with so many day-to-day details out of our control, the quick getting ready ritual of dressing intentionally is an easy first step, a foundation, setting the tone for first and continuing impressions through visible signals.
Dressing to signal your identity, subvert expectations, blend in, or stand out? Dress like you mean it.
Gail Goldsmith is studying for a Master of Divinity at University of Chicago and may not get to write all her papers on sexuality, feminism, and kyriarchy in religion, but she will try to adapt. She moved from rural Virginia to follow her dreams in the big city, because she is kind of cheesy like that. She’s also on Twitter at @gailagoldsmith.