Like the stereotypical woman, I love fashion. However, unlike the typical woman, my love of fashion reaches far beyond scoping the shelves of my favorite stores.
My mother fed my future obsession early. During her pregnancy, she hoped desperately for a girl so she could sew flouncy dresses and buy little patent leather shoes and matching miniature clutch purses. She got her wish, and from my birth I knew practically no other attire but her carefully crafted creations.
As years passed, so did my contentment to wear only her designs, and I began to want more and more to buy my outfits. So I did. Guided by my mother’s careful and critical eye for color and coordination, I quickly morphed into a full-blown fashionista.
At age sixteen, I took my love for all things glamorous, designer, and more often than not, expensive, to the next level with a subscription to Vogue magazine.
Every month I devoured not just the latest news of high-end fashion designers, mixed with celebrity gossip, but also the whole sophisticated feel of the magazine. From the health, beauty, and fitness sections to reviews of books, theater, and movies, and from the exotic travel to the personal columns, each time written by a different author and containing thought-provoking, extraordinary stories, I was hooked. By the time I closed the page of my first issue, I knew my mission. I wanted to be able to mix my three favorite interests—fashion, travel, and writing—and do it as well as the writers of Vogue.
But it was the fashion that captivated me originally, and it was after I read through several issues that I came to a similar conclusion as the editor-in-chief: fashion is more than clothes. To most women, this is an obvious point, hardly worth explaining. But for those who don’t see the fine line of distinction, let me elaborate.
For women, the vast and fickle empire that is the fashion industry presents not only a mind-boggling array of choices and ideas; it also offers the opportunity to create an identity. We use fashion as a medium to decorate a blank canvas: us. How we dress shows how we want to be portrayed to the world and what we want to say about ourselves. Fashion carries an unspoken yet powerful message, as well as our chance to be creative.
Despite the outdated idea that caring about appearances and clothes makes a woman superficial or stuck-up, caring about our looks really means quite the opposite. It means we care enough about ourselves to want others to have a good impression of us, and that we like ourselves enough to want to look good.
Besides, favorite outfits are like old friends—we hold them dear with sentimental value long after they don’t fit anymore. We all remember what we wore when…or what we were wearing the first time…or even whenever we just really, really liked an outfit. Pieces of clothing mark periods of our lives—the jelly shoes of the 1990s make me think of my childhood, for example. Pieces such as prom dresses, wedding gowns, and maternity clothes all mark our lives in significant, often overlooked ways.
Clothes also just hold magical transforming powers for women. Every one of us has special garments and accessories we wear when we want to feel a certain way. Putting on the high heels, we feel ultra-feminine and powerful. Wearing the brightly colored pants, we stand out for our boldness and trendiness. Slipping into that little black dress, suddenly we feel serious yet sexy. Transforming pieces offer a psychological boost. They change our mood and our mentality, and wearing them we feel like we can do anything.
Of course, getting our look “right” doesn’t come without its share of personal pitfalls and embarrassment, but luckily fashion, the flexible, ever-evolving phenomenon that it is, forgives quickly.
So, as I hope it is now evident, the role of clothes in a woman’s life is not simply to cover her body with fabric. No, it’s not all about the outside. Appearances aren’t everything. And yes, there’s way more to life than how we dress. But sometimes, whether we like it or not, clothes do make the woman. Whoever she may be.