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Clothes As More Than Fabric by Andrea Egbuchulam

Let’s face it: when we think about clothes we see them as pieces of fabric or material. We easily overlook the idea that clothes are much more. Fashion designer Rachel Zoe once said, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” Like Rachel, we should understand that our clothes are who we are: a reflection of our identity, our culture, and our feelings.

Clothes as a Story

As humans, we often try to conform to the trends of a particular group, and our clothes allow us to escape from that pressure. Every design, curve, and embroidery tells a unique story and represents a different cultural background. Our clothes tell the world the story of who we are, or who we are becoming. Have you ever noticed how the way somebody else would style an item of clothing is far different than how you would consider styling the same piece? This highlights that we all are unique, and our individual styles - however similar - are far different because they all allude to a different life story.

Clothes as a Statement

Clothes should not just be reduced to what we wear or just a way of looking good; they are a way of speaking out, showing the world who we are, and making a statement. For example, womens’ rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was the first woman to start wearing pants rather than skirts everyday in a culture where it was frowned upon to do so; Miller did so in order to support feminism and the right to vote for women. Another example is Lady Gaga’s head-to-toe meat dress that she wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards; the meat dress was worn in order to make a statement against the U.S. government’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prevented openly LGBTQ+ individuals from serving in the U.S military and forced LGBTQ+ soldiers to keep their sexualities a secret if they wanted to keep serving. Both Miller and Gaga, in the best way they could, took prominent stands on issues they cared about through their outfits.

Clothes as Moods

Have you ever noticed that you're more likely to pick brighter-colored clothes when you're happy, and darker-colored clothes when you’re sad? Well, the next time you pick out an outfit, think about whether or not the clothes you picked out are a reflection of your mood. Scientific research says that the colors of the outfits you choose don’t just improve your mood, but they also influence your behavior and stress levels for the day. So the next time you feel down, try wearing something bright-colored! The colors of clothes themselves tell us a story about you on their own; for example, our society associates mourning with the color black, purity with white, and happiness with vibrant colors.

Clothes as an Extension of Culture

Fashion is ever-changing, and it is a build up of styles that were already pre-existing. The iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel once said: “Fashion changes, style endures.” By this, Chanel meant that though fashion trends change with time, underneath the differences, they are all the same. Current trends that are making a come-back are simply evolutions of styles that were popular in the past. For instance, did you know that bucket hats came from the bonnets that black slave women wore in the fields? Or that men wearing skirts are affiliated to Scottish kilts? When we wear these modern clothes or accessories, we are carrying on the traditions and cultures of those who came before us.

British fashion designer John Galliano said, “The joy of dressing is an art”; our clothes in themselves speak volumes, and they should never be thought of as less than art. Our clothes are a form of self-expression. Remember, the next time you pick out an outfit, it is a reflection of who you are!

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