The Secret Emotional Life of ClothesPosted: October 31, 2016
When I think about Halloween, I think candy, jack-o-lanterns, movies, and all that stuff, but I also think about it as the perfect opportunity to try out something totally different, appearance-wise, and test out whether it’s worth exploring past that. I’ve definitely seized it as an opportunity in the past, both to try out a different type of “masculinity” – dressing like my idea of a punk a few times, something I was definitely interested in; and also to see what it felt like to dress femme. I think a lot of people try out things like this too, in the guise of a “Halloween costume.”
I wrote about that here: Hey Halloween! (how costumes fit into our lives)
I just listened to a really interesting podcast about how what you wear can affect how you feel, how you’re treated, what you decide to do, your cognitive abilities, your identity, and so much more! It starts with a brief snippet of a Halloween night, with kids running around a neighborhood in all kinds of costumes. Here’s part of that transcript, talking with a girl who is afraid of flying:
FRANNY: I’m wearing a leather jacket and an aviator hat and aviator goggles and jeans, boots and an aviator scarf.
ROSIN: Franny’s dressed as…
FRANNY: Amelia Earhart.
MILLER: Yep, a woman who ate airplanes for breakfast. Who was…
FRANNY: Awesome and brave.
ROSIN: And as Franny puts on the white silk scarf, the leather jacket, the hat with the floppy ears… …Guess what happens? The nervous disappears. If I put you in an airplane right now, what would happen?
FRANNY: I’d feel like a pro.
It’s true, to an extent! We’ve all experienced this, somehow or another, I think.
Listen to the full podcast here: Invisibilia
For me, shoes have always been a big deal – probably my favorite element of self expression. I remember the first time I got to get a pair of boy’s shoes, in 3rd grade, and the emotional tenor of that moment and of every single day that I got to wear them. It was the best thing ever. And of years later, in my early 20s, when I first got a pair of skateboarding sneakers – it was that same feeling (or, OK, maybe a diluted young-adult version of that same feeling) because I decided that I was worthy of wearing the type of shoes I always coveted. And I was an adult. And I could buy and wear whatever I wanted (I had a hard time “letting” myself buy things that I wanted.) And now! I recently got a pair of Reebok pump basketball shoes, and I have such a fun time just putting them on! I’m not a skater or a b-ball player, but that’s OK, shoes say so much more than “basketball,” “running,” “work-boot,” etc.
What are your favorite articles of clothing to play around with?
Have you used Halloween as an opportunity to try out something new, that you might want to incorporate into everyday life?
There are 6 other stories in the podcast, including someone who uses sunglasses to avoid getting bullied, and then ends up feeling so strongly about their magical powers that he just ends up never taking them off. This was my favorite story, and it’s the first one, so if you wanna just hear that one, it’s totally worth it!
Parts 2 and 3 are also really good. Part 2 is about a person who started out as a cross-dresser, and then after a breakup, they started wearing feminine clothing all of the time, and identifying as a trans-woman. She was also a fairly public figure, doing stand-up comedy regularly and being covered in the media. She was also 6’5″, never passed, and always was on guard, feeling paranoid and defensive. It was wearing her down, and the feminine clothing had lost their allure. After about 7 months, she went back, from “Sarah,” to “Will.” And he endured backlash from the trans-community for doing so.
Part 3 was about a social science experiment (I think I’d read about it in a book, as well), where people were asked to put on a white lab/doctor’s coat, and then go through a battery of concentration tests. The control group wore their regular clothes. And it was proven that those with the coat on did twice as well as those without! Was it something about the extra weight on the shoulders? No, that was tested for with just pressure being applied. What about if the coat was referred to as a “painter’s coat” instead of a “doctor’s coat?” No go – that did not produce any improvements. It appears that when people feel like they are putting on something that has a particular meaning, they will, largely subconsciously, act accordingly.