Welcome to the New York Sartorialist and thanks for stopping by. I'm honored and hope you enjoy!
Please be sure to subscribe at the right so you don't miss a thing.
Warmest regards and thanks again for being here~ Michael Cress

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dressing Well: Beyond Vanity

I received a number of messages from readers following my editorial, “Sartorial Mediocrity”. A number of readers spoke about their personal experiences with dressing well and both how they felt better about themselves and how others treated them with more respect. Some said their lives had literally changed as a result.  I think we all know to varying degrees that when we look our best, our attitudes about ourselves change for the better. Reflect back to times when you knew you looked fabulous. For some that would be frequent, for others a bit more sporadically. Compared to dressing down, how did you feel? A sense of pride? More self-confident? How did others treat you? More respect? More engaged? Did they find you more interesting and gravitated to you more?

Right or wrong, people do judge us based on our appearance. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we will judge ourselves based on how we feel we look. Furthermore, we will judge others. This is nothing new. Sure, in a perfect world, people would be able to see directly into our souls to judge us on who we really are. We live in an imperfect world so we must come to terms with the fact that appearances do matter, to ourselves and others.  

David Sarwer, PhD. of the University of Pennsylvania said, "Whether we admit it or not, appearance matters in our culture. Our society often idealizes attractive people. Research shows that those who are attractive typically receive preferential treatment across their life span. That’s why it’s not surprising that the way we look has a great deal to do with our own confidence and self-esteem. Our appearance can shape our self-image and affect the way we deal with others."

Psychologically we have an innate ability to process an incredible amount of information in split seconds, consciously and sub-consciously. It happens quickly, our brains our processing a tremendous amount of information like the fastest mainframe computers ever known. We don’t even realize all the information we are processing, so there’s no filtering.  We must as a matter of survival. When it comes to people we don’t know, we do judge. We must. For starters, are we in danger? That’s a judgment. That’s not a bad thing, that’s survival. So, for the exercise of this editorial, let’s not fight the connotation of “judging” as a negative attribute. I’m not talking about looking down on others, that’s allowing ego and our own insecurities to enter the mix. In assessing the situation with a stranger, the evaluations range from assessing danger across the spectrum to trusting, liking, admiring and wanting to know someone better. We’ve all heard how important first impressions are; a poor first impression and we may never have the opportunity and time to change an incorrect impression. The way we dress and present ourselves makes an immediate and lasting impact!

Ever notice how defendants on trial are always dressed well no matter how sketchy they may look in their day-to-day lives? High-priced attorneys and jury consultants, with life or death judgments on the line, understand the social psychology behind the impression made by being well-dressed.  The old rule of thumb was to dress for court as you would for going to church; unfortunately, the dress-down at churches previously mentioned has obscured that old rule of thumb.

Personally, I don’t dress to please others or have others treat me differently. I try to look my best because somewhere along the way, I found it made me feel better about me. Call it self-image, call it what you like. I can spend half a day in P.J.’s or warm-ups at home, then take a shower, have fun putting a well-tailored, aesthetically pleasing outfit together and get dressed. The difference in how I feel is night and day from before and after. Some days, I don’t even leave- so I’m the only one that knows. You know what? It doesn’t matter. There’s something about being the absolute best you can be on any given day. It carries over to other things. I feel more motivated, more professional and more productive. Many feel that the way we present ourselves to the world is a often a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Sure, some use it as a mask to cover-up what they feel is ugly inside. However, in general I have to agree that the outside is a good reflection of the inside more often than not. If this is true, what does what we're showing the world reflect about us? What are we saying?

I often hear, “I just dress to be comfortable”. That’s great! So do I. However, there can be a difference: purely physical comfort or both physical and psychological comfort. The latter, for me, is far more impactful and rich. My luxuriously soft warm-up bottoms and Under-Armour t-shirts with their high-tech fabrics are physically the most comfortable things I can wear. Do I want to wear them beyond a quick trip to the corner store? No. I would rather feed the soul as well. I spend a tremendous amount of money on tailoring relative to the amount spent on clothes to ensure that they fit as perfectly as possible and are comfortable. Unsolicited advice: spend less on clothes and much more on tailoring! It’s that important. I have the best of both worlds. I dress to be comfortable physically and psychologically.

Is it any wonder that as our society has been becoming more dressed-down, depression rates have increased? That may border on ridiculous as there are a myriad of factors for depression rate increases far beyond aesthetics, but wouldn’t a lot people feel better about themselves if they took pride in how they presented themselves? Old axioms come to mind, “dress for success”, “don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want” and “fake it ‘till you make it”. Perhaps there’s something to it. I believe it. Try having fun with it! What’s the worst that can happen?

1 comment:

Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave said...

Excellent post, if for no other reason than Cary's smile and the confirmation he constantly displayed: that dressing well is a key to personal comfort. I believe it has much to do with writing this comment in my "work" jeans as I prepare to paint leather for my bag line--but knowing the shower and change into "street" clothes will signal a gear-switch in my presentation, my attitude, and my day.