The Psychology of Clothing

When my oldest daughter was little she used to cry if she couldn’t wear a dress. Fast-forward twenty years, we are watching an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and she says, “I wish women still dressed that way.”

“Me too,” I said, “but I wouldn’t want to clean the house in a dress, heels and pearls.”

It’s interesting to look back and trace the evolution of women’s clothing. I’ve always been in awe of the gowns and dresses worn throughout the mid to late 1800’s and I love the wardrobe in Gone with the Wind, (my favorite movie since I was 7 years old), but if I had lived in that era I would have been a rebel, probably bringing scandal on my family for indecency because the truth is, I can barely tolerate wearing a lightweight slip, I loathe nylons, and someone really, really needs to design a bra that is comfortable, attractive and does its job.

If society demanded I wear all those layers of petticoats, crinolines, bustles, chemise, pantaloons, corsets, stockings and garter belts, the feminist movement would have started a century earlier and I would have led the way, burning all those undergarments in angry protest. But beyond all that, my deeply thought out, intellectual question of the day is: How did they use the “facilities”? Be it a bedpan, outhouse, toilet, or a visit to the bush, one would have to be a contortionist to execute the duty of nature while being bound by all those contraptions.

I guess the popular fashion of that time is similar to the way I view snow. It makes for a lovely picture, but a miserable experience. The styles and fashion trends in the 1800’s required beauty at any cost, many women suffering severe internal damage from their tightly laced corsets. Mindsets in fashion have changed since, but not necessarily for the better.

The elegance and the femininity of fashion in earlier years, be it 1850 or 1950, is what attracts me. When women didn’t look like the teenaged boy next door, or like they shopped at Hookers R Us. If you’re of a more genteel nature, you might find that last part offensive, but if you’ve strolled the mall and taken a gander at what the mannequins are sporting, you would be inclined to agree. Most of it marketed to young women.

Modernity has stripped away the beauty of womanhood, flaunting the sexual, or breeding the a-sexual; Wearing clothes that attract the wrong kind of attention or clothing meant to buffer the right kind of attention.

On the surface, the first leaves an impression that sexuality is all they have to offer and their personhood doesn’t matter, while the second is afraid of, and in some cases ashamed of their gender. There’s very little room for the normalcy that should be found somewhere in between.

This isn’t a dress vs. pants commentary or even one on modesty. Personally I appreciate the diversity in fashion and that we all have different tastes. This goes deeper than the outward appearance.

What we wear makes a statement; it is the packaging for the brand that is us, the image we sell to our neighbors, friends, and the opposite sex, and more importantly it says a lot about how we see ourselves.

In the movie, The Bounty Hunter, there is a scene in the parking lot of a strip club and the entrance has a woman’s sprawled leg painted on either side of it. Think for a moment and you’ll get the picture. When I saw that,  I thought, “You know, that’s what’s wrong with society. This is how women are viewed.”

And we see the results of this reflected in so many ways, including women’s dress habits. The term woman has been so devalued and so twisted that many young women (and even some who are not so young) have a distorted perception of womanhood. Some falling into lock step with society’s sexualized perception of them, and others rebelling and hiding from their gender.

As a woman, you were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Stop for just a moment and ponder what that means. That has to be one of the highest honors. You shouldn’t allow that to be cheapened, to lessen what is highly esteemed by conforming to the world’s view of women. (Romans 12:2) You are worth so much more than that.

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  1. #1 by Spookysister7 on March 22, 2012 - 3:28 pm

    Nice. You are so right. It is sick how devalued women feel and how paranoid you get to avoid the sexualization. Thanks.

  2. #2 by Sharon Ng on April 16, 2012 - 11:05 pm

    Yes, you have indeed speak my heart out! Shame on these days as the designs on women’s clothing these days focus on that “sex appeal” and kinkiness instead of the supposed practicality and modesty!

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