I ended up with no clean pants and very few clean shirts to wear to work this week. Why? Because I was out of town over the weekend, when I generally do my laundry, and my six housemates kept the washer occupied for the first four days of the week. So the results of that were interesting. I just wore the least dirty pants on Monday, but by the end of Monday they were needing to be washed without question.
Tuesday I wore thigh-high black socks, a nice knee-length black skirt, and a nice-ish shirt. To people who don’t know me, this outfit makes me look put together and on top of things. It gives the impression that I’m girly and care about my appearance. While I’m feminine, I don’t think anyone would actually describe me as girly, and I do care about my appearance, just not to the extent that outfit implied. Except for the shoes, I was still wearing my purple Keen Newport H2s. When I got to work, my boss’s reaction was that I was pretty, and I should do that more often. I happen to think I’m pretty no matter what I’m wearing, but that’s because I don’t have a lot of body image issues.
Wednesday I wore black knee-highs, a mid-calf length gray skirt, and a shirt with designs in a thermal weave. And the Keens. This outfit didn’t get the comments, but it certainly got looks from people I don’t know trying to figure out why my outfit and my hair were not sending the same message. The outfit was sending a conservative/polygamist sort of image, but my hair, while not actually short, is much too short for either of those cultures. It’s not quite shoulder-length at this point.
Thursday I gave in and wore my black on black striped dress pants and a flirty gray shirt. Again with the Keens. Comments on this outfit included that while it was definitely a work-appropriate outfit, it wasn’t really appropriate for my work place. True enough, I stated to the kids when I got there that the goal for the day was to not get the pants dirty. We succeeded. But the shirt (given to me, not something I would have picked) is definitely not in line with my mostly boring shirt collection. I know this to be true because even my professor said so. I did get comments on how the pants were cute, multiple times, but I know this, that’s why I don’t wear them to work. And since I go to school on work days, I don’t wear them there either. It was also said that the shoes went great with the outfit, in a very “Ellen” way. I’m assuming the reference was to Ellen DeGeneres.
Today (Friday) I was able to do laundry, and had most of the day off work. I’m now back in my usual clothing, and it’s not been commented on, other than that I’ve done laundry.
All in all, it was a really interesting experiment in how clothes change perceptions and reaction. Not only the way complete strangers react to me, but how people who know me well react. Should clothes have this much of an impact on how other people see me? I think that they shouldn’t. But I don’t live in the should world, I live in the is world. I now know which sorts of outfits to wear when I’m wanting to get extra attention from strangers and people who know me (Tuesday), looks without interactive attention (Wednesday), and extra attention from people who know me, but not strangers (Thursday).
These are all clothes I’m completely comfortable wearing, or they wouldn’t have been in my closet to be chosen in desperation to begin with. I generally try to avoid the combination that was Wednesday’s outfit due to the impression I know it gives, but I wasn’t quite willing to risk my dress pants yet. The Tuesday and Thursday outfits are the sort of thing I wear to semi-formal events, where they are on the slightly casual side compared to how other people dress. They are outfits in their context that get no reaction, which as my last clothing post pointed out, is the point. But wearing them out of their context led to reactions I hadn’t even thought to expect. I love the Tuesday outfit for events in which a skirt is expected and at those events I don’t feel self-conscious about my clothes, but I spent most of Tuesday feeling that way, because my clothes were out of place. Thursday’s outfit was less conspicuous because it was pants, I think. And many people had already seen Tuesday’s outfit.
I’m looking forward to going back to my normal rotation of clothing on Monday and the way I’m used to people reacting (or not) to my appearance.