Clothing has an astounding ability to not only change the way that we look, yet also change the way that we act and think about ourselves. A little kid running around with a sheet draped over his shoulders and tied as a cape, believing with every fibre of his being that he is just as strong and brave as the super heroes that smile down at him from posters on his bedroom wall. A law student, putting on a suit for the first time and somehow being imbued with confidence as the weight of the law presses down on them. Clothing can have a major influence on our moods.
When going for an interview, especially anything higher up the ladder, it is important to dress the part. Shoes must be shined, hair neatly kept and you pray that you don’t have a run in your stockings or sit in anything before or during the interview itself. On your wedding day, you want to feel special and get all dressed up in your gown or tux. The clothes become nearly as big a part of the occasion as the exchanging of vows.
I was a pathology collector (Phlebotomist) for a short time before I found other employment and it amazed me that my uniform consisted of a white blouse and black pants or skirt. Being in such close proximity to blood, and having a natural aversion to stains, I was always horrified at the thought of blood somehow marking my crisp white top. I used to joke with patients that we had to wear white in case we hit a bleeder, so that the doctors would be able to judge by the state of us how much blood would need replacing. I actually think it was more about sterile white uniforms looking more in place in a sterile white environment. We were the “vampire ladies” and it was far more important for us to blend into the background so that the life savers had pride of place.
In Grade 7, I was made a School Captain and I remember giving my speech dressed in a lilac covered blouse and straight cut skirt with delicate silver stars adorning it. It seemed to me then, that it was the kind of outfit (at least in cut) that a politician, or at least the wife of a politician would wear and although I had zero desire to be a School Captain and had an absolute fear of public speaking or really anything that involved me being the centre of attention, I was able to stand up straight with pride as my parents looked on.
Some industries and the associated costumes and uniforms are so well engrained in our minds that they are inseparable. To this day I have a serious, serious weakness for firefighters and I do find myself going weak at the knees when I see that outfit. The masculinity and bravery of firefighters seems to be all stitched up with the trousers and suspenders. Kids dress up like Disney princesses and super heroes, or villains and feel an instant connection with the characters that they portray. How many girls grew up being called Princess by their fathers. I certainly didn’t, however I know many who did and slipping on the princess slippers and placing a tiara over their pigtails always seemed to cement the fact in their minds.
I know that when I am having a horrible day and just want to escape from the world, I slip into my pajamas and settle down with a good book. The soft, warmth of the fabric is like a big hug that instantly soothes us and it is comforting to be able to let your hair down and not worry about applying makeup or having your bra on to feel good about yourself.
I think that the one thing most adults miss in life, is the special piece of clothing from their youth that just made them feel like a million bucks. For me, two outfits in particular stand out. One, a dress with a white top and blue skirt which included 3 dancing lollipops smiling on the front. I loved that dress when I was from about 4 to 6 and would twirl around in the dress and smile down at the happy treats in dancing positions. The other outfit was specially made for my by my mum and grandma for book week when I was in the first grade. It was Jasmine from Aladdin, complete with curly toed slippers and a plush tiger I carried around. With my hair long and relatively dark at that stage, I felt like a real princess (and yes, I won first place) in the costume that had been made just for me. It was one of a kind and I was excited to have something special that wasn’t a hand me down. As tends to happen, my mum gave the costume away to a friend of the family and I have no idea where it ended up or if it is still intact.
As adults, we can have a favourite shirt or pair of heels that pisses us off when the heel snaps or the top ends up full of holes or stained. Yet nothing replaces the connection that we had to our childhood favourite clothing. It exists in a place and time that is now only memory and nostalgia and we go through our days trying to get back those feelings we once had where, with the right outfit on, we really could conquer the world.