Who Do You Dress For?

Mom and daughter style

So why is it that some women dress to meet the expressed or implied expectations of others rather than themselves? This got me thinking about the issue of who we dress for, and why. Self-esteem is probably a big factor. This plays out in the balance of power in relationships and how some women seek approval through the way they dress. Clearly, growing up we also learn from social norms about how girls “should” look. My thought is that women who dress for themselves have a strong sense of self, feel more empowered in their relationships, and have learned to let go of criticisms or expectations of others.

In my own life, I struggled with unsolicited input on what I was wearing from my mom. In her defense, she has a great sense of style so I was very much influenced by her fashion choices as a child and young teenager. But as I got older, I saw fashion and style as a way to express myself. My mom never disapproved overtly. She would ask questions to make her point. “Are you going to wear those earrings with that outfit?” just as I was walking out the door. Or, “do you really love how that looks together?” regarding a new outfit combination. As a young person establishing independence, these questions cut deep. I had to develop trust in my own judgment about how I looked.

So whether a parent, a boyfriend, a husband, a co-worker, a close girlfriend or a combination of relationships influences your style, I hope you will practice self care and dress in ways that please you. Each time we put other’s priorities about how we look above our own, we lose some of ourselves in those relationships. Small accommodations may not seem like any big deal, and in some situations they may not be. But it’s also worth thinking about why we’re making these choices. Perhaps there’s something in the relationship that needs addressing, and what we wear is really the symptom of the underlying problem. Perhaps real growth will happen when one day we awaken to realize that how we dress is no longer the real us.

What are your thoughts on this? Who do you dress for, and has that changed over time?

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  1. Karen, you continue to write to the heart of not only how to identify our own style but the importance of reflecting on whose style it is we are wearing and why. Brilliantly and clearly articulated, you capture the essence of knowing one’s Self and how this self knowledge influences our style. Your style and personal awareness acumen, Karen, are very helpful. Thank you.

  2. What a fabulous and thought-provoking article – But also so empowering and inspiring! Thank you for a great way to end my day – as well as for giving me an emotional high, that I intend to repeat every (future) time I walk out the door, after having admired “my work” in a full length mirror! :)

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