This is going to come across as cheesy, there is no avoiding it. Instead of justifying or apologizing for the cheesiness, I’ll just delve in: next time you are home alone, practice the following exercise in self-love (it’s not what you think, though you might as well go ahead and do that too, if the mood so strikes). Select a playlist of your six favorite, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs songs and choose five outfits that seem inspired by each tune, even if the correlation would only be meaningful to you (you don’t need to put a finger on any nuanced significance, just whatever feels about right). Deck yourself out with accessories, style your hair and put on makeup, as well as a sexy pair of panties and bra. Blast the music, and in front of a full-length mirror, perform to each song while dressed in its associated outfit. Dance around without any inhibitions: use your hairbrush as a microphone, jump on the bed or couch. In other words, really channel your inner Tom Cruise. Don’t stop moving except for a costume change, and while dancing, make sure you at least get a glimpse of yourself in the mirror every few seconds (soon, you won’t be able to take your eyes off yourself). Be sexy, flirtatious, silly, salacious, whatever you want to be. When the last song comes on, dance around completely naked.
Unless I’ve secretly installed video cameras in your room and plan to broadcast the footage on a Reality (i.e. Humiliation) TV show (which I can assure you is impossible given my struggle to operate TiVO), why would I ask you to do this?
First, look over the outfits you’ve chosen–superficially, they may not have anything in common except that they are yours, but that is a significant common denominator. Building a wardrobe is about expressing and developing your own sense of self, and so your wardrobe, whatever items it consists of, is a reflection of you. Whereas fashion is derived from the phenomenon of cultural and social psychology, style is about individualization within this larger context. So, while a million competing trends will come trotting down the runways this month, don’t be intimidated by their overwhelming presence. Being stylish is not about what the outside world is doing, but ultimately rests in the self-empowerment of owning your own look.
And that is the purpose of the above exercise: to inspire the self-possession that makes you completely comfortable with your body and self-image when no one else is around so that you can translate this experience into the public confidence necessary for true stylishness. You must be able to let yourself go and release your inhibitions, so that you can be completely free to be yourself—with and without your clothes.
A friend recently told me that her therapist asks her the same question at the beginning of every session: “How do you feel in your clothes today?” My friend, who is seeing her therapist for body image issues, never thought much of the question, or her response to it (“I feel fine in them”), until she spent a prolonged moment gazing into her overstuffed closet teeming with impulse purchases. She realized that she never felt truly secure in her clothing, and that is why she continually filled her closet with more and more items. Loving her wardrobe was not about the clothes within it at all, but about her own conception of her self image. The clothing is inconsequential; the self is paramount.
And that leads us to perhaps the cheesiest, but most powerful, conclusion; loving your wardrobe starts with loving yourself.