Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dressing for a First Impression

If you don't follow the Facebook page, you may wonder where I've been for the last couple weeks. I broke my arm ten days ago, and this is my first attempt to type with two hands. I hand-wrote this post first and, because this two-handed thing is not super-comfortable, I may switch to one before I'm done transcribing. Either way, it's nice to be back.

It's embarrassing to discover your own hypocrisy. Yesterday was one of those days.

You've probably gathered by now that I am not a clotheshorse. I don't enjoy shopping, I care little about the latest trends, and comfort is more important to me than fashion.

As I write this, I'm wearing Old Navy sweatpants, a T-shirt I bought at TJMaxx, and SmartWool socks (having warm feet is a reason to spend money on the good stuff). I will wear these same clothes to the store and to pick up my kids from school.

I've never cared what people think of my clothes. Or so I thought.

I chose to wear workout clothes to my first physical therapy session yesterday. Most of my exercise clothes come from Target, TJMaxx, or Marshall's. I'm not a serious athlete who needs quality performance wear, and dressing to look good while grimacing and sweating has never made any sense to me. I do, however, own one pair of lululemon pants.

In case you're not familiar with lululemon, it is a brand of high-priced "yoga-inspired" athletic apparel. It is quite popular among a certain demographic and is stereotypically linked to the wealthy stay-at-home-mom who flits about in the gear whether exercising or  not. Lululemon is one of those brands that projects a certain image--desirable to some, mocked by others.

My husband bought my lululemon pants for me as a birthday gift a couple years ago, when I was doing yoga regularly. I find the price tag alarming, the absence of capitalization annoying, and the local store obnoxious (when I exchanged the gift pants, the store had no sign other than a tiny logo on the building, as if it were a rave you had to be "in the know" about, and it didn't accept cash). The pants, however, are really nice pants. Much better than anything else I own, anyway.

Although they are the nicest-looking and best-quality workout gear I own, I chose not to wear them to PT yesterday. I was meeting my physical therapist for the first time, and I feared she'd see my lululemon pants and my zip code and make certain assumptions about me. I live in a desirable zip code with a reputation (among some) for snobbery, and I didn't want anyone to meet me and assume I'm one of "those people."

Instead of taking that risk, I wore my Target pants and a free promotional T-shirt. I can say with confidence that the physical therapist did not notice my clothes, which is just the way I wanted it.

I go through life smug about the fact that I don't need fancy clothes because I am not the brands I wear. But isn't it hypocritical of me to choose not to wear a certain item because someone might judge me for it? Isn't choosing to wear Target over lululemon a brand-based fashion choice that I hoped would project something good about me? Does that make me any better than the person who chooses the fancy pants because she thinks they will project a certain image?

I'd argue that the image we each seek to project is very different but that the motivation is the same. We both want people to assume something about us based on our clothes.

Although I'd much rather you assume I'm a redneck slob than a rich snob, I find the very act of thinking about it rather silly. If I judge women who put on their best to make just the right impression, it's hypocritical of me to leave mine at home to do the same.

But that doesn't mean I'll stop doing it.

What about you? Are you a dress-to-impress type, a lower-the-expectations type, or have you sincerely never considered the issue? 


  1. I'm with you. Certainly on the capitalization or lack thereof.

  2. Practicality and comfort rule the day, esp in retirement.

  3. At this stage of my life, I am a more "dress to hide the fat" kind of gal ;) As long as an item makes me look smaller, I could care less if it came from Wal-Mart or Nordstroms!