Telling Stories with Clothes

Sometimes I feel guilty for liking clothes as much as I do.

I daydream about clothes while driving when I could be educating myself about x, y, or z with the help of a potent audiobook or podcast.

I spend a lot of time sewing, knitting, and sourcing my clothes secondhand when I could be hiking or having tea with a friend (I still love those activities, but I could do them SO much more often if I didn’t have a clothes-making, clothes-curating hobby!)

Caring about what you wear, “they” say, is shallow. A selfish act of navel-gazing that benefits no one.

I see it differently. What we do is ART.

And you, my dear clothes-making, clothes-loving friend, are an artist

A fiber artist and a performance artist, all wrapped up into one person with DIY in your DNA.

Art is about connecting human to human, and each individual human to a larger collective humanity. It is a way to communicate the artist’s experience of being human -metabolizing sorrow, joy, and all the emotions in between.

Artists create empathy

But I am not an artist,” that snide little voice in your head replies, “I am a crafter who just follows directions.”

Us clothes-makers do follow directions. Like all artists, we work within a set of parameters that define every art form. But we also choose within those parameters: fabric, silhouettes, and notions – very deliberately.

As a clothesmaker/wearer, you get at the very essence of creativity: taking two bits of inspiration and connecting them in new ways. Trying this vest over that top, this texture next to that texture, this color contrasted with that color: all of these are creative ideas that you generate every morning when you get dressed.

And then you leave your house. Or take a photo and share it on social media, as we try to do often during the month of Me Made May.

Styling is also a performance art

Putting together outfits communicates the wearer’s personal experience to others.  This “audience” might see their own relationships with their bodies reflected back to them. They might sense an emotion or an energy emanating from the wearer that parallels (or differs from) their own.

This is the reason I so vehemently dislike stereotypical “style words.”

Well-intentioned wardrobe stylists encourage people to find three words that describe their style.  Fashion-y terms like boho, western, or preppy come up often, as well as bland descriptors like minimal and oversized.

This is the path to letting trend-driven fashion dress you, as opposed to YOU deciding how you want to express yourself through the clothing that you wear. When you outsource your style words, you will see an outfit and feel like you “need” it to feel stylish.

The secret that fast fashion doesn’t want you to know is this: it is only when your clothes are aligned with your very person – your own story – that you are truly stylish.

When your outfits align with WHO YOU ARE, HOW YOU FEEL or HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL, this is authentic, deep style.  

How can you tell your story when getting dressed?

  • When noticing someone else’s style – their story – do you see the twinkle in their eyes and connect with it? What do you see there that lights you up? An offbeat sense of humor? A boldness in the face of convention? A playfulness? Appreciate the feelings embodied in an outfit and use those feelings as inspiration for your own experimentation in your closet.
  • Make a practice of appreciating the style/story of someone different to you and refrain from judgment. See the beauty in that difference, and use it to build empathy and connection instead.
  • Tell your story by how you care for the garments you create and curate. In tending – and mending – the clothes in your care, you add to their storytelling power over time. That rip on your sleeve you got while attempting a cartwheel? It’s just a chance to add a bit of moxie to your art piece, preserving not only the fibers but the memories of your life as well.
  • When taking photos of your outfits this Me Made May, feel proud of your role as a performance artist. Get on the stage and express what is true, hard, beautiful, sad, and joyful about being a human in a body wearing textile art pieces. Know that, in your photos, in your combinations, people will feel seen and understood because you decided to show up as yourself.

In our online course, The Mindful Wardrobe Project,  we reach into your past, your present needs, and your goals to create a wardrobe that tells your story. It’s not about designing a collection of clothes that go together in shapes that you like – it’s about mentoring you to feel a deeper connection with your embodied self AND so that you learn how to tell your story. Connection with self and community – that’s what the artful expression of getting dressed is all about.

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  1. I love this statement- what you wrote is so true/ Well-intentioned wardrobe stylists encourage people to find three words that describe their style. Fashion-y terms like boho, western, or preppy come up often, as well as bland descriptors like minimal and oversized.
    How can I describe my style in 3 words- why do I have to? And minimal wardrobes I find are usually very bland- I don’t want minimal satisfaction when I wear my clothes- I want to express the person I am- not be confined by some narrow watered down minimal wardrobe.
    Thanks Meg-great post