After reading a few posts and articles on the power of uniform dressing, last week I decided to only wear black dresses to experiment with sartorial disappearance. Apparently, taking the choice away of getting dressed in the morning will make you a more stable, in control, smarter and productive person. Probably more successful and happier too.
This was, quite obviously, the wrong experience for me. Black is actually not a uniform as far as I am concerned . All its nuances and textures and different associations make it versatile and welcoming and experimental. Just the opposite of a uniform. As much as I like black dresses and have a closet full of them to prove it, I found it extremely boring to put on the same thing everyday. Boring might be efficient and productive but this doesn’t seem to be what I’m interested in becoming.
I do understand the allure of having a streamlined, organized home / closet but I’m not, no matter how hard I try a minimalist. This doesn’t mean that I’m obsessed with fast changing fashion trends or fast fashion fixes. By now, about 70% of my wardrobe is vintage or secondhand because I do love clothes a lot more than I am interested in fashion. I might be obsessed with my possessions but mainly because I got a lot of them from my grandmother, my great aunt and my mother. They tell, at least partially, the story of who I am.
For some, settling into an everyday uniform means that you have finally understood who you are and what outfit goes with that while becoming incredibly stylish. I do agree with Valerie Steel that the idea that clothes are supposed to express your true identity is “almost laughably naive, clothes are a mask,a persona you put on. You present an aspect of yourself, not the core. Anyway, what would the core be? It’s a rather horrific thought.”
I need the choice, even if it’s a waste of energy and mental power. I need to be able to decide who I want to be in a given day and I need to be able to have fun with that. The normalizing discourse of uniform dressing/ capsule wardrobe sounds too much like a managerial trend applied to everyday life, transforming it into some kind of efficient unidimensional space and that’s also rather horrific. Foucault argues that through surveillance our bodies are made docile by institutions and become subject to mass standards of behaviour, these standards of behaviour (or ‘discourses’) are then internalized by individuals and govern the ways in which we use and understand our bodies. He also suggests, however, that people can act on their bodies in different ways and resist these normalizing discourses.
Foucault,M. (1977) Discipline and Punish