During my time away from my blog, I spent a great deal of time wrestling with the relationship between clothing and confidence. What we wear has so much potential to bring us joy but too often feels like a source of stress. One day we can select an outfit that makes us feel ten feet high; another we can lie prostrate in front of the same rail of clothes despairing that we can nothing to wear – or at least nothing that feels good.
As I worked to get my mental health back on track after a dramatic downturn, I became acutely aware of the toll that my medication induced weight gain has taken on my wellbeing. Five extra stone on a five-feet-****-all frame sure has an impact! Suffice to say, nothing fitted and in my newly raw state I was sensitised to just how distressing the experience of getting dressed every day was. Reduced to wearing an old pair of leggings and my boyfriend’s tops, I literally felt like I had lost myself. Who was this person in a band t-shirt staring back at me in the mirror? I didn’t recognise her.
Where had Rae with the cotton shirts and silk scarves gone?
Eventually I got myself together enough to go shopping for new stuff. The relief was instant, the ease spectacular, the sense of identity restored. With my new white shirt buttoned to the neck, I could work, I could go out, I could act in the world. With my new red coat, I was able to go out when it was raining!
I was myself again.
I am far from alone in recognising the transformative and restorative power of the right clothes. The latest #StyleHasNoRules campaign from Long Tall Sally, a retailer who caters for women over five feet eight tall, focuses on helping women to reclaim their fashion confidence while having fun doing so.
A study of 1,000 UK adult women found that 76 percent did not feel confident when it came to choosing outfits even though 78 percent of them had when they were children.
96 percent said they had worn what made them happy until they were ten years old.
Long Tall Sally responded by recruiting girls still in that age group (six to eight) to act as ‘Little Stylists’, selecting and styling outfits for six of their customers who felt in a fashion rut. The resulting video on the company’s Facebook page has already had over 45,000 hits and generated emotional responses from both the models and the viewers.
The element of playfulness in this process was particularly emphasised by one of the Little Stylists who selected a polka dot dress for her model because ‘dots make me happy, and I want my lady to be happy’. What we wear may have an important influence on our self-confidence but we can have fun with it too.
My fashion philosophy is that we should take it both more seriously and also less seriously.
The role of clothing in confidence is also recognised by the Smart Works. Alongside interview training, this charity provides personal styling session for women who are job hunting, providing them with high quality clothing to wear to interviews and keep afterwards. As they explain,
The clothes we choose to wear have a huge impact on how we are perceived by others, particularly when meeting people for the first time. Selecting what to wear for a job interview is a critical element of our non-verbal communication, and can be a huge influence on the interviewer when they are making a decision on whom to employ.
Furthermore, they claim that ‘over 95% of our clients reported that a visit to Smart Works significantly increased their confidence in succeeding at their job interview’.
It’s possible to support Smart Works in their mission and boost your own confidence through clothes at their forthcoming designer sale. On Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st May they will be selling some of their high quality stock at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, with proceeds going to support the charity. You can buy tickets here.
Tell me about your experiences of clothing and confidence. Does wearing polka dots make you happy? Do you think an outfit helped you to secure a job? Or do you feel a lack of clothing confidence has held you back in some way? And if you enjoyed reading this post, please do tell others about it on social media – it really helps! Sharing button are below.
Thank you for reading.