Dressing for success…

When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.
– Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

This last month has been a bit of a trial. I have worked 18 out of the last 19 days and am now literally basking in the freedom of this weekend! I don’t deserve any sympathy though – this stretch is entirely my own fault. When volunteering to do extra shifts for purely mercenary reasons, I really should check that I’m not already working the weekend after…but this seemingly endless slog has revealed quite how much I use what I wear to improve my mood. In short, it turns out that some days just deserve pretty things!

I’ve always known that my day/night/work wardrobe is essentially the same. Short dresses are made more modest with dark tights and cleavages hidden behind vest tops, and I’ve long taken to squatting rather than leaning when talking to people sat at a lower level to reduce the chance of accidental exposure. Sometimes I do misjudge it a little. Being told by a 90 year old woman that I look sexy wasn’t really the aim, but perhaps I shouldn’t be that surprised. I was wearing a blue dress that I have worn on a first date. Oh crap, am I more guilty of boring date wear or inappropriate work wear?!

My job currently involves a commute of over an hour, requiring staggeringly early starts, but despite not being much of a morning person, I am flatly unable to cut my morning routine down to less than an hour. Probably more like 70 minutes… I can get ready faster, but I don’t want to. I need time. Extra sleep is not nearly as valuable as the time I get to waste.

As most of this precious time is essentially wasted. I do just laze around for at least 10 minutes after opening my eyes, and I probably don’t need a 20 minute shower every day. I certainly don’t use the remaining 30 plus minutes getting dressed – that takes barely 15. So what is that extra time for? On bad or tired or gloomy days, I have time to just stare into space and try to regain enough focus to function for the day.

But, more usually and more importantly, this is dancing around and overindulgent pampering time…every day! I scrub my skin until it shines and wash everything bad away under the scalding water until I feel clean and fresh. I take my time picking out what I want to wear and pause after each item is added to make sure it makes me feel right, and this always best assessed by semi-naked dancing!

I like having the time to carefully chose clothes that make me feel amazing on that particular day. Sometimes, I know the day will be tough and will require something special – red shoes, stockings or that favourite blue dress. Sometimes I have a craving to wear a particular underwear set or a certain skirt. Sometimes, the tasks of the day dictate a certain pair of shoes (even I accept that running to crash calls in stilettos is stupid!) and so the rest is built around that. All of these decisions necessitate a period of partial dress when I am wearing the key part, usually underwear and shoes, and then end up sort of…prancing around, trying to fix the rest of the outfit around this. It does take time but, by the end, there’s very little I wouldn’t be able to face! I have armed myself for the day I am expecting.

The eventual end point of this daily ritual, however, is a look that is intended to change the way I feel, and I am beginning to suspect that I don’t know what I look like in reality. My self-esteem and opinion of my appearance is so incredibly internal that I am surprised by compliments and am faintly appalled that my patient thought I looked sexy. That was not my intention. Professional, yes. Powerful, maybe. But sexy? It made me wonder if perhaps it is a mistake that I’ve stopped viewing clothes by how they look and focus instead on how they feel. I can *feel* sexy in the right white shirt and jeans, just as I can *feel* professional in a red shirt dress and boots. I guess I’d never thought that I could be seen differently from how I feel, and that feeling professional in a short dress may not be enough!

But I don’t think I’m going to change. I like wearing pretty dresses and fancy shoes. I like bright colours and loud prints. The latent narcissist in me also enjoys being known as glamorous. More than that, I like the confidence and surety of dressing this way.

And it works…dressing for success and wearing clothes to make me feel awesome works! It’s another weapon against a bad day, it’s something that I can actively do when everything else feels hopeless. Feeling good in my clothes has also made me feel good in my skin. I cannot begin to imagine how much time I have ‘wasted’ over the years, just dancing around, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Tamsin Flowers kindly included my recent Sinful Sunday photo in her round-up, which was such a huge honour as there were so many wonderful photos shared, as always. As the picture had been of the special underwear chosen to cope with a Sunday at work, it got me thinking again about how I use clothes and was what prompted this post today. Her comments, which were so lovely and so insightful, made me realise that how I feel when I choose my clothes does show on the outside…and that is no bad thing!

‘This is a woman in full possession of herself and ready to take on the world…it just seems to say, Yes, I can do it. I can do all of the things! Just try and stop me!’

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