When you think of mindfulness, your wardrobe probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but your fashion choices (even if you don’t think your attire falls in the “fashion” category) impact your life more than you might realize. Like it or not, what you wear influences how others see you and how you feel about yourself. “Enclothed cognition” is the scientific definition for how your style and clothing choices reflect and affect your mood, health, and confidence. And, of course, those things — mood, health, confidence — greatly influence how you see the world and how you live your life.
Fashion has always been of interest to me (I even contemplated on majoring in it in college before I transferred to a school that didn’t have a fashion program!), but I’ve avoided talking too much about it because it seemed too materialistic or superficial for Positively Present. A few weeks ago I read an article on The Numinous, “Fashion as Self-Love,” about KE7H3R designer Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat, and it made me realize that fashion and mindfulness are, in fact, very much related.
Fashion — just like all aspects of our lives — can (and should!) be a mindful practice. I’ve been thinking about the correlation between fashion and mindfulness a lot lately and I’ve decided to call this mindful practice of buying and wearing clothing a-wear-ness. I even created a little acronym (W.E.A.R.) to help you understand and practice a-wear-ness in your own life.
WEAR WHAT SPEAKS TO YOU
In this first aspect of a-wear-ness, it’s important to consider your personal style and your lifestyle. (I wear sweatpants 90% of the time, but that certainly wouldn’t work if I had a typical corporate job!). This step also involves carefully considering what (and how often!) you’re purchasing new things. Yes, buying something new feels great, but that feeling is fleeting. Instead of seeking that brand-new-outfit rush, be thoughtful about what you buy and strive to purchase only the things that truly speak to you.
“Fashion becomes a self-love practice when you can honestly answer the question: does wearing this make me feel like I can be myself?” said Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat, and I couldn’t agree with those words more. What you wear impacts how you feel, which is why it’s important to wear things that make you feel good (regardless of whether they’re cool or on-trend). First and foremost, pay attention to what styles you like and what’s comfortable for you, but also be open to new styles, too. (No one ever feels that great when they’re stuck in a fashion rut!)
Personally, I’m all for following fashion trends (these days I almost always have a choker on, I’ve got a new bomber jacket on the way to me right now, and I’m definitely on board with the fanny pack!), but I don’t believe in wearing something just because it’s on-trend. If you like it and it happens to be a trend, go for it! But if you want to focus on a-wear-ness, it’s essential to wear only the things you love — things that make you smile, feel comfortable, or give you confidence — regardless of how “fashionable” they are.
EVALUATE AND EDIT
Vivienne Westwood once said, “Buy less, choose well, make it last.” Those are some very wise words, and they go hand-in-hand with the concept of a-wear-ness.
Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing more about the capsule wardrobe, which consists of a owning fixed amount of well-made pieces that can be worn interchangeably rather than a closet filled with items you might only wear once. While I’ve yet to personally adopt this fashion model, I do edit my closet each season, getting rid of the items I no longer love or wear and donating them to someone who might make use of them.
Choosing a minimalist approach to your style and consciously curating your wardrobe means you’re attention is on what you have instead of constantly seeking out new items to buy. This is not only good for your wallet and peace of mind (fewer options = less time stressing about what to wear), but it’s also a great way to practice gratitude too because you learn to deeply appreciate the items you already possess rather than seeking new ones.
If you’re not sure how to do this, start by making a list of the clothing you actually wear often and take note of why you wear it. Does it feel comfortable? Does it make you happy? Did it come from a meaningful place or person? Take note of the styles, colors, fabrics, etc. you’re drawn to (and the ones you’re not, so you know what not to purchase in the future!).
A great way to put this into practice is to create fashion vision board, like my Closet Cravings board on Pinterest. Doing this serves two important purposes: (1) it gives you great insight into your personal style, and (2) it provides a place for you to save items you like without immediately purchasing them. Pin them to your board and then come back later to see if you do, in fact, feel they are items that will add to your a-wear-ness.
ASSESS THE SOURCE
Where your clothing comes from is important, and contemplating the creation and manufacturing of the items you purchase is a big part of a-wear-ness. The energy that goes into the clothing you wear can have an impact on you, whether you realize it or not. As Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat put it:
Think about the energy that is put behind creating what you are placing on your body as your expression and reflection of yourself. Everything, even fashion, is a transference of energy. When you choose products that are made ethically, you are showing loving concern for the world, which in turn is an act of self-love — because in saying that the rest of the humans on this planet deserve better you are also saying you deserve better.
While I won’t deny that I love a good fast-fashion find, I also realize how important it is to consider where your items come from and do your best to make conscious choices. Cultivate a-wear-ness by researching wear your clothing is made and how it is done. And, if possible, try to buy from local or small businesses.
Also, it’s very important not to buy items that feature designs stolen from small businesses. There’s been a huge, unfortunate trend of big brands stealing from smaller designers (see Shop Art Theft), and I’m pretty sure stolen designs aren’t going to have the best karma. Putting things on your body that are made ethically (and not stolen from others!) is a great way to cultivate a-wear-ness.
REVAMP WHAT YOU OWN
This last point ties in with the second one. If you choose to have a wardrobe filled with a thoughtfully curated selection of items you love (and actually wear!), you might, at times, get a bit bored with your wardrobe. But a-wear-ness doesn’t have to be boring! The trick is to learn how to revamp your wardrobe in little ways so it feels fresh even when you don’t go out and buy every new trendy item on the rack.
First, it’s important to make sure you care for the items you own and repair them when you can. It can be really useful to know how to sew and mend so you can revamp your items if they wear down. (If you’re not the mending type, identify where you can take items that need to be fixed so you can keep them looking nice instead of purchasing new ones).
In addition to keeping your items it tiptop shape, you can also revamp your wardrobe in a big way with small accessories. Accessories allow you to change-up your look without buying a brand new set of clothes each season, and they give you a bit of customization that allow you to share a little bit of personality with the world. Not sure how to customize? First, check to see what you already own and consider how you might wear it with different outfits. If you’re in the mood to add a little something to your closet, consider adding a pin (like my Less Hate, More Love one!) to your collar or investing in jewelry that has interchangeable elements (i.e., different watch bands or charms on a necklace).
Revamping your wardrobe with little things is not only a great way to cut down on clothing costs, but it’s a great way to practice a-wear-ness by tapping into your creativity and identifying items that refresh your look.
Whether or not you give much thought to what you wear, I hope you enjoyed learning about the concept of a-wear-ness. Fashion might sound frivolous, but what you wear does matter, both in the greater ethical, environmental sense, and in the personal, self-love sense. Appearances aren’t everything (it’s what’s inside that really matters!), but fashion is a great way to express your personality, play with your creativity, and increase your confidence. The more a-wear-ness you practice, the more mindful and self-aware you’ll become.