We use clothes to help us fit in.
Even if we are brimming with confidence, many of us feel the need to look the part. One of my NYC friends will be attending a wedding in ruralish North Carolina this fall. When I was talking to her the other day, she was already obsessing. And the wedding isn’t till October.
“I have nothing to wear!” She whined.
“How about that cute black dress” I asked
“Gee. I won’t stand out like a New Yorker at all in that…”
And this went back and forth for awhile, her ruling out every dress she owned and me asking her to video chat her closet to me so I could talk her off the wall. She became obsessed with wanting to fit in, though she had absolutely no idea what fitting in would entail. I asked her “what about the nice navy, just wear it with a chunky heel neutral shoe”, because I’m betting outdoors will be involved in some way. She started trolling clothing websites no matter what I said. And I could already envision her putting the new dress up for sale on her local Mom website because she was going to buy a dress she didn’t like just because of her need to be part of the group.
This is where dressing for yourself and dressing for the occasion and location collide.
Sure- we have some sort of inbred desire to be part of the group. I’m going to say it’s probably something to do with our evolutionary need to survive- fitting in is sort of like camouflage- if we blend in we won’t get hunted. And by hunted I mean talked about. No one wants to walk into a room and feel that everyone is talking about them. And if we don’t feel comfortable in what we are wearing, if we feel out of place, we’re going to think that every conversation entails people saying “Can you believe she’s wearing that?” Every time someone looks at us we think they’re staring with disdain and derision. If we don’t feel like we’re part of the group we’re going to check the mirror about a thousand times, pull down hems, readjust sleeves….and be miserable…
I get wanting to fit in via clothes. And traveling to a different environment cements this in. I can tell a tourist in NYC by their clothes. Just like you can tell I’m a tourist when I visit someplace else. Different parts of the country have different dress codes. But how much do we accede to regional dress? If we visit the southwest do we immediately put on cowboy boots? If we go south do we wear pastels? Do we automatically shift to our environment? Change the camouflage? Seek to fit in?
I will tell anyone visiting NYC in the spring to have waterproof shoes and layers. But that’s not to fit in: that’s about being comfortable with the varied weather patterns that NYC presents. I would never tell someone to just pack black. To me fitting in means being ready for the weather.
When we visited different parts of the country last summer I did not bring “Southern” clothes or “Midwest” clothes. I brought my clothes. My collection of black, grey and olive t shirt dresses. My comfy black sandals. My white sneakers. I did bring a function over form bag that I don’t normally use at home, but that was because I really needed the function. And I didn’t care that people knew where I was from before I opened my mouth and my accent spewed out. I was OK with my way of dressing. I am OK with my way of dressing.
When you travel, you travel. The person that you are. Just wear what makes you comfortable and happy. The rest will fall into place.
Though really- there’s nothing wrong with a nice pair of cowboy boots…