My high school friend, Jenny, who lives in California, posted a picture on Facebook last night. It was of a mother dropping her children off at school in the morning, wearing a pink bathrobe and pink fuzzy slippers. Jenny commented that she’s not even allowed to wear jeans to work. Other friends of hers commented about how they keep high-heeled shoes in theirs cars in case they need to dress up an outfit. All of them seemed to be in agreement that they wouldn’t wear a robe and slippers to their children’s school.
What struck me was how uninhibited that mother was. While I have always been dressed in real clothes in public (in college you’d have to include sweats in that), in my younger adult years I didn’t wear any make-up unless I was dressing up for a special occasion. Now I do not leave the house if I have not washed and styled my hair, put on my make-up, and dressed in “proper” clothes. I don’t even answer the doorbell if I’m in pajamas or exercise clothes.
Yes, it is a major fashion faux pas to show up anywhere outside of your own home in pajamas. And I have watched enough What Not to Wear to know that many women who do are not doing it out of confidence, but because they have given up. I am in no way suggesting that we give up, but wouldn’t it be cool if for once we didn’t worry about how we looked or what other people thought of how we looked?
This goes back to what we were talking about the other day. Who you are inside and your value as a human being have nothing to do with external appearances, and yet I have noticed that when I am dressed particularly nicely with a stylish coat or cape on and have my hair nicely styled with new highlights (rather than roots beginning to show), I am treated differently by total strangers than when I’m wearing old jeans, a fleece jacket, and my hair in a ponytail.
While I fully believe in dressing appropriately and teaching our children to do the same, I also worry about the messages we are sending when we are so focused on how we look, rather than who we are and what we are doing.
Emerald’s last day of school before the holiday break was Pajama Day. She was so excited at the first mention of it. And then she started worrying. What if she were the only kid in her class to participate? She is in fifth grade now; is it babyish to wear your pajamas to school? Would her friends think she was weird? Which pajamas should she wear? Should she even do it? It saddens me that my 10-year-old daughter is already dealing with these issues. Her view of what is fun is tempered by what others think. I know it’s normal and it’s natural, but it’s also normal and natural to be yourself and to be different from everyone else, unique. That doesn’t make you weird (unless you define “weird” as no more and no less than being different — and then we’re all weird). It makes you special.
I know that dressing nicely and feeling you look good can build confidence, but having the confidence to dress out of the norm can also be freeing.
So in the spirit of loving ourselves as we are and trying not to be so critical of ourselves, I have a challenge for you. Invite your friends to meet you out in public someplace, dressed as you would never normally appear in public. It could be in your workout clothes. It could be with less make-up and less perfectly styled hair. It could be in pajamas or a robe. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Enjoy each other’s company and the freedom to let your guard down, for just a little while.
Local folks, who’s with me? Suggest a place and a time and let’s see how many people we can get to make the statement that we are comfortable enough in our own skin to dare to wear “what NOT to wear”, just this once. I know this will be hard, but I will make the effort if you will.
[For the record, I am not suggesting that the mom whose attire started this discussion chose her clothes yesterday morning to make a statement. Neither am I suggesting that she has given up. I don’t know her at all. The photo of her just got me thinking how great it would be to be uninhibited enough to appear in public in a fuzzy pink robe and fuzzy pink slippers. Something I could never do — from a confidence perspective more than a fashion one.]
Thanks, Jenny P., for the inspiration for this post.