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Dressing and Identity or: How Clothes Define You

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It starts with either dressing dolls as little girls or being dressed as dolls as little girls, or both. There is an instinct to care for, to beautify, to style, to comb, to groom. Perhaps as old as our chimpanzee heritage, we, as humans, are so very concerned with our cleanliness and this leads to concern over our appearance, our smoothness of hair, our flattery of frock.

But as we travel through time in this dizzyingly spinning atmosphere both literally and culturally, how do we make sense of the corporate advertising machine which pumps us full of insecurity as young women and strokes our egos as we emulate, imitate, buy and sell, adorning ourselves with labels or label look-alikes, striving to be the best-groomed chimp in the tree, the lovliest in the land, mirror, mirror, can't you see, even if I'm NOT the fairest, I've still got some kick-your-derriere leather boots?

In the mad rush for Jordache jeans during my ninth grade year of high school about 150 years ago, I was so struck by the expense that I remember the pivotal turning point of my turning my young face away, completely, from fashion.

So distraught was I that the new expectations did not simply involve completing my biology homework and being a nice friend, but now included such things as "begging for a new pair of jeans," or "saving up for that cute outfit" that I decided it was all too much for me and spent my high school years hiding away my figure in baggy, oversized thrift-store clothes and sweat pants.

It wasn't that I didn't have a fashion sense, not at all. In fact, my tastes were so refined that in my window shopping expeditions which I took almost always solo, my hungry eyes never failed to make contact with and lock onto cashmere, silk, high-end, exotic fabrics and artistic designs which were pricey and luscious.

Growing up in the heart of New York City was not easy for a girl with expensive tastes and an aversion to the competition and expense they promoted. So I shrugged along in my intensely unflattering outfits and tried to make sense of my own inner dichotomy.

Dressing for success is an old, old concept.

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