Do you ever dress poorly... on purpose?

Today I am still feeling a bit "meh," so I dressed in all my new favorites: white BB shirt, ink blue F21 blazer (making its maiden voyage), striped Hudsons, dalmatian boots, and new J. Crew trench. It perked me up a bit and gave me a reason to get up...

But on the way to work, I wondered if I should have worn beige and pastels instead, so that I'd look more how I feel. I'm not talking about faking illness or anything nefarious - I mean an outfit that says, "Please, don't ask me to save the world today." Out of order. Wet paint. Protected by man-eating guard dog. Do not touch.

On the one hand, this wouldn't make me feel better. But some gentle handling would be appreciated. Not to say that anyone is playing rough... just a wandering thought about what kinds of reactions our clothes might command from others.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.

27 Comments

  • Meredith1953 replied 6 years ago

    Interesting! I haven't done with that clothing (at least not consciously) but I have done it by not wearing ANY makeup! I look very pale and wan without it which induces pity in my coworkers.

  • ManidipaM replied 6 years ago

    Rae, very intriguing thought, that! Different matter that I manage to look and dress poorly quite effortlessly some days ...:-/

    But some days, when I'm feeling poorly I'll not have the energy to dress with a lot of conscious effort or intention; and I typically want looser garments when I feel under the weather, as well as avoiding a lot of colour (and for some reason, dark black) with a migraine!

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    Hmm, I definitely have a few "leave-me-alone" days where I'll dress in a lot of black and wear tough looking boots, hopefully to project a "if you ask me to do something, I will snarl and possibly kick you" vibe. Not sure it works though, LOL.

    But otherwise I choose color or pattern to perk me up if I am feeling down.

  • Elly replied 6 years ago

    I get this--- I have an invisible illness. I get up in the morning and I put on makeup and get dressed presentably because everyone else has to, so I don't figure I get an exception.

    Still, it can feel like a lie when I hear, "oh, but you look so good" or "you have the energy to put into looking nice"--- just because I've perfected the use of concealer and can put on pants doesn't mean that I don't feel like I got hit by a bus. Most people in my life don't know about my health issues, so I can totally relate to looking like you can take on the world when you feel like you can't. It doesn't mean you can't do what you need to do, but a little comfort, a little tenderness, and a little recognition of what you do and deal with sometimes makes all the difference when your having a hard day-- hopefully your lucky enough that someone who cares about you will pay attention or a stranger or acquaintance will handle you with courtesy, but it is that much harder when there is no outside indicators of how you feel. I constantly have family not be understanding because they can't "tell" I'm having a bad day.

    For awhile I did dress like I felt--- but it only made me feel worse. I was always this hugely engaged, bubbly, confident person and all of the sudden I didn't feel like I could handle everything I used to juggle. So I dressed like someone that wanted to shrink into the background and didn't have the energy . . . unfortunately, that only makes you feel less confident. It is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Right now I'm looking to convey all the positive things about me in how I get dressed. I need stuff that makes me feel confident, secure, comfortable, and ready to take on the world. Still, I like to put together a wardrobe full of fall-back outfits, so I can get dressed and look capable and put together even on those blah days.

    I have those days though that I take off the hot pink shirt or the leopard just because I can't handle all the comments-- I just don't have the energy to deal with the extra notice.

  • Sylvie replied 6 years ago

    I think your coworkers are better able to pick up social clues from clothing than mine are. :)

  • ironkurtin replied 6 years ago

    Not like you describe, Rae, but if I have a ay of yardwork ahead I will admit I don't attempt to look my best.

  • taylor replied 6 years ago

    I always dress up when feeling blah rather than down . I never try to dress down because that actually would make me feel blah!

    Hope you are feeling better as the day wears on:)

  • Laurinda replied 6 years ago

    When European friends feel they are coming down with a cold they will wear a wool scarf around their necks. I guess the theory is that a warm throat will recover faster, but it makes a clear statement, "I am not feeling my best".

  • Sarah A replied 6 years ago

    I also usually don't dress down when feeling blah... It is funny, I've only recently started documenting what I wear and I am going off the top of my head but can't come up with a real actual example to see if I actually do what I say I do! Ha... Hope you get a pick me up today!

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Ah, I did the no makeup thing yesterday, but it was not on purpose! I think that probably is a huge sign to people used to seeing the whole "face."

    Diana, this very similar to what I mean, and I definitely do this, too, although not so much at work. No conversation prints, no conversation anything... don't look at me, because I don't have the energy to smile back today.

    Elly, thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom. I personally was having weird waves of nausea and dizziness (and no, not I'm not pregnant), so it wasn't like I had that classic stuffy nose thing going where everyone knows what's up. I definitely hear you on how people can't "tell" and might forget there is a problem - but it's not like you want to complain all day so everyone remembers, right? You do remind me that, in the end, it is about dressing for yourself and to make yourself happy -- and i'm glad that it *does* have some power to cheer you up.

  • Sveta replied 6 years ago

    I am with Taylor: when I feel down / stressed I dress up. The only exception is when I am so low on energy and feel so sick I cannot even contemplate any thinking process in putting the outfit together but for this days I have my FFBO :-)
    Usually my body language is enough to let people know how I feel and that I should not be bothered: I don't feel i need to dress for this.

  • Jem replied 6 years ago

    I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you were having a bad day.

  • cciele replied 6 years ago

    Oh yes, I totally get where you're coming from Rae. I do dress, maybe not poorly, but in a plain, drab way to reflect those moods. That, plus my demeanor, I think gets across how I want to be dealt with that day. Not sure if it works though :)

    Anyhow, hope you get back to your normal self. And your outfit sounds great!

  • Elly replied 6 years ago

    Exactly Rae--- no one wants to whine and complain all the time, especially if it is a persistent thing, but people-- even ones that do care-- tend to forget and then do things like ask you to make extra stops on your way home from work, or wouldn't think to give up their seat on the bus for you. But yeah, even when I'm sick I don't want to look sick, because I have to see me and interact with people that aren't perceptive enough to think about WHY I look bad!

    I'm hoping whatever is giving you the nausea clears up.

  • rachylou replied 6 years ago

    Can't rightly say I ever dress poorly on purpose. I'm not sure if that would get me better treatment. Sometimes I don't feel like bothering or staying warm trumps all. I do think there's always something a little odd about the way I put things together, because that is me. However, I definitely dress to make people feel things about me...

  • replied 6 years ago

    I wouldn't say I dress poorly on purpose, but I do "dress down" on purpose when shopping for a big ticket item such as a car where I need to make a deal. I want to look nice, but not too nice, so I can haggle on the price. I also hold back at work and purposely do not wear my best jewelry, etc. because I work in a public agricultural office where I come face to face with people from all walks of life, and because all of my coworkers (including my boss) make less than my husband. I want to look professional, yet approachable, so people feel comfortable. I save my really nice clothing and accessories for going out with my DH or with his coworkers, who are all university professors or deans and make about the same money (or more) as he does.

  • Aida replied 6 years ago

    I try not to, but my outfits often reflect my mood. I just make sure to try and keep as much fab stuff in my wardrobe so that even if I'm feeling gray because it's gray out, my gray outfit looks fab :D

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Very thoughtful comments being shared here - love it! It seems like a common thread that dressing up is the preffered way to beat some of those blues.

    I resonate with Ruth and Cathy in the way that you can kind of choose which kind of attention you attract with your outfit. Wearing different jewelry to work vs. social settings stood out to me as a great example. A statement piece will spark conversation, an engagement ring will bring lots of questions, etc.

    I will also leave off the more eye catching things if we are at the swap meet or walking around LA at night. I don't know if I was originally talking about garnering sympathy through a pathetic look, either... just hiding a bit and not charging in with a big Superman logo on my chest. Usually I want to look like I can handle anything the job wants to give me; today... I didn't. :)

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Rae, I hope you are feeling better soon!

  • Angela replied 6 years ago

    Funny--I thought more people did this! I purposely dress poorly or wear a black top when I don't really want to talk that day. If I dress nicer than I feel then I end up feeling even worse the rest of the day because it's like I have something to live "up" to that I just don't have the energy for. I didn't realize so many people dress nicer on purpose to combat feeling down or off.

  • morethanbeige replied 6 years ago

    I don't want to waste my best outfits on blah days, because I feel I won't do the outfit justice. And then I feel the outfit is wearing me or I'm trying too hard or I'm just out of synch with my clothes. What a great question, Rae. I wasn't even really aware of this until you asked.

    Hope you feel better.

  • christieanne replied 6 years ago

    Now that you mention it, I have used color as a power statement - in reverse. Wear more gray and black when I want to blend.

    With doing interviews at retailers, I like to go in and be a customer before the interview. I try to dress pretty average - jeans, not a bright color top, nothing really distinctive. I am going a bit undercover to check out mood of store.

    Having an off day should mean wearing comfort clothes - whatever they may be. Hope you feel better on the weekend.

  • Scarlet replied 6 years ago

    I am sure my face communicates much more than my clothes in this respect. I think with clothing I make a conscious effort to always dress about the same level for work because I figure in a way it makes it less remarkable that I don't dress the same way as everyone else. Actually I wonder how they would react if I suddenly now started imitating them. They probably would be concerned.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    This is a very common reaction - to dress less fab when you are feeling a little off or sad. I've found that I deliberately wear happy, bright and sometimes sentimental outfits when I feel this way. That way when I look in the mirror, I am shocked into smiling.

    ((Hugs)). Feel better soon, Rae.

  • Transcona Shannon replied 6 years ago

    I don't dress poorly if I'm feeling off mentally, but if I'm not feeling well physically, I definitely do. Out come the more "schlepy" kind of outfits - it's almost like I don't want to waste wearing something nice when I'm feeling crappy.

  • greenglove replied 6 years ago

    Great topic! Rae, I get it.
    I dress more comfortably when I feel kind of down. I have lots of knit throw on dresses that look great but feel like PJs. It is part of my style.
    I do not feel like being in anything form- fitting when I am not feeling great.
    Funnily, I get complements on my comfort clothing often. I wear loose layers and muted colors. It makes me feel better.

  • Laura (rhubarbgirl) replied 6 years ago

    Definitely. I think wanting to reflect your own illness, or stress or whatever, on the outside does make sense. I wish sometimes I could just wear a sign or a t-shirt - "not feeling great, please don't try to engage me in pointless conversation." I do think that "dressing up to make yourself feel more motivated" can backfire, in that people expect you to be normal and you're just not yourself on that day.

    Then there's the blending in thing in general, environmental norms or feeling safer without fancy clothes or jewelry on, or not trying to stand out when you're trying to stay in the background on a work project or something.

You need to be logged in to comment