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Wednesday, 11 July 2007
 
 
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Window Shopping: Trying on Another Side of Yourself I've been going through my closet lately, and premature ejaculation trying to decide what new "look" I wanted to take on now that I've evolved past my 20s (ha!). After much thought, I decided that it would be fun to try something completely different, to get out of the box of "this is what I wear" and "this is what I don't wear." I came up with this exercise to explore who I want to be, and who I think I am. I'm having so much fun with it (and I've barely gotten started), I thought you might enjoy the exercise too. Do you remember playing dress-up as a child? Perhaps you snuck into Mom's closet, tried on a lovely evening gown that gathered in folds around your ankles, and pretended you were a premature ejaculation treatment princess. At Halloween we all got to try on different roles and identities: I remember being Snow White, a gypsy, and Raggedy Ann, among others. What fun! Unfortunately, when we grow up, a lot of the fun stops. Unless it's Halloween, adults don't have permission to play dress-up anymore. The continuing trend towards adult celebration of Halloween (the older I get, the more Halloween costume parties I seem to get invited to) indicates that adults, just like children, need to play dress-up every once in a while. It's fun and allows you to express a different part of yourself you wouldn't normally let out on a regular weekday. The purpose of this exercise is to let out the other "yous" even if it's not Halloween. As we get older, we start to get stuck in habits. For example, you might still be wearing your hair long, just because that's what you decided to do to it five years ago. As your identity becomes crystallized during adolescence, you might have also gotten into the habit of wearing certain clothes or styles because that's what the people around you wear. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of conformity that occurs - even in so-called non-conformists. If you work in corporate America you may have a closet chock full of conservative grey suits. But you can just as easily become part of the cookie cutter if you're covered in tattoos and piercings, thanks to your "identity" as an artist or counter-culture agitator or whatever. Worse, the fashion industry is constantly shoving crap down our throats, trying to tell us what we should look like and want to wear. Suddenly four designers in Paris have decided to bring back mini-skirts, and so you're trying on ridiculous black vinyl skirts even though you hate mini-skirts and your legs aren't meant for them anyway. What the heck do these designers know about who you are? So have you ever stopped to look at yourself in the mirror and really look at the clothes you wear? What do your clothes say about you? Do you like your clothes? Do you like how they fit? Do they make you feel good or bad about your body? Do they accurately reflect who you really are? Do you have clothes for different tasks or roles that you play? For example, I have a variety of clothes for different situations. I have suits for business meetings, though I wear them rarely. I own a lot of funky, trendy clothes that tend towards the "space age" in design and feel. I also own a variety of sports-related clothing items, including sweatshirts, sweatpants, and surf gear. Sometimes I will be in a more conservative mood and wear something classic. Other times I feel adventurous and want to be flamboyant. I recently bought a wig (white), and I've got a silver dress to match it. I haven't actually worn it out yet, but it's definitely going to happen one of these days. Sometimes I feel strange that I like so many different styles of clothes. But I've decided that this can also be a lot of fun. I can be a chameleon, putting on outfits and styles as needed. This isn't to say I lose my identity in the clothes switch - but that I reveal a different part of myself at the times I wear different clothes. When I am wearing a sexy, feminine outfit - tight dress, high heels - I am expressing my sexual side. I feel different than when I am schlepping around in jeans and a t-shirt to run errands. Even so, sometimes I tend to shop on "automatic." I've created rules in my head about what Stephanie wears and what she doesn't. For example, Stephanie does not wear pink! Stephanie hates pink! So it would be a rare day, indeed, to see Stephanie trying on a pink dress at the department store. While many of these rules are based in reasonable observations of what I look good in, other rules are just old habits. Maybe I don't like pink for the most part, but maybe there's a stunning pink pleather jacket just dying to be tried on. Could be hideous, could be cool. You just never know. You never know, until you try. So. We finally get to the fun part. Your assignment. The exercise. Your mission is this: To take a day. Or a weekend. Or even a month. Take a friend if you want, or go by yourself. And go...window shopping! In fact, you can do more than just window shop, you can shop shop, but here's the catch: You must go to a store you don't normally go to. You must try things on you would never normally consider. You must have fun with this! This is worth repeating: HAVE FUN! Getting started: Before you go on your shopping expedition, go through your closets. What clothes fit your idea of who "you" are? What do not? Throw out and give away the clothes that you don't need or wear anymore. Next, take 15 to 20 minutes to write in your journal. Brainstorm ideas on who "you" are and what "roles" you take on during the week. Next write down some "personas" (or fantasy identities) you would secretly like to have, but don't let out very often. For example, your list of roles might be: mother, wife, teacher, karate student. Your list of personas might be: punk rock star, temptress, mountain climber. Get going! Now it's time to window shop. Take your list of roles and personas with you. First, go to the store and try on something that is completely opposite of what you would normally wear. For example: If you normally dress conservatively, go to the wackiest store you can find and try on a complete, funky outfit you would be embarrassed to be seen in. Go ahead - it's OK, the clerk won't remember who you are anyway. If you are normally known for your flamboyant dress, try on a suit. Dress up like you're a star of a Jackie Collins novel. Next, try on clothes for your roles and personas. For example, if you secretly would like to play the part of "Academy Award winning actress," try on a beautiful evening gown. Have fun with this! If you're really brave, get your friend to bring a camera and take photos! Some other fun things to try: If you go with a friend: Have each of you pick out a completely new outfit for each other as a surprise. Go to a vintage clothing store and try on clothes from different eras. Now you're from the 50s. Now you're a blues diva from the 1930s. Go to an ethnic section of town and try on some clothes from another culture. Don't forget accessories. Hats, gloves, wigs, and jewelry can be fun ways to explore different looks and personas. If you're really brave, try on some clothes from the opposite sex. That's right, you heard me - cross dress. Get in touch with your masculine side (or your feminine side if you are a guy). Finally, see if you can find an outfit that you wouldn't normally buy, but you think you might actually wear. It's OK if it's a bit of a stretch. If you've got the money, buy it. Why not? Try something new. Wear it in the next few weeks and see how it makes you feel. Notice if people treat you differently depending on the clothes you wear. (If you don't have the money to buy the outfit, that's OK. Perhaps you can find something you forgot about in your closet at home that can substitute.) If you need new clothes, treat yourself to some new outfits after your window shopping session. Don't try to force anything. Just notice later if you bought anything different this time around. Some food for thought while you're on your window shopping spree: What issues come up for you as you step into a strange store? Are you annoyed by the clothing styles you don't normally wear? Do you make judgments on people based on the fact that they wear clothes you don't like? If you are feeling judgmental, stop and consider why. Are you threatened? Are you angry because you disagree with the politics behind a particular style of dress? Are you curious? What would you really want to wear but are afraid to, because it's too "out there" or you are afraid of looking silly? Make a point of trying this outfit on. What colors and textures do you normally wear? Try on some different colors and textures. If you try on opposite sex clothes: So...what does it feel to look like a man (or a woman)? Would you think about yourself differently if you were the opposite sex? What is it about your sex that you identify with? That you don't? Is your gender the basis of your identity? If not, what is? Does trying on clothes bring up body image issues for you? What types of clothes bring these issues up for you? Does your body image keep you from wearing clothes you secretly dream of wearing? What can you do to find clothes that make you feel good and have fun in? What do you think people your age/gender/race "should be" wearing? Does this idea fit who you actually are? What does it feel like to try on the clothes of your roles and personas? When you return from your expedition, write your thoughts in your journal. You can also share your experiences here on our bulletin boards. 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