If I learned anything from watching Annie on repeat throughout my childhood, aside from that whole “the sun will come out tomorrow” bit, it’s that you’re never fully dressed without a smile. Now, no offense to this adorable chorus line of orphans, but even if you’re dressed to the nines and you paint a smile on, that doesn’t necessarily mean you feel as good as magazines say you look. I can honestly say, at 26 years old, that how your clothes affect your mood is never in the way you expect, because it’s not about what the media approves of or what models are wearing on the runways that really matter. The best clothes are the ones that make you feel amazing first and foremost, no matter what’s “hot” and what’s “not” this season.
To an extent, it’s true: It’s what you wear from ear to ear, not from head to toe, that really counts, but you know what they say about clothes making the man? They make the woman, too, but not in the sense that what you wear should determine your worth or social status. What I mean is, the clothes you wear should make you feel good about yourself, and should help you define your individual sense of style. With how materialistic and shallow society can be, though, I totally understand how the purpose of clothes can sometimes get lost in translation. It's a complicated thing, but for now, I’m here to tell you that what you wear can certainly make or break your mood; it’s simply up to you to choose pieces that make you feel like your best self, trends aside.
But why can clothes have so much power over your self-esteem in the first place?
Listen, feeling comfortable with your body image can be extremely difficult, and clothing obviously plays an important role here, given that it's inherently related to how you view your physique, and of course, the impossible standards society has created for women. If you effortlessly slip into a pair of slim-fit jeans, you might feel absolutely fabulous, but if you don’t love the way a bodycon dress hugs your curves, you might leave the dressing room feeling defeated. Sometimes the wrong size or an awkward fit can trigger a sensitive insecurity you have, and you know what? That’s completely normal, and nothing to get upset about.
“The way that the clothes rest on or cling to our bodies can bring out confidence issues as a result of the belief system that we have about our body,” Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, tells Elite Daily. Sometimes a shoulder strap just doesn't want to stay put, or you're constantly pulling at a dress that insists on riding up in a weird way when you walk. These things can definitely be frustrating, Dr. Forshee says, but it's not the end of the world.
The answer isn't to give up on finding your sense of style altogether, Forshee explains, nor is it to be hard on yourself or your body. Instead, she says, it's about finding a way to "create a [stronger] sense of self-confidence" by choosing your clothes based on what you think looks good and, more importantly, what feels good for you, instead of "going by what society suggests." Because, as frustrated as clothes can make you feel, they can also ignite an amazing sense of confidence and self-love, not to mention the opportunity to show off your unique style.
So the real question is, how do you find clothes that fit your style and personality, and how do you create a wardrobe that makes you feel good no matter what you put on?
Everyone has that one type of clothing they gravitate toward in the store. For me, it’s sweaters and sneakers. I cannot, for the life of me, walk by a pile of chunky knits and not stop to touch the fabric, nor can I pass up a markdown of Adidas shoes. My best friend, on the other hand, collects heels like it's her job, while my mom loves a good floral print. Tops, bottoms, and accessories are all, of course, essential in putting together of an outfit, but arguably the most important part of any look is its foundation: That’s right ladies, I’m talking about underwear.
As far as Adore Me's senior designer, Kaitlin Wilbur, is concerned, lingerie literally comes first when you're looking to dress for success and high self-esteem. "For me, no matter if it's work, school, or the gym, my base layer is the most important part of what I wear," she tells Elite Daily. "The right sports bra is integral to my workout, and the right bra is integral to my clothes fitting correctly and everything staying in place." Once you find a few bras and pairs of underwear that make you feel confident underneath your clothes, Wilbur says, then you can start mixing and matching pieces to create ensembles that look put-together and inspire you to exert the self-confidence you already feel.
"Over time, I have learned what brands fit me best and what brands don't fit me well, and I waste a lot less time trying things on now," Wilbur tells Elite Daily. "[Don't] sweat the brands that don't fit you — don't force it! If you're happy when you buy it, chances are you'll be happy when you wear it!"
To tell you the truth, I am far from a fashion guru or influencer, and that's perfectly fine with me and how I feel about my sense of style.
Through years of trial and error, I've figured out that the types of pieces that make me feel my best are athleisure leggings and oversized sweaters. I love skinny jeans, I loathe boot-cut pants, and I feel much more poised in a pair of sneakers or boots than I ever will in stilettos. It took me a while to feel comfortable in dressing rooms, and sure, from time to time, I still cringe when I look in the mirror if something I've thrown on doesn't look right according to my standards. In general, though, I love the way I dress because the only person I'm trying to impress is me.
So, no, clothes don't fully make the woman, but they can certainly make us feel a certain way about ourselves. Take note the next time you go shopping, and really pay attention to what pieces genuinely make you feel fabulous. When you stop worrying about what's trending, you start to uncover your own unique style that is perfectly yours. What matters is creating a closet that you look forward to opening each day, that invites you to throw on the first thing you see, because it just makes you feel that incredible, each and every time. And if a blouse or dress doesn't seem right for you anymore, toss it and move on. More room for the next staple, right?