I went to an all girls catholic high school, which means one thing: uniforms. I loved uniforms. I may have been the only person in my class who actually liked wearing the same shirt and skirt every day.
On the weekends I was faced with my real clothes. I would go to parties and all the girls wore their weekend uniform: black, tight and short. We had beepers back then, so having a beeper was very in, too. So were organizers, which I never really understood and last but not least, a bottle of water. Why we felt the need to hull around a bottle of water everywhere I don’t know, but most of us did. Gucci and water went hand in hand.
I never really fit into the party style scene. I felt like it was fake to dress for the guys so I wore regular street clothes. It wasn’t until college that I started making my own style.
Clothes started to have new meaning in my life. My clothes would directly manifest my moods. When I was manic, you better believe there were some fierce colors, maybe some glitter and fun accessories. Similarly, when I was depressed, my clothes turned gray and loose. But for the majority of my life, clothes weren’t important to me. It wasn’t until I realized my clothes not only affected my moods, but demonstrated my moods, that I started to pay attention.
If I was sad or felt depressed I would make myself get up and find something more on the manic side to wear. It didn’t clear up the depression but gave me a chance to try.
Today I do homeless outreach for the mentally ill. Every day I open my closet and see my real clothes. My skirts, dresses and funky fashion, and I almost want to cry when I have to put on my new uniform: plain, boring, blah, street clothes. No fashion sensibility whatsoever. You can’t approach a homeless person in Ralph Lauren. And you can’t run from a schizophrenic homeless person in a pencil skirt with heels.
And after months of being trapped in my clothes, I am feeling the depression of wearing lame clothes. I tell myself when the weekends come I will go back to my stylish outfits, but I don’t. I’m stuck in a clothes depression and it sucks.
When I worked with the mentally ill in a psych ward, I would donate clothes and saw how a cool jacket or nice top made a mentally ill person develop a slight smile or skip in their step. I witnessed firsthand the importance of clothes when treating depression. And when the manic patients came through, they stepped it up to a whole inpatient level. Florescent eye shadow mixed with a ton of colorful bangles jiggling on a wrist screamed mania.
In that experience, I learned the power of clothing.
Next time you feel sad, check your closet for your manic clothes and sport them with pride. And when you’re manic, chill out a bit and put on your depression clothes. If clothes illustrate a mood, switch them up. It just might create some balance in your life.