Does how women dress matter?

I am going to discuss something that is really important for women. It’s going to get a lot of criticism, and it’s OK. I can take it.

Your clothing.

That’s right. I am here to tell you that what you wear, and how you dress, matters.

Why? Because how you feel in your clothes affects the way you walk, talk, smile, interact, and well, lead.

Don’t mistake what I am saying. I am not going to tell you how you should dress.  I am not going to list dos and do nots. I am not going to preach to you about pencil skirts, black slacks, or pressed white shirts. I won’t tell you to wear sleeves, avoid white, or to always add a pop of color.

I am going to tell you that as a woman, your clothes matter.

For years I have been saying this, and for years I have been taking a lot of pie in the face.

Men tell me I sound sexist. Women tell me I sound anti-feminist. My kids tell me I sound like my grandmother.

But here’s the thing: you should wear what makes you feel confident in your skin. You should wear things that show your smile and make everyone around you feel respected because you cared enough to dress nice. Most of all, you should wear clothes that make you shine.

All the time.

That’s right.

Even at Target.

It’s OK to shine.  It’s not illegal to wear your nice clothes outside of church. Someone doesn’t need to die for you to dress nice. You don’t have to limit “how you have always wanted to dress” to once or twice a year. You can wear your fancy to Target if you wish! It’s legal!

Now I am not advocating burning all your yoga pants. But I am advocating taking a hard look at your closet, and asking yourself, “do I really feel great when I wear this?”

And if the answers is “no,” give it away.

When you only have items in your closet that make you feel confident and comfortable, guess what you choose to wear? Guess what you suddenly feel like? Guess what you make others around you feel?

A few years ago I decided to make my closet my “church.” I decided I needed a place in my home that was mine, where I could go each night to think and be filled up. It’s true: this is my closet. All my friends know I call my closet my “church.”

It is my special space where I go before bed to decompress as I pick out my clothes for the next day. I have a calendar of goals that hangs near the entry. I write down things, give myself gold stars, and plan my next day. I decided to get rid of anything in my “church” that didn’t belong. I gave away anything I wore to hide how I felt and how I looked. I started wearing things I was saving to wear for special occasions. What the heck was I saving it for? I took six bags to the local clothing shelter, and I never looked back.

I love fashion. I love beautiful clothes. It’s OK. It doesn’t mean I’m not bright or I’m not serious about my job.  I do my best to dress nice every day. I think it’s respectful to my patients, colleagues, and family to dress nice. All the time, women dressing for work events, interviews, dates, or speeches ask me, “Sasha, what should I wear?”

I always tell them the same thing:

Go into your closet. Find the thing that makes you feel the most confident and the most comfortable as you.

And then: Wear that.

Women often wear things they wouldn’t normally wear to important interviews, meetings, or presentations. Don’t change your personal style just because you are on stage. If you are wearing something uncomfortable, chances are you may act as uncomfortable as you look. The last thing you want to worry about is your clothing. You want to project YOU. So whatever that is, wear it!

Now, if you want to wear things you currently don’t wear, for whatever silly reason (such as the “oh, I will wear those clothes some day when I am two sizes smaller, and I deserve to” craziness), please wear them. Change your look. You want to wear red heels? You can. You have always wanted to wear bright colors? Rock on with your bad self.

You are a woman. You can wear whatever you want. It’s legal to change your style at any age, anytime. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission. Dress for what makes you feel great about yourself, at any size or age!

And don’t forget to add a pop of color.

Sasha K. Shillcutt is an anesthesiologist who blogs at Brave Enough.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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