Melodramatic notes- getting dressed, but for who?

I am back in the blue melodrama of my teenage years, maybe that’s the magic effect of spending the majority of my time in a room I used to listen to “teen idle” by Marina Diamandis almost religiously. When I moved out here, I wanted to embark on the golden years, but as soon as I step my feet back in this room, the melodrama and teen angst is back- more present than ever.

dress- old UO archive, shirt- some concept store, bag- The Vampire’s Wife

The art of dressing, may or may not be the thing I have dedicated my life to so far. In my room, I am surrounded by rails of clothing, in my bathroom are mountains of laundry, and my browser is full of tabs displaying rare vintage pieces I’d like to own. Long story short, I guess, I think about dressing, or more precisely, getting dressed a lot. Maybe more than the average person. All the time.

It’s funny how “getting dressed” has changed in the past 18 months. If Karl would have seen the surge of sweatpants, I bet he would have fainted. Since life is this constant on and off the battle with an airborne virus, I cannot help myself but constantly wonder, who do I dress for? Is it the zoom meeting, men on dating apps, Instagram, the catholic neighbours I only glimpse when I walk the dog or is it myself?

When I grew up, the most common sentence I can recall when it came to getting dressed was “oh dear, what will they think?”. The pronoun they did in this case, not stand for a gender-neutral identifying individual, but more for an accumulation of different personas I did not have a direct relationship to, encompassing neighbours I never speak to, people I could bump into at the bus stop and classmates I couldn’t even remember the name of. “They” are, in short, a group of people, I didn’t care about as individuals. But put together, they were this imaginary army of critics, who had the destruction of my clothes set as their goal. No matter how I tried to be a rebel, there were certain days, when the word “they” was the scariest sound I’ve ever heard.

It’s weird, how I, or other people, reserve so much headspace and energy, just to see themselves in the mirror through the eyes of someone, who subjectively does not like the way they dress. Of course, we all want to be loved, at the very end of the day. Maybe we are scared deep down, of what negative emotion the way we dress could evoke in someone else. Life is delicate at times, minds can be manipulative, and the last thing anyone wants is the destruction of something real.

If you are rather anxious like me, on some days, the way you dress can either uplift you or sweep the bottom off your feet.

Since I have been back at my parents’ house, I have been wandering through my closet, partially enjoying the weird emotions of reunion with who I used to be. Sometimes, I flick through my closet and realise how many times I dressed for others, not myself. I am very guilty of dressing for either Instagram or for men, which are two things closer intertwined with one another as one may think.

Dressing for Instagram, as well as dressing for men, is connected with that infectious rush of dopamine and serotonin. Both substances, my anxious brain is clearly lacking, hence why it gets addicted to them so quickly. On Instagram, bold colours and anything rather risky is what the algorithm loves. And anything the algorithm loves is what the people love. Your sense of style gets conditioned to work for this alternative universe, dominates by likes, comments and shares. Growing up on the internet, I guess it would be wrong to deny that my sense of self-worth is not affected by “likes”. Of course, it is. Remember the Gucci Marmont bag a few years ago, which seemed to be living rent-free in anyone’s Instagram feeds? This bag is in my humble opinion a perfect example of how a piece can work well for the virtual world. On Instagram, wearing a marmot bag suggested belonging to some sort of cool online style subculture, which had contradictory to “real life subcultures” no real substance apart from the possession of an it-bag. Joining the club was expensive, firstly because of the Gucci price tag, and secondly, wearing a marmot slowly became connotated to the ultimate loss of individuality. The real question in this game here is, what do we want from viral garments? Do we really want to possess them or just be part of what they express?

Dressing for men, as I said, can be connected with dressing for Instagram, since in times of a pandemic, when every aspect of life miraculously morphed into the tiny screens, is mostly happening on Instagram. If I would have to take a shot for every picture I have ever posted just to get the attention of a male human being, I would be very drunk very quick trust me. On the internet, I felt like I could dress sexy to show them what they are missing out on or to stimulate their desire for me. Instagram felt like the ultimate weapon of control. I could wear whatever I wanted, without wearing it in real life necessarily.The result was the feeding of my male validation addiction, which is too easy to fall into, especially when you are young. There is no doubt that I (like many others) had inhaled the male gaze like toxic smoke, just for it to be forever engraved in the back of my head.This might have been the point where the persona I was on Instagram started to contradict the persona I seemed to embody in real life.

On Instagram, I show the greenest grass I can grow, I show the highs more than the lows and just generally how glorious my life is. I stopped taking myself seriously on Instagram ages ago- but just because I did that, does not mean that others won’t. My parents still look with a surprising seriousness at my profile, which never fails to stun me. I always reply, “it’s just art, or at least be trying to curate, not an accurate depiction of my real life”, which in their generation makes little to no sense. Sometimes, when I lie wide awake in bed, in the middle of the night, I imagine how my life would be like if I would actually be the person I pretend to be on Instagram. I still have no answer for this. On Instagram, I picture just a very curated side of mine and leave out the other stuff, the “melodrama” as I like to call it.  

Who do we dress for now? A question so deep and personal, unable to be answered in a single sentence. I have written more than a thousand words about it now, and oh well, I still don’t know.

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