CLOTHING IS AN EMPOWERING TOOL
Clothing is a basic human need.
Originally used to protect and shelter the human body from rain, wind, heat, and cold, clothing has greatly expanded in its use and functions. Today clothing is a tool that fulfills other more developed social needs.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there are five basic needs identified that humans need to meet for them to have their personal, biological and social needs met. Clothing was originally created as a way to meet the biological needs tied to protection, warmth, and temperature control: physiological needs (Kuchler & Miller, 2005). As humans have evolved we have created multiple forms of communication, some forms are solely visual and communicated by the way we represent ourselves to the world. Clothing has served as a form of communication through symbols, allowing an individual to express their identity or affiliation with groups. In this way clothing helps us express where the groups we belong to and roles that we take on in our families, communities, and professions.( love/belonging).
Clothing is also a form of affects how we see ourselves. It affects our confidence, pride, and can reflect our current moods. In this way clothing plays a role in our self-esteem. Finally, clothing is a part of self-actualization. As we curate our wardrobes, express our personal styles and values through clothing we are finding fulfillment and an outlet of creativity through the clothes that we wear. Everyday when we decide what to wear and in that process if we feel like we are confident...
Our individual identities are expressed through the outfits and garments we choose. Clothing helps us construct and mediate factors such as social normativity, expectations, and our projection of self-identity to the world (Kuchler & Schaffrin, 2016). Clothing not only helps us curate our personal identities; it gives us a visual, social language to express ourselves and help us decipher the identities of others (Holroyd, 2017). In this way, clothing is highly social and communicative.
Clothing is not only a tool, but is also an extension of a person’s self. Erasmus of Rottersam, viewed clothing as “the body of the body”, meaning that clothing is just as personal as our physical being because we take it on not only as a physical extension of our bodies, but our clothing also includes the personalness of our identity and our sense of self (Hansen, 2000, p.11). Our clothing accompanies us through every motion, activity, errand, and good or bad day that we have. Just as we have memories stored of our life, our clothing has recorded our personal histories, our stains, creases, wrinkles, marks of wear, they are all a record of our personal story that our clothing has kept for us.
Every day, we are woven into these systems, structures and complexities solely by getting dressed. Therefore, clothing is an under considered, yet powerful and empowering tool. In addition, this is not an obscure tool; we all already have modern toolboxes -- closets -- full of them. Once we understand clothing as a tool, it is then up to us to decide how we will use these tools to shape and influence the world around us.