I’ve been thinking a lot about being dressed-up and the judgement that goes with it.
I remember after I had given birth and had some girlfriends come over to meet the baby, one of them commented that I did not look like a new mom at all. And that my husband must be doing all the baby’s work. All that because I had worn a clean dress, brushed up my hair and had applied lipstick because I was excited at the prospect of “socializing” and having people over. Being a mom doesn’t mean that you have to go parading in front of people in dirty hair or milk stained clothes. It was as if a badge I had to wear to display how busy I was or was a scale on which my parenting responsibilities would be measured.
When it comes to work, I have always made it a point to be dressed up. And by no means that meant spending an hour on makeup or obsessing over the jewelry that goes with the outfit. For starters, my make-up routine is all of 5 minutes! ( I shared my 5 minute makeup routine in this post ) and I have always have had the habit of keeping my clothes ready for the next day, the night before. Something my mom instilled in us growing up. But, I remember some of my colleagues who were moms (I wasn’t at that time) complain how luxurious it must feel to have the time in the world to get ready and how chaotic their lives were, that picking whatever came in their hands was the way of getting ready. I wondered if how mismatched or disheveled your clothes were, was any indication of how fabulous of a job you were doing balancing the home and office.
In college, there was a female professor who called me to her office and said to me – you are a good student and therefore I say this. Remember you are an engineering student – you don’t have to dressup or wear jewelry. That is for the students who don’t take their careers seriously. I was baffled. Scared even. I was one of those front-row type students, the nerds raising their hand for every question and crying over every lost point. Did my teachers perceive me as someone who wasn’t serious about her studies? I couldn’t risk affecting my image in front of my teachers. I contemplated if not putting any efforts in your self would be an indicator for how much my studies and career mattered to me! I even asked my dad’s friend who was a ophthalmologist to prescribe me glasses ( even though I dint need them ) so I could hold up the nerd status.
Why can’t we be serious about our career and also be stylish? Why cant a mom breastfeed her baby and stay up all night but also put on a little lipstick when she’s meeting her friends? Why cant a career-woman spend a few minutes each morning being well put-together and own the boardroom? Why is there judgement around being dressed-up and implied that she has the luxury of time, doesn’t have responsibilities, must not be smart, must be frivolous about work?
I wore a little makeup everyday when I was home during maternity leave because that helped me feel better about myself. I was struggling with post-partum depression, feeling a vacuum because I was suddenly home all day after so many years of working. The makeup was my self-care amidst the leaking milk, the spitups, the new sleep schedules. I wore good clothes and jewelry in college because I was an overweight, short, dark-skinned kid. In the Indian society a girl with these traits always get commented on by some well-meaning aunty and is on the receiving side of unsolicited advice on how to improve complexion or lose weight. I chose to dressup well and make that my external identity – that was my way to deal with my body image.
That was how I unconsciously fell in love with dressing up. I spend an extra five minutes to plan for my work outfit because my dad taught me the importance of being well put-together. People take a person who is well-dressed more seriously. Would you believe a man dressed in rags versus a man dressed in a suit when you ask for directions on the street?
Well dressed is not same as being expensively dressed. Well dressed is not the same as spending in front of the mirror for hours. I spoke about that in my interview with Kiss108, it is not about being dressed in designer clothes but about being put-together. Not only for the impression you make on others but for your own inner self-confidence.