The Psychological Dimension of Women’s Choice of Clothing: The Case of a Self-Critical Artist in ‘What Not to Wear’



Credit: What Not to Wear

Credit: What Not to Wear

If the majority of young adults chose fashionable clothes to garner the large chunk of the attention pie, Beryl, a 23-year-old illustrator from New York City, settled for all-purpose men’s boots, black jeggings, and oversized men’s white shirts, in the belief that the wardrobe would make her invisible, free from prejudice and scrutiny of others.

Beryl, the recent makeover project of What Not to Wear’s Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, was another case of poor self-image, which went on extreme. What started as Beryl’s way of hiding her insecurity as a teen morphed into a habit, which was difficult to let go and continued to control her present. According to Sean, Beryl’s boyfriend, the self-critical artist used to be an ugly-duckling nerd in her youth. She held on to that perspective too long, even if she had already bloomed into a beautiful swan. Beryl’s beautiful, creative persona was overshadowed by the junk and laundry-deprived eight pieces of clothing she wore interchangeably.

Beryl is a living proof that teen insecurity can take many forms. It is neither limited to the desire to have a model-thin body, perfect hair, nor branded and fashionable clothes. In the case of Beryl, her insecurity was manifested through mundane wardrobe, which catapulted her to a below plain Jane status. It is, however, pertinent to point that regardless of the manifestations, it is beyond question that women’s choice of clothing is just a tip of an iceberg. There is more to it, than a mere expression of fashion sense.

In Through the wardrobe: women’s relationships with their clothes authors Allison Guy, Maura Banim, and Eileen Green argued that women always attach meaning to the clothes they wear. Women’s choice of clothing can give others a glimpse of their psychological state as much as their fashion sense. This is true for Beryl. Beryl’s feeble perception of herself (psychological factor) hindered her artistic soul in having a free flow toward her choice of wardrobe (fashion sense). In her over indulgent of what others might think of her, Beryl’s insecurity was nurtured and eventually dwarfed the grown up woman that she is to her friends, family, and boyfriend.

At the near end of the show, Beryl had an emotional moment, with Stacy joining the ride. In tears, Beryl admitted that it never came to her that she would look fabulous in patterned and colored clothes without feeling she’s trying to be someone else. She realized how much that ugly-duckling perspective pulled her down and snatched her ability to express herself creatively. At that point, Beryl was adamant, she would not pacify that anxiety-induced teen lurking within, not even once anymore. As Clinton puts it, everybody has insecurities; but everyone differs in response to their effects. Some choose to coddle them while others decide to let them go, and by the unfolding of the episode’s events, I can sense that Beryl is poised to choose the latter.

The way we dress reflects the affective (psychological) and the conative (natural tendency) domains in us. Like the old Beryl, we can choose to make the negative facets of the said areas the highlight of our everyday living or learn from them with abandonment to be able to celebrate the positive, just like the renewed Beryl, which stood out after her What Not to Wear experience. The choice is always ours!



*This article was originally published at Yahoo! TV © 2011, Yahoo! Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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