Someone in a MySpace chat group brought up the subject of dressing for a job interview earlier today. I thought about my own experiences, entering the professional world as a schoolteacher and how I used to try to dress for the part. I was a part-time poseur, leading a double life as a teacher by day and rock musician by night.
I've always loved dressing up, which you can see in this photo of me as a little girl:
As I got into glitter rock, my costumes got more elaborate:
Punk inspired even more extreme costumes:
Post-punk was also alot of fun:
When I became a teacher, I quickly realized that I needed a new costume, one that would allow me to present myself to the world as a serious professional:
No, I don't dress like this anymore, thankfully. But at that point in my career, I felt the need to appear competent and "teacher-like" and in my own warped imagination, this is what a teacher would dress like. Funny, huh? The costume of a "teacher" helped me to create my professional personality. The serious look made my students and parents feel safe and my co-workers and administrators treated me with respect.
Nowadays, I pretty much dress in comfortable clothes. I don't wear anything that would negate my creative side, but I try to tone it down so that my appearance is not too distracting to those I have to work with. Occasionally in the past I have allowed myself the freedom to wear a streak of crazy colored blue or pink in my hair. One time I was called into the principal's office and asked to remove the offending color from my hair. We were two or three weeks away from vacation, so I convinced the principal to allow me to keep it, and agreed to return from vacation without the pink streak. I was and still am a good teacher, so I think the compromise worked well for everyone.
When I'm off-track (on vacation) I usually bleach my hair and completely dye it within a week's time. I pull out my old thrift store clothes and get more creative with my look.
One of my favorite magazines is a Japanese import called "Fruits," which features cover to cover shots of Harajuku District fashion plates. I love their wacky sense of style and I would dress that way all the time if I thought a woman in her mid-40's could get away with it. I still manage to have fun from time to time.
I think most of us play dress up at some point in our lives, and not just in childhood. Costumes are valuable because they allow us to act out personality traits which we desire or which are already present, but which might not be obvious to the people around us. There is also an inherent danger in wearing a costume, for as time passes and it becomes a regular part of your life, you can start to lose the ability to separate your true self from the self-image your costume has created for you.
It's important to remind ourselves that clothing, hair and make-up are tools that can help us to create an illusion. I have the same values and beliefs whether I'm wearing a leather jacket or a powersuit, but some people will only listen to me if I wear the leather jacket, others will only listen if I wear the powersuit.