Shahidha Bari over at Aeon has written an articulate essay about what clothes say. She perfectly captures many of the things I feel when I wear certain items of clothing and the relationship I have with them. Rarely does someone write about clothing this way making it a thought-provoking and somewhat entertaining read.

On how we are in clothes:

Perhaps we simply are in clothes. And in clothes, our various selves are subject to modification, alteration and wear. This happens in clumsy ways – the glasses you hope might lend you new seriousness, the reddened lips that mimic arousal – but also in innumerably subtle ways: the heel that cants the body, contracting your stride, the tie that stiffens your neck and straightens your spine. Some garments constrict and reshape us physically, but also, sometimes, emotionally. And there are garments we can feel, that itch and chafe, that make apparent the difference of their textures to that of the surface of our skin, as though we and they are not one. In these, we are alert to the experience of being in our bodies, in a way that seems at odds with the rest of the world gliding past, apparently immune to discomfort. In such garments, too, we are always alert to the ever-present physicality of our bodies.

On the anxiety we feel:

The anxiety of authenticity is never far away from dress. We seek clothes that ‘are us’, and there is an implicit insolence in the ready-to-wear, off-the-rail garments we rifle through, that unsettle us in suggesting that our precise measurements might be generic, predictable and average. Still, there can be immense tenderness in the ways our clothes tell the stories of a self subject to all kinds of alteration: the bitter-sweetness of ‘growing’ into a coat inherited from a long-gone parent; folding away the maternity dress you will never have cause to wear again. Sometimes, there is only anguish: the blood stain on a T-shirt from that most terrible of days. Clothes mark our mutability. They parallel the vicissitudes of our lives in their subtle shifts of colour and sheen, and they stretch over time.

I highly recommend reading the entire essay here.