Your clothes and personal style can absolutely just be utilitarian if you want.
They cover your unmentionables and protect you from the elements, end of story.
But they can also be and do much more.
They can be a mode of personal expression, a mood-lifter, a confidence-booster and even a life motivator—if you’ll only let them be.
I’m not saying that you’re under any obligation to become obsessed with fashion or look perfect all the time.
That’s a whole different thing.
I’m talking about dressing in a way that makes you feel good and makes others around you see you the way that you want them to see you.
For each person, that means something different, which is a wonderful thing.
Clothing as tools of happiness is not about cookie-cutter do’s and don’ts, it’s about figuring out what kind of style enhances who you already are and maybe makes you even better.
1. Prioritize Comfort
There’s a fine line between pushing yourself a bit out of your clothing comfort zone and forcing yourself into a discomfort zone.
No matter how great you look on an objective level or how many people say you’re working that outfit, if you don’t feel good in it, there’s really no point.
Someone totally owning a questionable look will always outshine the person wearing designer duds and a pained expression.
You have to find the happy medium between sweatpants level comfort and confidence comfort.
A great outfit probably won’t be as comfy as your pajamas, but you shouldn’t leave the house wearing anything you even kind of hate.
Ditto for things that are physically uncomfortable—no pair of shoes is worth a night ruined by blisters or aching arches.
2. Take a Risk
Despite the high importance of comfort, there’s something very important to be said about a bit of risk when it comes to your personal style.
If you don’t occasionally take a small style risk, you are much more likely to fall into the dreaded fashion rut.
You know the rut.
It’s when your current wardrobe looks frighteningly similar to the outfits you wore five years ago and nothing in your closet even remotely excites you anymore.
That’s a bad place to be.
And the only way out is through trying something new that you’ve never done before.
For each person that will be something different, but if there’s a trend or look you’ve seen on others and thought, “That’s awesome, but I could never pull that off,” it’s probably a sign that you need to try to pull it off, come what may.
As moms around the world are wont to say, you shouldn’t follow the crowd.
You’re a long ways from high school now, so it’s high time you stopped worrying about the cool kids and the newest trend—unless, of course, you’re totally in love with the newest trend.
There are most certainly times that some level of conformity matters (like an interview), but on your own time, let your freak flag fly.
If you think Cosby sweaters are the illest, then by all means, rock those sweaters.
If you can’t get enough of vintage-style pillbox hats ala Jackie O, then wear one whenever you damn well please.
The bottom line is that your personal taste should rule your wardrobe and you should wear what you love and what makes you happy as often as you possibly can.
4. Use Color
It’s not news that color has power.
Different hues have long been proven to have different effects on mood.
Most of us gravitate towards certain colors more than others. Some of that has to do with taste and some of it has to do with what complements our hair and skin coloring.
But you can also be intentional about choosing to wear colors for a desired effect on your mood or that of others.
Here’s a quick and dirty keyword color guide:
Red—Power, passion, sex, hunger, intensity
Blue—Peace, tranquility, softness, trust, dependability
Green—Refresh, growth, nature, fresh, bright, new
Yellow —Happy, sunny, inviting, friendly, fun
Orange—Action, energy, creativity, enthusiasm, strength
If you tend to play it safe with neutrals, perhaps it’s time to give some of these colors a whirl—it’s even ok to take baby steps by just throwing in accessories in colors that can help you channel a certain energy or feeling.
Some things just can’t be explained—like style mojo.
You probably have a few items in your wardrobe that seem to have some kind of magical powers—you put them on and suddenly you feel better looking, more confident and just altogether fabulous.
These are your go-to pieces when the stakes are high, like on a hot date or a high school reunion.
The challenge is to figure out what it is about that outfit or that piece of clothing that gives you an injection of mojo and use that as a guidepost the next time you go clothes shopping.
You might even consider not dropping a dime on anything that doesn’t give you that feeling.
Can you just imagine how amazing it would be if everything you owned gave you the same swagger those few magical pieces do?
You’d be unstoppable.
Let’s be real: there’s no shame in our Sunday morning yoga pants game.
But when you go out into the world, you ought to arm yourself with threads that make you walk a little taller and feel just a little bit happier about the world.
After all, life is too short to wear clothes that don’t make you feel marvelous.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Nicole Betti
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Michael Tapp/Flickr