The Clothes We Wear

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art history expedition july 2013

About a year ago I ran across some mommy bloggers who were challenging each other to dress nicely even if they were going to be home all day. I also read a couple of articles by homeschoolers who have their children wear uniforms on school days and it got me thinking.

You see we are all very influenced by our environments. The things we see and hear strongly effect our emotions and even our thought processes. We know this is true about clothing on others because we make judgements about complete strangers based on their clothing or lack thereof frequently, but I was surprised to discover that what we wear also effects the way that we think about ourselves, our jobs and our lives.

I’m not naturally someone who wants to spend a lot of time thinking about clothing and fit, or fixing my hair. I want to get up in the morning, dress and have it off my mind for the rest of the day. In order to accomplish this for many years I got up, pulled on the first dress in my closet that was suitable for the day’s activities and left it at that. The children did the same thing. We made a distinction between church clothes and play clothes but that was it.

This past summer I found myself in a thrift store looking for dresses for Mouse. Once again she had shot up and the only things I could find were a couple of school uniform jumpers. Good price, durable fabric, long enough (always a trick with her) so I bought them thinking that I would let her use them for play clothes. A few weeks later though I was at Target and they had school uniform polo shirts on sale. An idea sparked and I bought each child two navy polo shirts and informed them that we would now be dressing for school!

For the most part I have stuck to that. Some weeks haven’t gone as well due to getting behind on the laundry or the boys’ amazing ability to wear out and out grow pants, but the weeks that we do wear school clothes every day this is what I see:

  • When I call time for school everyone already has it in their heads that this is a school day. Even Jack knows that when the bigs come down in school uniforms he should go get in his playpen for alone time
  • Everyone knows when school is over because I ask them to change their clothes. There is a clear signal that it is time for free play and that I am going to be occupied with my own projects and work and not available every minute
  • When a child has dawdled all morning and has work to finish while the others are changing to go play, the point is made clearly that dawdling is a poor choice. I don’t have to say anything
  • It is clear in everyone’s mind and attention whether we are running errands or going on a field trip. The public also can easily make this distinction and I am more easily able to keep track of everyone in a museum
  • So much for the children; what about the Mama?

    Well I’ve come to realize that I need to recognize by my clothing that I am a professional doing a professional’s job. When I take my job seriously enough to dress for it, the children and the public take me seriously too! Clear signals for everyone just from putting a little thought into my clothes. I still dress in the morning and don’t usually change, but add an apron as necessary. Nothing real fancy, just semi-casual office wear works well for me but it sets my mind on doing this job of parenting and teaching and doing as well as I ever did any other professional job.

    And when I have to go to a meeting or talk with a doctor or school personnel? They take my opinions and decisions seriously because it’s clear that I take myself and my job seriously. My clothing gives that signal without my saying a word.



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    3 Responses to The Clothes We Wear

    1. Eileen says:

      I don’t have children and am therefore not involved in home schooling but your comments on the impact of how we dress resonated with me.

      I used to work from home one day a week and I found that the best way to get my ‘office head’ for homeworking was to actually wear proper shoes in the same way that I would if I left home to go into work. Continuing to wear the slippers I would normally wear around the house didn’t allow me to adopt the right frame of mind needed to work effectively and efficiently.

      It is interesting to read the effect your change in dressing policy has had on all your children. Thank you for sharing this with us.

      • K_Steinmann says:

        Living here in the Northeast I’m trying to keep shoes that are worn out into the snow and salt from being worn all over the house as it keeps the dirt down. Thinking I’m going to invest in “school” shoes for everyone. I can probably outfit all three schoolchildren for under $20 at a thrift store….K

    2. Pingback: Spring Has Sprung! And Mouse Has Grown…. | Sticks, Stones & Chicken Bones

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