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Frivolous Fashion, or Language of Love?

December 17, 2016

 (Hiding in the eucalyptus trees near the river Jordan while visiting Israel last month)

 

My friend has a secret skill.  It’s a meaningful, practical activity that she’s honed, but kept hidden. 

 

If any of her buddies ask for her expertise, she is more than happy to accommodate—she loves to help.  But when pressed about why she hasn’t developed a website or publicly offered her talent, she says, “I don’t know.  It all seems so frivolous”.

 

Her talent?

 

She’s a Closet Editor.  She goes into people's homes and helps them overhaul their wardrobes.  Then she takes them shopping at second hand stores, filling in the blanks in those closets with earth-friendly, affordable clothing.

 

A “closeted” closet editor!  But-- why stay in the closet about that? 

 

One of the biggest misunderstandings about fashion is this idea that clothes don’t really matter.  With such a focus on the lavish lives of celebrities, trend-chasing, and disposable clothing, fashion gets a bad rap for frivolity.  But that's not the whole picture.  

 

Why is fashion frivolous, when clothes can mean the difference between remaining on unemployment or landing a great job?

 

Why, when fashion is seen and heard even before body language?  We communicate a message to the world with clothes.  Clothing is a language.  It speak without words. There’s a tongue wagging in the fabric that wraps up our bodies, and boy, do we make noise with those duds!  

 

We show gratitude with our clothing when we're invited to a fancy wedding.  We suit up for negotiations in strong silhouettes and serious colors.  To a homeless person, the gift of a coat is the difference between warmth or hypothermia. 

 

Clothing matters a lot. 

 

On a visit to Israel last month, I made a decision to dress modestly the entire time.  Not because I was expected to-- the local custom in Israel varies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Some folks are secular, some are religious, and everyone dresses in all manner of attire.   I just wanted to make it easy, blend in, and be prepared for days at sacred synagogues.   I liked being appropriately attired. It was a Jewish heritage tour, so I knew I'd spend a lot of time around all types, from conservative orthodox Jews, to Muslims, to American tourists.  

 

My boyfriend wasn’t thrilled.  We live in Vegas, and he’s used to seeing me in skirts and high heels.  But dressing modestly solved problems!  Packing was a snap, and my luggage was underweight because I wasn't trying to show off.  There was zero concern about the way I looked at sacred sites.  Throwing my hair under a beanie, I almost felt a tinge of belonging there...it was the right choice. I enjoyed packing and wearing clothes that I rarely wear at home. 

 

The tendency to toss fashion up as a frivolity is understandable.  I get sad when I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed and one of my fashion videos is sandwiched between photos of the horror in Aleppo.  Perspective and balance is valuable.

 

But it doesn’t minimize the fact that a single mom can make a better life for her babies with a knockout second-hand blazer on a job interview.  On a personal level, clothing has a direct influence on people’s lives.  Where else can you make more immediate visual impact on someone than with their clothes, hair and makeup?  It's fascinating. Think of makeover shows like What Not To Wear, or video of a homeless person getting a shave.

 

People who are looking to make an impact in their careers have a world of choices in the fashion industry!

 

Most importantly, we need art and beauty like we need food.  Fashion, art, and music are the things that make us remember we aren't alone in life.  They remind us the Universe hears our prayers, and looks over our shoulder with gentle whispers of “I love you”.   Without art, we have little to give back to the world when our spiritual reserves are low.

 

Humanity needs expert thrifters, fashion stylists and closet editors.  Small pleasures like a pretty party frock—or waterproof shoes in sub-zero weather—can bring a note of joy to our lives. 

 

Back in Israel, I left Shabbat dinner and hopped into the elevator to go back to my room at the King David hotel.  As another girl passed the elevator, she peeked in at me, looked up and down at my long skirt and covered head…and with raised eyebrows she spoke to me in Hebrew.    Now, I don't speak Hebrew, but I knew what she was asking:  “Is that a SHABBAT elevator??” 

 

Jewish people aren’t supposed to use electricity on Shabbat.

 

I nearly started laughing.  She thought I was Jewish.   She thought I spoke Hebrew!  And she thought I was doing a No-No on Shabbat.   

 

As the doors closed slowly, I decided to out myself as an american tourist.   I shrugged "I have NO IDEA!!!  Sorry!"

 

Before we ever say a word, our clothing walks ahead of us.  Clothing matters.  

 

 

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