“Fashion is more powerful than love.” This was how my daughter tried to provoke a silly argument with me. At her suggestion we’d been drawing pictures of ourselves in armor. I’d rebelled against the prompt in my own way, depicting myself with pens in my pocket, a book and phone in my hands, wearing running shoes, and radiating a field of love. Her interpretation of armor was also non-traditional: a saber-toothed tiger mask, cape, strappy tight dress, and heels.
Getting into a silly argument about what is more powerful, love or fashion, was really a round about way to talk about what is power. Gwyn is right that fashion is incredibly powerful. We have “power suits” and we “dress for success.” Our clothes express who we are and where we feel we belong.
Using the Power of Fashion
If power is built on making people intimated by or envious of you, then maybe you need the saber-toothed tiger outfit. It was a killer look. If your power rests on being perfect, then you will need to find that perfect look. These are extreme examples of how the power over/power under dynamic that is deeply engrained in our extractive culture trickles all the way into fashion.
I’ve never had my daughter’s intense drive to be fashionable. Figuring out how fashion might connect my interior and exterior selves has long felt like an impossible riddle. I didn’t exactly give up on fashion, but I’ve been cynical about it.
Yet fashion does have a power that I’ve come to embrace. My most influential teacher in this area has been the traditional costumes for the dances I study from the Balkans, Greece, and Asia Minor. Laura Shannon’s research on the essential role ritual dress plays in meditating our connection to the life energy contained in the dancing has given me a whole other perspective. When I danced with Ethnic Dance Theatre I had the opportunity to wear many traditional costumes and experience this power for myself.
Costume makes a powerful contribution to traditional dances’ ability to generate vitality. I want my dancers to experience this vital life energy and I want this vitality to radiate through our community. This strong desire meant that even though I really didn’t think I had the capacity to do so, I figured out how to make 8 new costumes in the last month. My daughter and I had been drawing surrounded by this massive sewing project. My actions were clearly expressing that fashion has great power – the power to connect and bring us into relationship with each other and all of life.
Connecting with Our Power in Everyday Fashion
Thankfully I don’t wear ritual dress that often (it’s a lot of work!). But my experience with ritual dress trickles down to how I dress every day. Especially when I want to show up powerfully some place, I think about wearing something that strengthens my sense of connection to my body and to the earth.
My daughter’s suggestion that we draw ourselves in armor was really an invitation to draw ourselves as powerful people. I think most of us are always working on some aspect of discovering and expressing our power. Fashion is part of this process. Every time we dress, if it’s with the fabric pattern or embroidery, or with jewelry, we have an opportunity to affirm that our power lies in our connections to all of life. May you feel powerfully fabulous!
With powerful love,