Reflections on the Art of Personal Adornment
You’ve heard the sayings “dress for success,” “the clothes make the man,” “putting on my warpaint,” “power dressing,” and “wear your heart on your sleeve.” Our language is full of idioms that show just how important what we wear is to us, beyond mere protection from the elements.
What we put on our bodies, whether that is make-up, a tattoo, jewellery, or clothing, can have a much deeper meaning than simple decoration.
Personal adornment has been an important part of culture around the world for as far back as we can find artifacts. Masks and costumes continue to be used in ritual; special garments can denote status or membership in a particular social or professional group; jewellery has been everything from a sign of wealth and even legal tender to a tool for prayer. Faces can be painted to prepare for war or for a first date, with equal attention to detail and “getting it right”! Sometimes it’s about creating an impression on someone else, whether the intention is to attract or intimidate.
But lately I’ve been looking at it on another level too, as a place for creative expression of who we are in the moment, who we might want to become, and of how we feel or what we need.
As a part of my work in art therapy, I’m particularly interested in everything we humans do that involves the senses and our creativity. And guess what? Personal adornment is all about touch and the visual sense.
Do you prefer clothing that wraps you comfortingly in something soft, or that makes you feel invulnerable, like you are wearing armour? Are the colours soothing? Shocking? Warm or cool? Is your jewellery small and inconspicuous or large and highly textured? Are there particular symbols that feel important for you to wear? Are they visible to others or not? The answers to these questions will differ greatly from one person to another, and from one day to another even in the same person.
Next time you’re getting dressed, think about it!
A hand-me-down sweater from your best friend or your favourite brother can be a comfort during hard times. A necklace with a special symbol or a particular stone or gem worn close to your heart can keep you physically and emotionally aware of what your heart needs today. A ring that you can see and touch throughout the day can have the job of reminding you to look for something positive in that moment. A vest, scarf, or a necktie can be a tangible metaphor for “suiting up” to meet a challenge head-on.
- Will today be a day I need to be surrounded by my favourite, most comforting or most energizing colour?
- Is there a symbol of my faith, my gratitude, or my particular strengths that I can wear or carry with me today to help me meet a challenge?
- Is there a way my clothing, my jewellery, or even my make-up can help me to focus on a quality that I’m trying to bring into my life? Do I need more softness or compassion for myself and others?
- Do I need to feel a little bit tough or armoured today? Do I have a garment or a piece of special jewellery that can remind me of my boundaries and that it’s ok for me to stick to them?
When you choose, whatever you choose, do it with mindfulness and intention. You can give yourself the gift of a little self-care that will keep on giving all day long!
What do you do for yourself in terms of adornment, clothing, and colours?
DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content provided by Frances Bryant-Scott, RSW, BCATR is intended for general information purposes only. Never disregard professional medical or psychological advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you read in this blog (or any blog for that matter!)