The Parallel Between Words and Clothes

I love to read about fashion. I read fashion the way I would a novel or a poem. I look to find the metaphors, the hidden genius, and the poetic choices an outfit conveys. To read clothes you must become open to the idea that, like a person’s speech, there is a constant conversation and commentary happening in the wearer’s mind. This is where you begin to look at the clothes to find something about the wearer’s “being.” Unlike the ability to interpret a character in a novel, when you read a person in real life by what they wear, you need to develop a full  picture of their personality. The way they move reflects the movement of their mind. Their color palette shows the range of their moods. How they wear, drape, and match clothing reveals, after careful examination, their sense of identity. Clothes can portray the plot of a person’s life. This is because clothes hold secrets. One can imagine that the holes found in jeans hint at an unraveling love affair. The fabric of a certain scarf might reveal affection for family roots. Scuffed shoes may be kept as a reminder of time abroad. Such assumptions about someone’s story are most likely untrue, merely the fanciful inferences of an over-imaginative romantic. Yet this is where clothes reach beyond their limits of mere appearance and the fun of story-telling begins.

In an English class, the teacher points out hidden meanings, metaphors, and symbols that come from particular words, repetitions, or phrases. I love words. I love to see how people play with words and use them to grace their everyday speech. Words are our means to common understanding. Written or spoken, words question and communicate. Clothes do the same. Whether intending to or not, how we dress is a comment on our world. Our choice of garment is an argument. Although this parallel between clothes and words may seem far-fetched or at least ambiguous, it is present. We say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we all know first impressions are the most powerful and how we dress is how people first see and so judge us. Of course, being judgmental or afraid of being judged is a poor way to approach fashion, but to decide to read someone by their clothes is a form of flattery. And composing a wardrobe is an attempt to cultivate self-knowledge, like trying to write your own story.


Cecilia Roses