I live in a city with long winters, but for about three months each year, my fellow Midwesterners peel off their layers to showcase flowy skirts, colorful shorts, and breezy tops. For years, I told everyone I didn’t like sandals, shorts or other summery clothes. That I favored jeans, blousy tops, and boots instead. I didn’t feel particularly constrained by my lack of tank tops. I didn’t dislike my legs or feel self-conscious about my pale skin. I just assumed I was different and marching to the beat of my own drum.
Earlier this summer, someone suggested I try to wear more skirts. Above-the-knee skirts. When the weather permits, she said, wear skirts instead of pants or shorts. Wear bright, bouncy skirts, and see how you feel. That night, I looked at my three skirts, stacked neatly on my closet shelf, unworn for who-knows-how-long. Ok, I’ll give this a shot, I thought. And the next day, I pulled my dusty red skirt from the top of the pile and wore it all day.
And then I wore another. And another.
I’ve since bought a few more skirts and dresses, and even dragged some older dresses out of a seldom opened closet. In that first week of skirts, my boyfriend would joke that I “said yes to the dress.” My response: I said “meh” to the dress. But soon enough, I started to embrace my skirts.
I wear skirts with newly purchased sandals and breezy tops I previously thought were just so “not me.” I’ve gone out to dinner in a dress I wore to a wedding — just for the hell of it. I’ve copied “wild card” color combination pairings from InStyle magazine, and I’ve started wearing some of the jewelry I’ve acquired over the years.
Sometimes we don’t know how engrained a habit is until we break it.
My learned aversion to skirts – and easy, summery clothes – is one such habit. I developed a routine around clothes, a self-imposed rigidity, that I thought was part of what made me unique. But breaking that routine and embracing summer clothing makes getting dressed, and life, more free.
The effect of wearing skirts spans beyond my closet, too. I’m embracing things I had previously written off: Hosting a dinner party, swimming with friends, taking a trip, treating myself to a massage. I don’t know if my friends have noticed, but the Clare who wears skirts feels like a more easygoing Clare.
Changing the way we dress, move, work or play can open us up to possibilities we hadn’t considered. I didn’t think wearing a skirt would do anything for my life, except force me to spend more money on sunscreen. But life is fuller when we take risks and try new things. Life is easier when we can live outside narrow parameters. Life is more fun when we say yes, or even “meh,” and just jump in.