Why do we get dressed? This question wasn’t one gleaned from a philosophy course, or the consequence of an “I-have-nothing-to-wear” existential fashion crisis — rather, it’s the slogan of Uniqlo’s recent campaign. A Japanese clothing brand that describes itself as “designed to be of the time and for the time,” (and, fun fact, whose name is the portmanteau of “Unique Clothing Warehouse”), Uniqlo launched its thought-provoking The Science of LifeWear campaign mid-August of last year. Plastered across various subway stations, many New Yorkers were met head on with the query.
Maybe we get dressed as a form of self expression. On a primitive level, we’re designed to make flash judgments (to assess potentially dangerous situations, individuals, etc.), and this instinct manifests through our apparel. By choosing what to wear, we are also choosing the clothes’ implications, deciding (or at least, conscious of) how we will be perceived. It isn’t feasible to have a conversation with everyone we ever cross paths with, so our best guess as to someone’s personality may be through the image they present, with clothing being one of the main indicators. To sum it up with a quote from RuPaul’s autobiography: “We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
Or, maybe the answer to why we get dressed is a more utilitarian one — do we get dressed out of necessity? The reason we’ve domineered as a species thus far is not because of our physique, but because of our intellect. Susceptible to harsh weather conditions, we fashioned fabrics and furs to protect our vulnerable bodies. Clothing has since been politicized and is now a social norm indicating civility, but its initial inception may have been one of practicality.
I view fashion as little of both; it may have started as a means of survival, but we’ve come a long way from our crude swathes of wool and fur (although the current east coast weather has me considering reverting back… trends are cyclical, right?). In an amazing feat of avant garde, clothing lended itself into art, and fashion itself is more ambiguous. It’s almost as if we had a collective thought: If we have to get dressed, we may as well have fun with it.