As a kid, I hated getting dressed up. I wore a skirt only on pain of death, and found makeup rather puzzling until I was about 16. I skipped that childhood phase of walking around in a mother’s high heels, big as boats on tiny, smooth-soled feet.
The more confident I became – the less torturedly teenage – I began to enjoy dressing up to go out, and cultivating my own style. (This no doubt related to a greater enjoyment of the places I was going.) I started to appreciate that one’s appearance does affect mood and behaviour. Now, a vaccine surge promising a semblance of social life, I am beginning to think once again of not wearing a slanket.
I don’t believe that dressing up is necessary to have a good time. At one of the best house parties I can remember I dropped in profoundly underdressed in shorts and T-shirt, and stayed all night. But getting dressed up is part of the ritual of preparing for a good time; just as footballers pull on their strips, sartorially geeing themselves up to win.
Often, if I’m ambivalent about going to an event, or half-dreading it, it isn’t the persuasive texts from friends that finally get me in the mood; it’s stepping out of the shower, hair fresh, picking out what to wear. I miss that thrill.
There are exceptions: award ceremonies at which one is 90% convinced one won’t win, or formal events where one has to get dressed up and genuinely can’t be arsed. But even these are more bearable with the armour of a slick of lipstick, or a snazzy suit and polished brogues.
Stylists will tell you that the cut of a garment can change the demeanour of the wearer, and it is true. Fashion editors tell us that clothes in general tell us about a person. Folks sniffy about fashion scoff at this, despite the fact they would clearly judge a person who turned up to an all-black funeral in a Hawaiian shirt.
Dressing up, then, can signal two things. Either it says: I am happy and excited and here to have a great time! Or it says: I am trying, even if I don’t feel like it. Having great company is much more important than the clothes people are wearing – I feel that very strongly – and I would never judge anyone for not dressing up. But there is no doubt, for me, that backless dresses and starched shirts and sparkly shifts add a little something. It’s been too long; pop 2022 in your diaries, I’m throwing the biggest party ever.