Fashion, Storytelling, Symbolism.
How Can i Tell a Story Through My Clothes?
What we wear can have a lot to say about who we are. It’s a powerful experience when we wear clothes that tell a story or make a statement.
Most of the time, unfortunately, the meaning isn’t clear to all who see your outfit–Often times leading to misconceptions based off of stereotypes. Which sucks. This can’t be permanently changed unless people are willing to learn to understand each other and not rely on preconceived ideas. Though my mission is to inspire people to look deeper and seek to understand people beyond their first impression, it’s important to acknowledge that this doesn’t come easy in our society.
Adding symbolic or iconic pieces to your outfit can make it a little easier, though, to make a clear, almost “readable” statement. Humans are visual creatures and love to add meaning to the things we see. We will always have a natural inclination to rely on symbols to make sense of the world around us…and even the people we meet. It’s why people gravitate towards trying to understand each other through stereotypes. Stereotypes are one huge collection of symbols. BUT this can be used to our advantage to tell the story we want people to hear, and even to turn incorrect stereotypes upside-down!
I like the way Richard Nordquist puts it in his article A Symbol in Language and Literature:
“A symbol is a person, place, action, word, or thing that (by association, resemblance, or convention) represents something other than itself.”
Typically, a culture or similar group of people can recognize and understand a particular symbol, despite the representing object usually being arbitrary in and of itself. The meanings are clearly understood from frequent use. There’s tons of room for creativity, too, because the symbols can leave room for debate since people have different opinions about concepts, and some symbols can hold many different meanings.
Some examples could be: a red rose representing “romance”, a skull representing “death” (whether physical or metaphorical), a peacock symbolizing “confidence” and “self-expression”, the American flag representing a form of “freedom”, an elephant symbolizing “gentle strength”, a fist representing “resistance” and “anti-conformity”, a python snake symbolizing “control”, the yin-yang symbol representing “balance”, or a black sheep representing being an “outcast” or (more positively) “unique”.
You can easily add symbols through fabric prints, embellishments, and accessories.
Getting more advanced–though vaguer in readable meaning–You can also deconstruct a symbol into just its color, an abstraction of its shape, or its texture.
Symbolic clothes and accessories make for excellent conversation-starter pieces…and it’s within those conversations that you can best help people understand what the outfit means to you.
Think about what you care most about, what your personality is like, and the things that have happened in your life that contributed to who you are: Can you think of any symbols that could represent these things?
Unless you’re using lots of words, fashion will always be mostly abstract in its meaning–even with symbolism–but if used well, it can be very meaningful…at the very least, to you.
If what you wear means something to you, that’s the first and most important step.
Tell us in the comments!: What symbols represent you?
More Blog Posts to Help You Tell a Story Through Your Clothes:
Browse through Symbolic, Story Pieces to learn more about how to introduce symbolism into your outfits: One piece at a time.
Read a Style Story Interview to see fashion storytelling in action, through the lives and personal styles of real people around the world who know how to make a statement with their clothes.
Or find personalized advice in a Style Guide, and learn to build a wardrobe full of clothes that tell a story from the ground up, based around core values and a specific but customizable aesthetic.
As always, feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions about defining your style, or suggestions for what you’d love to see next on the blog!