Women and their Clothes Clothing as social language

Julika
Julika | Photo Nathalie Göltenboth

What is our relationship to particular items of clothing and what feelings do they arouse in us? Four women tell about their very own, personal approach to dressing. As we had anticipated, reaching into the wardrobe is informed by our state of mind and sense of who we are and who we want to be.
 

Christiane, 53, is active in neighbourhood assistance

Christiane

What childhood memories do you associate with dresses?

Christiane: I loved putting on my mother’s dresses, shoes and jewelry, and always went to her wardrobe when she was busy and pulled out everything imaginable. She had a sort of small make-up table with a folding mirror, and I danced and play-acted in front of it.
I can recall my mother’s wardrobe very well, but not my own, really. The first time I consciously noticed my clothing was when I was on my bicycle outdoors. I urgently had to go to the bathroom and was wearing a red lederhosen. I remember that red lederhosen to this day.
 
How do you experience other women and their clothing style in your surroundings?

It was always much more interesting for me to observe women than men – how they move in their clothing. I feel magically attracted by it. I can understand men very well who feel overpowered by it. How other women dress inspires me. I think: Oh, that’s something you can try out sometime, too!
 
Can you express more precisely what fascinates you about this?

When I sense that this woman is pursuing an intention, that she has an awareness of how she looks and the effect she has on others. And if it is well done, it’s like a work of art. It’s something one enjoys looking at.
 

Julika, 24, is a kindergarten teacher

Julika

How would you describe your clothing style?

Julika: Even as a child I knew exactly what I wanted to wear and what I didn’t, what I feel comfortable in and what not. The point for me was, in which items of clothing I can be the Julika I’d like to be. I have lots of styles: one moment I want to be the hippie-Julika. That’s when I want to express the free spirit in me. And in another moment I want to be more classic and elegant, and then I feel really mature and adult, and want to express that. And in the next moment I am wearing a little dress and want to address the little, childlike Julika in me.

Was there a time in your life when you dressed completely differently from now?

Yes, I tried out a lot in my adolescence. I had a phase where baggy pants were in, and a baseball cap, and that wasn’t me at all, but somehow I had to try it all out. Or I put on torn pants and mixed everything together – my punk side was expressing itself in the clothing. None of it suited me at all … now I’ve found my way to myself, to my own style – although that can change at any time. I wouldn’t rule out my having a totally different phase once again.

Uschi, 55, is a graphic designer

How does clothing influence your sense of self?

Uschi: I want to feel a certain way depending on what event is coming up, and I choose my clothing accordingly. I have different needs, depending on whether I am dressing for a professional meeting or for leisure time or for my hobbies. Professionally, for instance, I like to look elegant and classic, and understated in terms of colour, and therefore I favour black or white-grey shades, and slim silhouettes - fitted, contoured things…  

What meanings do you associate with these colours and the concepts of “elegant” and “classic”? What feelings do you connect with them?

I feel more self-confident, more aesthetic, less vulnerable and more quick-witted. Therefore I find clothing extremely important in professional situations. The clothing you have selected can definitely influence a situation for good or ill. I remember that I once had to give a lecture, and the fact that I was wearing the right clothes was very helpful to me.

Do you have a special relationship with pieces of clothing in your wardrobe?

Yes, as a rule I bring back a piece of clothing from each trip, and normally they are things that I keep for a long time or permanently. I also still remember the exact situation in which I purchased the item.
 

Hiujulan is a Hispanist, jewelry designer and singer

Hiujulan

What influences have shaped your clothing style?

Hiujulan: I mix elements from various cultural milieus and epochs. I come from South America, and that is reflected in any event in what I wear and in my bearing. To me this is something very positive, it confirms my identity and my roots. Although it took a while, since I grew up in Germany. What has certainly influenced me as well as a woman is that I’ve begun to dance tango. That has strengthened my feeling for what is sexy and erotic, and how one subtly underscores this. That is what the music and ambient of Buenos Aires brings about. I then began to go to flea markets and got interested in vintage things, and began to integrate these elements into my clothing and to mix styles.
 
Is your profession reflected in your clothing style?

I am a singer and create jewelry, and I cannot separate that from the way I dress. All of that has to do with my personality, and also with the need to express myself and be creative. In this respect, I never wear grey-black-white, classic and elegant … that would not disclose my essence, or put better: it wouldn’t make my essence tangible, and that’s what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it?