Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 8, 2010

Clothes make the (wo)man

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:07 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve been thinking about our apparel and how it affects perceptions. How many of us have judged others, even subconsciously, based on external accoutrements? It’s less of an issue if you know someone well; your ideas about them are already formed. First impressions, however, are hard to undo.

My National Park Service ranger uniform is fun to wear. So is my dancing dress. Both project messages on different levels. The former is quite androgynous, intended to make all wearers of the clothing appear the same, present the same image, stand for the same values, and above all be recognizable in many different settings. We can’t have keys hanging from our belt loops, visible tattoos or piercings, or even pens poking out of our shirt pockets. Uniformity is of the utmost importance.

The volunteer photographer cut off my red shoes!

On the other hand, off-duty clothing is an expression of personal taste — a statement of individuality, an assertion of original selfhood. It says, loudly and clearly, “This is me!” I’ve noticed that the clothing I’ve bought this summer has been more feminine, which is probably my own Declaration of Independence from the very mannish uniform.

Here are some photos from the last two days. Whether you know me well, a little, or not at all, answer the following questions about the women pictured here — Ranger Uniform Woman, or Flowered Dress Woman:

Which woman would you…

  • trust more to give you a scientific answer to a question?
  • loan your car to?
  • find more huggable?
  • expect to take charge in an emergency?
  • find more believable?
  • want to get to know first?
  • see at a contra dance, and ask to be your partner?
  • rather hike with?
  • hire for an outdoor job?
  • expect to be more flirtatious?
  • see as more responsible?
  • go on a wilderness trip with?
  • perceive as more warm and cuddly?
  • find more suitable for jury duty?
  • rather have as your boss?

Pay attention today to how your perceptions may be affected by others’ wardrobe choices. Leave a comment if you have ever been mortified by, or taught by, an assumption you made about someone based on first impressions.

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