Thursday, November 12, 2009

Looking Presentable

I started this post a week ago. What began as a thought provoking question became a full-blown essay in the making. Believe it or not, this is the scaled back version.

Sunday is usually the only day of the week that I am reliably, what some would call,
presentable. Most other days range from pajamas, to t-shirt, jeans and a ponytail. I recently got my hair cut so that it would have more personality. Yet, it still remains in its standard ponytail most of the time. So the marble, that has been rolling around in my brain this week, is this...

What is "presentable?" And, why do we dress to that standard.

For me, presentable would be capable of having my picture taken without a black bar over my eyes. My hair would be fixed, makeup on, contacts instead of glasses, and wearing a deliberately chosen outfit. But, am I less of a person or less viable when in loungewear?

For most of my life I dressed to escape fit in. I was not the top of the high school food chain. I was definitely not the bottom either. When I was feeling down and left out at school my Mom would take me to buy a new outfit. I could wear this new outfit the next day invoking, what she called, the bravery of my tinkling ornaments. (2 Nephi 13:18) It was the newly found confidence in myself that helped me go to school the next morning. As a teenager I avoided wearing pink or anything that even resembled a heart for fear of being labeled a little girl. As a freshman in college I was often offered the kiddie menu at restaurants. I had to dress up to give myself age credibility.

As an adult I "looked presentable" for different reasons. I dressed for work so that I had credibility in front of the Board of Trustees. As a missionary I got dressed so that others would believe I knew what I was talking about when sharing the gospel. And, to be a credible representative of my Savior. I dressed for dates to show I would be a viable girlfriend and wife. I needed to look good, to feel good about myself. I needed to feel good about myself to get dates. I needed to date to find that special someone with whom I'd spend my life.

It worked! Now I am married to my beloved. He loves me no matter what I am wearing. He loves me when I'm sweaty. He loves me when I look presentable. He loves me when I'm greasy. He loves me when I've gained weight. He loves me when I've lost weight. He loves me when I'm pregnant and can't reach my legs to shave properly or to paint my toenails. He loves ME. So, why do I get dressed?

On the Sunday that I started this post I believed I got dressed for other women. I don't like getting together with them without looking presentable. (Which is funny since I will go to the store in whatever I state I happen to be in.) I thought it was because I feared their judgment. I have changed my view. I get dressed so that I can feel good about myself. I get dressed so that I can make more friends and have credibility with my peers. It really comes back to feeling good about myself, feeling like I have credibility. It comes back to me, myself and I and what I need to feel good. How I look will not matter to most people. But, the way I interact with them will be affected by how I feel about myself.

After all of this soul searching my definition of "presentable" has not changed. But, now, when I take 30 minutes to curl my hair and try on 5 different outfits before leaving the house I know why I do it. I do it for me.


  1. Fantastic post Jessica! I have struggled with trying to look presentable and I have accomplished it a few times. My husband keeps telling me that he likes me "natural", I keep telling him that my hair and make up are for me.. not him. It makes me feel so good to "do" my hair and make up before I go some place.

  2. Hey, I thought I would check out your blog and was interested in this post in particular. I often wonder the same thing, what is that compels me to think I can't leave without mascara. I was never a makeup person when I was younger, but now I try to look "presentable" whenever I go out. Some of it, I think is remembering what it was like to be embarassed when my friends saw my mom is her sweatsuit and unwashed hair. I don't want to embarass my kids. I think more of it is like you said though; I do it because it makes me feel better about me. I feel smarter, more confident, etc. if I know that I look my best (even if my best isn't what I wish it was)