I went to an all girls catholic high school, which means one thing: uniforms.  I loved uniforms.  I may have been the only person in my class who actually liked wearing the same shirt and skirt every day.

On the weekends I was faced with my real clothes.  I would go to parties and all the girls wore their weekend uniform: black, tight and short.  We had beepers back then, so having a beeper was very in, too.  So were organizers, which I never really understood ,and last but not least, a bottle of water.  Why we felt the need to hull around a bottle of water everywhere I don’t know, but most of us did.  Gucci and water went hand in hand.

I never really fit into the party style scene.  I felt like it was fake to dress for the guys so wore regular street clothes.  It wasn’t until college that I started making my own style. 

Clothes started to have new meaning in my life.  My clothes would directly manifest my moods.  When I was manic, you better believe there were some fierce colors, maybe some glitter and fun accessories.  Similarly, when I was depressed, my clothes turned gray and loose. But for the majority of my life, clothes weren’t important to me.  It wasn’t until I realized my clothes not only affected my moods, but demonstrated my moods, that I started to pay attention.

If I was sad or felt depressed I would make myself get up and find something more on the manic side to wear.  It didn’t clear up the depression but gave me a chance to try.

Today I do homeless outreach for the mentally ill.  Every day I open my closet and see my real clothes.  My skirts, dresses and funky fashion, and I almost want to cry when I have to put on my new uniform: plain, boring, blah, street clothes.  No fashion sensibility whatsoever.  You can’t approach a homeless person in Ralph Lauren.  And you can’t run from a schizophrenic homeless person in a pencil skirt with heels.

And after months of being trapped in my clothes, I am feeling the depression of wearing lame clothes.  I tell myself when the weekends come I will go back to my stylish outfits, but I don’t.  I’m stuck in a clothes depression and it sucks.

When I worked with the mentally ill in a psych ward, I would donate clothes and saw how a cool jacket or nice top made a mentally ill person develop a slight smile or skip in their step.  I witnessed firsthand the importance of clothes when treating depression.  And when the manic patients came through, they stepped it up to a whole inpatient level.  Florescent eye shadow mixed with a ton of colorful bangles jiggling on a wrist screamed mania.

In that experience, I learned the power of clothing.

Next time you feel sad, check your closet for your manic clothes and sport them with pride. And when you’re manic, chill out a bit and put on your depression clothes.  If clothes illustrate a mood, switch them up.  It just might create some balance in your life.