Noelle McCarthy: Dressing to meet your destiny

By Noelle McCarthy

Dress carefully every morning, because you could walk past the next Bill Cunningham - pictured here in blue - on your way to work. Photo / Getty Images
Dress carefully every morning, because you could walk past the next Bill Cunningham - pictured here in blue - on your way to work. Photo / Getty Images

Who do you get dressed for? My honest answer is: my-husband-to-be. Also: some amazing new street photographer just waiting to take a photo of me. I've not met either of these people yet, but that does not deter me. I know they're out there and I don't want to be looking anything less than adorable the first time they set eyes on me. So I dress very carefully every morning because I don't yet know what the circumstances of our meeting will be. I could be queuing for coffee behind the man I'm going to marry, or walk past the next Bill Cunningham on my way to work. The former scenario has not yet happened and the latter is unlikely.

I have not met many visionary photographers hanging out on the skeezy end of Hobson St. You never know your luck though, do you? Life is magnificently random, and it's easier to surrender to the tides of fate when you're dressed to meet your destiny.

Here's a little secret: clothes are dependable, destiny isn't. Fate has yielded neither Bill Cunningham nor a fiancé yet, but that doesn't faze me. When you dress to meet your destiny, happiness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It takes me 20 minutes to walk to work in the morning. On a good day, when I'm looking put-together, I'll get an average of three smiles from strangers on my way.

I first noticed this last summer, when the weather was golden and I was wearing bright colours every day. I was going in for head scarves around that time, too, so the overall look was arresting; Erykah Badu-meets-Frida Kahlo.

People started doing little double takes when I walked towards them and then they'd smile so wide, I thought they knew me. There were smirks, too, but you get that; you can't dress for impact without incurring ridicule occasionally.

But I'll tell you what, it's worth it. There are few pleasures in life more satisfying than putting together an outfit so uplifting that a perfect stranger smiles at you in the street. The best thing is, anyone can do this. I don't subscribe to the fiction that you need expensive clothes to look amazing. You don't need money to put an incredible outfit together - just a bit of time and thought and care. You need to want to do it, too, of course, and I suppose there's a bit of ego involved, insofar as this is basically peacocking I'm advocating here. But it makes you feel more connected when you dress for the people you see on the street every morning. It also makes you feel more civilised, strangely.

The way I see it, dressing for other people is a tiny, easy act of civic-mindedness; streets are shared spaces after all. It doesn't have to cost you anything and the smiles you get are addictive. Try it tomorrow, if you don't believe me.


Follow Noelle on Twitter here.

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