Panic at the closet: How to get dressed
5 practical steps for getting dressed when you think you have nothing to wear
Whether you struggle with body image anxiety, eating disorders, or not, we’re all bound to have one of those wardrobe days here and there.
You wake up, open the closet door, and all of a sudden the clothes are swimming before your eyes in a blur of nothing-fits-this-is-all-going-to-look-terrible. Things seem to go one of two directions from here. Either you’re in for 30 minutes of outfit changes as you search for the “right option” or you give up and resign yourself to a day at home in your pajamas.
I’ve been there. Many times. Here are my top 5 practical tips for shaking off closet-induced paralysis and getting dressed.
How to get dressed in 5 simple steps
Start with pants. I’m making a broad generalization here, but I think that most of us have fewer pairs of pants than we do shirts. Because of this, pants are a great place to start with your outfit. When you choose black pants, your top must match accordingly. If you choose navy pants, you will select a different top. If you select olive-colored pants, or brown pants, or khaki pants, or grey pants, or red pants (you get the idea), your options for the top half are limited to only what matches. The pants (or skirt, for that matter) can serve as the building block for the rest of your outfit.
Phone a friend. It’s ok to ask for help. When you’re trying to decide what to wear, it’s ok to poll someone you trust for a nudge in the right direction. If you have a spouse available, they’re a captive audience for outfit assistance. When I ask my husband to help me select clothes, I either am given a great idea, or one that I completely dislike (but that points me in the opposite direction toward one I do like). If you don’t have a spouse or roommate around to consult, call or text a friend and ask for ideas!
Ask yourself only the essential questions. First: Does this fit me? Second: Does it match? When you’re having a hard time deciding what to wear, these are the only essential criteria your outfit really needs to meet. Is it fashionable? Sorry, that’s not a priority today. Does it make me feel good? Sorry, clothes don’t actually have magical powers. Don’t put undue pressure on your outfit to deliver the sort of satisfaction and confidence that only comes from God.
Put on a shirt and walk out the door (assuming you followed step 1 and are already wearing pants). There’s something to be said for letting go. Once you have answered the essential questions and are wearing an outfit that both fits and matches, you can stop looking in the mirror, and move on with your day. If you keep pushing yourself to find the “perfect” outfit, or the outfit that “feels” just right, you’ve probably entered a realm of unhealthy perfectionism, or even idolatry. I’ve recently been forcing myself to leave the house even though I don’t feel good about the clothes I’m wearing. It’s a challenge, because my vanity and pride are dissatisfied with the image I’m putting forward. But in another sense, it’s freeing, because I’m trusting that my identity isn’t found in what I’m wearing—rather it’s found in Jesus.
Pray. God cares about everything in our lives, even the clothes that we wear. When we pray and ask Him to help us with the anxiety we’re facing behind the closet door, He will help. The Bible even has something to say about our wardrobe anxieties in Matthew 6: 25-33:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."