I attended a meeting this week, and someone commented on my outfit. They noted that I dress different than most corporate people and asked where I buy my clothes. It wasn’t always that way. I did the dress for success thing with suits and jewelry and all the ‘right’ accoutrements. My job now, by choice, requires that I wear a suit only on initial visits with clients. The rest of the time I am business casual and am able to express myself. I remember several years ago when I was sitting in a senior executive meeting around a giant conference table. I wasn’t really paying attention to the content of the meeting (sad commentary on most executive level meetings) and I looked around the room. I noticed that all the women at my level were wearing power suits (though the men were business casual) and had manicured fingernails, flashy jewelry, large gems on their hands, open toed shoes with perfectly manicured toes, and almost every one colored their hair. I was none of those things. It hit me that I didn’t really look like any of the other women at my level. HHHMMMmmmm!?! It made me feel odd, a little out of place, and made me wonder why I was different.

I also remember when I exhibited in my first American Craft Council show in 2010. I walked around after all the booths were set up, and noticed the women in the room. They were mostly wearing colorful glasses, had short hair – mostly natural colors including grey, they wore unique, hand crafted clothing and comfortable shoes. Lots of black and unique looks, and no one was trying to look like anyone else. No one had manicured fingernails; in fact most of their hands were strong and well used. They were confident and capable and there representing their businesses…they were artists, they were entrepreneurs. And it hit me, these were my people! They are my peeps!

I know I have written about this before, so please excuse me if you have heard me tell that story. I do that as a reminder to me and to you…it’s okay to be different. It is okay to be the one in the room who does not look like everyone else. What matters in this world is what you produce, not what you wear. Yes, fashion is a statement and a very important part of the creative world…however no one wants to buy art from someone who is fashionable and produces schlock! It is the quality of your work that matters, like the content of your character. People want to be around people who are moving down the path to their dreams and creating in the material world the items and ideas that appear in their heads. It is one thing to look good, fit in and ‘play the game’ of the corporate, dress for success arena. It is another to dress well and respect your craft, finances, and self enough to dress as you want people to receive the real YOU. When I figured out how much paper, glue and ink I could buy with the funds I might spend on suits, and manicures, and hair coloring…I chose paper, glue and ink.

What are you choosing by what you buy? Are you settling for the trappings that our culture and society tell us are important? Or are you willing to be YOU in a world that might not know how to handle someone like YOU? This reminds me of a quite I used in one of my pieces. It is a quote from E.E. Cummings:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”

So take courage this day to be who YOU really are. Grow up to become who you have always wanted to be. Choose to spend your time and your money on what you value, not on what others tell you to value. Today I choose paper, glue and ink! What do you choose?