In Praise of the Fantasy Dress

Self-expression is a muscle that, when left unflexed, is forgotten.

“I have tried to be not neurotic, not romantic, not destructive, but may be all of these in disguises.” — Anais Nin

Late at night, I hope and pray that the era of black leggings is behind us.

This is a bold hope.

But I am here to tell you that you have options. Most significantly, there is what I call the fantasy dress:

  • The dress that can be worn at a picnic in Provence, or on a windowsill reading Virginia Woolf.
  • The dress for date night with a stranger on a late evening in Rome, or waiting at the top of a sinuous mahogany staircase.

The fantasy dresses are ensconced in the past while being perennially optimistic about the future. They are who you are at your most charming and romantic. And they are not to be forgotten.

In Defense of Fashion — The Least Frivolous of Arts

People who spend vast quantities on clothing often do so in silence behind their computers. Why? Because fashion is supposedly frivolous and a waste of money.

But is spending money on your mental health frivolous?

Fashion can make you feel like who you most want to be. I am here to tell you firsthand that putting on a fantasy dress in the morning will elevate your mood and make you do positive things like go out in the world.

The right dress will make people look at you and give you compliments simply because you look different — and better — than the black legging and AllBirds wearing masses.

Though oil paintings, dance, music, and a vase of fresh flowers will do things for you that your computer won’t, fashion is the least frivolous of the arts because you wear it every day.

Resist the Voices of Capitalist Efficiency

As elegantly put by Jia Tolentino in Trick Mirror, leggings are the natural result of our optimization-obsessed society. Bothering with researching, trying on, and buying a fantasy dress is wildly inefficient.

And what is more comfortable, easier, and affordable than wearing black leggings with the white sneakers that society has deemed acceptable?

An Optimized Society Leaves No Room for Expression

The scary thing about our efficient society is that it leaves no room for art and self-expression.

And like a muscle that grows weak, expressing yourself becomes more difficult the less you do it.

Ask yourself: What is my fashion sense? How does it diverge from what is “trendy” or socially acceptable? If I could buy anything, what would I wear?

For me, the answer is fantasy dresses (and platform shoes, but that is another article).

What Is a Fantasy Dress?

A fantasy dress is me — but only part of me. It’s me not dressing for men or the times I am in, but for who I am at my most romantic and irresistible.

(Usually, for me, a fantasy dress involves an unusual pattern and lots of ruffles.)

I can’t tell you what your fantasy dress is. It may be a wild pair of shoes with jeans, or something from Ciao Lucia reminiscent of the Italian countryside,. But I can tell you that wearing art will feel wildly different from wearing sweatpants.

A Fantasy Dress Exists Separately from Sexuality

Don’t get me wrong: When I buy a dress, my goal is always to look great. But usually, this doesn’t involve appealing to the opposite sex, in my case.

Why? “Sexy” dresses are usually uncomfortable and my fantasy dresses take the place of jeans or leggings, i.e. something that I wear day in and day out. They are comfortable but elevated.

Though I receive many compliments and looks when I wear a gown, for example, I feel seen rather than objectified.

Dressing as Rebellion

Though efficiency is critical when building software, question its blanket application to all aspects of life.

Some things, such as picking out my attitude and how I want the world to see me, as informed by my wardrobe, should take the exact amount of time that they demand.

Do not let Fortune 500 companies dictate what you wear or who you are to the point that self-expression is no more than an afterthought. Choose a dress.