Does a dress make a woman?

We have a great guess blogger today! This woman has a passion for others realizing their beauty. Elizabeth Herrera is a makeup artists who believes that makeup is about women being with their own beauty. She can be contacted at eherrera{at}

This morning I awoke to the task of getting dressed for my day. While it is a cursory task, it inevitably sets up my expectations and goals for the day. Everyday office armor – slacks, button-down, and loafers get me out the door. Sure this task is faced by every human being, but when you cross cultures, Does this look right?, takes on whole new meaning. As a young girl I shuttled back and forth between my parents home country of Guatemala. I remember the woven shirts and embroidered tops.  Women decorated by the wares they carried to market. Already the class distinctions were clear. My cousins, now adults, have moved to the American looks. Polo shirts and gap khakis now seem so normal against the brightly colored concrete homes. Here I stand in the U.S. wanting to capture the easy and beauty of those old outfits, and yet I have to ask, do I look to ethnic.

Dress for women who move between worlds and the tasks that define them in each, balance much more than season’s trends and personal preference. Indeed the world argues over women’s right to choose what to wear – to burka or not to burka? Perhaps reducing women’s bodies and fashions to political and classist statements is constricting and overstated. Yet, to deny that women are agents asked to choose, modern or tradition, to take stands, and set values for their daughter’s relationship to body and it’s covering is unreasonable.

On a recent trip to India for my sister-in-laws’s wedding. I packed my make-up. As someone who can’t wait to learn how women relate to beauty and dress around the world, I was amazed by how different the statements were. The old admonishment of focusing on only one feature was drowned by the goal of brightness. The colors of bold green and yellow urged my face to make a statement against the colors of my Shalwar Kameez. And as my younger sister-in-law made me over, I wondered how the new bride would experience the look of women in her new home in Germany. Would she have the language and the understanding of how her face and clothes were in play?

Perhaps the injustice that happens to us as we search for careers, health benefits, schooling and general rights supersede the restrictions of dress, but until a women can choose to dress in medical scrubs, military uniform, or have the right to set goals and limits for her own body how free are her dreams? Can she move comfortably into the goals she sets before herself if she feels pulled by the call of her childhood dress? We cannot pretend that women are not judged by how they follow beauty norms, but we can open a discussion. If we are asked to make statements about who we are, we can at least honestly discuss it first.

What do you think?


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