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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

I Wore My Emotions on My Sleeve for a Week—Here’s What Happened

The unexpected benefits of dressing in the colors of your mood.

By Madeleine Kim

This summer, I adopted a host of go-to feel-good activities, deployed strategically to prevent the specific brand of stress spiral that comes with living through a pandemic. When a passerby in the park who wasn’t wearing a mask sneezed toward me, I made brownies with olive oil and flaky salt. When a close friend was laid off from her job, I broke out the watercolors and painted some pastel-toned birds. And on days when I’d read the news before getting dressed, I tended to end up in bright, cheerful colors, which is like the sartorial version of smiling until you feel happy.

Recently, though, I started craving something different. I don’t want to fake it until I make it anymore—I’d rather embrace discomfort, feel my feelings, and, hopefully, grow stronger and wiser, like a quarantine scallion in the afternoon sun. As a first step in this journey, I decided to treat my wardrobe like a giant mood ring for one workweek. Each day, I selected a color that reflected my emotional state, then dressed entirely in that color. If this sounds like a weird exercise, that’s because it is. But selecting my outfit according to my mood each morning had an unexpected benefit: It forced me to check in with myself and turn my emotions, good or bad, into something beautiful—because, of course, I wore M.M. every day. Here’s what happened when I decided to (literally) wear my heart on my sleeve.


Unpopular opinion: I actually kind of like Mondays. Maybe it’s because I live for a to-do list, but I get a rush from organizing my life at the start of a new week (all those empty checkboxes, just waiting to be checked!). I woke up this past Monday morning feeling ready to go, so I decided to dress in green—a color I associate with post-shower freshness and new-planner energy. My Hayden dress in everglade is stretchy, comfy, and lightweight enough that I can wear it for my afternoon dog walk without breaking a sweat. I tend to get cold feet (don’t read into that too much), so I paired it with some hunter-green cashmere socks, then added the olive Moreland jacket and a pair of gold hoops for my Zoom meetings. Like a battery indicator glowing green, I felt energized all day, which I like to think had something to do with my outfit.


I jolted into consciousness on Tuesday morning when my dog started licking my eyelids an hour before my usual wake-up time. While grateful to have the cutest alarm clock ever, I also felt immediately overwhelmed. I’d dreamt that I had forgotten about a work deadline the day before, and when I woke up, I realized it was true. I tore out of bed, power walked my dog around the block, and chose my color of the day without hesitation: I would wear red—the universal sign of deadlines past. I pulled on my Axam turtleneck in cranberry, which is machine-washable and comfortingly soft (both musts for stressful days), then tucked it into the Hadley pants in garnet, which always make me feel like a boss. Later that day, when the madness of the morning had passed, I slipped on my mask, my Zelda boots, and a pair of big earrings, and took a glorious stroll through Prospect Park.


After the chaos of Tuesday, I was determined to start Wednesday with a bit more purpose. I woke up without an alarm (puppy or otherwise), and read an essay from Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel—a recommendation from a coworker that I am now recommending to you. When it was time to get dressed, I opted for a taupe palette to echo (and, I hoped, maintain) the warmth and calm I felt. The Astor skirt in biscuit was calling my name, so I slipped it on along with my cashmere McKenzie sweater, which I half-tucked to create structure. With some comfy flats and delicate earrings, I was ready for the day.


At the risk of sounding like a bummer, on Thursday I felt…sad. A friend was going through a breakup, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I hadn’t met my 3-month-old godson yet, and the world (specifically the west coast) was still on fire. So yeah, I wore blue. Specifically, the Milo jeans and cashmere socks (because comfort) paired with the Malki top, Merritt jardigan, and Briar earrings (because meetings). And you know what? It actually got me to stop wallowing. Once I was wearing this outfit that was supposedly a sartorial manifestation of my sorrows—yes, quarantine has given me a flair for the dramatic—I felt (and looked) a whole lot better.


Even in the absence of weekend plans, I can’t help feeling a little bit giddy on Fridays. During work-from-home times, I’ve made a habit of getting an early start on Friday mornings in the hopes of getting a jump start on the weekend, and I woke up feeling optimistic and ready to be productive. My color of the day was black—the color that makes me feel most like myself and reminds me of nights out in NYC (miss you). The Curie pants have all the day-to-night features I look for in a Friday piece: They’re work-appropriate, yet sexy; they’re dance-move-friendly; and they literally feel like wearing leggings. I paired them with the easy-to-tuck Brodie top, the bold Reid belt (a game-changing accessory, in my opinion), the sleek Lana boots, and the moody Talia earrings. Voila! I was ready for my (weekend) life to begin.

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