In Zaal 3.4 of the Rijksmuseum,  in Amsterdam (which reopened last year after like...forever), enclosed in a clear rectangle, is Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrain Dress (1965). 

Recently Alain de Botton and John Armstrong have created a catalogue,  Art is Therapy,  that posits the idea that art can be viewed for its healing effect. Throughout the museum, Botton and Armstrong have stuck, what looks like large yellow sticky notes, or “philosophical graffiti, near selected pieces.

Botton describes a “sickness” and then reflects on the artistic message that can help. The note for YSL’s iconic dress is based on the art of Piet Mondrain:

Clothes evoke the characters of the people who might wear them. Let’s imagine the kind of woman who might buy a dress like this – let’s call her Maartje.
  •        very reasonable, but playful;      
  •     sexy, yet austere;
  •        proud of herself, without being stand-offish;
  •        not exuberant, but capable of moments of dry wit and the occasional       sarcastic judgement (but you’ll have to be careful to catch it);
  •       pretty, but unconcerned with her looks, confident that she’ll prove interesting enough to those who interest her.
Maartje doesn’t exist, and we do know the original owner of the dress. But for our purposes, the character we’ve discerned in the material and Yves Saint Laurent’s design is real. Though fashion can seem frivolous, its true task is to help us to identify our optimal personalities. Finding the right fashion for us is a route to becoming slightly better versions of ourselves. Fashion has an honourable psychological purpose and is rightly at home in the nation’s gallery.”

Clothes are meaningless; fashion is a trap.”

Frankly,  Maartje could loosen up a bit: If one can't be "exuberant" in Amsterdam, at least in the one afternoon of sunshine that I hear takes place every June, then there is no hope for it at all.

 What are my "optimal personalities" and what clothes do I wear to become a "slightly better version" of myself? 

So if I am my interesting and sexy self in the flirty dress I bought in Paris, what does it say about me when I am dashing into the post office, after I've mowed the lawn, in ratty tennies, an ancient Spurs t-shirt, and baggy shorts that should have been donated ten years ago?

It says that I am fine. 

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