Dress to Sorceress

It’s no coincidence that glamour—the term for an appearance-changing charm in early English tales of witches and fairies—has become a modern word denoting charisma, beauty, and élan. Appearance can be magic, and powerful magic at that. But instead of casting shape- shifting spells, we can experiment with new makeup, bold outfits, and rebellious hairstyles.

Changing your appearance might sound simple or shallow. In fact, it’s anything but. Society tells women that devoting oneself to beauty and fashion is at once obligatory (otherwise we look unforgivably hideous), a silly waste of time (appearance is inherently superficial), and deceptive (see: men posting memes about makeup as “betrayal” and “the reason you have to take a woman swimming on the first date”). But within these crazily contradictory expectations lies the root of glamorous power: beauty is something that women alone are expected to perform, involving mysterious rituals, talismans, and bottled potions, which can influence an observer’s perception to the point of being almost menacing. It sounds like the beauty arts are scoffed at precisely because they make women powerful.

In reality, you’re not deceiving people when you indulge in cosmetic shape-shifting. You’re not being shallow, either. Rather, you’re letting your true self shine through. You’re slogging out from the mire of messages about acceptable appearances and discovering how you want to look— perhaps not by magically changing your hair color à la Nymphadora Tonks, but by learning how to manipulate and enhance your self-image using makeup, hair, and clothing. Whether you draw strength from unusual lipstick colors, an all-black outfit, or a lucky amulet, this chapter will help you discover how to look and feel more like yourself.Every time you get dressed, you’re putting on more than just a clean shirt: you’re clothing yourself in an emotion, a persona, a sense of yourself. You’re making a choice that affects how you’ll move through the world. You probably have outfits that make you feel beautiful, handsome, or sexy, and totally different outfits that make you feel comfortable. You may even have certain items that feel like armor, such as cowboy boots, the perfect pencil skirt, or a favorite necktie. (Jess’s is a motorcycle jacket; Jaya’s is a pair of wedge sneakers covered in red glitter.) All these garments—your hot clothes, your comfy clothes, your armor clothes—not only make you feel a certain way as you wear them, but remind you how you felt wearing them in the past. What you wear affects your mindset and, consequently, the way you carry yourself. Although your clothes may alter your behavior in unconscious ways (think of how you automatically walk differently if you switch from combat boots to heels), you can actively engage the emotional power of clothing to change your mood.

Not all witches dress alike—Nancy from The Craft wouldn’t be caught dead looking like Winifred from Hocus Pocus—so you can make clothing magic work within your personal style. Here are a few starting points for working simple spells every time you get dressed.

For stability, wear flat or heavy shoes.
When you need to feel grounded, leave the stilettos at home and opt for sturdy platforms, wedges, ballet flats, or sneakers.

For emotional protection, wear layers.
Having more than one thickness of fabric between you and the world makes for a safer, more armored feeling.

For confidence, wear loud jewelry.
If you make yourself small and quiet in the presence of others, let your jewelry do the talking. Wear bangles that jingle and clang, anklets with bells, or rings that clink together when you move your fingers.

For comfort in times of stress, wear soft, soothing textures.
By wearing fabrics you like to touch, like velvet, suede, or fleece, you can easily comfort yourself in stressful situations. Try a velvet dress on the first day of school, or a jersey skirt on a date, and rub the fabric between your fingers when you feel nervous.

For relief from worry or fear, wear tight-fitting accessories.
Ever put a nervous dog in a Thundershirt? Same idea: a little (gentle!) pressure can help you focus on being present in your body, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and quells anxiety. Try a cloth headband or wristband for stylish relief.

The more you use clothes to focus your emotional energy, the better you’ll get at channeling a particular feeling whenever you need—the power has been in you all along. You may not be able to wear a motorcycle jacket everywhere—at certain weddings, for instance, or at most job interviews, or on the beach—but inwardly, you’ll be wearing a spiritual motorcycle jacket, one that nobody can remove.


Excerpted from Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.