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Not My Best Look

Dear <<First Name>>,

Flip a coin and there is a 50/50 chance that what I was wearing while I wrote any given issue of this newsletter (or attended a faculty meeting, or went to a doctor’s appointment, or spent time with Cocoa and my family) was … a fleece vest.
Three pictures of Dolly in different settings, wearing a fleece vest over a different shirt in each

I wish I could tell you this rut started with covid. 

Or, I wish I could claim that my wardrobe is grounded in an intentional and authentic decision about what looks and feels best. 

Or, I wish I could deny that I once dressed up as a "happy camper" (haha!) for Halloween and literally none of my friends realized my fleece, jeans, and big smile was a costume versus what I always wear.

Or, I wish I could declare it was inspired by activist DeRay McKesson and his signature vest. 

DeRay McKesson speaking on a stage, wearing a blue vest
Alas, dear good people, I wish.

Wardrobe Ruts

I hate the gendered expectations that I should be into clothes … and I hate that I feel a twinge of bizarre shame that I fall short of those expectations (even though I know that is a big ole princess culture stereotype and I study stereotypes, for pete's sake).  

I manage to put myself together okay when teaching, speaking, doing media, and attending special occasions with a few "public" outfits.  I wear these outfits over and over until my size changes or something spills, followed by panic buying leading to another repeat cycle.

I was in a navy blue jumpsuit rut shortly before covid hit - here is a family event, the signing of my book contract, and a speaking engagement at ESPN, just to name a few photos I could easily find.  I liked the look, but it was still a rut, just a fancier rut.  
Three pictures of Dolly in different settings, wearing the same navy blue jumpsuit and white blazer in each
Still, I have never been interested in shopping, fashion, style, or trends.  I swear on my library card, I have never bought a fashion magazine or watched Queer Eye, What Not to Wear, or Project Runway.  If NYU offered uniforms for faculty, I would be the first to sign up.  And I am all about comfort ... and pockets.  

Time for an Intervention

Drawing of Eliza Parrilla wearing a stylist pink jacket and black pants, with a tshirt reading Wardrobe Boss.

Enough. I decided to devote some effort and resources to an intervention.  I booked an appointment with Eliza Parrilla, the amazing Wardrobe Boss (and host of the Wardrobe Boss podcast).  

As the date approached, I dreaded it like a tooth extraction. 
Cartoon of patient telling dentist "while you're at it, would you pull out that sweet tooth?!"

The Wardrobe Boss 

Well, my dear good people, I could not have been more wrong. 

Watching Eliza work was a master class.  First, she listened.  She took note of my core values and love of comfort.  That would be our center ... and our path out of the rut. 

Eliza suggested a Wardrobe Remix, in which she went through my closet with me to build
 new outfits with what I have.  Head to toe with accessories, shoes, bag, and even outer winterwear.  So much was possible. 

She suggested I let go of a few items that were not serving me and buy a few items to fill gaps (turns out that I did not own a button down shirt). 

Then she created a plug-and-play photo collage for my closet door, be still my heart.  
16 images of Dolly in different outfits
There were so many things I just never wore, even though they were within arm's reach.  I had assumed it would be too much work or not be comfortable or not look good or not be "me."  And I really did not give it thought. The truth is that I just did not know or try to know.  Instead, I just stayed in my rut.

True, Intentional, Authentic

Amazingly, I feel more comfortable, not less, than I did in my signature fleece + jeans.  I feel like a true, authentic, intentional, better version of myself.  Things fit better.  My values are not only intact, they are actually better expressed. 

Did the process involve confronting some pandemic pounds?  It did.  Did that stink?  It did.  But that’s the reality we are in.  Force fitting was not going to make anything better.  Being honest was.

Even my cute hubbie - who actually is very well-dressed - turned to Eliza for filling in a gap in his knowledge.  He wanted help being more intentional with his casual clothes.  So, the remix made sense for pros like him and rookies like me.  

What Surprised Me

My Wardrobe Remix was not just a life-changing wardrobe intervention.  It was also a surprisingly powerful learning experience.  With Eliza's help, I realized I need to do four things:
  1. DECIDE:  Nobody is born knowing about the partial / French tuck.  Wardrobe skills are learnable. But one has to be open to learning and I really was not before.  I needed to decide to learn.
  2. DISCARD:  I didn’t need to get rid of everything.  But I did need to get rid of some things that either never belonged in my closet to begin with or whose time had passed.  I had to be willing to discard.
  3. DIG:  My shame, guilt, and ignorance were not unusual.  These feelings are actually useful if they motivate us.  I needed to dig in rather than avoid the feelings.
  4. DISCOVER:  I had put myself in a corner with narrow expectations of who I was and who I was not, what was comfortable and what was not.  This left me very little room to discover the better version of who I can be.  
The fact that this all surprised me … well, that surprised me.  Because the Wardrobe Remix is not much different from what I have been writing about a lot lately.

Let me explain, dear good people ...


A Rut

Many of us have been grappling with the paradox that is the country we love and call home:  the United States of America.  For example, we are …
  • ... a country founded by men - a number of whom enslaved humans while writing about freedom and justice for all (such as Thomas Jefferson above).  
  • ... a country built on millions of lives and acres of land taken from indigenous people while celebrating false narratives of Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.
Historical marker for National Day of Mourning with paragraph of description
The present-day repercussions of these and many other paradoxes are staring at us in jaw-dropping disparities on every meaningful life outcome.  But we often do not see how the past and present relate because many of us have learned a whitewashed version of our history.  The narratives we learned left us in a rut of our own, making it difficult to move forward.

Just like my wardrobe, our country is in need of a true, intentional, authentic remix -- what I call a "Knowledge Remix."  
Colorful fireworks

Knowledge Remix

When it comes to our country, the same lessons apply, albeit with higher stakes:
  1. DECIDE:  Historical knowledge is learnable.  Nobody is born knowing about the present day manifestations of systemic racism and past atrocities.  We can decide whether to learn ... or not.  
  2. DISCARD:  We don’t need to get rid of everything we believe but some stuff we learned is just not true.  What are we willing to discard in our beliefs about our country?
  3. DIG:  Shame, guilt, disbelief, denial, and ignorance are not unusual.  But we need to dig in to these emotions to move forward, not avoid them.  They serve us when they motivate us.  
  4. DISCOVER:  We sometimes put ourselves in a corner with narrow expectations of what the United States is and is not.  This leaves us little room to grow and discover the future that actually fits us, rather than the narratives we are force fitting into.
The Statue of Liberty at sunset.

Thought Wardrobes

Intellectually, this is straightforward.  There are ample podcasts, books, documentaries, and even instagram posts that give us the knowledge in well-researched and accessible form.  They are all a click or google search away ... in our closet within arm's reach, so to speak. 

But are we reaching for that knowledge and incorporating it into our daily thought wardrobes?  Or are we just putting on our go-to blue jumpsuit for special occasions, like Black History Month and Women's History Month, with nothing really changing before or after?

The New York TImes 1619 Project magazine and newspaper section

Wrangling with our Emotions

Emotionally, this is less than straightforward.  That is where things break down - shame, guilt, denial, disbelief.

This psychological reality is what I have been grappling with.  Long time readers will remember I wrote about it last October when I introduced the idea of decluttering our homes and culture and last February when I talked about letting go of my first laptop from 1992

We see it in the headlines every day, whether it be a controversy over book bans, the rebranding of the Washington Commanders, or a descendent of Robert E. Lee – Minister Rob Leetaking the lead in bringing down Confederate statues.  

More and more of us are trying to figure out how to reckon with our whitewashed past, and we need tools to help us.  We need help wrangling with our emotions, remixing our thought wardrobes, and getting out of our ruts.
Reverend Rob Lee in his robe smiles at the camera in an outdoor scene

A More Just Future

As I have tried to do this in my own thinking, I have curated stories and science that can help others do the same.  The result is my next book

The good folks at Simon & Schuster have given me the thumbs up to share the title and cover with Dear Good People readers publicly for the first time (I haven't even updated my website yet)!  Coming to a bookseller near you later this year, here is the cover ...
Book cover that reads A More Just Future:  Psychological Tools for Reckoning with Our Past and Driving Social Change, by Dolly Chugh, Author of The Person You Mean to Be
In my first book, I invited readers to grow with me and I hopeful this book will offer a similar invitation. Less time in ruts, more time moving forward.

Edited by ... Cocoa Bean?

The cover is done, now we need to finish up the final edits and collect endorsements ("blurbs") for the book jacket.  In fact, here is Cocoa Bean the Wonder Puppy sniffing out typos in the draft I am proofreading right now.   
Boston Terrier sniffing book
Stay tuned as I will share more about the book's contents in future issues.  And, if the book sounds like your kind of thing, please do add it to your "to-read" shelf and pre-order lists at your favorite bookseller. These signals indicate reader interest to decision makers as they plan their inventories, marketing budgets, and print runs.
Whether you are a long time follower since my first book or just finding my work, thanks for letting me share my wardrobe intervention and this big news with you, dear good people!  It is going to be an interesting year and at the very least, I will be better dressed.  I will keep you in the loop!

What's next

I love connecting with Dear Good People readers so please feel free to click the icons below to send me a note.  As always, my goal is to give you bite-sized, evidence-based, action-oriented, zeitgeisty tips in every issue (check out past issues here).  I'd love for this free, accessible content to reach as many hearts and minds as possible ...  do forward, post, tweet the newsletter - links are below.  If this was forwarded to you by someone, you can sign up below for a free subscription. 

Thanks for growing with me,

Dolly ChughDolly Chugh


This month's artwork credits from top: Katie Sutton (logo), Jeana Marinelli (books), Chugh family and friends/pic-collage (vests), Dolly Chugh (DeRay McKesson), Chugh family and friends/pic-collage (jumpsuit), Eliza Parrilla (drawing), Theresa Garnero (dentist cartoon), Eliza Parrilla (photo board), Netflix (Hasan and Tan), (Thomas Jefferson), Wiikipedia (historical marker), Maya Chugh Singh (fireworks), Nicolas Poupart (Statue of Liberty), The New York Times (The 1619 Project), Rob Lee (Rob Lee), Simon & Schuster (book cover), Dolly Chugh (Cocoa), HarperCollins/Simon & Schuster/pic-collage (two covers). 

Huge thanks to Katie Sutton for her dedication and help with research, design, and promotion of this newsletter.  Love and gratitude to my husband and kids for their editing and visual help.  And lifelong appreciation to Eliza Parrilla!

Dolly Chugh is the Jacob B. Melnick Term Professor at the New York University Stern School of Business in the Department of Management and Organizations. She studies the psychology of good people and teaches leadership/management courses. All views are her own.

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