Are you a last-minute dresser or someone who meticulously plans out every part of their outfit the night before? However, you choose to get ready, you might re-think your outfit of choice when you discover how it could completely chance your outlook.
Scientific studies have shown that the way we dress can completely transform our behaviour and mood. From inner well-being to outer confidence, we’re going to investigate the true impact of what we wear and discover which outfit combinations can put us on the path to success.
Exploring the science of fashion…
One of the main studies on fashion psychology is called ‘enclothed cognition’, and it explores the influence that clothing can have on the psychological state of each person. In short, the study showed how the ‘symbolic’ meaning tied to a particular item of clothing, as well as wearing the item, worked together to affect people’s behaviour. For example, it isn’t just about wearing a medical white coat, it’s about how we think that the person wearing it should behave.
Participants in this study demonstrated behavioural changes after putting on the coat, including adopting traits we’d commonly associate with doctors, such as carefulness and attention to detail.
So, what does this mean for the average fashion lover – can we select an outfit to help us act in a certain way for a special event – like wearing a blazer to an important work meeting to boost professionalism or wearing gym leggings to
So, does this mean we can select an outfit to help us act a certain way for an important event — like wearing a formal suit for a business meeting to improve our professionalism or a loose jogging bottoms and a cropped tee to boost our level of relaxation? Potentially. In the book, Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion, Professor Karen J. Pine wrote about her studies into the theory of fashion psychology, stating that: “When we put on a piece of clothing, we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it.” A participant in one of Pine’s examinations even said that wearing casual clothes versus formal clothes can “alter the way I walk and hold myself.”
If you have a big event or important occasion coming up, take a moment to think about how you want to feel. Then, consider what type of clothing you’d personally associate with that emotion before shopping for the perfect look.
Are emotions involved?
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia conducted a study that looked at how we attach emotions to certain outfits, and how our clothing choices affect our moods. Lead researcher, Dr. Alastair Tombs, said about the people he interviewed as part of the experiment: “Quite a few people talked about using clothes to change their mood. If they get up and aren’t feeling great, they would put on something that would brighten them up.”
Is it possible that we can instantly improve how we feel simply by wearing something we associate with happiness? Or is this just masking our emotions? Dr. Tombs went on to say that sometimes people will transfer bad feelings onto certain items of clothing — for example, a poor interview. So, in theory, when we wear that item of clothing again, we’ll recall the last time we wore it, and subconsciously, this will lower our mood.
Receiving compliments on an outfit works in a similar way. The report also suggests that: “A dress that enhances the body can be valued not only because it makes the wearer feel more confident, but also because remembering the confidence and admiration these garments brought is valued long after it has ceased to be worn.”
How does the colour of our outfit affect our mood?
There have been several scientific studies into colour psychology — so can our mood, performance and decisions be influenced by what colour outfit we are wearing at the time?
An experiment into how individuals react to various colours was carried out in the US, and the results appeared to prove that different colours and colour combinations caused different emotions in participants — including feeling welcome somewhere and having a sense of excitement. But could the reason for this be based on physics and biology? When light enters the eye, impulses pass to the hypothalamus part of the brain — which also governs our behavioural patterns. Other studies have suggested that colour has an ‘energy’ — in fact, one experiment carried out on blind people to identify colours, indicated that the visually impaired subjects were perfectly able to identify the correct colour when it was in front of them. So, could the effect of colour be both physical and psychological?
Here’s a break-down of how certain colours are supposed to make us feel:
- Black: strong and formal.
- White: fresh and innocent.
- Pink: romantic and kind.
- Blue: calm and sincere.
- Orange: energetic and happy.
- Yellow: cheery and spirited — but be warned, studies suggest that more people lose their tempers in yellow rooms…
- Green: healthy and optimistic.
- Purple: sensual and mysterious.
- Red: excited and passionate.
- Brown: secure and nurturing.
In her book, ‘The Color of Success’, Mary Ellen Lapp commented: “Different clothing colours exude different feelings and meanings, and colours can affect — and reflect — your mood.” If this is true, you could wear differently coloured outfits to lift your spirits and mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead.
Create a wardrobe that makes you feel incredible
If we trust the studies detailed above, certain garments can evoke behavioural changes and alter our moods.
Get the power
Channel a business-ready persona by switching your everyday work outfit for a stylish tailored suit. Psychologists at California State University discovered that people who dressed formally to complete a task were more logical and objective — would these traits come in handy on an important day at work?
Since black is the colour of strength and formality, incorporate plenty of it into your outfit. Wear a figure-hugging, black pencil skirt or a pair of black skinny trousers and tuck in a white, ruche blouse or high-neck shirt to create a flattering and prepared look. Layer up with a tailored blazer or, if you prefer, throw over a waterfall cardigan. Finish off with heeled court shoes and wear your hair in a high-top bun.
Since how we perceive an item of clothing is crucial to how we feel when we wear it, an outfit may help us get creative if it looks creative itself.
Ignore standard items of clothing — like the iconic little black dress or cherished skinny jeans — and go for something quirkier. Choose tops in a colour you wouldn’t usually go for or get a pair of statement culottes featuring vibrant checks or bold paisley prints. Clothes featuring stand-out frills, asymmetric designs and embellishments could also help.
Orange is the colour of energy, while red is the shade of excitement — could you use splashes of these when building your creative look to boost innovation?
We’ve seen in the ‘enclothed cognition’ study that wearing an item of professional clothing causes people to behave in a manner that suits that occupation (i.e. wearing a doctor’s coat incites a better attention span). Could this result be reassigned to other items of clothing, such as sportswear?
Research by Professor Karen Pine also appears to back up the ‘enclothed clothing’ study. After asking multiple students to wear Superman t-shirts, she found that participants claimed to feel strong and confident while wearing the clothing. So, if you’re looking to get fit; joggers, leggings, tees, and vest might all help you subconsciously get in the mood for activity and embody motivation for fitness.
We discovered from the Australian researchers that we can evoke happiness within ourselves simply by wearing an item that reminds us of a nice moment or that we were complimented on previously.
To boost spirits on a down-day, try looking through your wardrobe to dig out those key pieces of clothing that you remember having a great day when you wore them. Or even go shopping for new, similar pieces — whether they’re an identical colour, similar style or the same pattern — to help channel positivity through your clothes. Chances are, if you got a compliment the first time, you’ll get one again.
Try it yourself – think about what you’re going to wear each day to alter how you feel for the better!