The Power of Clothes on Your Mental Health

This is a relevant topic for most of us at the moment facing many work weeks of lockdown and possibly finding it harder and harder to get out of tracky packs and sweatshirts with a ‘What’s the point?’ attitude. What would you say if I told you what you choose to wear can have a
profound impact on how you feel about yourself, how others perceive you, your attitude and emotions? Well it does and in the world of Fashion Psychology (yes that’s a thing!) it’s called ENCLOTHED COGNITION.

It’s been proven in various studies that we have an emotional response to certain clothes we wear. We consider some clothes to be powerful, some to be fun, sexy and so on. We even evaluate people when we first meet them based on their clothes. In turn we also evaluate ourselves based on what we are wearing because of the way they make us feel. This means that the experience of wearing something affects our attitude, mood and behaviour.

To prove this point…

I want you to think of your favourite outfit, the one that makes/made you feel confident, happy and like you can/could take on the world. Remember the feeling when you wore it. Now have you or do you have an outfit in your closet that no longer fits you but that you can’t bear to
throw away because of the EMOTIONAL attachment you have to it. The fact is…

The connection between our emotions and the way we dress is integral to the way we behave and feel. This study explains it so well:

Emotions play such a significant role in our clothing choices because often it is not the actual clothes that we wear that determine our feelings and attitudes but the associations we have with them. This was demonstrated by a study conducted by Professor Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his colleague Hajo Adam. The two groups of people who took part in the study were each given a white lab coat to wear — the first group were told it was a doctor’s coat, the second that it was a painter’s. The first group performed their tasks more sharply and with higher attention levels, as they unconsciously adopted the qualities typical of a doctor, such as a focused attitude. This process is called enclothed cognition and Galinsky describes it as “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.”

Understanding this process helps to explain why we choose certain types of clothing in different situations to, for example, empower us and give us confidence (a job interview, a first date), or — on the flip side — to just blend into the crowd and not be noticed (a child being
bullied, a teenager suffering from depression). Our clothing also affects how others relate to us and determines the image that we wish to project to them.

Robert Ridge, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, explains this concept further: “There definitely can be a connection between how people dress and how they feel. The more you like your appearance, the more confident you can be.” This emphasises the importance of the short- and long-term impact of our clothing choices — if we wake up in the morning and choose an outfit that is ill-fitting and does not give us confidence, we will be self-conscious for the rest of the day. This will likely manifest in our behaviour — we may act awkwardly, avoid any unnecessary social interaction and become extremely introverted.

Interesting right?

What do you do with this information? Simply be aware of how you feel in certain outfits and how it impacts you and your day. If you feel your mood is impacted by what you wear try something different. Here are a few tips for you…

    I’ve picked just a few as examples of how colour can impact emotions.
    Yellow is associated with happiness
    Orange for energy and enthusiasm
    Blue can instill a feeling of safety, trust and productivity
    Black is great if you want to feel in control
    Red is for love, feeling sexy, assertive, powerful
    Purple is linked to imagination and mystery
    Don’t forget about the socks and undies.. even they can affect how we
    feel about ourselves. Hidden clothes like our socks and underwear can
    exert a powerful influence on our self-perception and confidence.
    Wearing something we perceive as sexy can make us feel more self
    assured, more powerful and more confident.
    Cotton and wool can help you develop a carefree attitude.
    Soothing fabrics against the skin like silk can enhance your mood in a
    positive way.
    Print and embellishments can help get you out of a monotonous state of
    mind. Embellishments like sequins can help you feel a sense of
    Animal print can help you feel wild and whimsical.
    It’s easy to stay in those PJ’s all day feeling glum but just
    remember next time you are feeling that way, are your clothes
    helping on enhancing that negative mental state?

Charlie is still running Syling and Self Esteem Consults via zoom, as well as wardrobe audits, and online shopping trips. Book a consult here and get proactive about your mental health:

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