What Your Clothes Say About You Essay

Your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your mood, health, and overall confidence. Scientists call this phenomenon "enclothed cognition", and Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky, both professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, write that enclothed cognition "involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors -- the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them." The researchers had subjects perform tests while wearing a lab coat like medical doctors wear, a coat like painters wear, and while not wearing either coat. They found that subjects' sustained attention increased while wearing the doctors' coats in a way that their attention did not increase while wearing the painters' coats or no coats.

Similarly, Professor Karen J. Pine, of the University of Hertfordshire (U.K.) writes in her very short book Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion "When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it." In the studies Pine conducted, as related in her book, one participant admitted, "If I'm in casual clothes I relax and am tomboyish, but if I dress up for a meeting or a special occasion, it can alter the way I walk and hold myself."

That is what Lisa Stariha, The Body Empowerment Coach, tries to instill her in clients. She says it is so important to "Get up, get dressed, and never give up each day." Stariha, who often works from her home office, knows how comfortable it can be to work in yoga pants and a cozy shirt. But, she says, "to feel more beautiful, confident, and strong, you must change out of the yoga pants and put on clothes that give you power," just as Wonder Woman went from her Diana Prince uniform to her kick-butt Wonder Woman costume.

How important and empowering the right clothes, and even the right under garments, can be is one of the things my co-authors, Jean Otte and Rosina L. Racioppi and I mentioned in our book WOMEN Are Changing the Corporate Landscape: Rules for Cultivating Leadership Excellence. And Business Insider says that clothes don't just affect your confidence levels, they can affect your success, as "clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond to you."

In 2014, car manufacturer Kia took a survey of what makes people feel confident, a few of the things included in the top 10 list for women included: high heels, a little black dress, and designer perfume. For men, the list included: a freshly shaved face, a new suit, and a nice smelling aftershave.

Understanding the psychological dynamics of why the right-for-us clothing can contribute to our confidence, raise our self esteem, and help propel us in the workplace has become big business. Image, style, and branding consultants are hired by everyone from celebrities to the average Joe, with, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than 56,000 people claiming that as their occupation in 2014. Kim Peterson, of Uniquely Savvy, helps people champion themselves through personal brand and style analysis, body and color analysis, wardrobe analysis, personal shopping, and virtual style consulting for individuals, and more progressive businesses bring Kim in to do workshops for their employees on these self-empowerment topics.

So the next time you reach for those yoga pants or for that fiery red dress, ask yourself how will that clothing item make you feel and what is it saying to the world around you today?

Follow Jill L. Ferguson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JLFerg

Have you ever thought about what message your clothing is projecting & what it says about you? What story do you think your outfit today told the world?

No, no. Don’t keep reading. Pause for a second & think about it. When you leave the house in the morning (or the evening), what are you & your outfit trying to say?

Really, it’s worth considering. How many times have you walked down the street & made a huge judgement call on someone else, PURELY based on what they’re wearing? (I know. It is awful, but it happens.) Do you dress for yourself or for other people? Are you trying to fit in with your friends, or impress the opposite sex for your own ultimate gain?

I was on my way to buy sushi on Friday night when I passed a girl wearing an extremely short dress with her boobs hanging out. She wasn’t unattractive, but seriously, I barely noticed her face. It was all about the boobs. What was she thinking before she left her bedroom? I am trying to be as non-judgmental here as is humanly possible, & maybe I am completely wrong, but I don’t think she was going to a rotary meeting. She looked like she was out to snag a mans (sic). I’m not talking about a first date at a little restaurant & flowers, I’m talking about nightclubs, bumping & grinding, & waking up in the morning feeling like a troll. (I think that “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” can be taken the wrong way sometimes.)

I have to tell you that this is hard to write without it sounding like I am judging casual sex — which I’m not. Maybe it wasn’t a good example. I also feel bad for really skinny girls who wear tracksuit pants so no one will notice.

People are free to do as they choose — all I think is that you should value yourself & your clothing should reflect that.

I like short skirts as much as the next girl, but I think there is a point where you stop dressing for yourself & start dressing for the benefit of others, & that’s when we start to have problems.

What you’re wearing & how you’re wearing it says so much about you — how you feel, which parts of your body you like & dislike, how confident & comfortable you are, & where you think you fit into the world. It is so interesting to think about all these things when you’re people-watching, but it is best applied to yourself: before you leave the house, before you buy a new dress or before you buy another pair of Converse to replace your last pair.

Are you a “scene” kid, secure in your goth, metal, emo or hip hop uniform, happy to fit in? Do you walk around clutching a Louis Vuitton bag in front of you, & if so, what does that say about you? Are you concealing nipple piercings behind your conservative blouse in a secret act of rebellion? Are you going for a European look, & does that mean you’re ashamed of your heritage? Are you dressed to resemble the latest celebrity-du-jour — & does that mean you’re completely devoid of your own style?

Ultimately, only you know what’s going on in your own life, & only you hold the secret decoder ring to your own outfit. But you don’t need to buy into all that scene crap, you don’t need to follow trends & you don’t need to impress anyone else. If you feel good it will mean more than any compliment a stranger could pay you.

Dress as if you are celebrating yourself in a room full of sleeping people.

Just do whatever it takes to make you happy. Your external appearance is yours & yours alone — yours to do whatever you please with. Clothing can transform you into anyone you want to be, which is something that I think International Dress-Up Day helps with. It reminds us that we can do whatever we please, that we can dress like our idols if that’s going to help us become more like the people we admire, or the person we imagine ourselves being. There is a whole secret language in the fabric we cover (or uncover) ourselves with, a secret language that bellows down the street in all directions.

“If you aren’t enjoying your clothes, then you really are missing the point.” Betty Halbreich.

Where is the real value in dressing for other people, anyway? Why not try impressing yourself? If you still really want the external validation, don’t worry — when your clothing is truly flattering & you are obviously happy in it, people will notice — but the point is that you will look good without having to devalue yourself or buy into anyone else’s ridiculous agenda.

If you can manage to untangle yourself from that huge part of society which says we must be liked, admired & fit in at all costs, you will start to realise & develop your own true style — the perfect gift to yourself, which no one can ever take away.


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