Want to do better at maths? Don't wear a swimsuit! Want to be stronger? Wear a superman outfit! Yes, your clothes can influence you in so many ways. Read More
I sometimes watch a show called What Not to Wear. At first I thought it was shallow and kind of stupid, not to mention condescending. But I changed my mind around the 5th or 6th episode! The premise of the show is that people who dress really slovenly or outrageously are nominated for a makeover by their friends and family, and if they accept, they undergo a radical transformation of (ostensibly) wardrobe in a week, but what really happens occurs on a much deeper level. Turns out they've been wearing their insecurities and self-esteem issues on the outside of their bodies. Once they dress more 'appropriately' they become aware of this link and begin to shift their way of thinking along with their style of dressing. As a therapist and creative person I found this all fascinating, and often very moving/touching. Although I don't believe we should become totally immersed in the hyper-critical dissection and analysis of every outfit or piece of clothing, I do notice that being aware of the effects of the clothing I choose does have a profound effect on my mood and my self-worth. For me it comes not from wearing brand names or designer clothing, but from one of a kind artistic creations or just clothing that is beautiful and comfortable and fits me well. I have a beautiful cape that was made specially for me (no, not a Superwoman one - it's more Game of Thrones) and whenever I wear it, with the wind blowing it out behind me a bit and in my pirate boots and hair blowing all wild around my face, I feel like an ancient goddess striding through the countryside (ok, the huge local park by a lake, but close enough) with my wolf (Golden retriever/Labrador/Corgi mix) by my side... that cape is magical.
Dear Suzan, Thanks very much for the comment and telling me about What Not to Wear. We do not have a programme like that in the UK as far as I know (I don't own a TV though so could be wrong). But what you say about the way the clothes people wear reflecting something deeper sounds right to me. And a makeover could change more that the outside, of course! Best, Ben
I am currently writing my dissertation paper on semiotics in fashion and the ability of clothing to depict aspects of the self to others and provides a platforms to express one's self. i don't believe that each piece of clothing has to be completely scrutinized or evaluated however on a subconscious level certain observations and assumptions are made. Do you feel clothing also has the ability to 'speak' to others; as your article states it has this capability on a personal level.
Thanks for the comment. I do think that clothing can express core elements of the self, but it is also important to understand the forces that compete with this. One way of looking at this in relation to fashion is the distinction between 'individualising forces' and 'socialising forces' - essentially being yourself as opposed to being how others in your social groups expect you to be. I would think that only a person who is 'coherent' (see my first couple of blogs on Psychology Today) is likely to have a strongly developed sense of self and be more driven by the individualising forces. Most people - especially when younger - are more influenced my the socialising forces and the need to reveal a social identity instead of a personal one. So clothing can hide the self as much as reveal it.......
Really interesting article. Thank you.
Thanks for posting! This was a great read. I recently gained 52 pounds on one of my psychiatric medicines. I'm normally between 125 and 128 pounds. I had gotten up to 171. I couldn't fit 75% of my wardrobe. And I'm really into clothes and fashion. I was devastated. I've recently lost 17 pounds and have begun to buy clothes that I love and feel great in. There is definitely a link between mood and clothes. Thanks for the scientific research to back up what I've known all along.
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Ben C. Fletcher, D.Phil, Oxon, is a Professor of Psychology, a behavior change expert, and author of Flex: Do Something Different — How to use the other 9/10ths of your personality.
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