The Psychology of Fashion
Your fashion style can determine if you ace that interview and get that dream job. Once you are on the job, your wardrobe can determine if you get more responsibility and get promoted. Your clothing choices can make or break your career, your ability to make friends, and develop the romantic relationships that you seek.
Just as dress radiates outward to your surroundings, it also moves inward. How you dress affects your mood. Your wardrobe choices have a psychological impact. Karen Pine demonstrates in her book Mind What You Wear that there is a science behind fashion and that psychology and fashion are indeed linked.
“Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.” —Vivienne Westwood
A bidirectional relationship
Our clothes impact how we feel and how we feel influences what we choose to wear. In some cultures, a woman is more likely to wear jeans if she is depressed (Pine, 2012). Patients trust a doctor more if he is wearing a white coat, and people show more mental agility if they are told the white coat they are wearing is a physician’s lab coat compared to if they are told it is a painter’s smock (Pine, 2014).
In the discipline of psychology, we focus on risk factors, behaviors, and emotional states. We know that fashion has always played a significant role in reflecting (and sometimes reinforcing) the mental attitudes, political culture and gender roles of the day. Think of how important a woman’s clothing is according to the religious and cultural environment she lives in. Think of how this might impact her sense of self. While more academic research is needed to better understand the impact of clothing and fashion on behavior and emotions, our lived experience tells us that there is a strong effect.
“Our bodies matter, they are in fact an extension of our self. They are part of the environment we live in” (Shah, 2012).
Fashion choices are part of growth and self expression for adolescents
It seems that all parents face, at some point, the question of “should I let my adolescent wear whatever they want?”
Fashion choices reflect growth, changing values, and self expression. Young people want to dress in a way that reflects their values and traits. They want to have the agency to express themselves through their fashion choices. Fashion is important as youth go through the stages of psychosocial development and is an integral part of the development of a sense of self and a way of finding social confirmation (Venkatasamy, 2015).
There is a reason fashion is a multi-billion-dollar industry today. What we wear affects how we feel about ourselves and others.
The next time you choose what to wear, think about why you chose that outfit. Allow more understanding for others when considering why they dress the way they do. And most of all, use the opportunity to have fun and bring pleasure into your life. Self care is an important aspect of mental health. Looking and feeling good is not just an advertising slogan, it is a viable aspect to your wellbeing.
Pine, K. J. (2014). Mind what you wear: The psychology of fashion. Self-published. E-book.
Venkatasamy, N. (2015). Fashion trends and their impact on society. Paper presented International Conference on Textiles. Retrieved online from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282571020_Fashion_trends_and_their_impact_on_the_society