Once, we were all dressed by someone else. Parents decided what we should wear, the school dictated what color our uniform should be. At some point, we were granted the opportunity to discover who we might be in the world of clothes. We had to decide for ourselves about shirts, skirts, colors, patterns, textures and what goes with what or what doesn’t. What’s sociality appropriate to wear and what isn’t.
We learned to speak about ourselves in the language of garments. Despite the exaggeration of sections of the fashion industry, assembling a wardrobe is a serious and meaningful exercise.
Based on our looks or background, others are always liable to perceive us a certain way and not very rounded decisions about who we are. More than likely, their judgment does not quite get us right. They might assume that because of where we come from, we must be snobbish or resentful. The fact that we’re very sporty might lead people to see us as not very intelligent, or an attachment to a corporate look might be associated with being focused and earnest.
Clothes provide us with a major opportunity to correct some of these assumptions. When we dress, we are, in effect, operating as a tour guide, offering to show people around ourselves; our identity and what we subscribe to. We’re highlighting interesting or attractive things about who we are and we’re clearing our misconceptions of what people may think of us.
We are acting like an artist painting a self-portrait: deliberately guiding the viewer’s perception of who we might be.
Adam Galinsky is an American social psychologist and professor at Columbia Business School and did a study to know if clothes affect the way people think and behave. From the Tv show ‘’The Simpsons’’ there is a great episode where the principal comes in and demands that all the students start wearing uniforms. And they’re these grey uniforms without colors, and the students become very paralyzed. The principal said ”these uniforms are a godsend. Horseplay is down by 40 percent.” And he (Galinsky) thought if there could be anything to that.
His more specific hypothesis around that was ‘Could clothe affect your intellectual abilities?’. Professor wondered if wearing a doctor’s white coat could make you better on a complex attention task. He then got volunteers to take part in an attention task experiment where he held up pieces of paper that had the names of different colors printed in different ink. And Professor Galinsky and his team found that the people who wore the white coats paid more attention and scored higher than the team who wore street clothes.
Maybe it had something to do with the fabric, so he tested it again but the second time he described the coat as a white painter’s coat. It barely affected. What he found is that it’s not just the material of the clothes but the key aspect; symbolic association with it. A doctor’s coat symbolizes attention and focuses on people. A painter’s coat may be viewed as creative. Adam Galinsky also found that simply watching a doctor’s coat does not affect. ‘’There’s something about putting on the coat, feeling it and being that person.’’ Which he believes makes those beliefs contained in clothing carry over into you. By putting on the clothing, it essentially becomes who you are. It’s a little momentary shift in identity.
Dopamine dressing is wearing certain apparel to ameliorate your mood. Most of us have that one outfit, shirt, pants, dress or shoes that we favorite, and we feel confident in for an occasion. Going for an interview, a wedding or a formal function—we tend to choose the best fabrics in our wardrobe to look and feel our best. Fashion holds the key to a vital lifeline. Clothing can be transformative. Clothing equals confidence. Dopamine dressing is linked with color psychology.
Color psychology is the study of hue as a determinant of human behavior. Researchers argue Hurlbert & Ling (2007) that it emerged from an evolutionary bias grounded in our ancestors and that explains why boys prefer blue and girls pink. Our ancestors needed to find food sources by identifying red and yellow fruits apart from green fruits. Consequently, that role influenced color preference for future female generations and color vision bias created an adaptive significance for females (Alexander, 2003, pp 11). Female brains developed a preference for reddish colors because of their ancestral duties in gathering food sources which explain why many women like to wear red dresses, nail polish and red heels.
One way to boost your mood is to compliment your shape with the clothes you wear. Fashion designers suggest dressing based on your body shape. Pear-shaped people carry most of their weight in the lower areas of their bodies. Wearing straight or bootcut jeans fit most comfortable and appropriate. Apple-shaped individuals carry most of their weight around the middle sections. It’s suggested to bring focus to your legs with straight-leg trousers. Tall persons can extenuate their legs by wearing low-rise trousers.
This explains the curious phenomenon whereby if we’re staying with good friends, we spend a lot less time thinking about our clothes, compared with the anxiety about what to wear when we’re with strangers. With good friends, we might sit around in loose baggy clothes. They know who we are and are not relying on us for cues. When we put clothes on or see others wearing them, we’re turned on. A particular style of shirt, the right pair of shoes or the perfect blazer might prove we could almost do without a person wearing them. If we can financially afford it, we may want to buy it right away, take a picture of it, add it to our shopping list on amazon. It’s tempting to see these kinds of fetishism as simply deluded but it’s alerting us in an exaggerated way that certain clothes make us very happy. They capture values that we’re drawn and want to get closer to.
The French novelist Stendhal wrote: ‘Beauty is the promise of happiness’ and every item of clothing we’re drawn to contains an allusion to a different sort of happiness.
We get excited when we get new clothes for Christmas when we pick up our Amazon order and scratch it off our bucket list. We post to our social media apps to show off our style. The way a specific collar encases the neck could strike us as commanding and authoritative. The fashion industry might be pushing their particular attachments to a maximum but they’re latching onto a general theme: clothes embody values that enchant us. By choosing sorts of clothes, we are shoring-up our more fragile or tentative characteristics. We communicate with others who we are and strategically reminding ourselves. Our wardrobes contain some of our most carefully written lines of autobiography.
Heidi Grant Halvorson, social psychologist and author of “No One Understands You and What To Do About It,” conducted a similar study to Adam Galinsky on how formal clothes can impact our psychology. What the study shows is that formal clothing makes you feel people powerful and people perceive us as being powerful. People worked more abstractly; productivity increased, and creativity. Halvorson said that ”Dress up Friday” in casual wear decreased creativity and problem-solving.
Steve Jobs famously wore a black sweater in most of his public appearances and Elizabeth Homes, one of the world’s richest female billionaires has a similar work outfit she wears almost every day. Halvorson explained that the part of the brain that does decision making is an energy hog and makes you tired. By wherever you can cut down on decisions like what you wear or what you eat, you can save that energy for more important things.
President Barack Obama made a statement that aligns with Halvorson saying he doesn’t want to make decisions about what to eat or wear because he has too many other decisions to make.
Some freelancers that work from home wear business attire to get themselves in a mental state of work. ‘My Green Closet’ a freelance Youtuber said while wearing baggy clothes, she felt demotivated to do a daily task and procrastinated. Wearing business attire, she felt more professional.
Will Franken is a comedian from the USA, Missouri. Starting from a young age, he liked to privately dress as a woman. He described it as feeling a sense of excitement, a little bit of eroticism and the forbidden. In Will’s case, he associated dressing like a woman with safety, laughter, and comfort. As Will got older, he kept thinking about women’s clothes and buying them in private. He described it as feeling good and something nobody should know that he started liking. The thrill of it, secrecy.
Will thought about it as intimate access to a woman and feeling a side of the world under your biological sex you’re not supposed to. Deviance. Months later he reverted to wearing male clothes and the Transgender community saw him as a poser. Will explained that the whole thing wasn’t a stunt, it was a process. He thought for months that it was just the clothes he liked that affected his mood but was opened to the idea that it just wasn’t the clothes. He saw it as escapism, something to fill his loneliness and he still feels lonely, but he prefers to be lonely Will instead of the short-lived comedy identities that he created. Will Franken is a straight man that enjoyed wearing female clothes because he liked the way he felt in them.
Similarly, but the opposite to Will Franken’s scenario, Isabella Zaydenberg, a blogger for Elite Daily reported that while wearing feminine clothing that she usually got cat-called in public by men. She later started wearing men’s clothing at work and she felt more of a woman wearing male clothing than she did when wearing feminine clothes. It imbues you with instant authority. Her co-workers respected her more and she got angrier when people bumped into her than wearing a dress. She believes it has to do with dressing like her boss.
According to Debenhams, sales of female versions of male suits have soared to 157 percent in 2014 in a few months. More female actresses are wearing suits like these to boost their confidence level and make a stance for female power.
‘’ Trussed up in a constricting bodycon dress, I fell victim instead of a master of my clothes. Men’s clothing, with its clever tailoring tricks, is far more flattering.’’ Linda Kelsey, Publisher on MailOnline.
“When people believe in the symbolic meaning of their clothes, it can affect their cognitive processes, and part of those are your emotions,” Carolyn Mair, a psychologist who teaches college courses on fashion psychology.
In conclusion, we have been wearing clothing for thousands of years, and we can see the societal impact that clothing has over us and how it affects our mood even if we’re not consciously aware of it. We communicate with others who we are and strategically reminding ourselves. Our wardrobes contain some of the most carefully written lines of our autobiography.