The Psychology of Clothing

The Psychology of Clothing

For this week’s blog, we're taking a slightly deeper look into the psychology behind our clothing and asking what do clothes mean? and how do they make us feel?

In fashion psychology one of the more recent discovery’s is enclothed cognition. The idea that the clothing you chose to wear impacts your emotions and thinking patterns.

Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinksy coined the concept in 2012 and produced a few interesting supporting experiments involving lab coats: 
In one experiment, they handed out white lab coats to participants. Half were told they were doctor’s coats, the other half were told they were artist’s smocks. Then, all participants performed the same activity but those wearing “doctor’s coats” were much more careful and attentive.

In another experiment, half of the participants wore lab coats and the other half did not. The results showed those with the coat on had higher levels of selective attention.

All this talk reminded me of my high school friend Rachel, who always dressed up in really nice clothes when sitting at home and working on assignments. Apparently wearing business clothes made her more productive. It also reminded me of times when I've instantly boosted my mood, just by getting up and dressed. 

So evidently, the clothes we dress ourselves in have an influence over our mood and behaviours. But they also go beyound that, clothes are a form of self-expression. Or as Duje Kodzoman, fashion psychologist and designer eloquently puts it:

“One’s wardrobe is known to be an extension of the diverse aspects of one’s beliefs.”

So in essence, a duality exists in our relationship with clothing: we communicate with our clothing, but our clothes also communicate to us.


What does this mean in relation to ethical and sustainable fashion?

In my researching for this post, I came across an article from New Zealand Herald reporter, Vera Alves on op shopping. In the article, she speaks of her recent new found love of browsing the racks – even though she often won’t buy anything. She described the act of op shopping and wearing the clothes you find as; “an exercise in freedom, freedom from rules, conventions, trends and expectations.” I think that’s beautiful. And also true.

I think of my custom-made Luca Pants from Danni. They’re bright pink and molded to my measurements. I feel comfortable and at one with my inner personality whilst wearing them – creative, comfortable and outgoing. Hence, I wear them literally everywhere! I I wear them to uni, coffee with friends, my most recent job interview and on crate day too!

The advertising surrounding fast fashion will always tell say that you feel best in something new – look at their websites or in-store signs. But I've found the opposite to be true. If we look at the psychology behind our clothes, we feel our best when our clothing reflects us and our values. There should be no stigma to re-wearing!

Ultimately, our clothing choices affect, reflect and express something about ourselves. It's important to choose wisely. 

If you want to read more from t sources I mentioned, here you go:

1. Enclothed Cognition by Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinks

2. The Psychology of Clothing by Duje Kodzoman 

3. New Zealand Herald Article, Secondhand clothes shopping makes me feel better about my body - here's why by Vera Alves


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