The Modern Struggle of Being Too Clothes Minded

“I’ve never understood the fashion industry, those people are so clothes minded”

Though you can rely on this pun to enlighten you on how to create comedy gold; do not trust it to accurately enlighten you on how many people really have clothes on their mind. It has become common knowledge that clothing affects the way we perceive people, but why this is the case is not often at the fingertips of the layman. Neither is it well known what effect our own clothing has on us or the mental input that goes into our clothing choices. Who? What? When? Where? And why? All the answers will soon become clear…

Clothing can influence your wages.

From waiting to banking, if you want to do well in the workplace, it seems that it has become essential to carefully consider your clothing choice. Darlene Price, President of Well Said, Inc., highlighted how your clothing can act as a “silent recommendation”, if you wear the most appropriate clothes. But what is most suitable? In terms of a an office job, “Business Insider” had several recommendations, including to not wear wrinkled or dirty clothing, or shorts, and to not show too much skin, to name but a few. The importance of avoiding such outfit choices can be greatly significant on the opportunities you receive, as was discovered in a study carried out by Howlett et al. Women dressed in more conservative clothing were rated more favourably than those with simply one more button undone or a slightly shorter skirt. Minimal alterations again affected impressions when it came to males in Pine’s study on “The Effect of Appearance on First Impressions”. More positive impressions came from those wearing bespoke suits than off-the-peg attire, despite the fact these had subtle differences, and the colours and fabrics were the same. Furthermore, even if you do not want to participate in this sphere of work, clothing can influence your wages. Waitresses wearing red were left higher tips than those wearing tops of a different colour, as discovered by Guéguen and Jacob 2010 (though it should be noted that the colour which makes the best impression will differ depending on cultures). However, whilst paying attention to your appearance is necessary, it can be argued that it is not sufficient to create a good impression overall. Brown emphasised the significance of body language alongside how you look. Therefore, whilst you should make an effort to dress well, you should not allow yourself to become too “clothes minded”.

Nonetheless, clothes can be seen to have an influence on your cognitive functioning, which suggests the huge significance they have on all aspects of the impressions we make. Due to the fact formal clothing has come to be attributed to non-intimate settings, it makes those who wear it “socially distant” through being more polite and using more abstract language, as professors from California State University, Northridge and Columbia University learnt in their study. The “Journal of Experimental Social Psychology” labelled this idea the “enclothed cognition”, saying that your brain connects clothes or brands with people with particular qualities and can lead to you adopting these when you don those heels or that blazer. Gabriela Palmieri, senior vice president at Sotheby’s in New York,  supports this theory through speaking of the fact she owns “power outfits”. So perhaps the reason you smashed that interview was not simply the positive impact your clothes had on the interviewer, as Benz et al 2005 argued, but can also be attributed to the fact your clothing choice had a positive impact on yourself.

 So, if you want to feel better, you do not necessarily need to bin the ice-cream tub, but try throwing away the baggy jumper.

External style also changes internal style in terms of the emotional effect clothing has. Karen Pine has stressed how the right clothes can alter how a person feels, to the extent that she has aided the creation of a “Wear Something Different” scheme, which enables people to feel better about themselves through helping them change their style. Well-cut, figure enhancing clothing made from bright fabrics make us feel good. Remember that time you sat inside in your baggy jumper eating a tub of ice-cream feeling a bit sad about life? Well, your clothing choice both will have been influenced by your mood, as well as contributed to the continuation of your unhappiness. Whereas, when it comes to feeling good, 62% of those who participated in a study by Professor Pine spoke of how they wear their favourite dress in this state of mind – showing the inextricable link between clothing and emotions. So, if you want to feel better, you do not necessarily need to bin the ice-cream tub, but try throwing away the baggy jumper and put on your favourite clothes, or accessories, to brighten your day.

We have mainly learnt about how our clothing can make an impact on ourselves and others, but what else leads us to choose particular clothes and styles each day? Not only do we resort to certain clothing for comfort when we are down, but Kate Nightingale from Style Psychology has highlighted how certain clothes make us feel comfortable due to reminding us of a time when we were very certain of ourselves. Teenagers can frequently be seen to change style due to trying to work out who they are and what social group they belong to, so once we find a group – and thus style – we are comfortable in, we often stick to it due to the comfort this feeling of belonging brings us. Determining our style is not an entirely individual process though. Trends manage to be formed through the collective influence advertising can have, as we cannot avoid a seeing a certain style of clothing that gets ingrained in our mind through constant promotion. In addition, the style we grow up with has been said to impact choices later in life. This suggests the many factors which actually go into that daily decision.

Therefore, it can be seen that maybe we all are a bit clothes minded. And this is not a bad thing. If you want to change your prospects, clothes can clearly be seen as at least one way in which this can begin. Though that is not to say that your choice of style is entirely on an individual basis, as can be ascertained from the external influences on how we dress. All the same, do not restrain from making an effort to put on your best gear and letting the clothes do their magic.