When you get dressed each day, do you ever wonder what’s driving your clothing choices? Perhaps you dress to express your individuality, to create an impression with others, or to make yourself feel more professional, competent, etc?
Your sense of style, or style personality, is expressed through the clothing and accessories you wear and the way you’re groomed. But how is this style personality formed and influenced? Exploratory studies looking at the impact of personality and mood on clothing choices suggest that, while personality plays a part in clothing selection, mood is a much stronger predictor, especially for women; how you choose to dress on any given day can simply be a result of your mood.
These studies also imply that clothing can influence an individual’s perception of the traits they possess. So, by wearing appropriate clothes, you can create the belief that you have more of a certain trait, whatever that might be (e.g. responsibility, professionalism, honesty, etc).
Although exploratory, the research indicates some possible influences on style personality. So, how can you use this information to inform your clothing choices and ensure that you dress in a way that’s a true expression of you? Follow my tips to express your true style personality:
Dress for you
When you look at your clothes, ask yourself: what influenced my choices? Are there choices influenced by family members or friends? Do you have items that were bought because they were ‘in fashion’, and not because you were drawn to them? Clothing is a reflection of you and your personality – not anyone else’s. Only ever select items of clothing that you love, and fit with your individual taste, not someone else’s!
Discover your style
If you’re struggling to identify what your own style personality is, do some self discovery! Buy some magazines or surf the web looking at clothing styles that you like the look off – create a collage with them, and note next to each item a few words to describe why you like them. For example, you might notice you’ve written the words feminine, soft, floaty to describe some items. This gives you a clue that your style preference is about looking soft, feminine and romantic.
Wear what makes you feel good
We know from the research that mood can impact your clothing choices day to day. If you’re in a good mood, it’s likely you’ll select something reflective of your high spirits – but what about when you’re feeling below par? Use your clothes to lift your mood – wear something that you feel good in – a favourite piece of clothing or an entire outfit.
Dress how you want to feel
There are times when you want to feel in possession of certain traits to boost confidence or performance. Use what the research tells us about clothing and self perception to your advantage. You might want to feel professional, responsible and competent in preparation for a big meeting. Use your clothing to shape how you perceive yourself – think about the sorts of clothing that will boost the levels of the trait you’d like to have more of. What clothing might make you feel more professional, for example?
Don’t be a slave to fashion
How many times have you worn items because they are fashionable or because ‘so and so celebrity’ is wearing them? When you choose to wear fashion without consideration for whether it suits your own sense of style, you’re not honouring your own style personality – it’s likely that when you do this, you won’t feel 100% comfortable with what you’re wearing. Fashion is all well and good, but only when it fits with your own style.
It’s easy to feel the pressure to conform in today’s society – media can lead you to believe that you have to look a certain way, and this is certainly very true of the clothes that you wear. We are all unique individuals, so why do we all want to look the same? Don’t be afraid to dress in an ‘unconventional’ way if that’s what you like – your style is unique, just like you!
Even if you wear a uniform to work, or are expected to dress in a particular way, you can still express your own style. Although you will have to adhere to the guidelines of your work dress code, there are always ways to add your own style in subtle ways. For example, if you like a very feminine look, you may choose a frilly blouse to complement your business look, or if you’re wearing a uniform, you might wear a pretty piece of jewellery that adds a flourish of your own style.
Above all, don’t be afraid to express yourself!! When you dress in a way that embraces your personality, you will feel comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your mood, health, and overall confidence. Scientists call this phenomenon "enclothed cognition", and Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky, both professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, write that enclothed cognition "involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors -- the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them." The researchers had subjects perform tests while wearing a lab coat like medical doctors wear, a coat like painters wear, and while not wearing either coat. They found that subjects' sustained attention increased while wearing the doctors' coats in a way that their attention did not increase while wearing the painters' coats or no coats.
Similarly, Professor Karen J. Pine, of the University of Hertfordshire (U.K.) writes in her very short book Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion "When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it." In the studies Pine conducted, as related in her book, one participant admitted, "If I'm in casual clothes I relax and am tomboyish, but if I dress up for a meeting or a special occasion, it can alter the way I walk and hold myself."
That is what Lisa Stariha, The Body Empowerment Coach, tries to instill her in clients. She says it is so important to "Get up, get dressed, and never give up each day." Stariha, who often works from her home office, knows how comfortable it can be to work in yoga pants and a cozy shirt. But, she says, "to feel more beautiful, confident, and strong, you must change out of the yoga pants and put on clothes that give you power," just as Wonder Woman went from her Diana Prince uniform to her kick-butt Wonder Woman costume.
How important and empowering the right clothes, and even the right under garments, can be is one of the things my co-authors, Jean Otte and Rosina L. Racioppi and I mentioned in our book WOMEN Are Changing the Corporate Landscape: Rules for Cultivating Leadership Excellence. And Business Insider says that clothes don't just affect your confidence levels, they can affect your success, as "clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond to you."
In 2014, car manufacturer Kia took a survey of what makes people feel confident, a few of the things included in the top 10 list for women included: high heels, a little black dress, and designer perfume. For men, the list included: a freshly shaved face, a new suit, and a nice smelling aftershave.
Understanding the psychological dynamics of why the right-for-us clothing can contribute to our confidence, raise our self esteem, and help propel us in the workplace has become big business. Image, style, and branding consultants are hired by everyone from celebrities to the average Joe, with, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than 56,000 people claiming that as their occupation in 2014. Kim Peterson, of Uniquely Savvy, helps people champion themselves through personal brand and style analysis, body and color analysis, wardrobe analysis, personal shopping, and virtual style consulting for individuals, and more progressive businesses bring Kim in to do workshops for their employees on these self-empowerment topics.
So the next time you reach for those yoga pants or for that fiery red dress, ask yourself how will that clothing item make you feel and what is it saying to the world around you today?
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