We spend billions of pounds on clothes annually, so surely the cry 'I don’t know what to wear!’ should never be heard. Yet it is.
A wardrobe crisis may seem like a minor dilemma in a day packed with important decisions, but it's actually not frivolous. Because the clothes we choose can shape the day ahead, determining who we meet, how we behave and how others react to us. No wonder the psychology of fashion is so fascinating.
That’s why my new book ‘Mind What You Wear’ helps you understand the impact of what you wear, on yourself.
Because clothing can literally be life-changing.
|Mind What You Wear is just £1.99 from Amazon UK|
The book includes the story of Meg who, on a whim, bought a hat, that made a man approach her at a party, that led to them marrying. It’s a poignant reminder of how our apparently insignifcant choices have a huge impact on others. And where that can lead.
But the main focus of the book is on how what we wear changes us too.
We walk taller and act more confidently in the right outfit. When we’re dressed down we withdraw and hide away. Clothes speak to others but they have the power to speak to us too. Sensations and associations in the body lead to new ideas in the mind.
Every day we pull something from the wardrobe, or try on something in a store, that has life-changing potential.
- The suit that subliminally convinces an interviewer we’re perfect for the job.
- The red dress that stirs something in a future lover that leads them to ask for a date.
- Even the swimsuit that can strip us of our intellectual powers.
(Yes, when Barbara Fredrickson gave a maths test to groups of women and men who wore either a swimsuit or a sweater, she showed that wearing a swimsuit diminished a woman’s maths performance).
This was a startling discovery - that what we wear can actually change the way our brains function. Later, researchers from Northwestern University in the US showed that putting on a white coat improved a person’s mental agility. By associating the white coat with a doctor their brain was primed to take on different mental capacities.
So in my lab we have been putting students in Superman t-shirts! We’ve found it makes them see themselves as more likeable and superior to other students, and even to believe they are physically stronger. Every day the brain’s functions are primed by sights, smells and experiences. Now we know our mental processes can also primed by a piece of clothing, which opens up exciting opportunities.
What we wear has cognitive, social and emotional consequences.
The right clothing can change who we are, how we think and how we feel. So we should never underestimate this power. My research has revealed that when women are depressed they are more likely to wear jeans. What would happen if, on waking up feeling glum, instead of dragging on the sad pants the woman pulled on a favourite frock? The effect could be intrapersonal, priming her brain and lifting her mood. Or it could be interpersonal, the message her clothes send to the world determining others’ responses to her, triggering a positive feedback loop capable of changing her mood.
The book has lots of tips to lift your mood with the right clothes.
One day we may even see clothes prescribed as therapy, as an alternative to medication. In the meantime why not learn a little more about how the right clothes can impact on your life by getting hold of a copy of Mind What You Wear.