How can clothes make a difference?
Are you comfortable in your clothes? Because the garments we wear can affect our mental state in both positive and negative ways. These days, most of us are working from home, and a lot of us find ourselves wearing our pyjamas all day. If there’s a work call, or a zoom meeting, we may change our shirt, but the pyjamas remain. Why is that?
Pyjamas, for most of us, are associated with comfort, the feel-good factor. We’re all at home, and home is normally where we find that comfort. Hence, for a lot of people, changing at least partially into work attire, gives them the feeling of professionalism. Changing out of work clothes and into pyjamas is an important transition for a lot of people because this can help mentally prepare us for bedtime. When you never shed your sleepwear, it can be hard to find the work-life separation line. This, is just one way in which our clothes have a big impact on our mental health and behaviour in general.
In the last few months, I have been extremely interested in the field of fashion psychology. Fashion and style are very significant parts of our society. They are the ways in which we express ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. In fact, psychology has indicated that our personal style can boost our self-esteem, create a personal identity and reinforce a sense of belonging. For example, wearing an outfit that you love can help make you feel very confident or happy. The clothes we wear daily reflect the way we want others to perceive us and how we see ourselves. Clothes even influence our cognitive abilities. Many people have an outfit or even one article of clothing that they feel confident or comfortable in. Clothing can also have a nostalgic quality. The clothes we wear can take us back to the times when we have worn them in the past and can bring back tons of memories. So, the clothes we wear can also at times, serve as memory cues for us to recollect information.
Apart from this, clothes also have a significant impact on our self confidence. Our self confidence and self esteem is lowered when we feel that the the kind of person we are, and the kind of person that we want to be are very different. Wearing clothes that make you feel confident and good, can enhance your self esteem and uplift your mood. Wearing shaggy clothes to a job interview (which in anyway is anxiety provoking), might increase feelings of rejection, failure, and reduce self confidence. On the other hand, wearing something classy, professional and at the same time comfortable, alleviates anxiety and boosts self confidence. Wearing clothes that make us feel good automatically increases the dopamine levels in our brain which makes us happy.
Clothes have developed from a practical asset to a social and emotional marker: they affect the way we see ourselves. They help us to be seen in the light that we wish to be, and also exude our personalities and social status.
Here are some quick awareness activities for you:
Common interpretations of the following colours:
In conversation with fashion psychologist Susan Hawil:
In order to know more about fashion psychology, we contacted Susan Hawil, a registered psychologist and a private practitioner, accredited in Fashion Psychology from Fashion Psychology Institute, New York.
Here’s a gist of what we learnt from our mini-interview with her:
I.How does our attire or the way we dress affect our mood and our emotions?
Clothing can be used to either reflect our current emotional state, i.e, whether we are happy, stressed or depressed, or to improve our emotional state i.e, to boost our confidence, self esteem and improve our overall mood.
When feeling stressed you may opt to: Reflect your current emotional state- wearing ill-fitting and unflattering clothing: sweatshirt, baggy shirt or pants, as well as wearing dull colours to avoid attention. This form of clothing can prolong or even exacerbate feelings of stress.
You can improve your current emotional state by wearing well-cut clothing, bright colours, a piece of your statement jewellery (or accessory), your favourite fabric or clothing associated with positive memories.
2.Is there a way in which our dress sense has an impact on our anxiety and stress levels?
There are a few ways in which our dress sense impacts our psychological well-being. These include wearing uncomfortable or ill-fitting clothing or wearing clothes that no longer reflect who you are as a person. In order to reduce stress levels wear clothing that makes you feel happy and comfortable.
3.Are there any particular colours that on wearing would make us feel more calm and happier?
Yes, colours can greatly impact our mood and the way others respond to us. Green and blue generally have a calming effect as they are associated with nature.
How can clothes help during the current work-from-home phase?
Through her latest Instagram post (@psychologyofstyle) Susan Hawil has talked about how we can make certain changes in our lifestyles and clothes in order to work efficiently from home. Below, is a summary of her latest post.
Tip: Try being more mindful of what you’re picking up to wear every day this isolation period, and how that makes you feel. You always have the option to change your attire if you don’t feel good wearing it and this in turn might just change your mood!
You can get more information on Susan and her work in the field of fashion psychology from her Instagram page. Her handle is @psychologyofstyle.
You can also get more insight into the world of fashion psychology from this link.
I am a practicing psychologist. I’m interested in art and design. Mandala art is my stress buster. I’m also into the upcoming field of fashion psychology. Binge watching, reading, engaging with art and listening to music are my current pastimes. Oh, and adding new places to visit in my travel bucket list too can be counted!