The Science of Dressing Up

How What You Wear Can Affect How You Feel
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For fashion aficionados, every piece of clothes that you choose is a statement. Now, pioneering scientific research reveals that scientists will more than agree with that: what you wear reflects how you feel, what you aim for, even who you are deep inside – and how you communicate with others. But how exactly does that happen, and why?

Clothes as Communication

We know the assumption to be true in a broader social context: how we dress up (or down) reveals a little bit about our character, our social status and financial potential, even our worldview – and certainly how we view the occasion we dressed for. Wearing designer clothes or choosing to go for smart casual at a formal event have connotations that are deeply embedded in social conventions; overstepping could be perceived as an offense, a misstep, or even a manifesto, but it is unquestionably a form of communicating with others without even saying a word. Just think of the uniform as a visual representation of a certain shared identity; clothes carry symbolism help us give each other helpful tacit clues on what to expect and how to interact.

Now, research suggests that what you wear not only reflects how you feel inside, but could actually affect your emotions. This phenomenon even has a scientific name: “Enclothed cognition” is analyzed by researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where scientists have found that wearing different clothes can boost confidence, as the perceived symbolism of how we dress meets the physical experience of putting on a specific piece of clothing. The research team conducted an experiment where they asked participants to put on doctors’ robes, a painter’s coat, or their regular clothes and found that people wearing doctors' robes did better on the same tests.

Dressing for the Occasion Can Help You Get into the Right Mood

Another expert on the subject, Prof. Karen Pine, explains in her book that when we wear a specific type of clothes, we tend to fall into patterns of behavior we associate with them. Wearing casual clothes can make you feel relaxed and lazy, while dressing up for an event can change the way you walk and make you more attentive. Further research from Brain Fodder reveals that “casual Friday” actually works: we tend to be more friendly, open to new ideas and creative when we are not donning suits – so having a casual clothes day at work can be great for encouraging employees to socialize and bond.

Also, simply wearing athletic gear has been found to make people more prone to actually exercising, as sports clothing acts as a reminder to look after our health, while opting for bright colors can boost our energy and help us cope with stress and sadness, another research reveals. Our style and image can go a long way towards getting us to the desired state of mind. It should come as no surprise then that the Bureau of National Statistics reports that more than 63,000 people are employed as image consultants across the US, with an average salary of $123,360.

Dressing Up in Pop Culture

These findings are not only extremely interesting, they also confirm what a lot of examples in popular culture allude to. The average superhero’s traditional suit-up, for example, is the perfect embodiment of our attitude towards clothes; changing from a low-key, stealthy attire to a powerful, symbolic superhero costume is designed to demarcate two different identities and boost confidence and morale when the superhero makes the dramatic entrance. And while Superman has been made fun of now and again for thinking that a simple pair of glasses can trick people into not realizing that he is the same person as Clark Kent – instead of opting for an elaborate mask to hide behind, as most superheroes like Batman and Spiderman – he might be onto something.

For instance, who could imagine James Bond without his legendary neat dressing habits? Wearing a suit is a symbol of professionalism and attention to detail. For similar reasons certain professionals in the entertainment industry tend to dress up - not only to appear flawless to the public, but to add to the vibe of certain situations. One obvious example comes from waiter uniforms in restaurants, which directly reflect the attitude of the specific establishment, with the Savoy Thrill American Bar in London dressing up its waiters in Mad Men-inspired two-tone suits, while the British capital's Mayfair Casual goes for a more casual uniform, with jeans and a Turnbull & Asser ladies' shirt. Beyond dining, we can look at casino croupier dress codes, which often feature dresses and classic suits so on live online casino games, because such games like live blackjack and roulette are played online and, as players aren't in the physical setting of a casino, it's even more important to try to set the atmosphere in every possible way. The casino world has long fascinated fashion designers for the glamor, blitz and smart looks associated with it; a couple of years ago, famous designer and head creative director of Chanel Karl Lagerfeld constructed a real-life casino set in the middle of the catwalk for his Paris fashion show, with stars like Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart gambling in cocktail dresses and smart trousers, showcasing the 1932 diamond jewellery collection of Chanel.

Dressing up does not only affect how we feel about ourselves, but the message we send across, too. According to a survey by Men’s Warehouse, 9 in 10 Americans find well-dressed men more attractive than they are in reality, while 75% think they have more success in their job than casually dressed employees and almost 80% of women respond that one of the most attractive things about a potential partner are their good dressing habits.

It seems that the old saying has more truth than we suspected; dress for the job you want, and you might just also get that much-needed confidence boost to get the job done along the way!