Fashion Psychology: Dress for the job you want
Life Style

Fashion Psychology: Dress for the job you want

Fashion Psychology

How Clothing and Fashion Choices Affect Self-Perception and Confidence

Dressing up in a saree for a farewell, putting on your best ethnic outfits for festivals, donning formals for a job interview, or sporting the merch of your favourite TV show, clothing choices are an integral part of how one conveys oneself to the world. Wearing a school uniform instills a sense of belonging for students and army uniforms are a matter of pride. Fashion and clothing, although often dismissed as superficial, are actually inextricably linked to our conception of the self. It is also a source of confidence (or the lack of it).

Thought of as an individual’s second skin, clothing is an instrument through which one negotiates their self-identity and communicates it to the world. During adolescence, interest in clothing choices has been found to be at its peak by researchers. It is the time when parents’ influence is reduced in the clothing choices of teens, and it is an avenue through which they express themselves. A decrease in the say of parents in clothing is an important part of perceived independence by adolescents. They become free to establish their identity by either conforming to the social ideal or appearing more individualistic by doing the opposite.

It is a well-established fact that clothing affects one’s conception of self and identity. researchers have sought to uncover why clothing has such an effect on people and concluded that it works on the principle of priming. Our understanding of clothes and what they express is based on mental categories that have formed in our minds over time through observation in learning. What clothes mean to us depends on pre-existing categories in our brains such as ‘formal’ and ‘casual’. These ideas about certain kinds of clothing impact how we view ourselves with respect to the clothes we wear.

Also Read: Enclothed Cognition: Dress well to feel well

Impacts of Clothing on Self and Body Image
1. Self-Esteem

Research results showcase how deeply connected our ideas are about the self and the clothes we wear. One experiment illustrated how when two candidates for a job interview. One dressed in formal attire and the other wearing casual clothes – were seated next to each other, which affected the confidence levels of both.

Also Read: The Psychology of Overconfidence

The candidate dressed in a suit was more sure of himself whereas the self-esteem of the casually dressed candidate decreased. Results of another study showcased how clothing affected participants’ self-esteem, as people dressed in a certain way were more accepting of positive traits to describe themselves as compared to those who weren’t dressed well. Similarly, another experiment showed how a mere change in clothes (swimsuits vs. sweaters) affected people’s competence by judging their performance on a math test. The sweater wearers scored significantly higher. However, the results of this experiment were more skewed for women than men.

2. Women and Men

Studies tell us that women more closely associate their identity as compared to men. ‘Objectification’ is one of the major causes of this issue. It refers to the pervasive form of sexual oppression where others view an individual as merely a body for their use and consumption. The roots of this phenomenon run so deep that it ends up altering women’s self-perception, and resulting in ‘Self Objectification’. This makes them even more prone to be preoccupied with clothing and their appearance.

3. Celebrity Influence and Trends

As mentioned before, our ideas about clothes stem from preexisting social ideals. In the world of Instagram fashion influencers and trends such as ‘fit checks’ and ‘learning how to dress for your body type’, these social norms of dressing are more and more accessible to the common Individuals. Before, a select few had limited entry into the fashion industry. Models such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid have a follower count that runs into millions. Such easy access to viewing the ideal results in holding oneself to the ideal.

Also Read: Influence of the Influencer: behind the social media curation

Despite this knowledge, it becomes difficult for people. They cannot help but compare themselves with what is depicted as perfect on social media. But, this ideal is actually unachievable and false. How one dresses themselves is also highly dependent upon the availability of resources or money with them, the amount of time they can dedicate to their clothing, their body shape and more such factors. This has important implications for the body image of people.

There have been consistent reports of fashion magazines digitally editing models’ bodies, and fashion bloggers using filters. Consumers of the content have linked this practice to disordered eating. Another aspect of clothing and social ideals related to it is the lack of availability of plus-size clothes in the market, which deeply impacts the self-esteem of plus-size people. Big brands such as Victoria’s Secret have constantly faced backlash for the lack of size-inclusivity, yet it only remains an aspiration.

Positive side

However, clothing doesn’t impact people only in a negative manner, but can also be an avenue for experiencing joy. For transgender people, wearing the right clothes can spark gender euphoria (which is a feeling of comfort when one’s perceived gender matches their internal sense of gender) and affirm their identity. Clothes are also a medium for expressing their creativity.


Clothes are an important channel through which one asserts their identity and communicates it to the world. Feeling comfortable in clothes has far-reaching consequences for a person’s confidence, self-esteem, and competence. However, one must keep in mind that the popularly propagated social ideal of fashion may not be the best fit for them. They must strive to choose clothing in a manner that best expresses their sense of self.

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