Do you remember what it was like to play dress-up as a child and feel like putting on new clothes could turn you into an entirely different person? Do you ever feel a similar rush whenever you manage to put together a styling new outfit? If so, then you’ve already experienced the transformative power of fashion for yourself. Whether it’s a power suit, an elegant evening gown, or even a pair of your favourite sweatpants, the right clothes can instantly fill you with well-deserved confidence and joy.
While some might think it silly to imagine that clothes can impact your mood and self-esteem, many others can argue that this is true from personal experience. Moreover, many psychological studies have explored the relationship between what a person wears and their state of mind. Read on for a deep dive into this phenomenon, plus a few tried-and-tested tips on how to dress more confidently.
Understanding the Relationship Between Style and Self-Esteem
In psychology, the belief that clothing can strongly influence how a person feels, thinks, and acts are known as enclothed cognition. This term was originally coined by the psychologists Adam Galinsky and Hajo Adams, whose 2012 study sought to explore the effect of particular types of clothing on the wearer’s psychological processes. Galinsky and Adams tested the attentiveness of two groups of subjects: one dressed in street clothes and the other dressed in white lab coats described as doctors’ coats. In every single instance, the subjects wearing the coat were more focused, attentive, and aware than those who were not.
Galinsky and Adams hypothesized that the subjects wearing the lab coats had subconsciously begun to exhibit the intelligence and focus they tended to associate with doctors. The same phenomenon is readily observable in other contexts where people are required to dress in specific ways. For example, other psychological studies have noted that professionals tend to act more assertive and aggressive when “suited up,” simply because they associate business suits with authority and power.
While enclothed cognition is often studied in the context of “power dressing,” as in the cases above, any kind of outfit can achieve a similar effect. For instance, if you feel happiest and most comfortable in summer dresses, you can buy tights and comfy outerwear to pair them with when the days start getting colder. That way, you’ll exude the vibrant and cheerful energy of summer well into fall and winter.
Tips for Dressing with More Confidence
Tapping into the power of enclothed cognition doesn’t necessarily require you to put together outfits that are very expensive, complicated, or elaborate. What’s most important is that you like what you wear and feel empowered in it. Try the following tips and you’ll be on top of your personal style in no time:
Think about What Makes You Feel Confident Now
Popular culture today is all about self-improvement, and while this can be a great thing, it’s also very easy to overdo. Don’t let modern marketing tell you that you’ll only earn the right to a great wardrobe once you achieve your ideal body or land a high-flying new job. If you’re not careful, you may just end up beating yourself up when you don’t score these achievements as quickly or easily as you think you should have.
There’s no sense in thinking that only the best version of yourself deserves to dress their best. Instead, take control of your style by thinking about what makes you look and feel good right now. Ask yourself what values, attitudes, and feelings you’d like to embody with your clothing and communicate to other people who see you. From there, you can start identifying the clothes in your current wardrobe that work best for meeting these style goals.
Clear Out Any Unwanted or Ill-Fitting Items
Your wardrobe should be composed of clothes that fit you well and make you happy. If you’re still hanging on to items that no longer fit you or suit your tastes, consider donating them, reselling them, or giving them away. Don’t make room in your closet and in your life, for clothing you don’t feel good about. Then you’ll have more space to accommodate pieces that bring you joy and enhance your self-esteem.
Work on Healing Your Relationship with Your Body
A lot of traditional fashion tips advise you to “dress for your body type,” which is often a thinly veiled way of saying that you should wear things that make you look taller, slimmer, and more conventionally attractive. Subscribe too much to this advice and you may develop a toxic relationship with your body and your clothing. The last thing you want, after all, is to dress like you’re constantly trying to hide or fix something.
It can be immensely healing for your relationship with yourself to simply let yourself wear clothes you’ve always wanted to wear, whether or not conventional style wisdom says you can “pull them off.” Go ahead and don a flowy maxi dress even if you’re short, or rock a crop top with a full figure. If you dress in ways that you enjoy first and foremost, you’ll look radiant no matter what.
At the end of the day, each person has the power to decide what it means for them to dress “well,” so don’t hesitate to buck convention and do what’s best for yourself. When you look and feel like a million bucks, it will be that much easier to accomplish anything you set your mind to.