I’ve been extremely busy lately working on an exciting (soon to be revealed) project so I was thrilled to be quoted in Wednesday’s Time’s talking about the psychology behind this season’s ‘it’ shade: Power Pink.
The changing cultural climate has transformed pink from being a colour ‘just for girls’ to one that is linked with power and revolution,” says the fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell, who explains that traditional fluffy connotations are being replaced by associations with post-feminist femininity.
Read Frankie Graddon’s article on how Power Pink is making waves from politics to the boardroom here.
Our German followers may have heard me discussing a controversial topic on Cosmo Radio two weeks ago – the best way to dress for Brexit.
Many consider London the most important fashion metropolis, more important than Paris, New York, Milan. Fashion blogger Shakaila thinks London is very unique and complex. Especially for her, fashion has to be comfortable in order to feel comfortable in it.”
Listen to the full interview with host Siham El-Maimouni in both English and German here.
Another Fashion Month has come to an end. With conversations around mental wellbeing taking hold in the fashion industry, many have began to wonder whether the seemingly never ending cycle of fashion shows are necessary in our modern climate. While there are many reasons why the industry can slow down and produce less, we’ve revealed the Psychological reason why that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
“Fashions fade, style is eternal” any fashion lover worth their salt is aware of that famous Yves Saint Laurent quote. But if style is to be coveted over seasonal and seemily temporary fashion collections then why do we salivate at the thought of more collections and more shows in more cities around the world? Aside from the big 4, buyers, editors, bloggers and stylists are heading to increasingly well attended events in cities such as Copehagen, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Florence. Aside from Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, in the article ‘What the Hell Are Resort and Cruise Collections and Why Are They So Lucrative?’ Kam Dhillon illustrates how designers are having to hastily create lines throughout the year for Pre-Fall, Pre-Spring and Resort all to suit consumer demand. Oftentimes however, consumer demand and creativity do not go hand in hand. You may remember when Riccardo Tisci cited exhaustion as one of the reasons behind his shocking departure from Givenchy in 2017. Two years prior, when WWD asked ‘Is Fashion Heading for a Burnout?’, fresh off the heels of his departure from Balenciaga, Alexander Wang brought up the intensity that comes with having to churn out an increasing number of collections.
Specifically speaking about the show system, I think that’s something everyone is challenged with — the immediacy of things, and the idea of how to deliver in this system, where the attention span has become nonexistent.
If the mental wellbeing of designers isn’t enough to stop the seemingly unending fashion show cycle then many argue that social media would surely slow it down. When discussing whether Fashion Shows still matter Jenna Igneri, associate fashion and beauty editor for NYLON had this to say:
I think fashion shows are becoming more and more irrelevant as time goes on. Thanks to technology, anyone can view a fashion show or presentation from anywhere in the world—sometimes even live—so that glamorous feeling of exclusivity has long been lost.
Originally the concept of a fashion week presented as a clear solution for industry professionals to either report on or order from designers across the globe in a convenient and timely manner. Now, as social media has afforded consumers the ability to live stream fashion shows around the globe from the comfort of their own homes many, like Igneri have come to wonder, are these large scale productions required every 4-6 months? While the true answer may be no, as fashion shows become increasingly consumer focused, psychological research indicates that they’re unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Every time a fashion show launches consumers are offered something new and that in itself is something simply too rewarding to pass up. Studies have found that we are hardwired to be attracted to novelty. In a study published in Neuron, researchers showed participants a series of images. After participants had become familiar with those images, researchers added a new “oddball” image. Measurements of participants brain activity revealed that the brain’s pleasure centres lit up when this new “oddball” image was introduced resulted in a flood of dopamine, the same chemical that is released when we eat good food and have great sex. In another study conducted at the University College London, participants were shown 4 cards one of which had a monetary reward. When the participant chose this card their brain’s pleasure processors lit up. After a time, researchers introduced new cards to participants. The result? Participants tended to choose novelty cards over the known money-making card. While this appears to be incredibly counter-intuitive, it clearly demonstrates the power that novelty has over us.
Shiny new things are not just for babies. If fashion consumers and industry professionals are no longer presented with the rush of dopamine that occurs every time they’re presented with a new show or collection then they will likely give up on the brand and look for pleasure elsewhere. Research into brain health also shows that regular experience of novelty is essential to a long and happy life. The next challenge that the industry faces is mitigating this need for novelty alongside the need for designers to maintain their mental wellbeing.
Whilst you ponder how this can be done, have a look through some of our favourite collections from the Fall/Winter 2019 collections
This year, in celebration of International Women’s Day our founder Shakaila Forbes-Bell was featured in Next’s Style Stories discussing the way that women can use Fashion Psychology to dress for success. Click Here to read the feature in full.
When discussing female empowerment, the feminist movement and its success in improving women’s wellbeing within patriarchal societies, the impact of clothing and fashion might be pretty low on the list. However, as we have highlighted on this platform, clothing can play a pivotal role in driving political conversations, in forming group dynamics and just generally improving the confidence of women the world over. To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, we have identified 4 garments that have all positively impacted the lives of women in one way or another.
The ones we hate to love, high-heeled boots. No one will deny that high-heels are a health hazard. ‘As early as 1881, a British physician reported an occupationally related backache caused by “the wearing of high-heeled boots, which necessitates the continuous action of the muscles of the lower part of the spine, in order to maintain the proper balance and erect position’ (Linder, 1997). Despite the associated pain, women continue to wear high heeled boots for one reason; they make us feel powerful, or if you’re Elle Writer Estelle Tang, they make you feel like a “Powerful Witch”. In a survey conducted by MIC respondents noted that heels helped them to “flip a switch” in their minds that took them from “girl” to “woman.”
Psychologically speaking, it can be the case that high-heeled boots evoke a sense of power in women simply due to the fact that it makes them appear taller. Indeed, in US presidential elections the taller candidate is always more likely to win because we simply process taller people as being more authoritative (McCann, 2001). Interestingly, studies have also found that powerful people overestimate their height. If by adorning those few inches you can be perceived as more powerful, feel more powerful and even be more likely to win an election then as the saying goes: no pain, no gain.
For years, slogan T-shirts have allowed women to literally wear their hearts on their sleeves and take centre stage in many political spheres. As highlighted by Phyllis Martin in her 2004 book ‘Fashioning Africa: Power and politics of dress’, clothing has always had the capacity to “be threatening to observers and even dangerous for wearers. As sensibilities about gender, sexuality, age, and status converge, the dressed[…]body may be a site for contestation”. From ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Time’s up’ women have being utilising clothing in the form of Slogan T-shirts to ignite social change for several years.
British fashion designer Katharine Hamnett is often credited as one of the first to create a politically charged slogan T-shirt. When meeting the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 she unzipped her jacket to reveal a shirt with the anti-nuclear sentiment that read “58% don’t want Pershing”. Since then, several female fashion designers including Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney have all created slogan t-shirts that allow women to express their political viewpoints.
Sadly, a study by NatWest found that when voicing their opinions, a fifth of women have been negatively described as ‘opinionated’, while one in 10 has been called ‘feisty’ or ‘vocal’. These perceptions can often negatively impact a women’s confidence, forcing her into silence. Luckily, Slogan T-shirts can lift the burden of vocalisation by speaking for women in a way that cannot be misinterpreted or go unnoticed.
A controversial entry on the list, bras has often been seen as an antithesis of female liberation; an instrument created to contort women’s bodies for the male gaze. When digging a little deeper though, you’ll find that bra-burning is less of a feminist staple and more so a trope pushed by anti-feminist media. According to author of Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism W. Joseph Campbell stated that the during the event in 1968 when the burning happened, bras certainly weren’t the only garment thrown into the fire. “Invoking bra burning was a convenient means of brushing aside the issues and challenges raised by women’s liberation and discrediting the fledgling movement as shallow and without serious grievance,” Campbell wrote.
When looking at the history of bras you’ll find it has always been routed in providing women with increased comfort and support during times of increased activity. The first bra patent was granted to Mary Phelps Jacob in 1914 in New York who, upon fashioning a bra made up of handkerchiefs and ribbon celebrated the fact that she could “move more freely”. Whilst studies have shown that bras, particularly ill-fitting ones can cause back pain, not wearing a bra when exercising means that your back, neck muscles, and trapezius (a major muscle in the back) are also going to have to work a lot harder to balance out your weight. Similarly, Livestrong reported that ‘sports bra helps minimize the movement of your breasts, which can help to reduce pain and discomfort caused by stretched skin and ligaments caused by working out’.
The number of women playing sports regularly are increasing and after Nike’s recent impassioned ad featuring Tennis Champion Serena Williams, we’re sure these numbers will continue to climb. There’s no denying that bra’s, particularly Sports Bras have played a significant role for women in this arena.
During World War II the epaulettes that graced the shoulders of soldiers manoeuvred their way into the fashion industry as women donned shoulder pads as symbol of solidarity with the brave fighters abroad as they contributed to the war effort at home. In post-War times, psychological research has found that shoulder pads have a positive by-effect for working women. In the 80s-movie classic Working Girl, Melanie Griffith’s character dons larger than life shoulder pads to legitimise her new position as a respected business woman and thus the era of power dressing was born with designers such as Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana showcasing the style on the runway. In the 80s and during its revival in the early 21st century, shoulder pads were the clothing equivalent to the ideology of ‘leaning in’ – taking charge and embodying power in male dominated industries. But why do we associate shoulder pads with power?
Broad shoulders are typically associated with males, with studies showing that men with broad shoulders are not only perceived to be more masculine but they also possess higher testosterone levels (Kasperk et al, 1997). As shoulder pads broaden shoulders, when wearing them women can also be perceived as possessing more masculine traits. It’s certainly true that women should not have to ‘man-up’ their wardrobes in order to level the playing fields. Shoulder pads could lessen the impact of the negative stereotypes that some men hold of women when applying for roles in traditionally male-dominated workplaces.
Did we miss any wardrobe staples? Let us know in the comments
The tension between social media’s aspirational content and an economic climate, tightening the pockets of consumers around the globe has created a growing playground of masstige fashion brands. Masstige, the place where mass-market meets prestige includes household names such as Kurt Geiger, Michael Kors and House of CB among many others. Whilst it’s true that such brands allow consumers to dip a toe in the world of luxury without having to pay and arm and a leg, Psychologists have found an emotional component to our fondness for masstige fashion.
The recently departed fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld is often hailed as a pioneer of masstige fashion. In 2004, Lagerfeld became the first luxury designer to collaborate with the Swedish high street giant H&M. Since then, we’ve seen several luxury houses from Roberto Cavalli (2007) to Moschino (2018) join H&M to produce collections for mass consumption. When we previously discussed the success of H&M’s collaborations we highlighted the importance of the Scarcity Principle. Although Lagerfeld vowed to never work with H&M again due to them not making enough clothes to suit the demand, scarcity is a powerful force, forcing consumers to buy or risk missing out. But what about the masstige brands, producing seasonal collections year round? How do these brand maintain popularity, consistently flood our timelines? Research by Keji Adebeshin (2015) has highlighted four key reasons behind their popularity.
Differentiation – when people buy from masstige brands it “gratifies a desire to be different from others to express personal tastes and to appear hip, stylish and unique”
Belonging – masstige products are used as a tool to form the basis for relationships, to impress others and to belong with others through collective consumption
Self-Care – Purchasing masstige products activates a ‘taking-care-of-me’ dimension where people purchase these products for special occasions or just to treat themselves.
Excitement – People have reported that masstige brands provide a sense of adventure and liberation
Where luxury products represent status and exclusivity, masstige products relies more on tapping into emotions and values shared by people at many income levels and many walks of life (Silverstein and Fiske 2003)
What are some of your favourite Masstige brands? Let us know in the comments.
The world’s most influential makeup artist, Pat McGrath MBE recently left her mark all over Couture fashion week. Her delicate touch has resulted in many arresting looks in fashion weeks the world over, several of which were created with products from the self-titled Pat McGrath Labs. In order to gain a deeper insight into McGrath’s transformative powers we’ve conducted an investigation into the science behind some of her latest looks.
Extreme Eyelashes - Valentino
Delicate feathers fluttered down the runway with every blink at Valentino’s Spring 2019 Couture show. To create the bold look, the intricate feather-lash extensions were glued to the model’s lashes and coated with McGrath’s new FetishEyes™ Mascara.
So what does science say about this mesmerizing look?
Our collectively admiration for longer eyelashes dates back thousands of years. Researchers Mulhern and colleagues found that enhancing the appearance of women’s eyes through the use of eyelashes and mascara significantly increased attractiveness as rated by both male and female observers. Eyelash growth is also said to have a positive psychological effect on women (Jones, 2011).
Some researchers have reasoned that we find long eyelashes endearing because they are typically possessed by those who we are hardwired to find cute – babies! And as we have learnt from the Baby-Face Stereotype, adults are rated more favourably when they have features (such as long eyelashes) that draw similarity to infants.
Glitter and Gloss - Givenchy and Margiela
In a show that largely featured simple, minimalistic makeup looks, McGrath ensured that Cara Taylor took center stage. Following her third haute couture collection for Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller said “I tried to take the most modern approach possible with everything.” McGrath compliment the modernity of the garments by adding in this futuristic look that saw the top half of Taylor’s face covered entirely in glitter. Over at Margiela, the model’s faces were a playground for McGraths brushes. One look that particularly stood out were the smudged gradient fuchsia lips topped off with a glossy top coat worn by both male and female models.
And the science behind all this glitter and gloss?
Evolutionary psychologists claim that are attraction to shiny things is linked to our ingrained need for survival. For example, in a study on children, infants aged 7-12 months old were found to put their mouths to glossy plates much more than to dull ones. Children had also been seen lapping shiny toys on the ground, the way an animal might drink from a puddle. Researchers have concluded that the connection between drinking and shiny design was an evolutionary artifact–a sign that “our crush on glossy is rooted in a primitive desire for water as a vital resource” (Coss, Ruff & Simms, 2010).
Back at Valentino, McGrath went to work to create an intricate floral makeup look to compliment the gorgeous floral gowns. While the petals were lightly dusted in glitter, McGrath used a small cluster of crystals for the flower’s pistil – a 3D element that helped bring the look to life.
Studies on adornment have long highlighted the positive impact that flowers and floral motifs have on attraction and wealth. In a study on tipping behaviour, researchers found that diners left larger tips for waitresses who wore flowers in their hair compared to when the same waitresses served them minus the flowers (Jacob, Guéguen & Delfosse, 2012).
To get these makeup looks and all of the psychological benefits that come with them, check out the stunning new collections over at Pat McGra
Sadly, research has found that 75% of women in the UK lack confidence in the workplace and two thirds of UK women suffer from ‘Imposter Syndrome’ at work. Luckily, by being aware of the impact of attire on impression formation and feelings, women can choose the right clothes that will positively impact their self-perception.
Last week, it was my pleasure to reinforce the relationship between fashion and psychology by speaking at Next’s Workwear and Denim event. In an audience made up of influential bloggers and fashion and beauty experts, I revealed the psychological research behind some of Next’s must-have pieces that will enable women to #DressLikeABoss!
Here are 4 takeaways from my talk:
1. Comfort is Key!
When putting together your work attire always make sure that you consider your comfort first. An easy way to do this is by introducing soft shapes like skirts and soft fabrics such as jumpers into your wardrobe. This is because studies have shown that clothing comfort effects cognitive performance and uncomfortable clothing is associated with distraction and increased cognitive load. (Bell, Cardello & Schutz 2005)
2. Formal clothes allow you to think differently
Taking a formal approach to business attire is advised as research has found that wearing formal clothes makes people think more broadly and holistically, rather than narrowly. It also encourages people to think about the fine-grained details. Additionally, wearing a suit encourages people to use abstract processing more readily than concrete processing. That essentially means it encourages people to think outside of the box (Slepian et al, 2015)!
3. Darker denim is best for High-Low dressing
In more casual work environments, integrating denim into your work attire is an easy way to get the best benefits out of formal and casual clothing. A study on teachers found that those wearing jeans were rated highly on sociability and extraversion and were deemed to be more interesting (Morris et al, 1996). Also, dark denim is associated with higher prices (Rahman, 2012) and thus, the wearer may appear more successful.
4. Black clothes evoke authority
According to Damhorst and Reed (1986), managers evaluate job applicants wearing black clothing as possessing more integrity and a greater moral reputation. Managers or those in higher positions are also encouraged to embrace the hue as those wearing black clothing were found to have a greater influence over others in group settings (Vrij, Pannell, Ost, 2005).
It’s the reason why we all collectively paused our daily activities to watch the new Lion King trailer last week, the reason why we’re waiting in anticipation for Ariana Grande’s Mean Girls inspired video and why songs from your childhood will always be better than the ‘trash they play today’. These days, with the political and social landscape being as it is, it can seem that there are more things that divides us than brings us together but one thing that we all share despite our style, age, gender or ethnicity is nostalgia. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past that continues to make everything, including fashion, circular.
Fashion Loves A Revival
When speaking about fashion’s obsession with the past, Jessica Regan, assistant curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute stated that “We can sit far back in the history of fashion — back to the early 19th century, which was a period of rapid industry and change — and see nostalgia for a preindustrial past, based on romantic notions of chivalry.” Whilst fashion’s love for nostalgia is surely nothing new it has been ever more present in the last two years.
Last year, the original supermodels assembled for Versace’s Spring Summer 2018 show in tribute to the late Gianni Versace. Gucci’s Cruise 2018 show paid homage to 80s designer and bootlegger Dapper Dan and beloved 90s brand Juicy Couture remerged this year during New York Fashion Week’s Fall 2018 season. The digital age in which we live has given us unparalleled access to images from years gone by which easily allows designers to draw inspiration form the past with one simple click. But this ease of reference is not the main reason why the glasses we look through to the past with are oh so rosy.
The Psychology of Nostalgia
Early research previously identified nostalgia as a negative experience due to its association with negative psychological states. For example, in a study where researchers (Wildschut et al., 2006) induced high levels of loneliness in some participants and low levels of loneliness in others, the participants in the high loneliness condition were found to be more nostalgic. But we now know that the reason why these participants engaged in more nostalgic thinking is due to the psychological benefits of nostalgia. Nostalgia protects and fosters good mental health. After engaging in nostalgia inducing activities research has shown that people experience higher self-esteem, are more optimistic, feel less lonely and more socially connected, are more creative and can even feel… cosier.
Word association studies show that people often associate nostalgia with the word ‘warm’ but you may be surprised to know that nostalgia has similar physiological benefits. Researchers at the University of Southampton found that people placed in cold rooms rated highest on nostalgia scales and thinking nostalgic thoughts in cold rooms made people think the room was warmer than it actually is. Proof that the good old days can help towards your heating bill this winter!
Jewellery and Nostalgia
More than just memories, nostalgia can refer to a variety of objects. Within the context of fashion, one of the most nostalgia inducing items can be jewellery. Whether it’s a costume necklace that you’ve had forever or a treasured item that has been passed down for generations, jewellery can be incredibly sentimental. The sentimentality and preciousness of such items are also heightened when they have a connection with someone we’ve lost.
When going through the stages of grief it’s not uncommon to experience a sense of meaningless that alters your sense of belonging. This is backed up by a 2010 study by Juhl and colleagues which found that the existential threat of death awareness triggers nostalgia. This is why companies such as Heart-In-Diamond which produces memorial diamonds that allows you to take a lasting reminder of your loved one with you everywhere you go are growing in popularity.
“There is something touching about using jewellery to memorialize those whom you love. I always feel them beside me even if they are far away.”
This is just one of Heart-In-Diamond many testimonials which highlight the many ways that nostalgia inducing objects like cremation jewellery can help us mitigate the most difficult of circumstances.
With the endless positive impacts of nostalgia, it’s understandable why creatives, fashion and accessories designers look back to go forward. My only worry is, if we keep looking back what will be considered ‘reminiscent of the 2010’s’ come 2030?
Since Mel B implored us to tell her what we really really want, our interest in animal prints has never really subsided, at least the Spring Summer ’19 shows have confirmed as much. Brognano, Michael Kors and Burberry were just a few designers to send models down the runway in stunning zebra, leopard and cow print designs and if that wasn’t enough to persuade you that animal print is having a moment, Rihanna turning up to the celebrate the anniversary of Fenty Beauty in Sydney earlier this month wearing a head to toe snakeskin Atelier Versace outfit surely is. Animal print has a pretty extensive history dating back to ancient Africa in its use exclusively by leaders and royalty alike and since the 1920’s celebrities and fashion designers have played a key role in bringing animal print to mainstream fashion. Fashion is cyclical and while most trends fade and re-emerge over time, animal print in one form or another has remained a staple in our wardrobes. What is the cause behind animal print’s rare ability to transcend seasons? Evolutionary psychology would suggest that it has something to do with fear.
Evolutionary psychology dictates that human nature can be understood by analysing the behavioural and psychological adaptations evolved to ensure human survival and one psychological adaptation that has strong evolutionary roots is the fight or flight response. First coined by Walter Canon in the 1920s, fight or flight is a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body to help mobilize the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances. The most threatening circumstance of them all? Being face to face with a predator. Now whilst it’s a rarity to witness a leopard or tiger strolling through city streets, it can be argued that flashes of animal print are enough to activate a subconscious and instinctual fear response in the brain.
Fear or Arousal?
But, if we’re afraid of something wouldn’t that increase our likelihood of avoiding it? That’s where the misattribution of arousal comes in. If asked to explain why we feel what we do at any given moment many people would claim to know the answer but that’s a common misconception as we all find it difficult to correctly identify the reasoning behind our feelings. For example, the physiological responses to both fear and arousal are incredibly similar such as increased blood pressure or shortness of breath which is why people often mistake fear for love and arousal and Dutton and Aron’s 1974 experiment demonstrated as much. In their study, an attractive female was asked to wait at the end of either a suspension bridge (that would induce fear) or a sturdy bridge (that would not induce fear). Male participants were asked to cross the bridge and during their walk the woman interrupted them and after a short interaction, she gave them her number. Results indicated that the woman received more phone calls from the men who walked the fear-inducing bridge. Researchers concluded that the fear response was confused with or misattributed with arousal for the woman in front of them.
The same outcome can be found when we’re confronted with animal prints. The latent fear response that has remained with us throughout the years to ensure our survival has been conflated with arousal overtime. It’s no wonder then why animal prints have been defined as both powerful and sexy. Just in time for spooky season, scare tactics can be a useful marketing trick when Halloween costumes are equal parts fear and sex.