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Megan Payne

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Spring has officially sprung and with the majority of us spending more time at home than ever it is the perfect excuse to properly declutter and organise our wardrobes. Understandably this task can evoke anxiety, given most people don’t wear at least half of the clothes they own. However, it is almost guaranteed that letting go of our inner hoarders will not only tidy our wardrobes but also our minds. Here are some simple tips to help conquer arguably the greatest hurdle: getting started.

1. Take it all out

To see what you have really got to work with, it is best to take everything out of your wardrobe. This way, not only can you give the crevices of your closet a deep clean, but you’ll have a blank canvas to create innovative, efficient organisation solutions. Placing the contents onto your bed allows you to form clear piles, such as one for charity, swapping with friends and selling on websites like Depop. Creating the barrier between yourself and your bed will also ensure your motivation does not drift, and the task cannot be postponed for another day. 

2. What brings you joy?

When it comes to deciding what to keep and what to part ways with, it can be daunting. Many of us are plagued by an inner voice that endorses hoarding behaviour – but are you really going to wear that skirt again, which made its one and only appearance four years-ago? In true Marie Kondo style, the short and simple question to ask yourself when stuck in such a debate is: does this item spark joy? Or in other words, does it make you feel happy, confident or inspired?  

Sometimes, there’s a need to be a little more ruthless. I’m sure we all own garments that provoke memories of positive times and special people – but that doesn’t mean we will wear them again. So, if you’re still struggling for space after the first cut, maybe ask if the curated collection of clothes projects an image you want to portray. Look to Instagram, Pinterest or even street-style to help build a personal image. If your wardrobe reflects this, not only will getting dressed in the mornings help you to embody the powerful, elegant or alternative person you wish to be, but it will also ensure items can be worn interchangeably to maximise their versatility and potential. Furthermore, replacing automatic negative thoughts with ones that focus on the benefits of refining your wardrobe, will encourage a more positive mindset and successful spring clean. 

3. Donate

With the hardest part of the spring clean accomplished, it is important to dispose of your unwanted items sustainably. One of the most effective ways to do this is to donate. Charities will always be grateful for new clothes to sell in-store, especially if they’ve been washed and are still in good quality. More formal pieces, in particular, can be donated to Smart Works, a UK-based charity that helps disadvantaged women enhance their employment prospects. They provide support in building employability skills and searching for employment, which includes providing an interview-appropriate outfit.

Giving to others has personal benefits too. Research has found that carrying out moral actions, such as donating to charity or helping another person, enables people to show greater physical and mental endurance. The perception of this increased self-control can influence subsequent behaviours by encouraging us to perform additional moral acts, to confirm this self-perception.  

4. Organisation

Now you’ve gone out with the old, it’s time to put everything in with a new organisational approach. An effective method to maximise ease and minimise the time spent searching for an item, is sorting clothes by category and further by colour. Once rails have been sectioned into jackets, blouses, jeans, skirts and dresses, try to create a colour gradient from dark to light. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing but colours can be used to compliment or even influence our moods. One study found significant associations between consumer perceptions of specific colours. For example, the colour red was associated with excitement, black with sophistication and white with sincerity. Having a clearly visible colour palette will help identify looks which can embody and enhance appropriate emotions. 

5. Mindful storage

A tidy wardrobe can create a tidy mind, so no matter the shape or size of your closet, mindfully storing clothes helps to maintain garment quality and importantly, mental clarity. Prioritise hanging longer, delicate garments while folding heavier items like jumpers and jeans. T-shirts, pyjamas and gym-wear can be rolled to create more space inside drawers and prevent creasing. To be even more storage-savvy, try to store your most-worn clothes at eye level or organise drawer contents in the order you get dressed. These simple tricks aid the automatisation of our actions and decision-making, opening mental space for making more accurate judgements on issues with arguably greater importance, than what we are going to wear.   

A wardrobe clear out is not a quick nor easy job but reducing and reorganising your collection of clothes has both aesthetic and cognitive benefits. Maximising the efficiency of closet space and organising it to complement implicit ways of thinking, can make small yet significant changes to our daily routines. When making future purchases, try to adopt a ‘one in, one out’ rule and question if you will get one hundred wears out of an item, to ensure only sustainable and economically effective decisions are made.

What to wear when working from home can be a challenge. The temptation to remain your cosy pyjamas can be overwhelming. If no one is going to see you (with the exception of the postman who comes bearing your neighbour’s parcels), is there much point in getting ready for the day? Even so, surely being comfortable will make you more productive – and nothing is more comfortable than a plush dressing gown and cashmere joggers? 

Sadly, this is not the case – working in our loungewear can, in fact, hinder productivity. Since birth, we have learnt to associate our nightwear with a state of relaxation, so our bodies can prepare to slumber. Unfortunately for us, this has become almost too effective; every time we dress in pyjamas we unknowingly signal for our brains to sleep, which is not the ideal situation at 9 am on a Monday morning. In the same way, wearing smarter clothing that mirrors the working environment you are familiar with can help to change your mindset to one that focuses on work, as a result of the intrinsic associations you would have created. 

More importantly, getting dressed in the mornings can help you feel good and by improving your self-perception, personal confidence and performance at work. Creating a positive work environment is essential when working from home; you want to have a space that is both inspirational and motivational, and a central aspect of this is your clothing. Research has shown that the mood and performance of workers can be affected by the appropriateness of their attire (Soloman & Schopler, 1982). Being formally dressed allows people to adopt self-perceptions associated with their clothing and describe themselves using more formal adjectives, meanwhile, the opposite occurs when in more casual dress (Hannover & Kuehnen, 2002). It seems dressing casually may create a more casual work ethic, or feeling lower productivity. Therefore, the feelings we attach to certain types of clothing can subliminally influence our behaviour so we perform in a way that is congruent with what would be expected, based upon our attire. 

However, this isn’t to say people should work from home in suits and court-heeled shoes. It is equally important to have positive feelings about the items of clothing you wear because this will enhance positive emotions, perceived competency and sociability (Kwonn, 1994b). If you are going to be working from home for the day, there is no shame in putting on a pair of trousers that are a little more casual than what would be expected in the office. In some instances, wearing slightly more casual clothes can, in fact, boost morale and productivity (Alonzo, 1996 in Peluchette & Karl, 2007 ), perhaps through reducing a sense of corporate pressure . Experiencing psychological or physical discomfort can have a counterproductive effect on self-perceptions (Peluchette & Karl, 2007), so it’s about creating a balance between being dressed smart enough to emulate an occupational mindset, while remaining comfortable

It is clear that feeling good in what you’re wearing can also help you feel good about yourself and therefore increase productivity – which is especially important amongst the increased distractions at home. But what exactly should this clothing be? Research suggests its more down to personal appraisals. Sense of clothing appropriateness for an individual’s job role influences their perceptions of their quality of role-performance (Solomon & Schloper, 1982). By feeling more responsible, professional and knowledgeable when properly dressed, it will inevitably lead to greater work outcomes (Kwon, 1994a). These aren’t necessarily always subjective too. Like formal language, formal clothing implies that a situation is not a casual or familiar one. This encourages deeper, more perceptive thinking which for many, is an important skill while working (Slepian, Ferber, Gold & Rutchick, 2015). It also helps to strike a greater work-life balance by distinguishing personal roles through dress. Physically dressing differently when working from home can help to embody an occupational role over a non-occupational one, such as a parent, wife or husband, and detach from the duties that come with these (Rafaeli, Dutton, Harquail, and Mackie-Lewis, 1997). 

With this in mind, ultimately, working from home can be most effective when wearing something that is different from your everyday attire but still comfortable and you feel good in. Getting ready for the day as you normally would whether it’s to study at university or work in an office can be both physically and psychologically beneficial, encouraging productivity and detachment from the distractions the home environment presents. What is most important, however, is being able to switch off. It is easy to lose sight of the day’s structure at home – scheduling in regular breaks and switching off in the evenings will promote the greatest productivity and emotional wellbeing. Outfits can be one way to help segregate work and home life. Changing out of your work clothes and back into the loungewear you worked so hard to undress from that morning will allow your mind and body to shift back from a work to home context.  

Meta description: Your decision about your work from home attire is even more crucial when the way you dress impacts your productivity levels.

Lingerie is a somewhat stigmatised and misunderstood form of apparel. Many people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed when faced with the topic of undergarments. However, the lingerie we choose to wear can in fact act as a form of self-expression – much like the shoes, bags and jewellery that accompany our outfits. Investing time to focus on ourselves and selecting items that flatter and honour our bodies can improve mental wellbeing, such as through increasing confidence and improving mood (The Independent). So why do so many people fear it?

Cora Harrington photographed by Bria Celest

As a form of fashion, lingerie has similar powers in portraying who we are at our core, yet it is often overlooked. 

Cora Harrington from ‘The Lingerie Addict’ emphasises the importance of valuing lingerie for whoever chooses to wear it.

She explains how “the garments closest to your skin should not only be the most comfortable, they should, ideally, be something you love and enjoy wearing”. As the “first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you take off in the evening”, lingerie provides a “foundation to your look”. 

If we don’t feel good from underneath our visible clothes, how can we be portraying the best version of ourselves?

Furthermore, lingerie is not bound by social boundaries and expectations. Society influences the garments we wear, through imposing dress-codes and implicit rules of what is deemed publicly acceptable. This can lead to a lack of authenticity when trying to express the self through immediate appearance. However, lingerie is free from such constraints. Even if the world requires an ingenuine face to be put forward, respite can be found in knowing that what is worn underneath reflects the person you really are. This can also give people confidence in radiating their true self, through the uniform that disguises it. 

Lingerie has been a salient part of history. It has reflected key attitude changes, most notably towards women. From the corset culture that categorised the 1800s to the silky slip dresses and chemises in the early 1900s and the hyper-sexualised lacey styles that featured in the 70s and 80s. Today, lingerie is better perceived as a way to empower rather than objectify – with an array of styles suited for all shapes and sizes, regardless of who you identify as. 

Cora Harrington's book In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie

But despite this freedom, there still seems to be a significant stigma around lingerie. 

Many hold onto the belief that fundamentally, lingerie is sexual. Yet, it doesn’t necessarily have to be worn with sexual intent. Cora explains how “lingerie can be sexual in the same that red lipstick can be sexual, but that doesn’t mean lingerie is inherently or singularly about sex”. And although the lingerie industry is opening up to the idea of more inclusive forms of undergarments, a gendered stigma is still attached. As a historically characteristic form of female fashion, today lingerie is still marketed primarily with women in mind. These assumptions are entrenched into society, so significant revision and education may be necessary to update the lingerie market and match it to more modern movements. 

Although the lingerie industry is yet to accommodate some areas of the market, others have been enhanced greatly over the last decade. One example is the development of styles to suit a range of body shapes and sizes. The availability of intimate apparel that fits and flatters all figures has positive impacts on self-expression. Allowing more people to readily purchase products that fit their bodies, just as they are, portrays the idea that they are accepted by society. Cora recommends brands such as Elomi, Curvy Couture and Playful Promises (specifically, the Gabi Fresh collection) when it comes to finding lingerie that suits a range of sizes, while remaining stylish. 

Indeed, purchasing lingerie can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. 

When asked what piece of advice she would give to someone investing in their first piece of ‘special’ lingerie, Cora writes “If a pair of fancy fishnets feels special to you, buy that. If a silk caftan feels special to you, buy that. Don’t feel like you have to restrict yourself to other people’s notions of ‘special’.” Try setting stigmas to one side and buy what you love, not what you think you should love. Whether it is sexy or simple, lace or cotton, patterned or plain, what is most important is that you feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing. 

Wearing lingerie doesn’t have to be feared, but rather embraced. As Cora emphasises “feeling comfortable in your body as you move through the world is a benefit that cannot be underestimated, because if you’re not having to think about how much you hate your bra, you can focus on other things instead.” Lingerie can have an important role in the road towards self-acceptance, and ultimately, help us to feel proud and confident enough in ourselves, to express exactly who we are.

It’s that time of year when designers, models and industry experts are preparing to showcase six-months worth of work to the world. Although exciting and insightful, Fashion Week can be one of the busiest weeks of the year for many. Working days often exceed twelve-hours with tight deadlines, unforgiving schedules and inner-city traffic to contend with. For many, this leaves little time for self-care, rest and recovery which inevitably leads to burnout.

To help navigate the chaos of Fashion Week, here is a compilation of easy ways to manage stress and engage in some all-important ‘me time’.

1. Plan your outfits

Fashion Psychology

This may sound obvious but ensuring you days are planned as much as possible will give you structure and peace of mind that you know exactly what you are doing, where and at what time. 

 Similarly, try to plan outfits. What shows are you attending?  How much time do you have to change – and where? How long are you going to be out for; can you transition any outfits from day-to-night? Asking yourself these questions can help to narrow down options and ensure you are dressed appropriately and comfortably. 

But most importantly, pick clothes you feel great in! With cameras around what seems like every corner, it can be overwhelming. Putting the time in to prepare what you are going to wear, can help reduce stress and anxiety and even boost self-esteem. Wearing items of clothing you like and feel good in can improve psychological wellbeing, through the positive associations generated to the outfits (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). It may also help to improve sleep by ensuring you’re not lying awake until early hours of the morning, ruminating over potential outfit combinations.

2. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness exercises are often discounted, with the common perception that they’re a waste of time or require deep thought and attention – cognitive resources which seem in short supply during busy periods. Admittedly some exercises are more demanding than others, but giving yourself time in the day to ground your thoughts can be hugely beneficial (Bowlin & Baer, 2012). Something as small as listening to a podcast while commuting in-between shows (Headspace is a good one to try), practising deep breathing exercises or burning a calming candle at night can help to disengage from stressful thoughts and provide greater clarity of mind.

3. It is ok to say no

With hundreds of designers exhibiting collections throughout the week, there can be a subliminal pressure to schedule in as many shows as possible. Going against the instinct to say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, can actually be quite empowering (Patrick & Hagtvedt, 2012) and can improve productivity and mental health (Pourjari & Zarnaghash, 2010).

 It is important to recognise your limits and be selective in the shows you choose to see. When thinking about which to attend, also try to schedule in breaks and consider (the likely longer) commuting times. There may be some changes throughout the week but limiting the number of events you attend will give you greater flexibility to adapt – and crucially, remain calm. A number of shows are now made available online too, so it is easier than ever to catch up on those you couldn’t make it to.

4. Stay fuelled

With lots of things to do, people to see and places to be, it can be easy for attention to be directed away sufficiently fuelling our bodies. One simple way to combat this is to ensure snacks are to hand at all times. Nuts, energy bars and smoothies can help to provide your body with the healthy fats, protein and vitamins it needs to keep going throughout long days. Meal-prepping in your spare time can also be an easy way to stock up on nutritious meals that simply need reheating in the evening. 

 In addition, it may be worth incorporating more specific foods into your diet, which research has found to have stress and anxiety-combatting abilities. Some examples include walnuts, bananas and chocolate which have been thought to possess antidepressant, mood-lifting and pleasure-inducing properties, respectively (Trivedi, Patel, Prajapati & Pinto, 2015). Furthermore, while a strong coffee can make early mornings a little more bearable, excess caffeine consumption can heighten anxiety (Brice & Smith, 2002), so perhaps opt for a bottle of water over a large cappuccino post-midday.  

5. Schedule in sleep

Finally, ensure you are allowing yourself enough sleep. Functioning on a sleep-deprived body and brain is not easy on an average day, so during the long, demanding days of Fashion Week, getting eight hours sleep is even more important. Sleep helps our bodies to repair and restore, preventing us from catching illness, irritability and being unable to concentrate. Getting a good night’s sleep can increase stamina and prevent burnout, post- Fashion Week.

Although it is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, anticipated weeks of the year in the industry, it is no secret that Fashion Week can be one of the most overwhelming too. However, by following just a few of these tips, or simply taking the time to implement small acts of self-care, the mayhem can become a little more manageable.

Style is undoubtedly beneficial for individual exploration and group identification. However, it should also be noted that style can have negative implications too if the power of what we wear, and its symbolism, is abused. One noticeable example is the stigma that the media and fashion industry has created surrounding the natural process of ageing. With drab clothing lines purposely designed for the older population and the stocking of shelves with copious ‘anti-ageing’ products, it’s no surprise that ageing has become a fear for so many people today. 

 .. the danger of the ageing stigma in making people feel a lack of control over their own bodies.”

Implicit rules surround us in society about what we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do, including what we should and shouldn’t wear. And whether we are aware of this or not, to some extent, most of us are abiding by these restrictive regulations. Along the high street, multiple clothing lines have been purposely designed for the older population, ‘cut generously with longer and looser shapes, lower bust seams for women and higher rise trousers for men’ (Twigg, 2013). The reduction in clothing options for  older people, indirectly suggests to the public what is and is not ‘acceptable’ to wear at a particular age. These expectations and assumptions can be internalised through the process of enclothed cognition, whereby what one wears can influence cognition through an item of clothing’s symbolic meaning and the experience of actually wearing the clothes. This can be detrimental and degrading to self-concepts by creating feelings of frustration and sadness towards one’s image and capabilities. 

However, the presentation of ageing as a negative process is implied to consumers from an early age. Skincare products aimed at young adults are marketed as ‘anti-ageing’, with the use of the preposition ‘anti’ presenting ageing as something to fight against and be seen as the opposition. Therefore, there is arguably a social pressure to remain youthful, which creates a limited perception of what is considered as ‘beauty’. Research has found that women are more likely to consider cosmetic surgery and purchase anti-ageing products when their appearance is important to them (Halliwell & Dittmar, 2003). However, women are also reported to be largely sceptical about the effectiveness of anti-ageing products, yet the mere act of using these moisturisers, cleansers and toners creates a feeling of control over our own health and progression of ageing (Muise & Desmarais, 2010). This highlights the danger of the ageing stigma in making people feel a lack of control over their own bodies.

Furthermore, the fashion industry largely underrepresents or rather ignores, the presence of ‘older’ women in the market. One study found over 50% of readers of top-selling magazines like Cosmo and Vogue are over 35 years old, yet the images they include are of ‘youthful and slender, smooth-skinned and able-bodied individuals’ (Lewis, Medvedev & Seponski, 2010).  This encourages readers to internalise these standards, leading to self-destructive behaviours such as restrictive eating, low self-esteem and mental health issues like depression. The power of fashion in constructing ‘ideals’ is therefore somewhat significant and dangerous if not managed responsibly. On the other hand, this also demonstrates how the fashion industry can use its status to empower women, reducing the stigma that surrounds ageing and the connotations of deterioration it holds. 

It is evident that ageism is a pressing issue in today’s society; the narrow beauty standards the media creates and promotion of products aimed specifically at the older population shapes our society’s negative perceptions of ageing. However given the fashion industry’s significant presence across all platforms, it has the potential to reverse the negativity that surrounds ageing and open up the market, so older people feel less isolated and more empowered. 

We often see style as a projection of ourselves; a way to emphasise personal uniqueness or seek group similarity. But whatever the purpose of our fashion ‘identity’, the acute awareness societies have accumulated across places and time could actually be a method of self-affirmation and consequently, protection from potential mental disorders.

Cultural dressing and mental health

What we wear is a reflection of who we are and knowing who we are as individuals can help improve mental wellbeing by giving us a sense of direction, purpose and security. For example, clothing preferences can influence mental wellbeing and reduce the general risk of mental health issues – so long as it is synonymous with an individual’s social groups (Bhui, et al, 2008). For some, making culturally traditional clothing choices can lead to a lower risk of mental health problems, but for others making ‘integrated’ clothing choices (ones which are trend-led) can reduce this risk.

Wearing traditional clothing can feel protective; it reflects a sheltered upbringing and adherence to religion, whilst wearing trend-led pieces can give others a sense of social status and confidence. Therefore, perhaps it’s not literally what one wears that enhances wellbeing, but rather what it stands for in our social circles. Adopting another culture’s traditional clothing style can not only be interpreted as cultural appropriation, it can also create intrafamilial conflict as it differs to the identity of your peers. Therefore, style potentially has the power to mediate relationships with others, affecting our mental health.

Dress yourself happy

Having a sense of personal style may also be influential at a cognitive level. Having positive self-evaluations, and an exaggerated perception of control and optimism can promote a positive mental state (Taylor et al, 1988). This may seem self-explanatory but what you may not know is that fashion can be a mechanism by which we can enhance our self-perceptions. By giving ourselves the power and freedom to dress as we please, we can enhance our preferred features and mask our insecurities, contributing to an increasingly positive, optimistic view of oneself.

Having a positive illusion of our bodies and capabilities has been reported to aid us in dealing with negative feedback more constructively. Therefore, the next time you have an important event, make sure to wear those special heels, your favourite tie or even your lucky underwear – it could be your secret weapon to happiness.

Take Pride in your Appearance 

With all of this in mind, much of our mental well-being arguably pins on our levels of self-esteem. Having high self-esteem can help to reduce the livelihood of suffering a mental disorder to displaying antisocial behaviours (Mann et al, 2004). Therefore, encouraging young children and adolescents to take pride and care in their appearance could stretch further than vanity, rather it could be used as a preventative measure from troubled behaviours and poor health later in life. Focussing on boosting self-esteem via fashion may in fact be beneficial in healthcare and education programmes – it will give individuals more confidence and security in who they are. This can also have the additional benefit of boosting job prospects; by knowing how to dress well improves first impressions and chances of succeeding in an interview. The additional income and ability to maintain busy can also keep people out of trouble – also giving wider societal benefits.

Fashion clearly has a role to play in promoting a positive self-image and reducing mental health issues in individuals. Although it may not be the sole cure to mental disorders, feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin can boost your sense of identity and self-esteem, which consequently improves mental wellbeing. Treating yourself to a new t-shirt or tie may not necessarily be something to feel guilty about – it could be contributing to a positive self-image and protecting you from a predisposed mental health issue.

Colloquialisms like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ have been present in the English language for decades, and although rather wise and largely true, psychology would suggest that to an extent, what we wear is in fact a reflection of who we are. 

Style is undoubtedly a significant part of our society; the fashion industry is thriving with its regular coverage in magazines and the media, globally-celebrated ‘fashion weeks’ and attention on social media through the work of online influencers. People are style-conscious; we take great pride in what we wear and where we shop, suggesting how we look must stand for more than just vanity. In fact, psychology has indicated it can boost our self-esteem, create a personal identity and reinforce a sense of belonging.

Perhaps the most prominent use of clothing is to build a sense of style and consequently, identity. In doing so, it has been argued that we build relationships between ourselves and our clothing. These can express three views of the self: the ideal self (‘the person I want to be’), the actual self (‘the person I am most of the time’) and the ‘person I fear I could be’. These self-concepts can be translated to our peers, colleagues and even strangers we pass in the street; before we even speak to another person it is likely we have, consciously or not, already built an idea in our minds about who they are. 

Although this may seem somewhat abstract and rather trivial, research has proved the significance of this sense of ‘self’. For example, it has been found that our self-esteem is lowered when we experience a large difference between our perceived actual and ideal self (Self Discrepancy Theory; Higgins, 1987). We feel frustration and disappointment if the person we see in the mirror isn’t the person we are aspiring to be. However, clothing can be used as a way to reduce this discrepancy and enhance self-esteem, if successful. Women have reported that through their clothing they are able to maintain an identity. They feel valued and liberated when their clothing successfully conveys to others ‘the person they want to be’. By developing and refining a personal style, it can be empowering, creating a feeling of control over our bodies; we can enhance aspects of ourselves we like, and conceal those we are more insecure over (Guy & Banim, 2000). Having a sense of style is, therefore, more than just an obsession with one’s image – it is a way to boost confidence, express creativity and empower. 

While we may use personal style to independently build an identity, it is also often a successful and arguably beneficial way to prescribe identities to others. This may seem domineering but having some externally-appointed identities can also boost our self-esteem; it encourages the formation of in-groups and consequently a sense of belonging. For example, in Cape Verde, fashion is known to be used amongst the ‘youth culture’ to construct both individual and social identities (Saucier, 2015). A key style worn by teenagers is inspired by hip-hop culture. They often describe it as ‘the blackest of cultures’ therefore, ‘to be young and black is to dress within the confines of hip-hop culture’ (Gilroy, 1994). The styles adopted by a teen can communicate who is authentic and sincere racially and culturally, which shaped personal and group identification. Other more widely-used ways clothing is used to construct identities is through the use of uniforms. Not only does it ensure students, employees and group-members are dressed appropriately but it encourages a feeling of responsibility and belonging between pupils, colleagues and friends. Therefore, although our old school-uniforms may not have been the most comfortable nor stylish outfit, they would have held significant symbolic meaning, shaping the people we are today and those we surround ourselves with.

Clothing most poignantly provides a medium for self-expression; colours, tones, textures and shapes can be used to experiment and explore what we like, feel good in and find enjoyment in wearing. Whether we choose to follow seasonal trends, take inspiration from celebrities and time periods or just do our own thing, what we wear has something to say about us as an individual, our group memberships and society we live in. Although perhaps more importantly, psychology has suggested that there’s more than meets the eye; style can support our self-esteem, empower us as individuals and aid the relationships we create. 

Having a sense of style most certainly isn’t the cure to all our problems, but there’s no shame in holding pride and autonomy in what you choose to wear as it could contribute to improving your quality of life and psychological well-being. 

Header Image Source: Big Bud

Instantly embodying the positive or professional persona you envisage isn’t always easy. But what if something as simple as the colour of your clothing could turn these visions into reality?

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Staring at a wardrobe over-flowing with tops, trousers, skirts and shirts can be daunting on a day-to-day basis. While as humans we have excelled in the art of decision-making for the most part, these first-world problems can cause us great confusion. This is where psychology can help. Have you ever considered eliminating your options by choosing a particular colour of clothing to wear? Perhaps you have an important job interview or feel fatigued due to a poor night’s sleep. By strategically selecting certain colours you can enhance your mood, improve your confidence or reduce anxiety – all whilst answering that recurrent question of: ‘what do I wear?’

For decades, research has been investigating how colours can be used to manipulate our mood and help us work at optimum performance. These effects seem to be embedded in our emotions and behaviours from as young as four years-old, with findings showing that when playing in a pink room, children displayed more strength and had a more positive mood, compared to a grey-coloured room (Hamind & Newport, 1989).  The warm tones of the colour pink reflected a welcoming, safe environment, so increased stimulation and arousal to make children more alert and interactive. Therefore, colour seems to play a significant role in our learning and interaction with our environment. Perhaps by popping on some pink shoes in the morning can set you up for a productive, positive day.

Later research looked at emotional responses to colours in adults by assessing the colour they wore and emotions towards and reasons for their choices. Bright colours elicited positive emotional associations and dark elicited mainly negative emotions (Hemphill, 1996).

However, these colour-emotion associations aren’t as straightforward as they seem, as they appear to change with age. In 7-year-olds, colours were meaningfully related to emotion preferences. However, the associations can become increasingly more evenly distributed with age, meaning we can create new meanings and attach multiple emotional associations to colours throughout our lives (Terwogt & Hoeksma, 1995).

Here are some ways you too can use coloured clothing to boost your mood and perhaps prevent the floor-drobe from making an appearance every time you can’t decide what to wear… 

Job Interview

Reiss: Shimmer Suit £185
Reiss: Shimmer Suit £185

While many opt to wearing black to a professional occasion, it may not necessarily always be the most effective option. While wearing black can make someone seem respectable and powerful, it can also indicate aggression (Linhartová et al., 2013). Therefore,  wearing a slightly softer shade such as grey can reduce the aggressive intent whilst giving you an equal amount of perceived respectability. Don’t be afraid to add a pop of colour though – a pair of blue heels or a yellow tie can give add a little personality to your appearance and make you all-the-more memorable.

Date Night

Fashion Psychology
House of CB: Mareena Dress £109

If you’re hoping to dress-to-impress that someone special,  research has recently suggested that wearing something red can make you appear more attractive due to associations we have built up overtime with the colour. Biologically the colour red indicates sexual receptivity; non-human primates display red body parts at times of ovulation, which indicates fertility and meets the evolutionary desire to reproduce (Guéguen and Jacob, 2013). Socially, the colour red represents sexuality, with associations to places like Amsterdam’s red-light district and sexy lingerie. However, a successful love life isn’t purely this shallow – an emotional connection is equally as important – by opening up to partners it allows trust and rapport to build in a relationship (Joinson & Paine, 2007).

Time to Relax

Topshop: Khaki Washed Cycle Loungewear Set £22

When it’s time to wind-down, whether it be in the evenings or on the weekends, the colours you surround yourself with can help relieve tension and encourage relaxation. Green and blue are highlighted as being the least stimulating and most pleasurable colours (Wilson, 1966; Valdez & Mehrabrian, 1994). The connection of these hues with nature may encourage positive attitudes and a sense of tranquillity which in turn helps us disconnect from the day.

There’s no denying that the challenges of daily life can become somewhat overwhelming – and proposing that the solution lies in something as small as the colours of our clothing, may seem overly-optimistic. However, it does appear that anticipating the demands of the day ahead can help to narrow-down outfit options by selecting shades that will encourage an appropriate mindset – and put you in a positive position for the day.