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Picture it. You’re in a fitting room. You snap that selfie to send to your significant other. You’re in love, you feel great, and mentally you are already at the till tapping your card or handing over the cash. *Ping* You check your messages and your heart sinks to your gut. You are left with the dilemma: Do you continue to purchase, or is your opinion swayed and you walk away empty handed?

Fashion psychology makes clear the clothing we wear has real significance; whether we are conscious of it or not. It is a tool to express ourselves, but when the opinions of a romantic partner differ from our own regarding what we want to wear, do we alter that expression to please them? Even if it means putting aside our own style and fashion choices? 

I pledge allegiance

Fashion, and the clothing choices we make, allows for expression of self and the vision of ourselves as we wish to be seen. The psychology behind Fashion communicates an allegiance to a desired social group we wish to identify as, and if this is achieved, can lead to heightened feelings of belonging and respect. It lifts self-esteem and confidence as well as reflects cultural values and tradition in some cases; which hold immense power. 

Loosing ourselves

Research has shown when romantic partners express a dislike for something the other is passionate about (such as, style and fashion) it crushes this confidence and destabilises the relationship. Perhaps during early stages of dating, when making a good first impression, fashion does play a large part in that initial meet, so we pull out all the stops and overthink every outfit. But as time passes and couples feel more comfortable in a relationship, partners feel more liberty to be honest in such topics of conversation. This notion may provide some explanation but doesn’t help combat feelings of sadness when opinions land heavy if our boyfriends/girlfriends/partners show disgust for something we like.

Thus raising the question: Should we change the way we dress to suit the tastes of our respective partners in an attempt to be deemed attractive? Even if it means going against our own fashion inclinations and style?

Maybe no is the answer.

Research suggests clothing make us feel good. We have the freedom to dress to our liking in order to reflect our mood, our culture and our self as we identify. So why not be as creative (or as boring) as you please? If that pair of shoes puts a spring in your step, or that dress makes you carry yourself differently, if you feel fierce in a bold colour or statement piece, comfortable in those old, baggy sweatpants or glam in that dress – wear it! 

What your partner thinks is of their concern.

Love us for who we are

We all want to be seen as attractive in the eyes of the individual we are dating, as well as to the people around us – even if only from time to time or on that one-off occasion when you can go all out. On the flip side, studies have also shown if a partner feels uncomfortable or turned off, this can have an effect on the future of the relationship. 

Negative conviction towards the decisions made by another individual, who are trying to obtain a sense of control by expressing themselves, puts a strain on the relationship and creates friction. It leads to one of two outcomes: The person standing in the fitting room changes who they are to fit who their partner wants them to be (with or without either partner realising this is occurring) or the individual making the decision, ignores the opinion of their partner – and the reaction is out of their hands. Nonetheless, if the relationship is healthy both parties should love each other regardless.

Let me end by saying

Perhaps finding compromise whilst not losing yourself or your identity is the logical answer. Relationships should be able to weather any storm and the debate of fashion may be one deliberated but also taken with a pinch of salt. Collaboration on what the other finds attractive or flattering is great for opening up communication, but it should not be a detriment to the feelings of an individual or be used as a controlling tool to alter another’s tastes and preferences. Ultimately, fighting over fashion is not the answer, nor worth it and self-expression is a freedom every human being should possess. 

So who cares what your significant other thinks: just be you.

Jane West

Author Jane West

Jane is a graduate from University of the Arts London with a MSc in Applied Psychology in Fashion (2020). Alongside her post-graduate degree, she graduated from the University for the Creative Arts (2017) with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Fashion Journalism. Jane focuses her freelance writing on fashion psychology, retail and trading - using the skills, psychological research and understanding from her studies and experience in the fashion industry.

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