It's not exactly a revolutionary idea to state that fashion affects and reflects the way we feel about ourselves. It's not revolutionary, but it does bare repeating, and exploring—namely because so many of us tend to ignore the weighty implications of our fashion choices. It's not a matter of being hot or not, or being part of an 'in' crowd: showing an interest in developing, refining and even reinventing your own personal sense of style is an important part of defining and developing a sense of self.
Seem a bit of a bold claim?
It's not. In fact, the correlation is scientifically researched and proven.
The Science Behind Style and Self-Image
It's called enclothed cognition, and the phenomena refers to how clothing and style contributes to and can be indicative of your confidence, mood and health. According to a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and written by professors at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, both what clothing means on a symbolic level and the actual tangible experience of wearing clothing create this enclothed cognition.
In the study that informs the paper, researches asked participants to wear a medical lab coat, a painter's coat and then had them go coat-less. While attired in either coat—or no coat—participants were asked to perform specified tasks. When the results were in, it should that the subjects showed better attention and performance while wearing the medical lab coats, as opposed to no coats or painters coat.
This is not the only perspective that purports this view, either. Karen J. Pine, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire and author of Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion, holds a similar view. She writes,
"Every day we pull something from the wardrobe, or try on something in a store, that has life-changing potential. The suit with a cut that subliminally persuades an interviewer to prefer us to another candidate. The red dress that stirs something in a future lover and prompts them to ask for that first date. Even the swimsuit that can strip us of our intellectual powers (yes, we'll see how women do worse at a maths test if wearing a swimsuit. Yet so often we forget to give our clothing more than just a few moments of our attention."
The takeaway? You are what you wear...to a degree, at least. If you want to feel more confident, you should dress more confidently. Clothing can actually help you fake it until you make it, and more of us should take this power seriously, and wield it wisely.
How do you do this?
Always look the part. It doesn't matter if you are the most highly-qualified person on the planet, if you go for a job interview looking like a slob, you can (and will) likely be passed over.
Dress for success. Just like an aspiring actor needs to dress for the part for which he or she auditions, you need to dress for how you want to feel. If you have a special event and want to be the belle of the ball, you don't show up in a bargain basement brand dress: you show up in a designer Alex Perry dress and you own that event.
By all means, don't forsake your lounge pants — they are there to help you chill out, relax and recoup. But also understand the power of your sartorial choices, and know when it's time to step it up to amp up your confidence, your poise and ultimately, your happiness.