What you wear affects your behaviour and that of others towards you

The more I learn about the effect that your clothes have on how you feel and behave and critically, how others behave towards you, the more fascinated and inspired I become.

This time last year I attended a course run by Fashion Psychologist Professor Carolyn Mair on Psychology for Fashion. Carolyn shared both her academic and real-life experience of the impact that clothes have on our feelings, behaviours, attitudes and productivity. And as we all wear clothes, we all have some skin in the fashion game. Read on to find out just how powerful this second skin is. Dressed, clothed, adorned. Clobber, garb, outfit, garment, attire. So many words for something that we all have to do. Do every single day in fact. And more often than not, without even thinking about it! Maybe even without even knowing we’ve done it. The alarm goes off and before we know it, we’re out the door and embarking on our day. And quick check – yep we’re not naked!! We might not have uttered a word to anyone since we got up. We might not say anything for some time. But beware - your clothes are talking even when you’re not.


I recently found my list of "I'm at my best when..." from a Franklin Covey course I did years before I even thought about starting my business. And on there was "I'm at my best when I know I'm well dressed." Tucked underneath this one was a list of 10 things I wanted out of life which I wrote at least 25 years ago. Along with following the F1 circus around the world for a year and singing and dancing (well!) on stage - one of which I've achieved!! - there again was "be well dressed". So even though it's only in recent years that I've begun to realise just how important what I wear is to how I feel, subconsciously I seem to have been aware of this for a long time. And now there's research to back it up. When you believe you look great, have you noticed how it can lead you to feel more sociable, powerful and confident? When you have an important meeting or presentation at work do you reach for a certain outfit? The one that makes you feel like you can take on the world. The one that makes you stand taller and contribute more confidently. What you wear is one of the biggest influencing factors on how you behave.


Conversely, when you get into your PJs as soon as you get home from work, you just want to cower on the couch and block out the outside world. What you are wearing is contributing to how you behave. It is supporting your thinking, your mood and your motivation. When I work from home, I have to be dressed for work. I have to feel confident, professional, stylish and ready to take on the world - and my PJs are never going to do that for me. I must dress my business brand to help me to be productive. We can turn any piece of clothing into one that has a positive meaning for us and harness what we believe it represents to help us feel confident, sexy, powerful and so on. Let's be honest, there's no such thing as lucky pants! They're just pants! But something really positive once happened when you wore them, so you’ve given them a symbolic meaning which influences how you feel and how you think. In this case positivity and luck. So, you wear them again to bring you some more. But in reality, there are lots of factors at play and if all the factors work in your favour then you convince yourself it’s a result of wearing the “lucky” item.


What might be happening is that by wearing the item we feel more confident and that confidence is communicated to those around us, leading to an outcome we are hoping for. What I’ve just described is termed ‘enclothed cognition.’ Adam and Galinsky's research in this field concluded that describing a white coat as a lab coat as opposed to a decorator’s coat made study participants who wore it more attentive to detail. In other research, Maier et al's and Kayser Niesta et al’s research found that the colours people wore affected the behaviour of others towards them both in work and personal situations, relating to intelligence, leadership and attractiveness.


What you wear does affect how you behave and how others behave towards you. By being more aware of this effect it’s possible to take control and make positive choices each day. That might be in business when meeting a potential new client, meeting up with a new social group, doing the school run or being true to yourself at a family event.


Whatever the situation, start to recognise the feelings and behaviours you experience from what you’re wearing. What makes you feel incredible? What makes you more productive? What inhibits your confidence and stifles your creativity? Recognise this and harness it for good. Build more of the positive into your wardrobe and ditch the negative.

What’s your “I can take on the world” outfit? Come on, we all need one!

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