Psychology is more than that hour you spend on a couch in an old bearded guy's office. It is the study of all things human. It encompasses everything from sex to politics and yes, fashion falls somewhere in the the mix. If you know anything about me, fashion is just about one of my favorite things. Like why go anywhere if you can't look as fabulous as possible? A love of fashion is not just vapid and ephemeral but necessary for everyday functioning. Fashion is more than clothes, it's perception.
Obviously, our physical appearance, including our clothing, impacts the way others view us. A number of studies have found that people wearing designer clothing are seen as more intelligent, wealthy, and attractive. Well, clothes might also impact the way we perceive ourselves. Some super stylish researchers, Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky, coined my new favorite term “enclothed cognition." Basically, it refers to the impact clothing has on our psyche (Northwestern 2012). These two fashion plates asked participants to take a test intended to measure attention. The participants were also asked to take the test while wearing white coats, one group were told they were wearing coats like doctors and the other were told they were wearing coats like painters. The participants wearing the "doctor's" coats scored higher on tests of attention than those in the "painter's" coat. Obviously, the coat didn't actually help them focus but based on the attribution they placed on the coat they were able to improve their ability to focus. It’s less about what we are wearing but the value we place on what we are wearing. This is the exact reason we gravitate toward Prada and away from Jordache. There isn’t anything really inherently different just our value proposition, which impacts our perception, and eventually our performance.
This study focused on lab coats and attention. But if I know a thing or two about generalization I bet fashion decisions can transform your next job interview or first date. So, in my little evil genius brain this translates into how do we use this information to get what we want from life?
Get The Life You Want
It may seem a little overly simplistic to assume that improving your fashion will improve your life. But if you internalized the study above in the same way I did, you'll realize that associations make the world go round. Your brain even works by making constant associations to help you solve problems, identify random objects, and perform about a billion other tasks. Altering your appearance through fashion is really just another way we use this biological fact to improve your life. So, it's time to tap into your inner dandy and transform your closet into a trove of art work intended to create the image of yourself you've always wanted. Let's start by visualizing your future. Sit quietly and think about how you've always wanted to see yourself. Write it out, draw it, or make a vision board. What articles of clothing make you feel the way you want to be, dynamic, powerful, or passionate. For me, it would have to be this black blazer I've had forever, it hugs all the right curves yet is wildly professional and sleek. It always helps me feel powerful and in control. As your appearance transforms into the image you see for yourself you will notice that the perceptions others have of you will begin to shift as well. I'll say it again, this change may seem small and maybe even unimportant but it can help improve your confidence and how you interact with the world at large. Give it a chance.
Get The Closet You Want
Now that we see that clothes and the attributions attached to them impact our performance, let's evaluate the clothing we have. Fashion is art and art is fashion so the first thing we need to do is transition the way we think about the clothing we have and the clothing we buy. They are all tiny little art pieces and it's our job to constantly curate and cull our collection.
First, let's take a quick fashion inventory. Do you still have clothing from high school in your drawers? Get all the old, unflattering stuff out of there. I understand there are some items with sentimental value, but I promise you the memories aren't attached to that item they exist in you.
Next, take this image of your future self from above and keep it in the forefront of your mind.
Here comes the fun part, dump ALL of your clothes onto the floor. I mean ALL!
Download the form I lovingly created for you, or use the decision tree below, it will help you figure out whether an item should be trashed, donated or kept.
At the end of this project you should be left with, what we call, a capsule wardrobe. These are items you frequently wear, look amazing in, and that work well with other items in your wardrobe. If you note major holes in your closet it's time to head to the store and strengthen your collection. The Everygirl has a great article about what items are mandatory for the perfect capsule wardrobe. I need a few more white shirts myself . Happy culling my lovelies. Please, send me your success stories!