It’s well known that people make assumptions about who you are by what you wear. After all, first impressions count, and for those who are either unaware or who don’t take this fact seriously, studies have proven that in the eyes of others, you are what you wear until people get to know you as a person. Even then, your wardrobe is still an important factor in how you are viewed by the outside world, especially professionally.
YOUR CLOTHING PROJECTS AN IMAGE
In her book, You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You, clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner calls this phenomenon the psychology of dress. She explains how what’s in our closet can also be a reflection of our key psychological issues. Dr. Baumgartner says, “Shopping and spending behaviors often come from internal motivations such as emotions, experiences and culture.” She states that even our closet storage choices reflect a behavior that has deeper meaning because those choices are indicative of our personal psychology. Dr. Baumgartner says, “You look at putting together outfits and people think of it as fluff. But any behavior is rooted in something deeper.”
Here are three ways that show how what’s in your closet reveals so much about you:
Dr. Baumgartner says that since Americans don’t have a specific class system, we use clothes to express who we are economically and socially. Even when economic times are bad and people have lost status, we use clothing as a way to maintain a sense of who we are and how we perceive ourselves. Dr. Baumgartner uses the women from the Real Housewives TV shows as an example, “When they fight, they use logos and designers as a way to put each other down. They’re using clothes and accessories as a tool to know where they fit in and as a weapon against others.”
The old saying, “you can judge a man by his shoes”, simplifies the reality that there is no one article of clothing that projects a success image. Dr. Baumgartner recommends that both men and women wear wardrobe essentials if they want to project a positive image; a good suit, the little black dress, a white shirt and so forth. A classic piece of clothing works for everyone because it has multiple functions and is appropriate for various body types and ages. “With classics, (they’ve) lasted throughout time, so you already know it works,” she says.
When it comes to what clothing makes you look unsuccessful, Dr. Baumgartner says, “Anything where it looks like you didn’t take the time or make the effort comes across badly. Clothing that tries to hide or ignore who you are – or shows you are not aware of your body, age and work or social situation – is the worst thing to wear.”
Not only is the world informed by how you dress, your clothing has an effect on how you feel about yourself psychologically. Northwestern University did a study in which they gave white lab coats to participants and told some that it was a doctor’s coat and others that it was a painter’s smock. They discovered although everyone did the same task, the ones wearing the doctor’s coat were more careful and their behavior reflected the person they were told they were. This is probably why actors feel they are only truly in character once they get into costume.
The same is true of people, demonstrated by how a person’s self-esteem rises after a makeover. “When you dress in a certain way, it helps shift your internal self,” explains Dr. Baumgartner. Therefore, you should dress not how you feel, but how you want to feel. The clothes you wear not only send a message to others, but also to yourself about how you are or who you want to be.
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