Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Clothing choices – what it says about you

 'If a woman is badly dressed, it's the dress we'll notice; but if she is impeccably dressed, it's the woman herself we'll notice.'  Coco  Chanel 

“Your bum looks the size of a barn door in those jeans” said my mother as I modeled the outfit I intended to wear to the long awaited school reunion celebrations.  “Gee, thanks Mum for the feedback – not” I huffed and walked back to my room to sort through the myriad of outfits I have packed, just in case, the weather was unpleasant. Instead it was my mother who was unpleasant.  I knew there was a good reason we all had to leave the nest sooner rather than later. I suppose I should be thankful she didn’t say I looked like “mutton dressed up as lamb”, another of her favourite criticisms of wardrobe choices either my sisters or I have made in the past.

 I eventually decided on an outfit I have had for several years but is simple and quite flattering on my mature figure, if not up to date with current fashion trends.  At the reunion a number of people who knew me as a teen commented that I had not changed a bit despite the 15kg (approx. 37 lb.) increase in weight.  I took this as a compliment and a confirmation that I had chosen wisely in my attire. This got me thinking about the clothing in my wardrobe and why I chose particular items.

What the Research says:
Clothes are the visible clues to our personalities and influences the way people treat us.  A study just published1 by our Psychology Today  in the UK and Turkey shows some of the very subtle ways in which clothing influences all kinds of impressions about us. People make their assessments in the first few seconds of seeing another; assessmentts that go way beyond how well you are dressed and how neat and tidy you might look.   For example a person with dingy sloppy clothes may convey the message of ‘I don’t care’ even when it’s unintentional. On the other hand, a woman who wears a low cut, high slit dress above her knee may be looked at as, ‘I’m available any time’. Our mode of dress may also reveal anger, aggressiveness, uncertainty or depression,” according to  Dr. Shirley A. White, MBA, EdD. Karen Pine, who is the coauthor of Flex: Do Something Different and a professor in the School of Psychology at University of Hertfordshire states that research results suggest there is a possibility that wearing certain clothes can affect emotional states. According to the research he strong link between clothing and mood state suggests we should put on clothes that we associate with happiness, even when feeling low.  

The first thing people notice when they meet you is your appearance and you want to convey the right ‘you’ behind the outfit your wear. Choosing the right outfit that fits your personality is important because if your outfit doesn't work for you, you won’t feel good wearing it. An outfit is supposed to bring out your personality not take away from it. Your personal style and taste is at risk if your wardrobe doesn't fit who you are. In “You Are What You Wear,” Dr. Baumgartner states “The worst clothing is the kind that tries to undo, ignore or hide where or who you are, or the kind that shows you didn’t pay attention to your body/age/situation…”: Clothing helps you to get into the mind set of who you are and what you want to be.

1.      Dramatic - They opt for clothes that get them noticed and have a strong definite image and are not afraid of making bold statements. They tend to gravitate toward designer labels but most express their individuality by going to second hand shops. They want to be the centre of attention. Style icons: Anne Hathaway, Monica Bellucci

2.      Classic - Classics appear self confident and reserved.   Their choice of clothing tends to be conservative and reflective of their personality. They will more than likely purchase more expensive traditional clothing that will last many years. They opt for clean lines, well-cut clothes and blended colours. Dominated by wardrobe basics such as shift dresses, striped tops, ballet flats. Clean and straight lines, neutral colours such as black, gray and white. Style icons: Coco Chanel, Victoria Beckham, Angelina Jolie

3.      Romantic - Romantics love to express their femineity.  They are attracted to soft luxurious fabrics, beading and detailing, and to anything that communicates luxury and expense. A love for everything pretty and nice. Delicate jewellery. Ruffles, lace, pleats, soft fabrics. Style icons: Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansson
4.      Casual - Their personality is easy going, down to earth, and friendly.  They are the girl next door type. They see formal clothes as too restrictive and fussy accessories as pointless.  A casual’s wardrobe is minimal and practical and many live in jeans or tracksuit bottoms. They tend to be physical people and may lead very active lifestyles. Style icons: Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz
5.      Trendy—Conscious of the latest fashion trends and cutting edge designs . Style icons: Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton
Of course, these descriptions of clothes and personality are stereotypical representations of many different types of dressers; most of us wear a mixture of one or more of these style types on a regular basis and our personalities are a mix of those described as well.

Discover your Clothing Personality
Knowing what you like and what looks good on you are two different things.  Your wardrobe can either attract or detract from your personality. Choose clothes that reflect the person you are inside or the person you want to become. Whatever way you choose, make sure it is you. Hallie Berry is an actress that is never on the worse dressed list. Her secret is that she knows her body well and she knows which style of dress looks good on her.   So how do you discover your clothing personality?  Here are some tips to help you get started:
  1. What type of clothes do you like? —An important aspect of dressing and style is knowing what you like.  The way you dress should reflect your tastes, interests and desires.  I love Japanese inspired blouses /dresses and tailored trousers.  I also love jangly bracelets (gold or  costume or leather).   Understanding yourself is crucial to making style choices consistent with your personality and lifestyle.
  2. Look for some inspiration—Find a individual, someone you know personally or a celebrity you can identify with. Observe the clothing choices and combinations they make and incorporate them in your wardrobe.
  3. Regularly review your wardrobe —Take an honest look at your closet. If you haven’t worn something in 12 month time frame, regardless of how much it cost, give it away as you will probably never wear it. 
  4. Know your body shape and size — The key is to highlight what you like most about yourself. This will help you know which part to focus on when shopping and putting together an outfit.  A big no no is wearing clothes that are too tight as they show every extra ounce of fat. 
  5. Shop Alone — Friends are great but they may influence our purchase choices.  I have several clothing items in my wardrobe curtsey of helpful friends that I have never worn as they just don’t reflect the image I have of myself.
  6. Find your special item or style of your own — Find something that works with your personality whether it be a boots, a stack of gold bangles, or lace blouses.  A woman I use to work with adored vintage clothing and always wore the 50’s look. 
  7. Be creative — Spend some time mixing  and matching various items in your wardrobe  to see which combinations you feel most comfortable in. Try on something totally different sometimes  and see where it leads.

So what do your clothes say about you? 

To discover the hidden meaning in the way your dress, answer these questions, put together with help from two non-verbal communication specialists Eric Pestel and Nathalie Delhoume from the Lookadok agency in Paris.

Want to help in pscyhofashhion research then start by  clicking this link or visit Personality and ClothingResearch  

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