How Fashion Psychology Can Boost Your Self-esteem
By Beatriz Martinez
reviewed by juliana ascolani
The clothes we choose from our closet every morning can affect our mood and behavior more than we might think. Besides clothes, make-up, hair-care routines, and even perfume can have an impact on the way we face daily situations. Fashion can influence our personality, not because it shapes others’ perceptions of us, but because it can affect how we feel about ourselves and how we act.
What is fashion psychology? The American Psychological Association (APA) defines psychology as “the study of the mind and behavior”. On the other hand, fashion is defined by APA as “the styles of artistic and cultural expression, garments, manners, and customs prevalent in a particular time and place”. We are not always able to be in control of our fashion decisions; cultural norms play a huge part in deciding them. Our home, workplace, and even school can influence the clothes we wear, and we may even disregard the ones we like. Fashion is not just about image and appearance; it is about feeling comfortable, increasing self-confidence, and improving your mood and overall wellness.
The feelings you want to evoke with your clothes
Our clothes can shape our behaviors and our behaviors can influence the clothes we choose — in essence, our mood can change our style. If we feel confident about ourselves and our actions, it’s more likely that the way we dress will have a minimal effect on our mood.
However, if we’re going through a difficult period in life in which we are challenged to work on our self-esteem, our clothes and fashion decisions might be just what we need to boost our self-confidence. Waking up in the morning and dressing up with the first pair of jeans and sweater we find in the closet might not be the best way to go. Instead, it is worthwhile to choose the clothes that make us feel good about ourselves. Styling our hair, attending to grooming routines, or choosing a specific set of accessories are not just actions to gain others’ approval; those decisions can benefit our own overall wellness and sense of self.
How can fashion affect your mood?
Our closets have clothes that we may like but don’t wear because we don’t feel comfortable wearing them. When shopping, we tend to buy the clothes that we like the most at first glance, but too often they stay in our closet gathering dust. What’s important is how we feel when wearing them. Certain clothes can enhance our self-esteem, making us feel more secure about ourselves. If we feel good about how we look, that can make us feel more secure in our attitudes and actions. Attending our fashion choices is not simply indulging in vanity. Our appearance can empower us, as it does for many species in nature — from the colors of the peacock to the mane of a lion.
Clothes can also help us become who we want to be. When choosing an outfit, we also choose the image we want to show of ourselves. If we have a job interview, we might want to wear a formal outfit. That will not only be the first impression about ourselves to the interviewer, but it will also influence the way we feel during the interview. Feeling good about how we look can make us feel more secure about ourselves and our potential. Likewise, if we choose a formal outfit for a celebration and we discover that everybody is wearing casual outfits, we might feel overdressed and out of place.
How can fashion influence different dimensions of holistic health?
- Physical: Tight jeans, if too tight, can cause stomach pain or affect blood circulation. We can even get skin rashes when our clothes are made of certain types of materials that our bodies may be sensitive to. In addition, clothes can protect us from the environment; they act as the hygienic barrier between our skin and the environment, protecting us against cold or hot temperatures.
- Mental: Our mood and behavior can be influenced by the way we dress. Studies have shown that baggy tops are chosen mostly when the mood is low, while you would pick your favorite dress when you’re feeling happy. Research has shown that clothing style can be influenced by identity, value, attitude, and mood. Therefore, body image can influence clothing behavior and vice versa.
- Social: Clothes can be a sign of our beliefs, of belonging to a community, or our interests, such as sports teams or music genres, for example. Cultural norms also affect our perception of fashion. Clothing can become a symbol of social status and identity, allowing us to protect the self image that we want to show.
- Environmental: The textile industry is the one of the greatest sources of pollution. Thus, the way we consume fashion and, therefore, dress, can have environmental repercussions as well. Fast fashion is considered the second most polluting industry, according to the United Nations. Choosing some materials or even brands over others can affect our environmental health while, at the same time, we are showing our values and expressing ourselves. We can look out for the environment as well as ourselves by choosing long-lasting items that are ethically sourced over those that are part of fast fashion.
- Economic: On the one hand, the money we spend on clothes and fashion in general can also influence our wellness; not being able to afford new clothes can negatively impact our self-esteem. On the other hand, social standards can make us spend more money on clothes than we actually need or can afford to spend, so it’s worth it to be mindful of what we’re buying and why we’re buying it.
Fashion is not just about image and appearance; it has a noticeable effect on our overall wellness. Mindful decisions about our fashion preferences can have a positive effect on our health. We encourage you to keep this in mind when you are shopping for new clothes or picking an outfit from your closet, as it will allow you to understand how fashion affects your mood and attitude.
I am a journalist specialised in international relations, and writing is my absolute passion. I translate my knowledge and feelings into words, a process that has become my profession and at the same time my personal healing practice. I believe that being curious about what surrounds us is the key to educating ourselves and to further being able to express it to others. I love reading and am mostly interested in politics, human rights, social movements, and the passionate world of health.
I am a health researcher who bridges data science and health research with direct experience in healthcare and university institutions, passionately and collaboratively pursuing the integration and synergy of all key areas of health and wellness. I believe in inclusion as the main pillar of our society, especially when it comes to health. Promotion and prevention in health empower people to adopt healthy decisions, thus I have been working during the last years in the development of inclusive and holistic health systems. What do I enjoy the most about my job? Realizing how we are making a difference in people’s lives, and seeing the result in their health journeys. I enjoy the challenge of questioning new paradigms and creating debate around them.
APA Psychology Dictionary (2021). Definition of Psychology. Retrieved 29 March 2021 from https://dictionary.apa.org/psychology
APA Psychology Dictionary (2021). Definition of Fashion. Retrieved 29 March 2021 from https://dictionary.apa.org/fashion
Kodzoman, D. (2019). THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CLOTHING: Meaning of Colors, Body Image and Gender Expression in Fashion. Textile & Leather Review, 2(2), 90–103. doi:10.31881/tlr.2019.22
Mair, C. (2021). Speaking of Psychology: Psychology of fashion. American Psychology Association. Retrieved 29 March 2021 from https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/fashion
UN (2019). UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable. Retrieved 29 March 2021 from https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/03/1035161
University of Hertfordshire (2021). Happiness: it’s not in the jeans. Retrieved 29 March 2021 http://karenpine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/PR-Happiness-its-not-in-the-jeans.pdf