By Eleanor Morgan.
Picture the contents of your wardrobe. Which items genuinely make you feel good? Where did they come from? How long have you had them? Over time, we build attachments to items of clothing that consistently work for us. What they are will look different for everyone. An innate emotional connection will strengthen that attachment. For example, if it has been gifted by someone we love, or passed down by a relative, the comfort the piece embodies will be magnetic. If there is something you wear again and again, what compels you to return?
As the moniker goes, we are what we wear. Clothing gives messages to others: what we may do for a living; our spending habits; our personality traits; our value systems. Clothes are more functional for some people, but are rarely a sole matter of modesty or protection. There is always a deeper meaning to our choices. Clothing is rooted in the world of emotions and can affect our internal world; how we feel about ourselves. In psychology, this is known as enclothed cognition.
Different colours affect how we feel. Black often speaks to a Parisian elegance feted by fashion-lovers, but may also be unconsciously associated with prestige (think doctoral robes, barrister gowns or formal dinner wear) and make us feel powerful. Research suggests that blues, greens and earthy shades have a calming effect on brain chemistry, while oranges and reds have a more ‘arousing’, energising effect. It is also hard to imagine feeling muted while wearing yellow.
What we choose to wear in particular environments can change our attitude. If we work from home all day, distinguishing between our professional and at-home identities is tricky. Many people find that dressing in something they would actually leave the house in (rather than pyjamas associated with down-time) can promote focus. In terms of confidence, certain items may make us feel it more than others. The power of association is strong; something we wore when we felt accomplished or validated may become a talisman. We’ll wear it when we want to channel that spirit.
For women in particular, clothes that accentuate or reveal parts of the body they are comfortable with are a precious thing. Depending on the woman, this could be a dress, a blouse, a pair of jeans or a tailored suit. Whatever it is, pieces that both look and actually feel good, and can be context-versatile, are highly covetable. Ultimately, dressing to try and affect others’ perceptions without connecting with what authentically makes us feel positive, capable or confident is a dead-end. As Yves Saint Laurent said: “When you feel good in a clothing anything can happen. A good clothing is a passport for happiness.”