Is it possible to ‘dress’ your way to confidence? Do the clothes we wear impact the way we feel about ourselves?
First let’s ask ourselves whether people’s appearance affects the way we perceive them. If you’ve ever walked into a room and taken an immediate and inexplicable like or dislike to someone without having spoken to them, then I’m sorry to say, you’ve made a judgement based on appearance!
Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s a natural evolutionary trait and we all do it and it most often happens completely subconsciously.
Why and how does this happen?
Well, it’s all to do with the ‘non-verbal communications’ that we send out. We can tell a lot about a person from their posture, the way they walk, their hair and makeup choices and most certainly the way they dress.
There is a school of thought amongst scientists, most famously Albert Mehrabian, who believes that the words we use make up as little as only 7% of what we communicate when we speak. The vast majority of communication is through tone of voice and all the visual messages that we give.
So, let’s assume that we receive lots of information about a person just by being able to see them. How then, do we find ourselves having involuntary responses to people we don’t know such as whether we like them, whether they look approachable, interesting or intelligent?
The Psychology of Fashion
The answer according to Carolyn Mair, author of ‘The Psychology of Fashion’ is that human beings like to categorise information in order to make sense of this complex world otherwise there would simply be too much visual input for us to absorb.
Now this certainly isn’t happening on any conscious level that we are aware of. The way to think about this is that your brain is quietly working very hard in the background organising everything you see and experience into a neat filing system in your mind.
Depending on our experience of the world we will categorise people differently. You may find you associate people with a certain ‘type’ of appearance with specific personality traits. This will very likely be based on your previous experience of people who looked similar.
You may for example, hold the subconscious and probably incorrect belief that hipsters are lazy based on your experience of working with someone who had a hipster style and happened to be lazy. When scanning a room full of strangers for someone to help you move a box, you may without knowing why, avoid asking that 'hipster looking' dude in the corner.
So how about when we see ourselves in the mirror? What impact can that have on us?
The connection between the way we perceive our physical appearance and our self-image (the way we see ourselves in our minds) is cyclical.
When we feel happy, we tend to see the best in ourselves and we perceive our reflection in the mirror much more positively than when we are having a bad day and feeling down.
This works the other way too. You know the feeling you get when you leave the hairdresser with fabulous hair? You feel super confident, like you can do anything. What we see in the mirror over time impacts our self-image and self-esteem.
It also follows suit that if you continuously see yourself in the mirror wearing ill-fitting clothes that are in poor condition, it is likely to negatively affect the way that you think and feel about yourself. You are sending yourself visual messages about who you are.
The good news is, you can take control of those messages by dressing in a way that represents the version of you that you want to see!
Not to say by any means that we need to dress up to the nines just to run to the corner shop on a Sunday morning in order to feel good. It’s more a question of protecting your valuable self-esteem and self-respect.
If you are having a comfy day, wearing tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie is totally ok! Just be sure to pick a style that fits your body shape perfectly, in a fabric that feels gorgeously soft and in a colour that complements your complexion.
Instead of feeling dowdy and hoping you don’t accidentally bump into anyone, you will feel both deliciously cosy and actually pretty cute looking!
Take note: wearing clothes that feel comfortable and in fabrics that feel luxurious actually make us feel more valuable which is great for self esteem and confidence. Be picky about the fabrics that you buy. You deserve better.
The same goes for your day to day wardrobe. When time pressured, people sacrifice putting time into considering what to wear. Leaving the house in an outfit that doesn’t necessarily reflect the fabulousness of who you really are is doing yourself a huge injustice.
This has happened to me on many occasions (before I was a stylist obviously ) and every time without fail, I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable with my appearance and didn’t want to attract attention to myself.
This is no way to raise your levels of self-confidence.
Wearing clothes that you don’t love, is inhibiting and stops you from being the best version of yourself. Making time the night before to consider what to wear in the morning is time well spent and will impact upon how you feel for an entire day.
Just by investing this little bit of time in you, you are doing wonders for your self-esteem and the way you view yourself.
So, do I think you can ‘dress yourself confident’? Absolutely yes. Dress as the person that you know yourself to be on the inside and know that you are representing your true self through the visual messages that you give to the world.
This piece was written for publication via I Shoot People Photography. See the original published article here