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You Are What You Wear

I seldom watch television but one type of programs that really catch my attention is the “make-overs”. You see I am deeply fascinated by the way a different haircut, new make-up and fitted cloth can change the radiance and self-confidence in a person and I wonder how it must feel to undergo such a transformation in just a few hours. Now I am not talking about the very drastic ones that involve plastic surgery and weeks of recovery because surely they alter you on a deeper level also. My curiosity mainly evolves the fairly simple techniques that seem to expose a completely different person than before.

Coco Chanel once said, ‘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.’

What your wardrobe is telling you

It’s no news that your wardrobe says a lot about you but did you ever pay attention to what your clothes say to you?A recent study at a University in the US examined a concept called “enclothed cognition.” Researchers define it in their report as “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes,” meaning what your clothes are saying to you, not about you. And how they make you feel.

Enclothed cognition gives scientific proof to the idea that you should dress not how you feel, but how you want to feel. Which clothes make you feel powerful? Sexy? In control? Wealthy? The clothes you choose are sending a message to those around you, but also to you, yourself.

That is the secret behind the “makeovers” - even actors experience the same mechanism when they put on a costume that facilitates a certain expression of character.That’s just as true for everyday life. Just think back at a situation when your friend dragged you out of the house and told you to “Get dressed up! You’ll feel better!” after your last breakup/failed interview/lousy day. When you dress in a certain way, it helps shift your internal self.

The psychology of clothes

So lets take a look at how clothes reveals our personalities and what messages they’re sending and how you can use your wardrobe to change how others perceive you—and even how you think about yourself.

The collector

If you keep every piece of clothing you´ve ever owned you might be clinging to the past through the sentimental value of your pieces. To challenge yourself you should consider getting rid of 2-3 items you own, including anything too big/small, ripped/torn or outdated.

The anonymous

If you wear only neutral colors largely devoid of accessories you might be stuck in a psychological rut, too comfortable to shake it up, or too afraid to draw attention to yourself. To challenge yourself you should consider deviating from your routine in small ways like taking a different route to work or add few new accessories to your outfit to jog your brain into feeling excited.

The baggy

If you dress in clothing too large for your body you might see your body differently than others see it or as a reflection of the way it once was. To challenge yourself you should consider bringing an honest friend shopping to find out what looks great on you, ignoring sizes and getting used to wearing clothes that really fit.

The attention seeking

If you have been told you are dressed inappropriately or too sexily you might be looking for the wrong kind of attention. To challenge yourself you should consider the image you want to project in given situations and chose outfit based on cues from those around you.

The age confused

If you dress to young or too old for your age you might be trying to express the age you feel inside but getting caught between your actual and internal age. To challenge yourself you should consider gearing your outfit toward your goals in life rather than a specific age.

The business look

If you are always in work clothes you might value yourself primarily through your work and work-related accomplishments. To challenge yourself you should consider recognizing your talents outside of work i.e. a good cook, a loving spouse or parent, a caring friend.

The brand obsessed

If you are covered in designer logos you might think you need to broadcast wealth in order to gain recognition and status. To challenge yourself you should consider wearing blank canvas pieces and only accenting with logos to emphasize that people value you for more than your labels.

The mom look

If you live in your “mom outfit” of jeans and a hoodie you might put the needs of your family before your own. To challenge yourself take more “me time” Remember when mom isn´t happy, nobody is.

The challenge of changing

I am sure most of us recognize ourselves in one or more of the categories and getting reminded can be both embarrassing and painful. Transformation can be quite frightening and leaving our comfort zone takes a lot of motivation and courage. There might as well be some psychological issues that need to be dealt with first to give room to new perceptions. Look at it as a way of detoxing the whole concept of who you are and embrace the opportunity that lies in the different ways of expressing yourself and how you feel or what you want to achieve. Be open to the possibility of seeking professional help from e.g. an actor, a stylist, a spiritual teacher, a coach, a therapist or personal trainer. Anybody with a more holistic mindset that acknowledge the correlation between the inner and the outer self will bring you inspiration as long as you don’t forget that the source of transformation lies within yourself.

The makeover

Push aside personal issues, so how do we put action behind knowledge without participating in a TV program? Here are a few ideas.

Evaluate your closet. Go through what you already own and decide what you like. Pieces that you keep should have a fit that's flattering to your body, as well as an overall look that blends with your aesthetic.

Throw out or donate anything that fits poorly or that you're hesitant to wear out of the house. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven't worn it for 6 months (barring seasonal items such as sweaters for winter or swimsuits for summer), get rid of it.

Look for inspiration. One way to foster and develop a new style is to find out what looks good on other people. Leaf through magazines or watch TV for trends that catch your eye. Alternatively, visit crowded places such as malls or downtown sidewalks. Observe what people are wearing, and take note of fashions you like.

Ask for help. If you're having a hard time finding inspiration, or you worry about having bad taste, ask for an outside opinion. Contact a close friend or family member whose sense of style you admire, and ask him or her what might look good on you. Visit a department store or boutique that carries fashions you like and ask a salesperson to help you assemble a stylish look that's right for you. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Remember that most people who work at clothing stores love to help people find the right look and will be eager to help you.

Don't forget shoes. A new pair of shoes can add a different flair to your look. Look for something you can wear often and that fits with the general look you're trying to achieve.

Go shopping. When you've decided what you like, start shopping. You don't have to replenish your wardrobe all in one go. To ease of some of the strain on your budget go shopping off-season. For instance, buy shorts and swimsuits in the fall, or sweaters in the spring.

Find a good tailor or seamstress (optional). Clothing sizes are designed to fit the masses, and therefore might not fit you as well as you'd like. If you find a piece you love but the fit is lacking, take it to a tailor or seamstress for alterations. Most everyday-wear fabrics can be altered fairly cheaply, and the price will be worth the confidence boost that comes with wearing clothes that fit well.

Accessorize. Upgrade your regular look by adding a few interesting accessories. This can be as simple as buying clean laces for your shoes, or wearing a muted belt. If you really want to alter your look, try adding jewelry, scarves, hats or hairpieces.

Change your hairstyle. Your hairstyle is an important part of your personality, and it often adds the most drastic changes to your looks. Try styling your hair a different way in the morning, or see if a new shampoo or product helps it look better. If you're going to try a radically different cut or color, consult a stylist as to what might look best on you. Find images in magazines or online for inspiration, and take them to your appointment.

Get some makeup tips. If you're a girl, try new makeup. Visit the makeup section of a department store for a complimentary makeover. Tell the makeup artist what you’re interested in, but be willing to accept his/her input; you could be hiding your best features. Be prepared to purchase at least one thing as a thank-you.

Be yourself. The most important thing about your new look should be that it makes you feel great. When you feel good in your clothes, you'll look good in your clothes.


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