A patterned background with a man in a patterned shirt, a girl working on her laptop in her pajamas and a man in a suit.
Enclothed cognition describes the effect that clothing have on how an individual thinks, feels, and behaves. Photos courtesy: Unsplash


Can Your Outfit Influence the Way You Feel?

Is it time to get out of those pyjamas?

“I used to have low confidence a few years ago and a shaky self-image, and would often think nobody would love me, and I feel that fashion, dressing up and looking good plays a big role in giving my confidence a boost,” Aastha Mehta, a fashion and lifestyle influencer, told Re:Set. The Mumbai-based 26-year-old gives credit to her passion for fashion for making her feel less insecure and believes it has helped her develop as a person. 

It’s common knowledge that the way you dress can be an important factor when interacting with people, but your outfit could be creating an impression on you as well. A study conducted by Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky at Northwestern University found that the clothing we wear affects our psyche. Research shows that how we dress influences people’s perception of us, and that seems rather obvious (otherwise wouldn’t everyone always be in pyjamas?) However, what impact does our clothing have on us?

While most of us are privileged to be working from home as this pandemic takes over, we have often been told to change out of our sleeping clothes to feel more productive. There may be some truth in that claim — a study shows that wearing formal clothes improves your ability to process new information and think more innovatively. 

“Clothing impacts your thinking, you perform better in your personal and professional life because it directly affects your mood and the way you interact with others,”  Tanushri Baikar, a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, told Re:Set. 

An image of Aastha with her outfits being illustrated. The background is colourful and patterned.

Mehta, a fashion and lifestyle influencer, says she owes her confidence to fashion. Photo courtesy: Aastha Mehta

Outfit of the day: power dressing

Mehta started blogging because she wanted to find her space in a seemingly unachievable fashion world. Instead of adopting high fashion trends that are overwhelming for her, she tries to share her own style on her page. She realized there must be more people like her who wanted to be fashionable without breaking the bank while sticking to their ethical values (she doesn’t use animal products). Research shows that formal clothing, like Hillary Clinton’s famous pantsuits, can make you feel confident.

Outfit of the day: work from home 

The culture of ‘casual Friday’ or ‘dress down Friday’ may not just be so that you can take a laundry break. Research shows that wearing business casual may increase productivity and make you feel more trustworthy. So, while you work from home, stepping up the outfit game will only help. 

“Clothing is like our second skin. While most of us are working from home during this COVID-19 lockdown, we are choosing to dress casually, perhaps in outfits we wouldn’t dream of wearing to our workplace,” Baikar said. “These outfits usually make us feel relaxed or lethargic. This is because our minds create an association of pyjamas or casual clothing with resting or relaxing.” She recommends people “try semi-formal clothing to boost productivity [as] it helps because of previous associations you’ve made with those pieces of clothing.”

Also read: Ask the Expert: Coping With Mental Health Challenges During COVID-19

Outfit of the day: uniforms

Not only do uniforms enhance your credibility and self-esteem, especially in schools where the likeliness of bullying decreases due to fashion choices, but they also establish a sense of unity and politeness. It is commonplace in countries like Thailand for university students to also wear uniforms. The credibility of a doctor increases when they have their doctor’s coat on, and Adam and Galinsky’s research shows that when a person wore a white coat that they believed belonged to a doctor, they became more attentive and careful versus when they believed it to be an artist’s coat. This indicates that wearing a uniform changes the wearer’s perception of themselves as well. 

Outfit of the day: patterns and colours

A study shows that colours reflect on your mind differently. “Bright and strong colours can help boost your mood, and make you feel powerful and energetic throughout the day, while more dull colours can bring you down,” Baikar told Re:Set. 

“I strongly believe that how we look and dress affects how we think, how we think affects the way we feel and the way we feel affects the way we act, and the way we act affects the responses we get.”

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Can Your Outfit Influence the Way You Feel?