Author: Lydia Wan
Are feelings and fashion choices connected? True or false?
I experience emotional swings through the clothes I wear. I am aware that my fashion choices for a day affect my feeling high or low. It sets my mood for the day.
My mood when I wake up often affects my clothing choice for the day.
When I am in a positive mood state, I want to wear clothes either in bright colours or in my favorite and authentic dress style. I wear something that makes me feel physically and psychologically good. I want to maintain my positive emotions for the rest of the day. On the contrary, when I am in a low mood state, I want to hide from the attention of others, I wore something in dark colour, and relatively informal casual attire, which I want not to be noticed.
The behavior demonstrates that clothes I choose to wear can also make me feel top into my feelings and emotions.
Fashion choice is visual communication that ‘speak’ who I am. It shows my intentions, gives perception of self and to others. Clothing provides means through my appearance to communicate with others about my aesthetic sense, my personality, my identity and my values.
Fashion choices can change our life
In my image coaching career, I am fortunate to have chances meeting customers from all walks of life in different age, nationalities, culture, background and professions. Motivational stories behind their reasons for transformation, for example, a professional wanted to show his best self to others in an important business occasion, a senior executive wanted to outclass the competition and generate attention to get promoted, an emerging leader wanted to build his positive personal brand, an entrepreneur wanted to make new encounters and to explore business opportunities, or an individual wanted to reassure his self identity and regain the confidence to adapt new lifestyle. This makes me conscious of that people believe that clothing can help them make changes to adapt to their different stages in both professional and personal life.
Here are some experience sharing from my image coaching customers:
“…I have changed my wardrobe and style… I will never wear black anymore and funny thing is that some people have told me it’s cool I never wear black, when actually I wore black 90% of the time before. You have really changed my life.”
“ …Pink colour is indeed my favorite, though it does not fit my working outfits for most of the business occasions. I always put a pair of hot pink colour heels underneath my work desk. I will wear it when I need a mood booster! … even when I’m wearing it just walking in the office …it makes me feel great!”
“… I feel like I am a capable leader when wearing silver color…”
“…The new pair of eyeglasses brings me many compliments from colleagues. It not only makes me look smart, it also helps regain my confidence …”
Feedback about the positive impact on their changes on clothing choices are motivational stories. They are not only the encouragement that keep me motivated in doing this meaningful image coaching work, and also enlighten my sense of curiosity in getting to know the ‘Why’’? I want to look into how fashion can be a ‘tool’ to help change our emotions.
In those real life experiences, I observed that clothes help generate attention from others to connect, promote interpersonal connection, expressing and shaping our identity to fulfill our psychological need of autonomy, creating a better authentic self with meaning to enhance self confidence, and fulfilling our needs of actualization to enhance psychological well-being.
Positive Psychology and Clothing
Many researches have proved that there is correlation between Science of human behavior and clothing. Some findings indicates the emotional management functions of clothing.
A dream in my coaching career is to design and develop effective positive psychology interventions – a set of practical tools to help individuals enhance their psychological well-being and presence through coaching. The positive experiences I have learned from customers motivate me to realise this dream. The positive psychology master degree (MAPP) I am studying, is a platform for me to understand the relationship amongst personality, emotions, behaviors and the impact on psychological well-being through researches and learning from professionals in the field. The study supports me to translate positive psychology theories into practical tools that link fashion and image to enhancing our wellbeing with evidence base.
“Positive psychology is a scientific study about human thoughts, feelings and behavior…It’s about optimism, well-being, self-esteem, self-confidence, hope and elements what make our life flourishing.“ (Positivepscyhology.com). The study and research in positive psychology teach us that unleashing a powerful shifting of one’s perspective can maximize the potential for happiness in our everyday behaviors.
Clothes have power over our mind. Clothes affect human behaviors – not only making us look smart but the feel and act. What we wear changes what we think. Cognitive psychologists Hajo and Galinsky reinforce the power of clothing with a theory of ‘enclothed cognition’. The theory asserts that wearing a particular clothing shapes people’s psychology and cognition through two causes: the symbolic meaning for the particular clothing and the physical experience when wearing the clothing has. The “enclothed cognition” research proved that clothes we wear is not only lead to the way other people see you, it also leads to how we see ourselves- our self image.
Does Clothing provide a gateway to our happiness? Fashion choice can be a tool for us to create personal happiness, by shaping our mood to trigger our positive emotions that lead to positive behaviour. A study by Raunio (1982) found that expressive features of favourite clothing helped to create a feeing of togetherness with other people, and are important for regulating one’s emotions. Promoting positive emotions helps increase the level of self confidence. When we feel more confident, we are more likely to connect with others to establish positive relationship. “Humans are social creatures, and we rely on connections with others to truly flourish. Having deep, meaningful relationship with others is vital to our well-being.” (Seligmen 2011)
The “broaden and build” theory of positive emotions by Fredrickson cites that positive emotions are able to broaden the scope of attention, action, widen the array of percepts thought, actions presently in mind, and nullify the effects of negative emotions (Fredrickson and Levenson). Experiencing positive emotions is one of key components in the process to improve our psychological well-being”. (Seligmen 2011)
Choices of fashion create meanings and promote feeling of happiness. Our choices are not just influenced by fashion trend and the comments from others, but by our emotions and experiences. For me, whenever I want to create an instant joy for myself and change my mood to trigger my positive emotions, I make it through fashion by wearing my ‘happy outfits’. It helps increase a sense of achievement that reinforce my positive emotions of joy – a fascinating experience!
What is your “happy outfits” to trigger your positive emotions? If you are curious to know how can we help to upgrade your wardrobe with the best fashion choices and – find your individualized positive mood motivator, feel free to contact Lydia for discussion.
(email: Lydia@flairleadership.com )
Philosophy of Flair Personal Leadership Consulting
– To unleash individual’s potential and enhance well-being through
positive psychology interventions
• Seligman, Martin EP. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Simon and Schuster, 2012.
• Hajo Adam, Adam D. Galinsky, A.D., Enclothed Cognition, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (2012), doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.008
- Fredrickson, Barbara L., and Robert W. Levenson. “Positive Emotions Speed Recovery from the Cardiovascular Sequelae of Negative Emotions.” Cognition and Emotion, vol. 12, no. 2, 1998, pp. 191-220.
- Raunio, A-M. (1982), “Favorite clothes – a look at individuals’ experience of clothing. In, Clothing and its Social Psychological, Cultural and Environmental”, Suojanenen U, 179-194, University of Helsinki Dept. of Teacher Education, Research Report No. 161.