I left the house today for a series of meetings and wanted to make an impact.
It was hot and I was going to be spending a lot of time in the car and wandering around. So I chose a sleeveless sundress which wouldn’t crease when I got hot. There’s nothing worse when you’re wilting in the heat to think that your clothes are dissolving into a heap too. I also chose some distinctive sandals.
But there were deeper reasons why I decided on this particular outfit. The last time I’d worn it had been to a fashion event in London and I’d received some great complements. I’d worn it before at a networking event and several people had told me I looked lovely.
Complements make us feel good and give us confidence. While basing our clothing choices purely on the opinions of others isn’t a great idea, there’s nothing wrong in having our own decisions about our wardrobe ratified.
It worked! Five minutes after I’d parked the car I was stopped by a lovely gentleman who told me what a beautiful dress I was wearing. He went on to say how he loved to see people when they really made an effort to dress well. Result? I had a very successful first meeting (not with the gentleman who had commented I hasten to add!).
My second meeting was also a great success and by the time I got to my third meeting of the day I was flying high as a kite (nothing to do with the quantity of caffeine ingested!).
Conversely do you find yourself resorting to well-worn comfort clothes when things aren’t going so well? Our clothes can have such a big impact on us that it can distort our thoughts and judgements said Professor Karen J Pine.
The clothes we wear affect our behaviour, attitudes, mood, confidence, and how others respond to us. Termed “Enclothed Cognition“ by Adam Galinsky and Hajo Adam.
Let’s consider each of these elements in turn.
The Way We Behave
Take my example today. I had just received a complement about my appearance, which reinforced my decision on my outfit, but more importantly made me feel fabulous. The energy I exuded was positive and bubbly and helped to build the rapport quickly with the other party.
I’m not the only one testing this theory! There have been more scientific studies have been carried out than my example today!
In one such study 50% of students taking a cognitive test were asked to wear a white coat. They were told that the coat belonged to a doctor. The students wearing the coat performed better in the tests than those who were not wearing the white coat.
We attach a symbolic meaning to our clothes. So using the doctors coats as an example. We associate doctors as:
Today my outfit choice meant that I was feeling really positive. I didn’t have to try hard I could simply be myself in meetings, feeling confident will automatically help us to relax.
Again this theory has been tested by psychologists. In a study carried out at Harvard, this was tested by giving participants a pair of sunglasses.
Half of the group had been told they were wearing genuine designer sunglasses. The remaining members of the group were informed that their glasses were fake designer sunglasses.
The group was then given a competitive game as an exercise. Those who were told they were counterfeit glasses were more prepared to cheat in a game that the group was assigned. They were also more suspicious of others!
How do heels make you feel? Most women feel more powerful when they are wearing heels, they act more confidently. I certainly do although wearing heels was not even a consideration for me running around between meetings in 27 Degrees!
So can our clothing choices have the opposite effect?
One woman I know has a ‘grumpy jumper’. If she’s going through a low period she allows herself to put on the grumpy jumper and to allow herself to work through the emotions. When she is ready to face the world again the grumpy jumper gets consigned to the back of the drawer.
We can choose to dress for the way we feel when we get dressed. Alternatively we can dress for the way we want to feel. I work from home a lot and my clothing choices around the house are pretty casual when I’m at my computer all day. But when I come back from a meeting although I do get changed into jeans, shorts etc, I’ll usually leave my jewellery on. It’s amazing how different this makes me feel.
Who has heard of the Red Hat Society? The idea originated from Sue Cooper in 1997.
Sue bought herself a red fedora from a charity shop for $7.50 as a present to herself to celebrate her 50th birthday.
She immediately noticed how confident, liberated and playful she felt when she wore her red fedora. So Sue started to buy her friends a red hat for their birthdays. They added a purple outfit to their red hats and so the Red Hat Society was born.
With over a million members globally the Red Hat Society is a sisterhood. It’s a powerful social group which has helped to empower women. They spread their playful and positive approach to aging across the world.
A date for your diary – 25th April – The official Red Hat Society Day.
How Others Respond To Us
A study carried out at University of Hertfordshire, participants volunteered to have their photo taken in roughly the same body position.
The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their mood at the time they got dressed that morning. After they had been photographed the research team pixelated out their faces from the images.
A second group were given the images and asked to determine the subject’s mood purely from the clothes they were wearing.
The study revealed a high level of accuracy in being able to determine the wearer’s mood by sampling looking at the clothing choices.
So how can we give ourselves a confidence boost every time we get dressed?
Know Your Colours
If we wear the right colours we look healthy and radiant. Other people are drawn towards us and want to engage with us.
They won’t necessarily know why they are drawn to looking directly into our eyes.
This can be really powerful if you’re meeting with someone and want to ensure their attention!
Conversely if we wear the wrong colours we can look tired or unwell. The colours may overwhelm us and people can be distracted by what we are wearing.
Have you ever been asked if you’re feeling okay, but until that point you’d been feeling fine? What’s your reaction? Do you surreptitiously start feeling your forehead? Or do you make an excuse to disappear to the loo and poke your tongue in the mirror?
Well don’t – chances are that you’re simply wearing the wrong colours!
Understand What Suits You
Sadly most of us spend far too much time worrying about what we don’t love about our bodies.
80% of women are unhappy with their body image in the UK
87% of women opt out of an activity due to the way they feel about their body
These statistics are frankly frightening. These findings are from the survey commissioned by Unilever as part of the Dove BeReal Campaign.
Wearing clothing that flatters your body is going to make you feel more confident. This applies to all of us, regardless of gender.
Style is a game of illusion. We can use styles, patterns, prints and textures to draw the eye in certain directions and change our shape. Conversely we can draw unwanted attention by wearing the wrong thing.
Take one very simple example. If you are a petite woman with an oversized handbag, this will have the effect of making you look even more petite.
Equally if you are a large scaled woman, and you carry a small clutch bag you will look bigger.
Clothing Choices Are Just About Colour and Style?
Not really we also need to think about our personality and how this is visible from our clothing choices.
With seconds to make that vital first impression, how much easier is it when someone ‘gets us’ immediately.
93% of communication when we first meet someone is non-verbal.
While our clothing isn’t the main factor in that non-verbal communication, it has more than a bit part to play. So how do we express ourselves through our clothes?
By thinking about our clothing choices and what they say to the world.
Someone who is looking to appear calm and serene is hardly likely to rock up in a neon pink jumpsuit. This is an extreme example but illustrates the point.
Discovering Your Style Recipe
When you’re thinking about the messages you want to communicate I’d recommend you start by doing this exercise. Keep a journal based on you, your wardrobe and your clothing choices.
The things you will be taking note of on a daily basis are:
- What Was I Wearing – remember how your clothing choices made you feel. Are there some pieces that are your ‘go to outfits’, in which you feel really confident?
- Do some items in your wardrobe attract complements when you wear them? They might not be clothes but could be accessories. Note these down too.
- Are there some colours that you wear that attract more complements or make you feel happier when you wear them?
Do this exercise for at least a couple of weeks.
When you’ve done this see what emerges. You will see some patterns emerging from your clothing choices. Whether it’s colours, shapes, fabric textures.
Take photos of the clothes that make you feel special and the ones you receive complements when wearing.
Look at the images – what words spring to mind? Become more mindful of the clothing choices that make you feel fabulous. This in itself will do wonders for your self-confidence!
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences of the way your wardrobe can help you to have a really fantastic day.
If you’d like to explore how I can help you to discover your style and make clothing choices that help you to feel fantastic, why not book a 30-minute call with me?