Saturday, 21 April 2012

Feeling down, dressing down?

Why do some women dress down? We probably all know a woman who, despite her model figure and gorgeous face, doesn't want to be noticed. So she wears camouflage clothes. Not of the army surplus variety, I mean clothes that blend into the background. Often her other half has an ego so huge she’s creeping around in his shadow.
It’s the human equivalent of the spectacularly flashy peacock with his bland bride.
It makes me wonder whether someone has told Kate Middleton to ‘tone it down a bit, love’ for fear she outshines her prince. We all know what happens when a royal girl does that.
Trouble is, if a woman is suppressing her appearance how much of her personality is she also giving up?
Not wanting to be noticed can have many root causes

Appearance anxiety
Appearance anxiety lies behind a lot of dowdy dressing. Many women suffer from body dissatisfaction, and even have feelings of disgust about their physical appearance. These women end up hiding from their own bodies. But they may also be hiding from themselves. Deep down there may be parts of their inner self they are denying. The answer might be to dress as the person they'd like to be, to try and trick the psyche into a more positive state. Try bright saturated hues, funky prints and playful accessories.

Comfort clothing
Everyone knows about comfort food. It’s the bad stuff you eat when you think you deserve it and can’t give a toss about the consequences. I think there’s comfort shopping too. And comfort clothing. The wardrobe equivalent of hob-nobs and chocolate cake. Clothes that are bad for you but beckon to you when feeling down. Jeans and baggy tops are the hob-nobs and chocolate cake of the female wardrobe, my recent research found. They’re comfort clothes that women reach for when they’re in the doldrums.  But when she sees in the mirror how rubbish she looks those negative feelings get reinforced. That's where a downward spiral can begin. But just as it's best not to have too many hob-nobs in the house if you've a biscuit habit, the trick here is to purge your wardrobe of those bad-for-you items too. Start by binning anything that's beige and boring.

Inner and outer happiness
Enclothed cognition
An outfit can both reflect and generate an emotional state. Recent research* shows that our clothes influence how we think and feel. So dressing down should be taken seriously. It could be a sign of depression, poor body image, even a relationship that’s off-balance. Researchers from Manchester  University** have shown that trying on unfamiliar clothes can influence both positive and negative mood states. Basically clothes can cheer you up or drag you down. So if you dress down don’t be surprised if you end up feeling a bit crap too. Perhaps the answer is this....

Happy clothes
I’ve been working with Vogue in Turkey to come up with ideas for mood-enhancing outfits. The prospect that an outfit could ward off depression is very appealing, a nice alternative to drugs.
More to come on that soon. Meanwhile I’m off to put on something neon-bright and snug-fitting. As soon as I’ve finished this chocolate cake.

Interested in the psychology of fashion? Then you'll love the guest blog coming later this week from Dr Jennifer Baumgartner, author of You Are What You Wear. Sign up to follow this blog now.

* Adam, H. & Galinsky, A.D., Enclothed Cognition, Journal of 
Experimental Social Psychology (2012).
doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.008

**Moody et al (1996) An exploratory study: Relationships between trying on clothing, mood, emotion, personality and clothing preference
Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 14, 1, (pp. 161 - 179)

1 comment:

  1. Ohh just read this while munching on biscuits and drinking my tea, sat on the sofa (albeit feeding my baby) head to toe in black - and most my wardrobe is black... Definitely don't feel a spring in my step when I'm all dark despite makeup, jewellery and slim fit. Time to go shopping!


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