The Psychology of Fashion: Harness the Charming Power of Clothes


Although most of us do not realize it, fashion has a lot to do with psychology. However, according to Mayr (2014), fashion as a field of study has been neglected in both cognitive and social psychology. Cognitive psychology, a sub-discipline of psychology, is concerned with the study of mental processes such as sensation and perception, memory and learning, attention, communication, problem solving, creativity, and thinking (Mair, 2014). All this is closely related to fashion demand. In the 19th century, several sociologists studied clothing in relation to culture, individuals, and social groups, but it was not until the mid-20th century that economists began to take a scientific interest in the sociological aspects of clothing (Roach-Higgins 1993).

Fashion psychology is often defined as the study of the influence of clothing choices on how we perceive and evaluate each other. In the case of a person whom we have not met before, the clothes he wears immediately tell us about his gender, occupation, nationality and social position, which allows us to adjust our behavior towards him in advance (Flugel, 1930). It would be an understatement to think of clothes only as a means of projecting our image onto other people, because what we wear can also influence ourselves.

Yes, our clothes affect both our mood and how others perceive us. Our clothes can make us feel strong and boost our self-confidence. For example, if you like the clothes you wear when you go to an interview, this can help him succeed. Designed by fashion giants like Donna Karan in the late 1980s as the glass ceiling for women in America began to slowly erode.powered suitThis is exactly what the “type” (power suit) clothing promises. In Karan’s ads from those years, businesswomen in suits designed by Karan show self-confidence through their clothing.

Fortunately, the positive impact of clothing on our self-esteem is real, and not just in the dreams of advertisers. Research shows the effect our clothes have on our mood and self-confidence. For example, a Northwestern University study found that what we wear influences our thoughts and behavior. In the aforementioned study, Adam and Galinsky coined the term “implicit cognition” to describe the systematic influence of clothing on the wearer’s psychological processes and tested the lab coat perspective on implicit cognition.

In a study known as the Lab Coat Study, two different groups of subjects were asked to complete some tasks while wearing lab coats. One group was told that the apron they were wearing was a doctor’s apron, and the other group was told that the apron they were wearing was a painter’s apron. Subjects who thought they were wearing a doctor’s coat approached their task with the seriousness of a doctor and performed better than the other group (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). The concept of implicit cognition is based on the idea that clothing choices can influence our mood, self-esteem, and even performance. In short, implicit cognition suggests that the clothes we wear (or that others wear) change our thought patterns.

As we have seen in this study, the lab coat is associated with intelligence and scientific thinking. For example, lecturers dressed in formal clothes are perceived as smarter but less interesting than lecturers dressed less formally (Morris, Gorham, Cohen, & Huffman, 1996).

Some studies have concluded that the clothing of female candidates is one of the factors influencing selection decisions for leadership positions. For example, in a study conducted in 1985, the recommendations of 77 HR managers were used to determine the influence of the clothing of female candidates on respondents’ decisions about choosing managerial positions. HR managers reviewed video interviews of four candidates in different suits and made hiring recommendations for each candidate. The results confirmed that the applicant’s dressing in a more masculine style had a significant impact on the decisions of the interviewees. There is a positive correlation between job seekers’ masculine dress code and positive hiring recommendations received by job seekers (Forsythe et al., 1985).

Our clothes can pull us down or lift us up. As Coco Chanel said, we can capitalize on the possible positive effects of clothing by preparing for each day as if we were having a rendezvous with fate, making sure that our clothes reflect us positively in the outside world.

I wish you days when you use the power of clothing. By the way, I have some educational news for you. If you are interested in my three-week Self-Love Training, which takes place in the form of one-on-one meetings on Zoom, please contact [email protected] You can write to the address. My Instagram account where I share psychology exercises is @ranakutvan.


Adam, H., & Galinsky, A.D. (2012). hidden cognition Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(4), 918–925.
Flugel, J. K. (1930). Psychology of clothes. New York: International Universities Press.
Forsythe, S.M., Drake, M.F., and Cox, K.E. (1985). The effect of the applicant’s clothing on the interviewer’s selection decision. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 374-378.
Mayr, K. (2014) A Cognitive and Socio-Psychological Perspective on Fashion Demand. In: 18th International Conference of the International Association for Cultural Economics (ACEI), June 24-27, 2014, University of Quebec, Montreal.
Morris, T.L., Gorham, J., Cohen, S.H., & Huffman, D. (1996). Fashion in the classroom: the impact of clothing on students’ perceptions of teachers in college classrooms. Communication Education, 45, 135-148.
Roach Higgins, Maine. (1993). The Social Science of Clothing, 1947-1966: A Personal View. In S.J. Lennon & L.D. Burns (Eds.), Sociological Aspects of Dress: New Directions (pp. 2–24). Monument, CO: ITAA.

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