What to Wear: How Your Wardrobe Can Improve Your Psyche

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Academy Award-winning costume designer Edith Head once said, “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” What the 20th-century designer meant then now echoes in modern psychology and sociology: how you look, particularly how you dress, directly influences how you feel and perform.

To that end, when you wear certain clothing styles, you create specific mindsets for yourself. Doing so allows you to harness the mysterious power that lingers in your wardrobe. To help express yourself and boost your self-esteem, here are four dominant human mindsets and how to achieve them through fashion.

Powerful

A well-tailored jacket has long been a businesswoman’s best friend, so it’s no wonder that this specific piece of formal, custom-fit office attire is frequently associated with success. As it turns out, just the act of donning such professional clothing, including pencil skirts, slacks, blouses and blazers, increases hormone levels, putting women in the mood to dominate. This feeling of empowerment can also make one a better negotiator.

To complete this mindset, add a pop of color, a red scarf for assertiveness or teal pumps for creativity and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. A word to the wise, though: Wearing professional clothing day in and day out can also create a sense of social distance between you and others, as individuals who appear to be “all business” are sometimes perceived as cold. In other words, the better dressed you are, the further you remove yourself from “the norm.” So, if it’s warmth and acceptance your psyche longs for, leave the tailored jacket at home.

Confident

Interestingly, what we wear underneath our clothes can often have as much of an impact on our psyche as that of which we show on the outside. For instance, wearing a snazzy pair of socks can make someone feel creative and unique, while the perfect lingerie set can make any woman feel strong, sexy and confident.

In fact, sporting lingerie under your work clothes is a surefire way to build your sexual self-esteem. The sensual feel of the fabric under your professional attire, combined with the knowledge that only you know you’re wearing it, works like a super, secret self-esteem booster.

Smart

When it comes to creating an intelligent mindset, the process is easier than one might think. Simply dressing in clothing you associate with intelligence is enough to make you feel and act smart. It’s why people feel smarter when they wear glasses even without a prescription.

To illustrate this concept, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers asked participants to complete a list of tasks. Half were given lab coats while the other half were not. Those wearing the lab coats made fewer mistakes than those in their street clothes, suggesting that what you wear is not only important but so is your perception of what you wear.

Worthy

Sometimes, we all need a little boost in the self-worth department — and getting there can be as easy as buying a new handbag. In a psychology study, in one group of female participants, each woman was given a Prada handbag. In another group, each woman was given a generic handbag, and both groups of women were asked to carry the bags throughout their daily routines.

At the end of the day, when surveyed, those who were given the Prada bags claimed more capitalist and conservative values, a sharp contrast from the control group that carried the non-luxury handbags. Regardless of political affiliation, though, researchers assert that these findings indicate that people, on an unconscious level, try to match their behaviors to their appearances. In other words, if you sport expensive items, your actions will reflect the values you perceive as wealthy and worthy, thereby making you feel wealthy and worthy, too.

Look to Your Wardrobe to Unlock a Healthier Mindset

Overall, it seems getting anything you want in life might just be as simple as dressing right to obtain it. To find the key to unlocking a healthy mindset — whether it be a powerful, confident, smart or worthy one — you need not look any further than your own wardrobe. By harnessing the power of fashion, you define your own psyche and can live a happier life full of self-expression and self-esteem.

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