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What We Wear and How it Relates to Our Mental Health

by Brianna Dejesus

Growing up I always dressed in a variety of colors. From accessories in my hair, my shoes and even my nail polish, everything always coordinated when it came to my outfits.

When I thought I was done dressing, I would then go to my mom and ask for verification of my outfit. She would often agree with my choices, except for one day when I was about 12 years old and asked if I could paint my nails black.

My mom said no, reasoning that I was too young. I didn’t put up a fight, but I had questions about why I had to grow older before being able to wear a certain color.

On a daily basis, we naturally partake in actions that display our moods through fashion. One example is when you’re going for a night out and you decide to wear a bright red lip or heels that make you feel powerful. Or, when it’s a Monday and because you’re tired at the start of the week, you throw on sweats and a hoodie to take on the day.

I truly wanted to know whether there was a connection between the choices of clothes we wear and how people perceive us, and more so, how we perceive ourselves. There is, in fact, a connection between fashion and our psyche, so much so that fashion is becoming a new field in psychology.

In 2012, psychologists Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinski conducted three experiments on the related effects on a person when wearing specific types of clothing. One study included two groups of people, where one group had to wear a white doctor’s coat and the other group had to wear a painter’s coat.

The task was to spot the difference among photos and write it down as soon as possible. When the task was over, it was seen that the group wearing the doctor’s coat acted much more effectively.

One major conclusion drawn from this experiment was that clothing does hold symbolic significance to a person because a person tends to associate their clothing with a particular mood.

Think about what that article of clothing is for you. The first thing that comes to my mind is my leather black, platform Doc Martens. They make me feel powerful.

I don’t wear them all the time, but when I do, I notice I choose them when I have a lot of things to get done. What screams “I am ready to conquer the day” more than boots that make me stand three inches taller?

There is importance in gearing your style so you can be empowered no matter what the day has in store. Our behaviors are great indicators of how we feel and fashion is one impactful way to communicate your mood.

If you notice your friend, who usually wears bright and eccentric colors, has been dressing down in more black and monotone outfits, maybe check up on them to see how they’re feeling. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that their mental health needs attention; perhaps they feel more confident in the clothes they are now deciding to wear.

Clothes will always be a part of your life. Maybe now is the time to see what clothes you own that you’ve given a symbolic meaning to and redefine what that is. See what you need to buy more of so you can always feel your best and confident self.

This can be an intimate journey between you and your wardrobe. If you have no idea where to get started, here is one important thing that helps me and my mood when I get dressed: experiment with your style.

Experimenting with your style allows you to discover what makes you feel good and what you love, and also what you absolutely hate.

You create the rules when it comes to your style and mental health.

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