The way we look impacts how we feel. And the way we feel (our emotional state) affects our body language and the energy or mood that we project to others. The offshoot of this is that we are often judged by others on a myriad of details including our accessories, our perfume, our posture, our facial expression and our tone of voice. In fact, it can literally take the blink of an eye to for others to make a snap judgement about the sort of person that we are, based on the way we look and that includes what we are wearing. So, it makes sense to wear an outfit that makes you feel ‘good’. And that might mean a number of things, because it’s very personal. However, the point is to try and be a little more thoughtful about what you decide to wear. And here’s the catch, if you are feeling ‘good’, you automatically switch on those ‘feel good’ endorphins and so the domino effect begins; you will naturally convey a brighter disposition. You will stand more confidently, smile more and move in a way that portrays a happier demeanour. And other people will notice a more positive you. But most importantly, you will feel more positive!
Sometimes it can be hard to rummage through your wardrobe and find an outfit that makes you feel good, but this can be even harder for those people who are experiencing health issues or recovering from an injury or illness. The impetus for writing this blog was inspired by my mother. She is a young 71 years of age and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year. She has her good and bad days due to the effects of her treatment and mentally it’s difficult because of the uncertainty she faces. But what I’ve noticed is how much she has made a conscious effort to embrace what’s happening to her physical body by wearing outfits that are bright and colourful, literally making her feel a lot more positive.
When mum had her first day ‘in the chair’ to receive round one of her chemotherapy treatment, I remember searching the web for head scarves because she was told she would inevitably lose her hair. So, we ordered several head wraps and scarves. Mum is such a practical woman, but she actually enjoyed the process of styling her ‘new look’. She went out with Dad one day soon after, and bought a range of colourful lipsticks and earrings (she calls them her ‘gypsy earrings’) to complement her new head gear. And why did she do this? Because it made her FEEL GOOD! My mother has embraced the physical changes that are happening to her, as difficult as it is. Wow! What a woman! And I have also observed that because of her positive attitude, she’s having some fun, being creative and shining so brightly despite her current health issues. Mum’s choice of clothing has actually given her back some power and control.
We often hear about how clothes can empower a person. The trick is wearing something that you like, that flatters you, that makes you feel comfortable and happy. According to Professor Karen Pine, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire in Britain and author of Mind what you wear – The psychology of Fashion, there is a direct correlation between the mood of a woman and what she wears. Wearing the ‘right clothing’ can change how we think and feel. Pine argues that ‘happy clothes’ tend to be brightly coloured, fit well (flattering one’s physical shape), well cut and made from aesthetically appealing fabrics.
So, can wearing a beautiful silk scarf really lift your mood? Well according to Pine, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’! This idea can be termed ‘enclothed cognition’. In other words, the clothes we wear influence the way we feel, including our attitude, our interpersonal interactions and behaviour with others. For example, when my mother fronts up to the hospital reception to check in for her weekly chemotherapy treatment, she presents as a woman on a mission, proactive, in control, upbeat and positive, ready to embrace the day ahead. She receives compliments from the staff about how lovely and bright she looks. Without really knowing it, this triggers a positive feedback loop for her. The cheerful acknowledgment from others reinforces her sense of confidence and optimism. So then mum associates wearing her bright colourful accessories with cheerfulness and as a result, is more likely to dress like this again.
Now, I’m not saying it’s easy for her to do this; it takes effort, tenacity and determination especially when she is feeling nauseous and fatigued. But mum innately knows that donning one of her beautiful head scarves, applying her brightly coloured lipstick and matching earrings empowers her and lifts her mood; it motivates her to face the day. She makes the effort to help herself by influencing her own mood, choosing to wear clothes and accessories that make her feel good. And often what makes her feel good is wearing bright colours like pink, red and cobalt blue hues. She actively disallows her ‘situation’ to negatively impact upon her emotions and spirit. I find her attitude utterly inspirational.
Mum in blue scarf and matching earrings. I love her red lippy too.
Her fun costume jewellery
Please note that I do not suggest for a moment that everyone must do this all the time; I’m the first to admit there are days when I just want to stay at home in my pj’s. In essence, I am simply trying to promote the benefits of making an effort to wear clothes and accessories that can boost one’s mood. The research indicates that what we wear can alter our feelings and our mood. Therefore, if you wear something that makes you feel just a little bit lighter, happier, in control, or empowered, then that’s got to be a good thing. I call this self-care and self-love.
So when you wake up feeling a bit down or flat, try experimenting by putting on an outfit that you love. Wear your favourite shoes, or lipstick, and add some jewellery that evokes a positive sentiment. Test yourself and see how it makes you feel. Observe how others react to you. Give yourself permission to nurture yourself. Wear something that gives you a ‘mini –pick me up’. Better still, employ a personal stylist and have fun experimenting and exploring new ways of dressing that will pleasantly surprise you. Lift your mood by the clothes that you wear. Embrace yourself and others will too!
Fletcher, Professor Ben, 20th April 2013, What your clothes might be saying about you. Psychology, Sussex Publishers, viewed 12/03/2018
Hartley, Jo, July 17th 2015, Fashion and Mood – how clothes affect your emotions, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 12/03/2019, < https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fashion-and-mood-how-clothes-affect-your-emotions-20150717-giei1f.html >
Nicholas Rule, May/June 2014, ‘Snap Judgement Science’, Association for Psychological Science, viewed 11/03/2019, < https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/snap-judgment-science >
Pine, Professor Karen J, 2014, Mind what you wear; the psychology of Fashion, Kindle Edition