Fashion + Psychology

Who Dresses Us and Why?

When we have confidence we dress to express, but when we are unsure of ourselves, we dress to impress. It is time to say goodbye to the archaic do’s and don’ts of dressing, and instead, learn how to show off our vibrant minds with the equally vibrant outfits to match.

Fashion: A fickle friend

When you Google “How To Dress For Your Body Type” you probably expect advice on how to find the most comfortable clothes that both flatter your figure and offer a level of comfort. But in reality, this is not quite the case. The “advice” offered from these articles is often a backhanded review of the parts of our bodies that are wrong and deserve to be hidden away while offering tips on the types of clothes that will help to do the job.

In these articles, pear-shaped women are advised against bodycon dresses or anything that might accentuate their hips. While apple-shaped women are told never, under any circumstances, to wear horizontal stripes that may cause the illusion of a larger stomach. Regardless of all the body-positivity and self-love we aim to practise, when it comes to dressing, these rules only seek to undo it.

But why do we so willingly draw upon made-up analogies of fruit-shaped body types to decide what to wear and how to wear it? And why do we so emphatically seek to hide parts of ourselves that make us who we are? Although we may not want to admit it, we often draw upon these self-scathing articles when picking outfits and deciding what looks good, in the hope that others will see us and think the same.

The accessory body

In-vogue fashion trends change almost daily, and in correlation with this, so do the matching body types. Long since the days of hiding your curves, Kim Kardashian and her hourglass figure now dominate the trends of the hip-hugging dresses. And yet, next week it may be decided that bralettes are the ‘hot new thing’, putting the small-chested community in the spotlight and shunning larger chested women. 

When we dress dependent on fashion trends, often parts of our bodies become an accessory to enhance the outfit, but our bodies cannot always conform to the desired trend. And when they fail to fit the specification, which often they do, we will use every tool at our disposal to hide or heighten certain aspects and give the illusion of an entirely different body. Larger arms lead to long sleeves, and longer torso’s lead to high waistlines, each working to reconstruct our natural figures and alter how others may see it.

While there are styles which undoubtedly fit certain body types with more comfort than others, your body should not inhibit you from trying new styles and wearing them with pride. Fashion is fundamentally about freedom of expression, and your wide hips or fuller chest should not dictate to you how you can or cannot express yourself. Just as those with slim hips or larger stomachs should not be put off from wearing something that supposedly ‘suits’ another body type better. You are not an apple, or a pear, an hourglass, or a rectangle, you are a person with a body and you should wear that body with pride.

I see it, I like it, but I could never wear it!

Even if we do not realise it, we are always thinking about how other people perceive us, and how they will come to this conclusion. While we want our clothes to show our personality, we often base our clothing choices on what we hope others will think of us, and how they decide who we are. So the question is, do we dress to express ourselves, or do we dress for how we believe others may interpret that expression?

Often, as part of our dressing decision we will consider whether we want to stand out, or blend in, and then we will choose our clothes accordingly. Like those clothes we pick to draw attention away from larger body parts, muted colours and minimal accessories will likely help draw attention away from us as a whole. 

Shopping with confidence, but dressing with caution?

So why do we do this? When shopping for clothes we will primarily pick items that catch our eye. Of course, there are comfort factors and price tag influences, but first and foremost colour and style will spark our attention and interest. So then, why would we want to hide our new outfit that so considerably struck our attention in the first place? 

The answer lies in our level of confidence and how this increases or decreases with our clothing choices. When we shop, we buy for ourselves, but when we dress, we dress for the eventuality that someone may pass judgement on our outfit, and if that outfit expresses who we are, they not only judge our clothes, but they judge our entire self.

Having the confidence to dress in a certain way is dependent on our faith in our ability to “pull it off”, as well as our level of self-assuredness in who we are and what we stand for. Confidence comes from within, and our ability to “pull something off” is a matter of opinion and subject to how we feel in our clothes. Ultimately, a confident woman can wear anything, because of her faith in herself, not because of her faith in others.

The colour of confidence

Black, the supposed colour of confidence, is a staple in many wardrobes as the go-to statement piece to build this aura of self-assuredness. Since Coco Chanel first coined the LBD (little black dress) back in the 1920s, and Audrey Hepburn took the concept to new heights in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, women everywhere have looked to the LBD as a source of confidence and sophistication.

Black undoubtedly has an aura of refinement and demands to be seen, but what exactly is it about the lack of colour that makes it so highly featured in wardrobes around the world? When she created the LBD, Coco Chanel stated, “I imposed black; it’s still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around”. But of course it is not really the colour of the dress that creates this illusion of high-end cosmopolitan coolness.

It is true that black never has, does, or will go out of style, and that promise of temporal sustainability alone is cause enough to wear an outfit with confidence. But adverse to common belief, it is not the dress or the timeless trend which gives the woman confidence, but rather the woman who radiates confidence through the dress. And while you really can never go wrong with a little black dress, it is not the dress which makes this fact so undeniably true. 

Just as an author writes the words which make the book, a woman wears the confidence which makes the outfit. And it is this confidence that we should be wearing every day, rather than hiding behind our insecurities.

Are you dressing for joy?

As the wise Marie Kondo once said, when clearing out your clutter, ask yourself “does this bring me joy?”. Wise words as these are, why are we not applying them to our lives as well as our bedrooms? When we pick out an outfit we should be asking ourselves “does this bring me joy?”, if no, throw it out, if yes throw it on! When we put together an outfit our first priority should be our wants and needs, not whether it may be sniffed at or laughed about by others.

Just as almost every aspect of our personal lives is subjectively curated, so too should our fashion choices be. We should pick out a dress because it stands out to us, because it made us think or feel joy and we hope to radiate that through our outfit and spread it to others. We lead our own lives and we choose our own clothes, so why would we waste our thoughts on people who, in the scheme of our independent narrative, do not even matter?

In a world of such instability and austerity, we should aim to bring colour and life back into our towns and cities. While black serves our confidence purpose and is always a top performer in terms of fashion trends, we should also aim to radiate enjoyment and fulfillment through the things we do and the fashion choices we make. And what better way to start than by throwing on that bright green skirt and matching crop top, and not giving a single care about what others may think.

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