Fashion + Psychology

Social Conformity: A Subconscious Response to Fashion?

What makes something desirable or undesirable? How do we know what is “good” or “bad”? If we think about the way we perceive fashion, it is inevitable that we go by what is sold to us through marketing campaigns and advertisements. The media is responsible for creating this stigma, indicating what’s desirable, like Glamour Magazine’s ‘10 wardrobe essentials you should own‘ or undesirable, like Cosmopolitan’s10 pieces of clothing you should never wear as an adult.’ Both consciously and subconsciously, we feed into what the media promote because we believe that by following their ideas, we will fit into society.

These ideas constantly feed into our way of thinking about how we dress and how we style our clothes. It is difficult to avoid getting caught up in this trajectory of thinking about how we are perceived by society and how this reflects on our personal image. In her article on The Psychology of Fashion, Fabiana Franco indicates that ‘ we know that fashion has always played a significant role in reflecting the mental attitudes, political culture and gender roles of the day.‘ Certainly, it is fair to say that we choose our clothes subconsciously to how we feel – this is how we project ourselves to the world. Our clothes represent a part of us – who we are and our identity.

The fashion industry does not help with this negative mindset that contributes towards our subjective fashion image within society. There is over-excessive propaganda of ‘wardrobe must haves’ and ‘latest fashion trends‘. The psychology behind this is simple. If you don’t have these items of clothing in your wardrobe then there’s something you’re missing out on. It’s basically a form of social conformity.

Inside the glass box of the media

We are all influenced by culture, the society we live in, the environment that surrounds us, it’s pretty much an automatic response which is set within both our conscious and subconscious minds. How much of this do we actually take into consideration when we go out to buy clothes or browse through websites when online shopping? Probably not a lot. We are so blinded by the media that we forget to take our minds out of this glass box and think about how these concepts really affect us, day in, day out.

It becomes unavoidable, trying to take your mind out of this way of thinking when you are faced by the same messages everywhere you go. However, there has been a particular groundbreaking response to this, an approach known as ‘conscious fashion’. Kamea Chayne, founder of ConsciousFashion.co, defines it as ‘marked by thought, will, design or perception and acting with critical awareness‘.

Essentially, there is a thought process behind buying clothes, a rational approach to everyday consumerism. Think before you buy. Although this is mostly applicable to where the clothes have come from, who made them and what the brands represent, it’s also about avoiding the mechanism of fashion conformity and thinking about how your identity is created by what you wear. There is the element of subjectivity behind this and it’s this that we need to see more of in the fashion industry.

Why fit in when you can stand out?

There’s something so remarkable and unique about a person’s sense of style. Everyone has their own individuality so adopt more of this and less of everyone else’s. It’s a psychological response when you dress like others you feel more included and a part of a group. You feel like you belong and “fit” into society. Whilst you do this, you lose parts of your own individuality and sometimes that can be hard to reclaim. We can all be blinded by social constructs and the influence of society, but if you become more actively conscious about what you wear and how you wear it, then you’re on your way to embracing your own identity.

Life isn’t about pleasing other people or trying to fit in, if you constantly find yourself doing this, then take a step back and think. Think about how that affects you. How it is affecting your mindset. If it’s more negative than positive, then it’s something that you need to change. Find positivity within yourself, your clothes, your style. Embrace your subjectivity and be more conscious about how fashion influences you. Don’t feel undermined by other people’s opinions and views on how you dress – how you wear your clothes is up to you. Society is determined to make you fit into a box and put a label on you so they have more control. If you step outside of this box then ultimately you are in control of yourself. Then, there really are no limits.

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