Fashion + Psychology

Scapegoat Fashion

The secret lies in the wardrobe

I have always been a fashionista at heart. Purchasing new clothing gives me such a rush of joy, I start to look for an excuse to wear that perfect little black dress, or when I can pull off that statement necklace I always am meaning to wear. I began to wonder why exactly a piece of clothing can evoke such a strong emotion when it is essentially just fabric. Why do we fashionistas create emotional attachments to our clothing? 

I realised that I am most happy wearing something I feel beautiful in and as it turns out, many people relate to this! Fashion can really mirror an individual’s emotion. Elevating it in order to help them feel their very best to tackle their board meeting, bring a sense of confidence for a first date, or to strut with pride like the world is their runway! Professor Karen Pine, from the University of Hertfordshire found that when someone is complimented on their clothing, the good feelings they experience often come back when they wear that again. I find that when I want to feel my best, my go-to outfit is usually the one I have received the most praise from in the past.  

If looks could kill

Not only does a great ensemble give a confidence boost, it can even work to mask our emotions. In her research, Professor Pine found that outfit choices are made to match mood, are forms of self-expression, and also control and mask emotions. Everyone can relate to waking up and just thinking, “not today”. But what if you don’t have the luxury to curl up in a ball and wear your favorite oversized hoodie to bask in your emotions? A lot of us will tend to try and mask this feeling. If we aren’t feeling great, well, maybe my favorite red blazer will help me get out of this funk. 

Fashion has such a power over our emotions and memories. Our clothing has such a hold to these emotions that correlate good or bad feelings when we wear them. I can gaze into my closet and feel a sense of joy when I see my favorite sundress that hugs me in all the right places. On the other hand, I can look at the end of my closet where I see my once favorite top, now squishes me too tight. No matter what, clothing has a relationship with its owner. One day it can be your favorite item in your wardrobe, and the next it can make your stomach turn.

Out with the old and in with the new

When we have clothing that we feel a bond with but something negative has happened, many people look for a scapegoat.  Research has found that many women could never wear the same clothes again if something negative happened in them. We feel strongly for clothes because in a way, “Clothes work like photographs: they bring back memories of a moment in your life“. Maybe you were let go from your job, and that red blazer just doesn’t give you your confidence anymore.

When this happens, it is much better to move on with that apparel, a break up if you will. Our life is too short to be saving clothes that continuously make us relive bad moments in time. Next spring cleaning, think about the clothes that give you that sting and think, will I ever wear this again? When the answer is no, donate it. Give clothes a new home! Your mental health is much greater than your emotional bond with your sweater. 

I want it, I got it!

Fashion is a psychological entity that can help you look and feel your best, but also has the power to bring back unpleasant memories. In order to keep your closet a happy closet, take a look at your favorite items inside. Note what exactly makes you happy, whether it be the colour, the fit, the fabric. What compliments did you receive that made you feel good about yourself? Keep those items in mind when the shopaholic in you strikes. Gear to find items that bring out these qualities in your most treasured fits.

My favorite saying is, if you don’t absolutely love it in the store, then you will never wear it. Don’t buy a top that doesn’t fit exactly right, or a colour that just isn’t very “you”. If you don’t fall in love in the store, it most likely will stay in the back of the closet. It also is not bad to keep articles of clothing that you don’t wear as much but still gives you a sense of joy when you see it. Sometimes the emotional connection from that memory is too precious to throw away. Always choose to cherish the good memory items and toss out the bad.

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