The Psychology of Fashion: A Few Wardrobe Changes Could Help You When You're Feeling Down

When we first started taking classes from home, I was in sweatpants and pajamas 99.9% of the time. I didn’t say 100% because I remember there was this one time I put jeans on to go to the grocery store, but it felt so weird that I just went back to my usual comfy clothes. Being home all day every day, I just wanted to feel as comfortable as possible. I liked letting go of the pressure of always looking your best for a while. And that “turn video off” feature on Zoom was no help. That only enabled my laziness/

For some time, it felt good to be in a constant state of coziness, but now that I’ve been a remote student for nearly a year, I think it's time for a change. 

What once was a feeling of relief and comfort eventually became a hindrance to my productivity. At the start of the spring semester, I found that staying in my pajamas made it increasingly easier to sit on the couch or lay in the bed and do nothing all day long. I was turning into a couch potato all too quickly and I needed something to help me get out of that rut fast.  

So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to commit to putting “real” clothes on again...

For at least a few days out of the week, just as I would during any normal semester. I even started putting makeup on again too. Honestly, once I did, I instantly felt a million times better. Not only did it help me feel more energized, but it was just really fun to pick out an outfit and get dressed in the morning. (It’s kind of scary to think I had forgotten what that felt like.) The only downside to my new routine was the funny looks I got from a few Zoommates (yes, I just made that word up), like “what is she all dolled up for” - but who cares, I was finally feeling more like myself again! 

But, why?

As a psych major, I’m always curious to know why things affect us in the way they do, and I knew there had to be a psychological explanation as to why your outfit choice has such a profound influence on your overall mood and well-being.  

Fashion psychologist Carolyn Mair explains that clothing is a large part of our identity, and it becomes difficult at times to do work when we aren’t wearing clothes that align with that sense of identity, or when we aren’t feeling most like ourselves. For example, Mair suggests that it’s a good thing when people are free to choose their own work attire. For instance, people who are required to wear suits every day, when suits aren’t really their “thing”, may experience difficulty when trying to focus on the work at hand, perhaps because they aren’t feeling comfortable, or they aren’t feeling quite like themselves.

So, for me, although sweatpants are super cozy, wearing a nice blouse, jeans, and make-up feels more like me and better represents my identity, helping me feel better and focus more during the school day. 

In addition to that, getting dressed even while staying home can act as an incentive for some. Putting on clothes is something fun to look forward to in the mornings, and it gives people a sense of normalcy and routine. It also gives them an opportunity to feel in control while navigating circumstances far beyond anyone’s control - all of which can help improve a person’s mental well-being. 

 

So, the next time you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a remote learning rut, try putting on an outfit you absolutely love for class, and see what it does for your mood!