The Psychology of (ugly) Fashion

If you keep up with fashion you'll begin to see a rise in new styles emerging through 2017. Some of them are great (hello patched EVERYTHING), but others...not so much. Sweatpants over fishnets with heels? (i’m looking at you Kardashian clan) fiery logos on everything? Oversized tops by 4 sizes? Pom poms? Most people collectively agree that the early 2000s was a horrible time in fashion, so why are we bringing it back?

The clothes we wear send a signal to those around us about who we are as a person. As much as we hear the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, we often find ourselves guilty of doing just that. When we see people wearing questionable outfits our first reaction is usually one of confusion or distaste, but what about how the person donning these clothes feels?

The journal of experimental social psychology calls this “enclothed cognition” which involves both the affect on yourself when wearing the clothes and the symbolic meaning of the clothes you're wearing. There are tons of research studies that prove the relation between how a person chooses to dress can reflect their inner self, and it's proven that choosing a wardrobe that reflects a person's personality helps them feel happier overall. Pulling off an outfit that is generally thought of as being a challenge helps the wearer become more confident in all aspects of their life, like they are able to take on anything thrown their way. This is a direct factor of the Pygmalion effect, which states that, “great expectations drive greater performance”. This effect ties into fashion and makes people who are wearing a complicated outfit feel more powerful and confident in the tasks they choose for the rest of the day.

Clothes affect how we see ourselves. When wearing these “ugly” styles and embracing the season's hottest trends it makes us feel bold, intuitive about the industry, and confident in ourselves and our style. What we wear sends signals about how we feel about ourself and projects the image of us that we want to showcase to the world. By picking an outfit someone can send messages to people around them about how they want to be seen and how they see themselves. Embracing popular trends of the season (no matter how questionable) shows knowledge of the fashion industry, and no matter how you style them people will notice.

How a person feels about themselves ties in with how others view them, if they feel confident others will perceive them as such, which is a huge reason why the fashion industry is what it is. Fashion is all about being bold and showcasing what you perceive as your best self. Wearing odd clothes and embracing even the weirdest of trends makes us feel more bold and brave, which in turn makes us reflect that onto the world around us. So next time you’re out shopping for new clothes try going for something different than what you usually wear, it may just lead to a bolder and better you.


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