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Making the Right Clothing Choices that Affect and Reflect Self-Image

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Clothing has its way of defining who we are and as such a conscious effort must be put into consideration. Ponder on these statements that reveal the work input in clothing to reflect your self-image.

“It’s not about the guy you used to be, but the gentleman you become” – Being Caballero

“Pretty is an accident of nature. Elegant is a self-created work of art” – Being Caballero

We all take a little extra effort to look nice for special occasions. But for the most, people remain conflicted between wanting to dress up and feeling guilty about taking the time to focus on clothes. Science now suggests that how we dress may just be the difference between giving ourselves the extra edge in our professional and personal lives. And yes, that applies to all. Your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your mood, health, and overall confidence.

Scientists call this phenomenon “enclothed cognition”. This simply “involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors— the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them.”

SUITED UP = POWER UP

What kind of symbolic meaning does each article of clothing in your closet hold for you? Do your loafers remind you of a logical, erudite lawyer? Do your 4-inch high heels make you think of a confident woman walking down the corporate aisle? Does your leather bomber jacket make you think of a rebel? It is important we mind what we wear because the psychology behind fashion has its own implications.

“When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it” – Professor Karen J. Pine. This point buttresses the fact that the kind of cloth we put on determine the way we walk and hold ourselves.

There’s a reason tailored jackets are associated with being ‘dressed for success’. It seems that wearing formal office wear and structured clothes puts us in the right frame of mind to conduct business. Wearing power clothing makes us feel more confident [possibly because we call it power clothing]; and even increases hormones needed for displaying dominance. This in turn helps us become better negotiators and abstract thinkers.

Therefore, it is so important to “Get up, get dressed, and never give up each day”– Stariha. To feel more beautiful, confident, and strong, you must change out of the normal and put on clothes that give you power.

HIDDEN SECRETS

How important and empowering the right clothes, and even the right under garments, can be is one of the things changing the Corporate Landscape: Rules for Cultivating Leadership Excellence. Amazingly even our underwear affects the way we feel about ourselves.

Hidden clothes like our socks and underwear can exert a powerful influence on our self-perception and confidence levels. Wearing something we perceive as sexy can make us feel more self assured, more powerful and more confident.

Clothes don’t just affect confidence levels, they can affect your success, as “clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond to you”.

UPPERS AND DOWNERS

In 2014, car manufacturer Kia took a survey of what makes people feel confident, a few of the things included in the top 10 list for women included: high heels, a little black dress, and designer perfume.

For men, the list included: a freshly shaved face, a new suit, and a nice smelling aftershave.

IMAGE PERFUMES

Understanding the psychological dynamics of why the right-for-us clothing can contribute to our confidence, raise our self esteem, and help propel us in the workplace has become big business. Image, style, and branding consultants are hired by everyone from celebrities to the average person.

Here’s one way to go about it: Upon waking up in the morning, take a moment to checkin with yourself and ask, “What do I want to feel like today?” Once you are able to name the intended feeling or state (e.g., friendly, fierce, confident, sexy, composed, loving, and so on), you’re halfway though. Next, ask yourself, “What article(s) of clothing make me feel [fierce, confident, sexy, composed, loving …]? What colour(s) make me feel that way?” Once you’ve identified the article(s) of clothing that symbolizes the desired psychological state, march on over to your closet (no doubt, you’ll have a new pep to your step) and pull out those pieces.

As a lady, don’t stop with just your clothes. Go all out: do your makeup, hair, and adorn yourself with the accessories that accurately match– for you–the desired feeling or state that you chose. Men, maybe the tie you choose is the key article that will enhance your day? Or, perhaps it’s your cosy shoe? So the next time you reach for those comfortable dress or for that fiery red dress, ask yourself how will that clothing item make you feel and what is it saying to the world around you today?

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Vogue & Style

Attention to your fashion details

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If you’ve ever watched the rehearsal process of a play, then you know just how powerful clothes are. Even in the very early stages of a project, professional actors will come to practice in certain clothing pieces that make them feel more like their character. Perhaps, in an old pair of shoes, a long and heavy skirt, or a bandana that helps them get just the right swagger, grace, or edge.

A few weeks later, when they’re closer to opening, they’ll have an actual dress rehearsal with their real costumes. It’s pretty amazing to see how the right clothes bring the performances up to a whole new level and transform the actor into the character!

As business professionals, we can actually learn a lot from this.

Like it or not, your clothes and presentation communicate volumes about you as a person. The question is not whether you care about fashion, it’s more about what you’re communicating intentionally or unconsciously through your fashion choices. Just as the actor in the right costume moves and speaks differently, so does the everyday person.

Your clothes tell a story about you. If you want to show that your work is clean, sharp, and to the point, you need to dress in clean lines, sharp creases, and (yes) points on your shoes and tie. Even the way you wear your glasses speaks volumes about you and your work!

 

What Do the Details Show?

Research shows that you can tell a lot about someone’s personality, politics, status, age and income just from looking at a photo of their shoes.

Did you ever notice that when President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of working class Americans, he would speak with no jacket and his sleeves rolled up? That silently and instantly communicated to the audience that he too was a hard worker.

You might remember when a 44 page dress code published by Swiss bank UBS went viral. The obsessive stipulations detailed everything from the sensible (“If you wear a watch, it suggests reliability and that punctuality is of great concern to you”) to the downright invasive (employees were instructed on how to shower and apply lotion, how to wear their underwear, and told not to eat garlic during the week).

They may have been control freaks, but UBS got one thing right: every detail about your presentation communicates something.

When you’re dressing or grooming, consider what it says about you and whether it’s in line with the message you want to communicate. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about context. A tie can make you look reliable and rooted in tradition. This might be important at an investment firm, where clients want to know that you’re serious about stewarding their capital. But it can also come off as stuffy and resistant to change, which may be inappropriate for a tech startup.

 

Your Clothing Impacts Your Thinking

Of course, dressing smart is also important for your confidence and sense of self-empowerment. But your style does more than just send messages, to your mind or to others. New research shows it actually impacts how you think. Professional dress, one study found, increases abstract thinking and gives people a broader perspective. So that tie might actually be switching on your creativity button.

“The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” the study says.

Professional attire creates social distance. When we are more socially distant, we tend to think in more distant, abstract terms. In socially distant settings we address people by their title, for instance, rather than the more intimate first name.

“Even after controlling for socioeconomic status, students wearing more formal clothing showed stronger inclinations towards abstract processing.”

 

Thin-Slicing

Usually we process visual details instantaneously through a process called thin-slicing. That’s when the brain makes millisecond judgements based on new stimulus. It often happens without us even knowing. We might just get a feeling that we don’t trust someone, or that someone else is steady and reliable. We might not even know why.

That gut feeling, commonly called intuition or a first impression, is really part of the very fast-paced mental process of thin-slicing. It’s how we continually judge books by their covers, all day, every day.

So choose your personal presentation with care. Presentation includes not only your clothes, but your accessories, hairstyle, fragrance, posture, body language, tone of voice, and the level of energy with which you move and speak. Think of the person that you need to be in any particular situation. Then dress, groom, and accessorize in a way that helps you mentally step into that personality.

Are you marching in there to get things done? Put on something red, roll up your sleeves and speak in a commanding voice. Are you making social connections at a gala event? Go for suave, but not workplace formal. Dress to feel attractive. Speak in a smooth tone, and let one shoulder relax.

If you’re loafing around on a long weekend with half a box of pizza, you can probably get away with breaking out the frumpy comfortables.

Taking intentional command of how you dress and present is a good step in empowering yourself, accomplishing your goals, and living a more lucid life at the helm of your decisions. So pay attention! Remember, all the world’s a stage.

 

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