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Clothes Psychology: What Your Clothing Tells Others About Who You Are and Who You Want to Be

It's true that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but people still do. In the case of human beings, that "cover" is in large part your clothing and others are looking at it to help gauge an impression of who you are.

business clothing

A smart business suit exudes confidence and success. (Consider how differently you'd perceive this woman if she were dressed in a sloppy sweat suit.)

"Before you choose your outfit for the day, think about how you want other people to see you and interpret your personality … Your clothes say far more than you think," says Bridget Allen a senior level fashion industry expert.

What do YOUR Clothes Say About You?

There are very few instances where your clothing doesn't matter. This may sound shocking, but it's true. That's because, even in instances where you're the only one who knows what you're wearing, those clothes can affect your mood and how you face the day.

With that in mind, take a look at some of the common clothing personalities out there, and what they say about the wearer.

The Sloppy Dresser: If your clothes are wrinkled, stained, or mismatched, others typically take this to mean that in a figurative sense you are too. Sloppy clothing sends the message that you don't really care … about your appearance, your job, your future or otherwise.

The Designer Dresser: Every item on your body is brand name, and you're sure to let others know it. People may take this to mean you're successful, choosy and "put together," but they may think you're overly materialistic or a bit insecure (and desperately trying to fit in via your clothing).

The Skimpy Dresser: Skimpy dressers always opt for the shortest, tightest, most revealing clothing they can find whether they're going to work, an office party or the beach with their kids. Wearing overly revealing clothing often exudes insecurity, and an attempt to gather attention based solely on your body (perhaps suggesting that's all there is to offer). Many say occasionally wearing that skimpy outfit is fun, flirty, and quite acceptable, but wearing them all the time is likely another matter.

The Business Casual Dresser: Business casual, when done correctly (i.e. casual loafers, not flip flops), can be a sign of a confident, well-meaning individual.

sloppy dresser

Looking to impress your new in-laws? An overly sloppy outfit can tell them that you don't care.

The Flashy Dresser: Perhaps it's a fun pair of shoes, a snappy tie or a bright blue handbag. It could be just about any fashion piece, but you've always got to have something to show your wild side. Flashy dressers often show others that they're looking to be set apart from the crowd and have a desire to show their personality and get noticed.

The Drab Dresser: Do you always dress in neutrals and plain slacks and shirts, and never dare stray from this uniform? A drab dresser can be an indication that you're trying to blend in with the crowd and don't want a lot of extra attention.

The Athletic Dresser: Athletic dressers wear sweats, running shoes and other workout gear 24/7, whether they're heading to the gym or not. While this may show others that you're athletic and care about your body, be careful. Athletic dressers can easily be mistaken for sloppy dressers, particularly when sweats are involved.

The Goth Dresser: Lots of black, fishnet stockings and maybe a studded collar are often features of goth dressers. While this look may tell some people that you're expressing your personality, many may see you as depressed, angry, insecure (needing to "disguise" yourself) and unapproachable.

The Casual Dresser: This is the guy or gal who never puts on anything but jeans and a t-shirt. Fine for a weekend at home, but over time this look can make you appear one-sided or lacking a creative flair or dimension.

How to Use Clothing to Your Advantage

In reality most people are a combination of clothing styles, wearing casual clothes one day and business garb the next. The key to using clothing to your advantage is to dress so you feel ready to take on the world.

In fact, experts have found that dressing in this way has a real impact on your mood and your outlook. Consider what you wear to the gym.

"Putting on a flattering outfit motivates people to actually go to the gym or to exercise outdoors in public," says performance coach Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA, president of Performance and Success Coaching LLC in Philadelphia.

So what can you do to dress in a way that's beneficial for you, your outlook and your attitude toward the world? Check out these 10 simple tips.

  1. Wear clothing that's flattering for your figure.

  2. Remember that clothing doesn't need to be expensive to look good.

  3. Dress suitably for the occasion (business attire for work is a must).

  4. Don't be afraid to show your personality by using color, unique clothing cuts or accessories.

  5. Do step outside of your fashion comfort zone sometimes. For instance, if you always dress in jeans and t-shirts, put on a well-tailored suit and see how it makes you feel.

  6. Have fun with your clothing. Don't take it too seriously.

  7. Only wear clothing that makes you feel good.

  8. Get rid of clothes that you associate negative things with (such as the sweatshirt you wore for a month after your divorce, or the sweater you put on when you have a cold).

  9. Do get "dressed" daily. It's easy to slip into a pattern of throwing on anything, particularly when you're not planning to go out anywhere special. However, this can set your mood to expect a monotonous, ho-hum day. Try putting on something special even when it's not a "special" day, and take notice of the change in your attitude.

  10. Don't worry about keeping up with trends, but do update your clothing regularly (and get rid of items from past decades).

Recommended Reading

The 6+ Synthetic Fabrics You Most Want to Avoid, and Why

The Powerful Influencing Effect of People's Faces on Your Behavior


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