By Nathaniel Palmer
The subjective complexion of human emotions has made distinct sensations, like "happiness", difficult to quantify. Happiness is generally contingent upon a person's unique perspective, perception, or preference. The way we dress can flamboyantly express our preferences, but it can also attract superfluous perceptions. When we wake up in the morning, we have a divine power that no other species on this planet has. That power is called Choice. Unless you have an occupation that issues standard uniforms, when you begin your day, you have a choice of what you can (and should) drape over your body. If you're happy, you'll more than likely wear something that expresses your happiness. If you're sad, you'll more than likely wear something that expresses the feeling of sadness. The correlation between how we dress and how we feel have raised questions in the psychology community that researchers are in the midst of passionately pursuing. If how we dress commences the feeling of happiness, is it possible that being consistently happy can affect what we choose to wear?
While fashion experts continue to capitalize on the effects of clothing, psychology experts are examining the influence that clothing has on moods. Professor Karen Pine, a leading expert in fashion psychology, confirms that the more we know about enclothed cognition and how it can lift a person's mood, the less we will need anti-depressant medication. In a current news release published by Goodtherapy.org, several Applied Psychology professionals conducted research on the link between clothing choices and emotional states.
A group of one hundred women, ranging from the ages 21 to 64 years old, participated in this informative study. The results of this study found that clothing choices such as jeans, sweatshirts, and baggier apparel, could all be associated with depressed or sad moods. Interestingly, 51% of the women in the study wore jeans when they felt sad or depressed, while only 33% of the women wore jeans when they felt happy or positive. Donna Stellhorn, a Feng Shui expert who contributed her professional thoughts on how we interact with our environment, agreed with these results.
"When we reach for jeans we want something familiar because things around us are stressful"
She believes that lazy attire, such as jeans or t-shirts, indicate where a person's mental energy is focused. "When we reach for jeans we want something familiar because things around us are stressful", Stellhorn explained. Other results of the study found that accessories, such as hats and jewelry, can also affect women's moods. Hats in particular, on men and women, usually pinpoint a person of power. Hats warrant attention, and in some cases, it helps a person cover up an insecurity so that the person can feel confident enough to interact with other individuals. Interacting with the opposite sex has been another major point of emphasis for clothing choices as well, but limited studies have yet to secure concrete results in this area.
Although men weren't included in this study, some results could be similar for them as well. "A separate study on men should be considered. Men are much more focused on functionality in their wardrobe than women, regardless of emotional state. So, I do think there may be some general similarities, but overall women’s results would probably be more dramatic", explained Shauna Mackenzie Heathman, owner of Mackenzie Image Consulting.
Overall, the emphasis of the study explained fashion's powerful ability to create a perception of happiness. When we're feeling happy, we generally wear clothes that have good quality, good fit, and bright colors. When we are feeling unhappy, we take the focus off of our appearance and put our mental energy on whatever is making us unhappy. While women tend to be more in tuned with their emotions, they're more likely to express their moods through visual stimulations—a theory that adheres to how women attract men. Men's emotional adherence to clothing tends to be associated with colors—colors make a person standout more. Dressing happy when we're happy isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's just predictable!
Being predictable, based on your mood, isn't what fashion is about. Fashion isn't about making the effort to "look the part". Fashion is about being the part. Fashion is about expressing who you are, no matter what mood you're in. Daniel Gilbert's concept of Synthetic Happiness suggests that we have the power to manipulate what makes us happy. In other words, we can either give clothes the power to make us happy, or we can use clothing as a tool to express how we’re feeling at any given time.
By Shakaila Forbes-Bell
We all know someone who looks ridiculously (often suspiciously) good for their age. Grown men and women who look like they’ve found the map to the fountain of youth and proceeded to dive into it. Psychologists, quite simply refers to this youthful disposition as baby-facedness. Baby-faced people are those who have large, wide set eyes, high eyebrows, a large forehead and cheeks and a small chin. Research suggests that being blessed with a perpetual baby-face can benefit your life beyond saving money on expensive face creams with added youth-enhancing chemicals like Q10 (what even is that?).
What’s the first thing you think of when you see babies?
“Aww”, “how adorable” and “I want one!” are usually the spontaneous responses elicited from people when gushing over tiny toes and chubby cheeks. Even the baby-adverse among us are not exempt from our evolutionary disposition to nurture the infantile. But what happens when you come across a baby-faced adult? Whilst you’re unlikely to make silly faces and poke at their tummy’s you do make subconscious and positive inferences about them. Research has shown that baby-faced adults elicit stereotypically protective responses from those around them because people associate their youthful facial features with the naiveté, helplessness, honesty, and innocence of babies.
The effect of baby-facedness is so strong that it has even been proven to be a helpful defence tool in court. A study by Zebrowitz and McDonald found that as defendants increased in baby-facedness they were more likely to win their cases, even those involving deliberate and intentionally unlawful actions. The study also found that baby-faced plaintiffs were awarded higher monetary pay outs than those with more mature faces.
When it comes to fashion marketing, research suggests that baby-faced models, bloggers and brand ambassadors alike may have a slight advantage. Because of their innocent facial features, reviews conducted by baby-faced individuals are deemed to be more truthful suggesting that any positive reviews made by such people will be more successful. A report by Lidwell, Holden and Butler also argued that testimonial commercials in particular will benefit from featuring baby-faced models whose innocent, cherub-like faces make them appear more believable. The report also suggests that brands seeking influencers to create reviews on more serious products like medical procedures for example, should avoid those with high baby-facedness as they “have difficulty being taken seriously in situations where expertise or confrontation is required”. However, this seemingly negative judgement is not universal as a study by Zebrowitz and Franklin found that older adults believe baby-faced people to be more competent
Do you think you have a baby face? Check out the slideshow below to discover some baby-faced celebrities and bloggers.
By Emma Spedding
The Psychology of Fashion Blog™ was featured in Who What Wear discussing the power of colour psychology
While we are firm believers that you should dress first and foremost for yourself, it's fascinating to see if there is some science behind the outfits that get you noticed. So we spoke to two fashion psychologists, Shakaila Forbes-Bell from Psychology of Fashion and Dawnn Karen, and both agreed that there is one colour that is scientifically proven to be more attractive, and it might even get you more swipes on Tinder. As expected, this colour is red.
For more information on working with The Psychology of Fashion Blog™ head over to the Contribute Page now.
Shakaila Forbes-Bell; owner and editor of The Psychology of Fashion sat down with London College of Fashion fashion journalism student Chloe McDonald to discuss the impact of fashion and style in politics
When discussing her film project with The Psychology of Fashion Chloe said
I choose to focus on the relationship between fashion and politics as we are in a time where we are seeing so many powerful women, especially in politics. It is clear that the clothes these women wear in their positions will be discussed, but I wanted to try to understand what they wear and why, not just discuss the labels. I aimed to understand the psychology of the clothing that the chose to wear as a consumer of these images and to learn how women in politics use their fashion as a tool, not just a cover.
If like Chloe you are interested in collaborating on a project with The Psychology of Fashion head over to the Contribte page now!
Chloe McDonald, a 20 year old fashion journalism student, from Birmingham. Currently living in London, studying at London College of Fashion.
By Psychology of Fashion
With news breaking of President Obama launching an enquiry into the possible hacking of the recent US election many have wondered whether the US has been robbed of its first female presidential nominee. As it stands, after a long, hard fought and controversial race Hillary Clinton is no longer in the running to become the next leader of the free world and yet the ground she has broken is undeniable.
For centuries, a glass ceiling has shrouded women’s career goals as we battle pay-gaps, sexual harassment and plain old disrespect in the workplace. Putting erroneous emails aside, with her historical presidential run, Hillary Clinton wielded young women worldwide with sledge hammers ready to break through these ceilings and take charge in uncharted territories.
Unlike their male counterparts, women in politics often receive higher levels of scrutiny from the press, most of it concerning their physical appearance and wardrobe. While some lament the fact that such women receive more attention for their looks rather than their policies, it is often the case that female politicians use their clothes to their advantage; to make a statement, to define their character or to draw attention to themselves in a male dominated arena and there is no shame in playing the fashion game. Just recently, Samantha Cameron the ever stylish wife of former British Prime Minister David Cameron launched her fashion label Cefinn making it clear that politics and fashion are not mutually exclusive forces.
One clothing staple that any woman in the political sphere has in her wardrobe is a pantsuit. If you were to play a quick-fire word association game with the cue ‘Hillary Clinton’ we can bet you, your second answer would be ‘pantsuits’ (your first would be ‘emails’ but no one on god’s green earth wants to hear about those anymore). More recently, we have seen Clinton forego the standard longline blazers in favour of matching sets featuring structured jackets with Mandarin collars. Whether you’re a fan of this look or not one thing you can’t disagree on is the fact that her tailoring is always impeccable and when it comes to first impressions Psychology suggests that tailoring plays a very important role.
In 2011, psychologist Karen Pine conducted a study on men’s business clothing. Results found that a man wearing a bespoke Made-To-Measure suit compared to a man wearing one Off-The-Rack is deemed to have more confidence and to be more successful. Few studies have been conducted for women’s tailoring but the same knowledge applies. Whilst it is true that fashion choices should not be placed up against matters such as immigration and national health, the public will be more inclined to listen to what you have to say if you display yourself as someone worth listening to.
From left to right, Purple lapels at her concession speech. Image source: US Magazine, Hot pink Ralph Lauren gown at the Al Smith dinner. Image source: USA Today. White pantsuit at the DNC. Image sourced via Hollywood Reporter (Getty Images)
Every election season we see subtle instances of presidential candidates using colour to their advantage and in her war against the so-called ‘basket of deplorables’ Hillary armed herself with every pigment imaginable. Forgoing prints in favour of solid and vibrant hues, Clinton stood out for all the right reasons. Throughout her run, Hillary was plagued with criticisms concerning her standoffishness and cold demeanour. However, as the race ran on. the colouring of Hillary’s outfits became brighter conveying a softer and more human side to her nature.
At the third and final presidential debate, she stepped out in a signature Ralph Lauren pantsuit in a dazzling shade of white. Research into colours and emotions suggests that bright colours such as white are “more pleasant, less arousing and less dominance-inducing than less bright colours such as dark greys and blacks” (Patricia Valdez & Albert Mehrabian, 1994).
The first time she wore a dress during the election, Hillary again turned to Ralph Lauren for a simple yet immaculate hot pink gown. Traditionally pink is associated with softness, delicacy and infancy and is also used to denote the female gender. However, a study conducted by Veronika Koller (2008) found that many now associate the colour pink with independence and postfeminist femininity - a strong statement considering that Hillary’s run focused on appealing to minorities, particularly women of colour as well as the LGBTQ community.
And this was not the last-time Hillary used colour in an impactful way. When she made her concession speech she wore purple. The significance of the colour for the suffragette movement coupled with the impact of her being the first female presidential nominee was not lost on many.
When the news hit that Theresa May was going to become Britain’s second female prime minister the report was overshadowed by her shoes. She donned a pair of leopard print kitten heels and the media had a field day. May, who has never been shy about her fondness for footwear has since been branded a ‘feminist in kitten heels’ but many can’t seem to jump on board with the 3-and-a-half-inch style. Even though Vogue has hailed kitten heels and boyfriend jeans as the ultimate cool girl outfit, amongst the masses, kitten heels are an acquired taste to say the least but women in politics just can’t seem to get enough of them.
Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice all share May’s enthusiasm for kitten heels and Psychologically speaking, the low-heeled shoe does seem to strike a perfect balance. They’re low enough to provide a level of comfort necessary to keep up with the fast-paced world of politics yet high enough to attract positive attention and admiration. Recent Psychological research has shown that even when their feet are not visible women wearing heels are deemed to be more elegant than women wearing flat shoes (Guéguen, Stefan, & Renault, Fash (2016).
During World War II the epaulettes that graced the shoulders of soldiers manoeuvred their way into the fashion industry as women donned shoulder pads as symbol of solidarity with the brave fighters abroad as they contributed to the war effort at home. Although post-war women’s fashion saw less uniformity and more cinched waists, shoulder pads made a huge come back in the 80s on the heels of the second wave of the feminist movement. In the 80s-movie classic Working Girl, Melanie Griffith’s character dons larger than life shoulder pads to legitimise her new position as a respected business woman and thus the era of power dressing was born with designers such as Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabanna showcasing the style on the runway. In the 80s and during its revival in the early 21st century, shoulder pads were the clothing equivalent to ideology of ‘leaning in’ – taking charge and embodying power in male dominated industries.
With shoulder pads its very much a case of ‘if you can’t beat them – look like them’. Broad shoulders are typically associated with males, with studies showing that men with broad shoulders are not only perceived to be more masculine but they also possess higher testosterone levels (Kasperk et al, 1997). So, it’s no surprise that shoulder pads were a favourite of Margret Thatcher – Britain’s first female prime minister. Wearing shoulder pads ensured that Thatcher took up more space in any room she entered. The added association of the style with masculinity ensured that her gender did not lessen the amount of respect she commanded from those she encountered. During the height of her career Thatcher’s business attire consisted almost exclusively of shoulder padded tailored jackets in understated patterns or bold and solid colours which only enhanced the severity of her look and subsequently solidified her position as ‘The Iron Lady’.
According to Donald Trump, this hacking scandal is without merit but who knows, come 2017 we may see a white pantsuit instead of a white combover in the oval office. One can only dream.
Most women can agree that slipping into a pair of high heels (preferably a new pair) can give you a whole new outlook on life. Your confidence levels sore and to quote Shania Twain you just feel more like a Woman (cue guitar riff). But what is so special about those 5 extra inches that creates this distinct impact?
When discussing the topic of heels, there’s a strong possibility that the king of red bottoms Mr Christian Louboutin will come up in conversation. Designed in 2007, the Ballerina Ultima is the brands highest ever pair measuring in at 20.5cm, that’s just a little over 8 inches of confidence (and sore feet) to contend with and in 2014 the Louboutin ventured into nail polish with the launch of ‘Rouge Louboutin’ a raunchy red shade encased in dramatic bottle reminiscent of the Ballerina Ultima.
On Louboutin’s website, the fiercely designed nail polish was pictured next to the towering Ballerina Ultima’s accompanied with the by-line ‘Taking femininity to a [sic] new Height’. Is it true then, are high heels synonymous with femininity or are they just sold to us in that way?
I know I’m not the only one who feels like a mix of Beyoncé, Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie rolled into one when I’m walking in my heels. However, is it really due to the fact that high heels simply makes us feel more womanly or is it because in this day and age successful, intelligent and beautiful women are almost exclusively pictured wearing an enviable pair of stilettos? According to researchers, the relationship between high heels and femininity is more than just propaganda.
Here comes the science bit…
In their study, Paul Morris and Colleagues from the University of Portsmouth investigated the relationship between high heels, female sexuality and the femininity of a woman’s walk. After observing women walking in both flats and high heels, results indicated that participants judged women in high heels to be significantly more attractive. Researchers concluded that heels actually increase the femininity of a woman’s walk. Whereas a male’s gait, is characterised by longer strides and minimal hip rotation, wearing heels increases women’s hip rotation and also encourages shorter strides. So, in essence high heels are actually increasing the femininity of your walk which appears to have a knock on effect on your persona. However, not everyone is as impressed by the power of the high heel.
In 2013, Jorge Cortell, CEO of the healthcare start up Kanteron Systems posted a picture of a woman in attendance of a Reverse-Demo event in New York wearing high heels. The picture accompanied by the hashtag #brainsnotrequired no doubt caused a stir. His unabashed argument went along the lines of: heels are dangerous can lead to health problems and therefore an intelligent woman would make a more sensible choice in footwear.
Whilst the downsides of wearing high heels are widely known (we’ve all experienced the range of emotions from “ok this hurts a little but I can bare it” to “I will sell you my grandmother for a pair of flip flops right now!”) from an evolutionary perspective however, wearing heels would be the smart choice when you factor in things such as mate selection.
But by no means is anyone telling you to wear heels simply to attract men (that’s just an added extra). Through their leg lengthening, ass shaping and hip rotating effect, high heels can encourage you to harness your inner feminine power. And besides, who are we to argue with the one Ms Carrie Bradshaw “The fact is, sometimes it's really hard to walk in a single woman's shoes. That's why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun”.
No you didn’t just accidentally click over to a botany enthusiast website, we’re really going to discuss the psychological impact of flowers. Bear with me on this one guys.
More than just a decorative addition to your dining table, more than just a last minute Mother’s Day present and more than just a sure fire way to get you out of the dog house – Flowers. In numerous cultures and religions flowers have been shown to have a distinct social significance and here are just a few examples:
“In Hinduism flowers are considered extremely important for many reasons. The main Hindu prayer rites are called puja, which means “the flower act”. One of the most important flowers for Hindus is the lotus for its various associations. At base level, it is linked with fertility, youthfulness and beauty.” – SerenataFlowers.com
“In China Bamboo is known for attracting joy and wealth. It offers protection and luck, can break hexes and grants wishes! Bamboo is said to help increase mental flexibility, aid in spiritual growth, help people to develop artistic talents, and encourages good health. If you’re depressed, bamboo is a great plant to have in your home, as it can help you to feel less stuck.” - Galadarling.com
“Russians gift flowers in odd numbers for occasions of joy. For them, yellow flowers signify funerals and sympathy. Though, this rule does not apply to mixed flower bouquets and arrangements.” – TheFlowerExpert.com
In India flowers in hair is a mark of being a married woman. However, studies have shown that wearing flowers in such a manner is more than a status symbol, it has been proven to have a distinct and surprising impact.
In a study on tipping behaviour, researchers found that diners left larger tips for waitresses who wore flowers in their hair compared to when the same waitresses served them minus the flowers (Jacob, Guéguen & Delfosse, 2012). Psychologists suggest that wearing flowers makes you appear more appealing and subsequently attracts wealth. These findings have also been confirmed by a recent study which found that hair ornamentation is associated with a higher level of compliance even in strangers (Stefan, Jacob & Guéguen, 2015)!
So, when it comes to styling, it appears that a tasteful hair ornament may be the secret accessory you never knew you had.
The fashion industry is big business. Employing an estimated 23.6 million people worldwide it’s clear why many people are clamouring to join this fast paced industry. With over 100 fashion school’s worldwide competition is fierce as each summer graduates hang up their gowns, dust off their CV’s and fight for a seat at the table. Metaphors aside, psychologists have found that if you are in fact lucky enough to earn yourself an interview the way in which you take the seat across from your potential employer can be the difference between a second interview and an email that contains the words ‘Thank you’ and ‘Unfortunately’.
Anxious, nervous, self-conscious these are just some of the emotions we feel before an interview and a lot of it can be boiled down to power. In an interview, the interviewer not only has power over the job but also over the candidate’s future placing them in a position of great power one that can induce an intense feeling of powerlessness in the latter (Cuddy, Wilmuth & Carney 2012). Without our knowledge, this feeling of powerlessness can be read all over our faces and through our body language. We embody this feeling by adopting non-verbal cues such as shrinking into our chairs, hunching over into our phones, biting our nails and averting our gaze and such behavioural cues have been linked to a distinct hormonal pattern: low testosterone and high cortisol. Testosterone has been linked to confidence and power in both men and women for example, ‘testosterone rises in anticipation of a competition and as a result of a win, but drops following a defeat’ (Carney, Cuddy & Yap, 2010). Cortisol on the other hand has been linked to both stress and feelings of powerlessness. Unsurprisingly, during instances of low power, such as in a job interview testosterone levels are low and cortisone levels are high. How can we adjust these levels and rid ourselves of premature feelings of defeat? Psychologists have pointed towards your body for the answer.
Fake it till you make it
Fix your face
The facial feedback hypothesis is a well-known theory in Psychology which suggests that facial movement modulates emotional experience (Psych Central). When you’re feeling anxious or worried the last thing you want to hear is “cheer up, it might never happen’ but putting a smile on your face just might be the answer. Studies have found that when participants are made to exhibit facial movements mimicking a smile they reported feeling happier. This suggests that before stepping into the interview room, slapping a smile on your face can trick you into feeling joyful and self-assured even if your knees are shaking in your pantsuit.
fix your posture
“The proud peacock fans his tail feathers in pursuit of a mate. By galloping sideways, the cat manipulates an intruder’s perception of her size. The chimpanzee, asserting his hierarchical rank, holds his breath until his chest bulges. The executive in the boardroom crests the table with his feet, fingers interlaced behind his neck, elbows pointing outward” (Carney et al, 2010). Studies have shown that power lies in your posture. Occupying more space in a room by standing up tall, using expressive gestures, leaning forward, placing your feet firmly on the ground and your hands clasped on the table causes a hormonal shift resulting in higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisone (Huang, Galinsky, Gruenfeld & Guillory, 2010). Holding these powerful poses for as little as two minutes can increase feelings of power allowing you to let your capabilities and confidence shine through. The next time you find yourself in the race for employment and you are doubting your capabilities remember to Power Pose, why else would we have the saying ‘Fake it ‘till to make it’.
Do you know any more interview tricks? Let us know in the comment section below!