The Psychology of Dressing Well - Zibara
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Dressing to impress might be doing more than you thought.

You’re heading to an interview, or a night out in the city lights, or maybe a first date and you’re dressed to impress. You look at yourself in the mirror and think “damn, looking good”. You go to the interview/night out/date and nail it. You feel confident and people respond to you in ways that almost surprise you. The confidence of dressing your best is confirmed.

But how much does dressing your best impact your interactions in a positive way because it makes you feel good and confident, and how much is it actually your clothes that make the impression for you?

In other words, is it your clothes that impress or is it the confidence that your clothes seem to give you?

Perhaps it’s not simply one or the other, but studies have been done which reveal some rather interesting insights.

It’s not hard to imagine that wearing a bright red velvet shirt with matching red bowling shoes is going to make a different impression than if you wore all black. But when it comes to dressing well enough to impress, particularly first impressions it seems that it’s all about subtlety. According to studies done in the UK and Turkey, people make their assessments of each other in their first few seconds of meeting. These go way beyond just how nice or good you look in certain dress but actually impacts how people perceive us as people.

In this research a range of people looked at images of a man and woman for 3 seconds before making snap judgements about them. One example, was a man who wore a made-to-measure suit in one photograph, and a suit that you might find for special on the front rack of a clothing store in the other. All the obvious differences were taken care of – colour and fabric for example – and the face was pixellated so as not to be misled by facial expressions.

The result? The majority judged the man in the custom suit more favourably than the generic suit. It wasn’t judged in terms of how well they thought he was dressed either; they judged him as more confident, successful, flexible and a higher earner. In other words, his clothes portrayed information to them about his character.

In a different study, the complaint of gender bias was investigated. The role of power dressing was a part of this investigation. This was tested in a similar fashion as the man in the suit. People were presented with images of faceless female models dressed conservatively but with subtle differences in how they dressed, such as skirt length and an extra button being unfastened on a blouse. They were rated on six different dimensions: intelligence, confidence, trustworthiness, responsibility, authority, and organisation.

The result? The less conservative the dress the more negative the impression. Now there are many directions you could think about this study, and perhaps the lesson is not about making sure you dress to please others, but the point is, your dress makes an influence on how people perceive you whether it impacts your mood or not!

So next time you’re in the mood to dress to impress, enjoy the feeling of confidence that dressing in a custom made suit or well fitted sports wear gives you, and you can be sure that people are noticing!