You Are What You Wear

I knew it. I just knew it . . . instinctively. I’ve always known how clothes make me feel. I know when I’ve nailed an outfit, and I know when I haven’t.

In my work life, what I wore could make or break a good day, a meeting with the boss, or that big client presentation. Looking my best meant doing my best.

And now there’s research to prove my intuition. Hah! I feel vindicated for my “silly” obsession with fashion and clothes all these years.

Thanks to cognitive scientists and the advent of the field of “embodied cognition”, which means that we think with our bodies as well as our minds, the effect that clothing has on the wearer’s brain is now being studied.

Researchers Adam Hajo and Adam Galinsky from Northwestern University found that the clothing we wear does affect our psychological states; our thoughts, perceptions and actual performance. They coined the term “enclothed cognition” to describe their findings that clothing impacts us in ways that make us happy, sad, energetic, confident, lazy, etc., and why.

 “Clothes invade the body and brain putting the wearer into a different psychological state.” Adam D. Galinsky

For example, in their experiment, Hajo and Galinsky found that if you wear a white coat when taking a test and you believe it is a doctors coat, then your ability to pay attention and perform increases sharply. If you believe the white coat belongs to a painter, it does not.

So the bottom line here is that clothing CAN influence how you think, feel, and act.

What does any of this mean to you and me?

Well, I think it gives us another powerful tool to help us live the life we really want to live. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you do good. Simply stated (not correct grammatically), but powerful nonetheless.

So, note to self: It’s worth the effort to take the time to choose what you wear more carefully.

I’m not suggesting that we need to dress to the hilt every day. I’m saying that we should put clothes on our bodies that make us feel like our best self.

Now that I’m not dressing for work or client meetings anymore, it’s so easy to fall into a sartorial rut and wear the same old jeans and T’s or yoga pants (after all, I do go to yoga classes every week).

Professor Karen Pine, author of Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion offers some good advice for those of us who might find ourselves in such a rut.

“The way out of a rut is to break habits, create exciting new experiences. So if life is feeling more than a little monotonous, you’re probably in a wardrobe rut, too. Injecting some novelty into it could really spice things up.”

Professor Pine suggests following one or all of these guidelines for several days to help break free from a style rut:

  • Dress to impress – as if you’re off to an important event.
  • Wear an old favorite that used to make you feel like a million bucks whenever you wore it. You loved it once, why not wear it again?
  • Try a new color combo. (This one is meant for me, definitely.)
  • Experiment! Add a standout piece of jewelry, quirky shoes or scarf. Try a style that is the polar opposite of what you typically wear. It may not work, but it might. Either way, you’re bound to gain a new perspective. Just change it up.

There you have it – the intellectual reasoning behind your (or my) passion for fashion. So next time anyone accuses us of being silly to care so much about the clothes we wear, we can tell them that we are actually changing our brains and becoming smarter and more effective at what we do. Yes!

Till next time,




  1. Joan
    May 19, 2017 / 7:35 am

    Interesting! I think for me the new color combo and the standout jewelry are challenges! When I look in the mirror, that voice says ‘oh no’, that is NOT a good look for you! Tips on how to counteract the ‘voice’ in the future would be great!

    • Judy McLane
      May 21, 2017 / 5:40 pm

      You know what I find helpful and inspiring when I’m trepidatious about trying something new? Find a muse, a crush. Someone whose style you admire. Then try on something new that you’re not sure about with someone that you can trust to be honest with you.

      Great idea about a post to help “counteract the voice.” I’m on it!

  2. dona
    May 19, 2017 / 7:57 am

    Love, Love this blog! It’s all so true! I try to convince women of this daily. Working at Nordstrom and seeing reflections of myself all day long in mirrors, I can tell you that if I feel good in what I have on that day, I walk around with my head up high. If I feel frumpy and what I have on is not flattering, I can’t wait to go home and take my clothes off. Usually my outfits are thought out the night before (if I have time). If i’m running late and just grab anything to put on, this can be an eight hour disaster because it does affect my moods and performance. Lets face it, when we get compliments on our outfits we have an extra spring in our step. If I don’t get compliments and I think I look cute, I feel like I experienced”style failure”. Hey, when you’re 63 years old, it’s not easy trying to look put together, trying to make sure everything is covered and camoflauge, it’s a lot of work. It can be very easy to grab the same ole pants, tops and shoes. Not this girl! Fashion is my passion and I will make an effort to look the best I can everyday. Thank you Judy for reminding us once more the importance of clothes and how we wear them.

    • Judy McLane
      May 21, 2017 / 5:37 pm

      You hit the target, Dona — making an effort to look the best you can everyday – that is a great motto to have.

  3. May 21, 2017 / 6:36 am

    I think you hit the nail on the head in your first sentence when you said: “I’ve always known how clothes make me FEEL.” I don’t know if women think about it that way when they get dressed in the morning. Instead of ‘asking themselves how do I look in this outfit?’ the more important question is: “How do I FEEL when I put this on?”

    Great blog!

    • Judy McLane
      May 21, 2017 / 5:35 pm

      I do think it’s THE question we need to ask ourselves . . . and then question ourselves if the only answer we get is “I’m comfortable.” While that’s important, it can’t be the only factor, or else we may end up wearing nothing but fat pants and oversized T’s. 🙂

  4. May 22, 2017 / 12:50 pm

    As usual, great blog, Judy! It is true that we perform and feel better if we like what we have put together on our bodies for others to see. We have all had days–as you said–when we decide to wear something– possibly an outfit that we may regret buying but did, and feel we need to get some wear out of it to justify the cost. In those instances, we can’t wait to get home and change clothes!

    You help us by suggesting mixing things up and taking some “risks” with our outfits. What do we have to lose? If we did not like the end result of how we felt in our clothes that particular day or evening, then we don’t repeat that outfit.

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