The Psychology of Getting Dressed

psychology of getting dressed

September always reminds me of going back to school, and of course, going back to school shopping. My summer clothes get all packed up and I bring out my fall and winter clothes from storage. The excitement of new seasons urge me to expand my style and try something new.


Little did I know that there is a strong faction of psychology devoted to the power of getting dressed, and how it affects how others view you and how you view yourself. For example, research shows that people who wear more daring outfits are perceived as a more attractive and confident individual. Those who dress professionally are viewed as being intelligent, while those who dress casually are viewed as being friendly and relatable. Depending on what you are dressing for will alter how you dress. A female teacher discovered that her students were much more likely to listen to and follow her detailed instructions when she was dressed casually. However, a more adventurous outfit may be better suited for a creative industry, because a creativity in clothing illustrates a creativity in work. Think about it – would you feel right hiring an artist who only wore fine suits?

psychology of getting dressed

In a study done by the Journal of Applied Psychology, they found that the style we choose to wear also influences how we perceive ourselves.

Results show that participants who were dressed formally used more formal adjectives than casual ones to describe themselves. The opposite was true in participants wearing casual clothes. In addition, formally dressed participants responded faster to formal than to casual adjectives, while this difference was reversed in casually dressed participants.”

If you typically wear a t-shirt and jeans and start wearing dresses, not only will you change the way you view yourself, but others will change their demeanor towards you.


Besides the style of clothing, color also plays an important role. Blue is perceived as calming and creative, while red universally means stop, and some studies have gone as far as saying that wearing red could “scare” people you are around. Lighter colors, such as white, earth tones, or pastels, create a sense of friendliness, openness, and approachability, while darker tones give off an authoritative message.

How to Change

This could be a whole other post, but I’ll talk briefly about the two easiest ways to transition your wardrobe. You can do it slowly and ease into the process by starting with light and neutral pieces that tend to go unnoticed. If you’re transitioning from jeans and a t-shirt to a dress, a neutral colored grey dress will not seem like a huge jump in your style. Once your comfortable with new styles, then transitioning to more colors is easy.

psychology of getting dressed

The second way is to jump into it headfirst. CEOs and great leaders don’t tend to be wallflowers, so it’s okay to make a bold statement if that’s what you’re after. The key here is consistency. If you start looking put together, polished, and sophisticated, then do it every day. People may say something the first few days, but will stop once they realize this is the new norm. A bold change also gives you the opportunity to show your confidence when people ask you about your new look.

The Importance of Getting Dressed

Do you want to act more professionally? Dress more professionally. Do you want to take more risks? Dress more daring. The way we dress impacts the way we act, and the combination of the two impact the way others view us. Next time when you reach for an outfit in the morning, think of what you want it to accomplish.

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