What Does Your Subconscious Dress Code Say About You?

The way you dress is a window into your subconscious. Your fashion choices are of course influenced by so many external factors: your friends, magazines, social media, film, music, work environment etc BUT you’re also influenced by your emotions and memories and how you were raised.

Our tastes come from a subconscious place, so it is no surprise that we are drawn towards the clothes that made us feel safe, comfortable and secure.  This is one of the reasons people get stuck in a fashion rut.

Other reasons you could be in a fashion rut are because your early experiences might not have given you the feeling of safety. You may have a subconscious fear of change or rejection. Many of us don’t face our fears and bury our dreams of being seen, by choosing our clothes to hide and blend in.

Quick to Judge

There is much more to your clothing choices. You may think that what you wear is merely a matter of habit, that fashion is just an indulgence and your personality will shine through your choice of clothing. This is simply not true.

The way you dress, facial expressions, how well-groomed you are and your body language when on duty i.e. when you are out and about, matter.  People notice.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, in just a few seconds, before you even have time to speak, certain assumptions, both consciously and subconsciously, have been made about you: this effects what others think of you and the way in which people behave towards you.

“She’s not my type.” “He couldn’t hack it in this company!” “She looks friendly.” “He looks efficient.”  “I can tell she’s confident.” “He’s arrogant!”

Your Subconscious Dresscode

It is our subconscious that is making the snap decisions about what to wear every morning:

Ask yourself, do you dress:

~ to fit in?
~ to blend in?
~ to attract a partner?
~ to look fashionable?
~ to look unique?
~ to express yourself?
~ for comfort?
~ for modesty?
~ or does your mood dictate the way you dress?

Your answer reflects your subconscious beliefs that you hold about yourself. Becoming aware is the first step towards letting go of negative or limiting beliefs making space for embracing positive beliefs.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Baumgartner in her book “You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You” reveals the subconscious programming that manifests in our shopping and fashion habits:

If you… You might… Consider…
Keep every piece of clothing you’ve ever owned Be stuck in a psychological rut, too comfortable to shake it up, or too afraid to draw attention to yourself. Adopting the Golden Wardrobe Ratio: Get rid of 2 out of 3 items you own, including anything too big/small, ripped/torn or outdated.
Wear only neutrals, largely devoid of accessories Be stuck in a psychological rut, too comfortable to shake it up, or too afraid to draw attention to yourself. Deviating from your routine in small ways: a different route to work, a few new accessories or jog your brain into feeling excited
Dress in clothing too large for your body Be trying to express the age you feel you are, but getting caught between your actual and internal age Bringing an honest friend shopping to find out what looks great on you, ignoring sizes and getting used to wearing clothes that really fit.
Have been told you’re dressed inappropriately, or too sexily Consider the same outfit appropriate for every occasion i.e. clubbing and family barbecue or be looking for the wrong kind of attention. Consider the image you want to project in given situations: at work, on the town and choose outfits based on cues from those around you
Dress too young (or too old) for your age Be trying to express the age you feel you are, but getting caught between your actual and internal age Gearing your outfits toward your goals (like getting a promotion, meeting a significant other, traveling the world), rather than a specific age.
Are always in work clothes Value yourself primarily through your work and work-related accomplishments Recognising your talents outside of work (great artist, compassionate, fun to bring to parties, etc.)
Covered in designer logos Think you need to broadcast wealth to be treated well by others Practice wearing “blank canvas” pieces and only accenting with logos to emphasise that people value you for more than your labels
Live in your “mum outfit” of jeans and a hoodie Put the needs of your family before your own Take more “me time.” Remember: When mum isn’t happy, nobody is.
Your Clothes Influence Your Thoughts

You should dress how you want to feel, rather than how you feel. The clothes you choose are not only sending a message to those around you, but to yourself.

A team of psychological scientists from California State University, Northridge and Columbia University finds that the clothes you wear can influence the way you think; putting on a suit doesn’t just change how you look, it can change the way you perceive the world and make you think more broadly[1].

“Enclothed cognition” research by Hajo Adam, Adam D. Galinsky from Northwestern University describe the influence clothes have on a person’s psychological process. Influencing how they think, feel and act because of two independent factors:

– The symbolic meaning of the clothes, and;
– The physical experience of wearing them

The authors asked questions about how seemingly trivial clothing can influence how we think: “Does wearing the robe of a priest or judge make people more ethical? Does putting on an expensive suit make people feel more powerful and think more broadly? Does putting on the uniform of a firefighter, a soldier or police officer make people act more courageously?” Their results revealed that clothes do have a power of our thoughts and behaviour.

My Dresscode

Personally, psychological factors limited me from expressing my authentic self.

We didn’t have much money when my father was in prison, so I had few clothes as a child. One of the many reasons I was bullied, was for wearing the same clothes all the time. The shame I felt was overwhelming. I wanted to disappear. I registered this as “I am unworthy”. I became fearful that “I won’t have friends unless I’m dressed in fashionable clothes.”

Years later, the clothes I chose to wear as an adult were good quality, lovely clothes but I subconsciously put clothes together that would drowned each other out and hide my figure.

A good friend of mine was always urging me to wear brighter colours and more flattering clothes. One year for my birthday she organised for a stylist to come to my house and help me rethink the way I dress.

Although I enjoy creative processes, this particular process provoked anxiety in me. As the day progressed it became clear that I was subconsciously pairing prints and colours that drowned each other out and cuts that hid my figure because I was subconsciously trying to blend in.

By spending a small amount of money on some accessories and the stylist showing me how to rematch what I was wearing using my existing wardrobe, to make colours pop, I had a renewed confidence in the way I dressed and felt about myself.

Little did my lovely friend know that booking a stylist was going to be a therapy session for me; bringing my subconscious to my conscious level. I now celebrate my authenticity without fear every morning when I pick out my clothes, I no longer dress to blend in and I no longer dread social events because of worrying about what to wear. What a wonderful gift!

The World’s Your Stage

You don’t need to pay for a stylist, but when you dress in the morning it might pay to be a little more careful in the choices you make. Doing something different with your clothes will challenge your subconscious programming.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be an embrace who we are.” – Brené Brown

Taking a conscious command of how you dress and present yourself is a great step in taking your power back and accomplishing your goals.

(References: [1] Slepian, M.L., Ferber, S. N., Gold, J. M., and Rutchick, A. M., (2015), “Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing”, Social Psychological and Personality Science, Vol.6, No. 6, pp.661-8.)