Myth #3: It Doesn’t (or Shouldn’t) Matter What You Wear
And flowing on from the first two myths is the idea that style, clothing, and appearance don’t make a difference. This is an intriguing idea – that style, clothing and our appearance do not, or should not, make a difference to our experiences in life – our external experiences or our internal ones.
Before sharing some interesting research in this field, it’s first interesting to observe the questions asked about authenticity and style are sometimes asked by people who have clearly spent time, money and energy on their appearance – their clothing is coordinated and current (shopping has been engaged in, time has been taken to present a pleasing look), their hair and make-up are done in some fashion. It is clear that time in front of a mirror has been spent and their ‘look’ is not a matter of chance but has been carefully cultivated.
This suggests a paradox if not some ambiguity or even internal conflict – a desire to create a pleasing look (for whatever reason) and yet a desire to downplay, discount or perhaps even renounce the significance of it.
Here at 16 Style Types, we appreciate that for some people this ambiguousness is slightly haunting. We meet many women who have a driving need to live an authentic, “true” life, and haven’t yet found a place where style fits into the picture – and yet they know that style is indeed a part of the picture, if only they could find a way to connect authentically with it and express it equally authentically. They don’t want to be untrue, inauthentic, or incongruent. And we don’t want that for them either.
In fact, this is one of the strongest motivations we had for creating 16 Style Types. To give every woman insight into her unique and yes, authentic, style journey. We wanted to acknowledge and honor her approach to style and help her understand why she feels the way she feels and thinks the way she thinks about style.
Professor Karen Pine in her thoughtful short book, Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion draws together psychology and fashion, and references a number of studies that illustrate the impact that clothing has on how we think and what we feel.
Clothes will change your life
Professor Pine starts the book by telling us a story about a woman whose hat changed her life. This hat, a radical purchase for her – quite a departure from her usual staid fashion fare, turned her into someone else. And it was this hat-wearing someone else that caught the eye of a man at a party, who felt compelled to know her. And eventually, marry her. Professor Pine tells us that “that hat… started a whole chain of dynamic and transformational events”.
Clothes and self-concept
Professor Pine talks often throughout the book about how it is our relationship to ourselves that is most transformed by clothing.
What is especially fascinating are the numerous studies and commentary made by Professor Pine about how our clothing impacts how we feel about, what we think about, and how we experience ourselves and our lives:
- women do worse in maths when wearing swimsuits than when they are wearing regular clothing
- people are more likely to describe themselves as ‘neat and strategic’ when wearing formal clothing
- study participants make quicker decisions and fewer mistakes when wearing white lab coats
- students wearing t-shirts with the Superman emblem on the front felt superior to students wearing regular clothing or plain t-shirts
- in highly controversial studies, participants wearing hoods and capes behaved more cruelly than those without
- women are ten times more likely to put on a favorite dress when happy than depressed
Read the book yourself to get the full context of these intriguing studies and findings on the field of enclothed cognition (yes it’s a real field of study)!
Clothes and confidence
Clothing choices have a monumental impact on how confident we feel. They are not just pieces of cloth with seams, zippers and buttons. Clothes have a direct correlation to our confidence and Professor Pine discusses how clothing influences our mood, and she shares the results of a study of 400 people who shared their top reasons for dressing up.
73% of people get dressed up to feel more confident
The next two top reasons were to be comfortable and to express themselves.
All of these are internal reasons for making an effort in clothing choices and outfit creation. They are not about dressing to impress others or to influence others opinion, although that may be a flow-on effect. These reasons are subjective and self-directed. Their criterion is an internal one – how do I feel wearing this?
16 Authentic Style Pathways
This is quite different from What will others think if I wear this? or How will others respond to me in this vs that ensemble? This is yet another fascinating aspect of our research. We discovered there are a few Style Types whose motivation includes a strong desire to create a particular impression, and they have highly developed impression management skills, and this is a significant aspect of their authentic style experience.
Other Style Types are highly attuned to how others respond to them, including what they are wearing, and will adjust their style (in advance) to match the people they are going to be spending time with. This is very different to being driven by the principles of impression management.
And then there are other Style Types who find the idea of dressing to create an impression the absolute opposite of what authentic style is about – for them, trying to influence others through their appearance and clothing choices feels too manipulative and inauthentic. Their style has a sincere sustained stability to it, and that is a core element of their authentic style experience.
And then there are other Style Types for whom the whole idea of other’s expectations, observations and opinions coming into their style journey unfathomable – they are their own, and only, style muse, and the only opinion that they draw upon.
It’s so very fascinating to explore these authentic, legitimate differences in how women of different Style Types approach style. There are 16 Style Types and none is better or superior to the others – they are all unique and beautiful – and different to one another. And they are all authentic for the women of that Style Type.
Clothes and Mood
Getting back to Mind What You Wear, Professor Pine has a whole section about the impact of clothing on mood and how clothes and depression may be related. She cites some studies where researchers explored the relationship between depression and unkempt appearance. There’s an interesting section on how what you wear mirrors your mental state, and how clothing can be used to both signal our mood and mental state and manage or change it.
So clearly style, clothing, and appearance do make a difference. Exploring your style is one aspect of discovering who you are, and becoming that more fully.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” – C.G. Jung
Let’s circle back to our definition of authenticity, as it may help us find a place where true style is possible for many, if not most, women to embrace.
Authenticity: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character • is sincere and authentic with no pretensions
Being true to yourself. This is the essence of authenticity.
And it is the foundations of 16 Style Types. Each of the 16 Style Types describes a unique approach to style, one that may never have been created or communicated before for some women.
Being who you truly are is a gift to the world. Understanding who you are is part of bringing that gift to the world, in whatever way you choose. And your style journey is part of your life journey.
Legitimate and Beautiful Differences
At 16 Style Types, we acknowledge and honor these legitimate and beautiful differences in how women approach style and the style decisions they make. As part of a life well lived, we aim to support a woman’s sovereignty to choose her own style path, make her own style decisions, and to express her style in whatever way is truest for her.
A 16 Style Types Style Type Report does not give you a prescriptive set of rules of what to wear for your type. What it does is to give you an insight into your own way of approaching style in a truly authentic way.
At 16 Style Types, our intention is to hold the light for each woman as she travels her own style journey. We want to support her in ‘coming home’ to who she really is, and to embracing every part of herself – including her unique style.
Discover Your Style Type
Would you love to discover how to develop your authentic style? When you do, you’ll feel like your clothes really are an expression of you rather than a costume you put on. You’ll find out why you’re attracted to some clothing styles and not others and why you may take a very different approach to fashion, style and image than those around you. Discover your Style Type now here.