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Fashion

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Discuss the Psychology of Fashion with a special focus on its Dynamics.

Ever wondered why it is so important for the most of us to have a closet full of clothes? Or why when you meet someone, your mind develops a perceived personality of the person based on how he looks and then our behavior towards them changes accordingly? A study conducted by Karen Pine in 2011 revealed that minor clothing manipulations gave rise to significantly different first impressions of the man. The study by Christman & Branson (1990) further supported this theory as they studied the perceptions formed by recruiters during job interviews. These revelations further trigger a number of questions in mind such as, how dress is used by humans to shape their behavior with others on a daily basis. How the dress one wears changes with a change in social positions, a fashion model might be a mother and the style she adopts in these two areas of her life, (at work and at home) may be different. This article tries to answer these questions. In 1992 Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins and Joanne Eicher noted two basic reasons behind wearing a dress. They said that a dress acted as a body modifier which acts as an interface between the body and the social and the environmental changes in the surroundings. Examples of using dress for the purposes of physical protection include wearing gloves to protect hands from the cold, applying lotion to protect skin from the damaging effects of the sun, or wearing polish to prevent finger nails from chipping and pealing. Dress can also protect the wearer from psychological harm as individuals may wear charms, amulets, or other lucky dress items to ward off evil spirits or to bring about good fortune. According to Roach-Higgins and Eicher, the second function of the dress is a means of communication. To do this, people assign meanings that are learned over a lifetime, to their dress. These meanings are tied to the aspects of dress, place and time, and are constantly undergoing change. As Nancy Rudd and Sharron Lennon (2000) have discovered, it is pretty clear from our surroundings that the dress one wears affects his ideas about himself. How we see ourselves influences our attitudes, our beliefs, and our values. Believing that one’s appearance is undesirable to others may lead people to drastic limits to change their appearance including engaging in risky body modification behaviors to achieve the desired size and shape (Jaeha Lee & Kim Johnson, 2009). Such beliefs lead to the development of inferiority complexes and people may start to doubt themselves causing a declination in the level of their confidence and self worth. In her research, Sally Francis (1992) uncovered that believing that one does not own appropriate items for dress or that one does not look pleasing to the eyes in terms of physical appearance can prevent individuals from participating in events and interacting with others. How we appear to others may also affect how they respond to us. We tend to consider what a formally dressed person is saying to us more seriously than what a casually dressed person is saying regardless of the manner of their speech. A research was conducted in 1996 by Joan Gorham, Stanley Cohen, Tracy Morris & Huffman in which they studied the impact of the instructor’s attire on the student’s perceptions of the teacher’s competence. The students were given lectures by three instructors; one in a formal attire, another in semi formal, and the third was casually dressed. Similar study was conducted by Samuel Menahem and Pesach Shvartzman in 1998 in which they tried to evaluate patients response to doctors on the basis of the doctors clothing style. Patients prefer a more formal dressing for male and female physicians in family medicine clinics. People with multiple tattoos and piercings, may have them as a defense mechanism to ward people off as such body alterations do tend scare others away. According to Frith and Gleeson (2004) people wear clothes according to the image they want to construct in their working environment. It is logical that one would avoid wearing the clothes one wears at home to work as mentioned previously. Self efficacy is a concept of Albert Bandura (1995) which makes a difference in how people feel, think and act. A low sense of self-efficacy is associated with depression, anxiety, and helplessness, whereas individuals with high self efficacy choose to perform more challenging tasks, invest more effort and persistence, and, when faced with unsuccessful attempts, recover more quickly. Hence according to Joy Peluchette, Katherine Karl and Kathleen Rust (2006), for some individuals ( those who have high clothing interest and those who see the value clothing), dressing appropriately for work may result not only in feeling more competent, but also being able to perform more effectively on a variety of tasks.
As aforementioned, the clothes we wear influence our thoughts and self worth. Feelings of confidence and self assurance are much more emphasized if we believe we look good and anxiety and doubt are triggered if we do not trust our looks. In 2002, in their study, Bettina Hannover and Ulrich Kühnen found that participants described themselves in a way that was consistent with how they were dressed. Thus, the clothing worn by these individuals influenced their thoughts about themselves.
Once our perceptions concerning ourselves alter with the change in our appearance, it also exerts influence on our behaviors. Researchers, Barbara Fredrickson, Tomi-Ann Roberts, Stephanie Noll, Diane Quinn, and Jean Twenge found that when women put on a swimsuit as part of a research project, they performed more poorly on a subsequent math test than other women who put on a sweater (1998). Mark Frank and Thomas Gillovich (1988) found that male football players and male ice hockey players who wore black uniforms played more aggressively (as evidenced by the number of penalties awarded) than players wearing white jerseys. In the study these researchers had participants wear either black jerseys or white ones and asked participants to indicate the type of games they wanted to play. As compared to participants wearing white jerseys, those wearing black jerseys selected more aggressive games to play.
If wearing varying types of clothes have broad influences on the wearer’s attitudes, beliefs and personality does a person’s characteristics and behavior lay an impact on what he prefers to wear? You probably will not expect to see a disciplined person who holds authority in the get up of a beggar, nor a beggar wearing a suit and a tie. When we see a person in an elegant suit, walking gracefully, we immediately tend to think he is an overall neat person who has a smart way of doing things and so the person instantaneously strikes our likeness. Studies have shown that undergoing traumatic life experiences can also exert constraints on dress. The goal was of self-protection including changing their dress to shield themselves from future assaults. They desired to dress themselves so that they would not draw the attention of anyone. In regard to a person’s personality laying impact in his choice of dress, Simine Vazire, Laura Naumann, Peter Rentfrow, and Samual Gosling (2008) conducted a study in which they found out that people who had a narcissistic attitude considered themselves quite good looking and groomed themselves and wore stylish and costly clothes accordingly.
In conclusion, we can see all the above mentioned researches that while the dress one wears, may be to lay an impact of one’s authority or power on other’s or to gain their trust, it may also be re assure one self of one’s worth and his abilities. Yet, how one appears does not only influence behaviors and expectations, we also get an insight of the persons personality and likes and dislikes when we observe how they dress and carry themselves.
References
Christman, L., & Branson, D. (1990). Influence of physical disability and dress of female job applicants on interviewers. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 8(3), 51-57.
Francis, S. (1992). Effect of perceived clothing deprivation on high school student social participation. Clothing and Textiles Research Journals, 10(2), 29-33.
Frank, M. G. & Gilovich, T. (1988). The Dark Side of Self and Social Perception: Black Uniforms and Aggression in Professional Sports. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(1), 74–85.
Fredrickson, B., Roberts, T., Noll, S., Quinn, D., & Twenge, J. (1998). That Swimsuit Becomes You: Sex Differences in Self-objectification, Restrained Eating, and Math Performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 269–284.
Frith, H., & Gleeson, K. (2004). Clothing and embodiment: Men managing body image and appearance. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 5(1), 40-48.
Hannover, B., & Kuhnen, U. (2002). “The Clothing Makes the Self” via Knowledge Activation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(12), 2513–2525.
Lee, J. & Johnson, K. (2009). Factors relating to engagement in risky appearance management behaviors. Clothing and Textiles Research Journals, 27(3), 163-178.
Menahem, S., & Shvartzman, P. (1998). Is our appearance important to our patients? Family Practice, 15(5), 391-397.
Morris, T., Gorham, J., Cohen, S., & Huffman, D. (1996). Fashion in the classroom: Effects of attire on student perceptions of instructors in college classes. Communication Education, 45(2), 135-148.
Peluchette, J., Karl, K. & Rust, K. (2006). Dressing to Impress: Beliefs and Attitudes Regarding Workplace Attire. Journal of Business and Psychology, 21(1), 45-63. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25473469.
Pine, K. (2011). The affect of appearance on first impression. Mind What you Wear. Retrieved from http://karenpine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Executive-summary_The-Effect-of-Appearance-on-First-Impressions.pdf
Roach-Higgins, M.E., & Eicher, J. B. (1992). Dress and Identity. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 10(4), 1–8.
Rudd, N. and , Lennon, S. (2000). Body appearance and appearance management behaviors in College Women. Clothing and Textile Research Journal, 18(3), 152-162.
Vazire, S, Naumann, L., Rentfrow, P., & Gosling, S. (2008). Portrait of a Narcissist: Manifestations of Narcissism in Physical Appearance. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1439–1447.

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