The Power of Clothing in Life and Work

Does what you wear impact your wellbeing, even your productivity? A couple of years ago life shifted dramatically for multitudes of people who went from working in person to working remotely or from home. And should you have had to be on an online video meeting (with the camera on), you could manage without being completely dressed up, at least from the bottom down. For many who continue to work from home they have not had to be as concerned with what they wear for work. On the other hand, research completed over the years speaks to the importance of clothing.

Colors, fit, style, prints, patterns, and fabrics, as it relates to clothing, have been shown to impact mood in positive ways, including improving confidence, for both women and men. Professors Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky of Northwestern University introduced the term “enclosed cognition”, which describes the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes, in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. I’m sure you’ve seen this for yourself - when how someone looks and feels in something makes the difference in how they feel about themselves. You might also personally relate to this.

For some testing out this theory, taking time to focus on their clothes and wear what they like, is representative of their values, expresses their individuality, and/or just makes them feel better overall, has contributed to improvements in their mental health. While clothing is not the only answer for managing wellbeing, and it is advised that one invest time and resources in other areas that bring positivity or joy, such as physical health, recreational activities, and connecting with others (and to avoid excessive spending, even addictive behaviors), it is evident that clothing matters.

What about productivity? Does what you wear contribute positively to your work performance? This is a particularly relevant question as many still work from home. The research on this has been mixed. Recent research conducted by Adam D. Galinsky, Erica Bailey, and Blaine Horton with Columbia Business School on employees working from home found that wearing what is most consistent with the context in which work is completed (home attire if working from home) contributes most to engagement. On the other hand, research has shown that dressing the part or up versus down influences your attitude/frame of mind and ability to focus. Clothes can also be used to designate specific roles, and having some separation between home and work clothes can be helpful for setting boundaries on your time and activities, starting and ending the day with the changing of home and work clothes to further represent this.

Despite the differences in the research findings, one striking similarity between the research areas is that what matters most is that you wear what feels appropriate to you or that you feel your best in. If you wear what looks good versus what feels good this can cause you to feel uncomfortable, even less confident, and detract you from your work. Wearing what looks the best can have indirect effects if it only improves others’ perceptions of you but doesn’t impact you directly in a meaningful way. This brings us to an important component of confidence.

Confidence is about being authentic, true to yourself, and overall comfortable in your own skin. What are you communicating to others through your clothing? What does what you wear say about your values and beliefs about yourself? How does this contribute to your overall sense of wellbeing and success in life and work?

Renee’s Boutique offers clothing for the Confident Woman, regardless of style or size, and provides a safe space for women to shop and embrace their bodies while understanding and loving that each of us is wonderfully made. Schedule your personal styling experience with owner Crystal Napier today! Call: (434) 260-1773 or Email:

Author: Tracee Jones

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