How Fashion Affects Self-Esteem and How Clothes Reflect Your Personality

Do you ever notice if the clothes you wear correlate with your mood or self-image? How fashion affects our self-esteem is an important topic when dealing with self worth and living your best life. Clothing does reflect personality and ultimately confidence. So it’s worthwhile to take a deeper look into what you’re reaching for in your closet and how to make fashion choices work best for you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in my closet with complete disdain. It’s like that cliché, “I haven’t a thing to wear!” I’m totally feeling that. This is especially the case when I’m looking for an outfit to help me feel empowered and self-confident. I can never seem to find anything to fit the bill. Sadly I’m relatively certain this has more to do with me and how I see myself than the selection of clothes I own. In any case, it’s got me thinking about the impact my fashion choices, as well as the fashion industry, have on my self-image and the other way around. I’ve come to realize that it’s not necessarily my wardrobe that needs the makeover, but it’s my self-esteem and perception of what it means to feel validated in some way.

Many of us subscribe to the notion that the clothes we wear are simply a reflection of our personality and not necessarily how we measure our self worth. If you relate to this mindset – that you’re in control of what you wear – then you’re not all that wrong. Um, but you’re not completely right either. The gist is that either way, clothing is important to our overall well-being in various ways. Whether it’s your mood, personality or self-esteem, there’s a respective impact to what we wear. Let’s look the relationship between clothing and perception, and explore this powerful influence and connection between self-esteem and fashion.

Does Clothing Reflect Personality and Behavior?

So I’ve been doing some research, and as a result – self-examination, on the idea that clothing is merely a reflection of personality. I believe overall yes. We all have a “style” right? Some like bling. Others find floral prints appealing. Someone who is generally happy most of the time may gravitate toward brighter colors. Or if you’re the quiet or introverted type, maybe you favor clothes that cover your skin a bit more. Non-nonsense type? Nothing like a pair of Levis.

No doubt there’s a correlation between personality types and the clothing they select and reflect. Well it’s also important to realize that there are many exceptions to these correlations. Just like you cannot judge a book by it’s cover, there’s a whole lot more to a person than what they have on.

It could be just your mood or simply convenience that dictates what you have on on any given day.

So yes, clothing can definitely be a reflection of who you are in many ways. However in terms of personality? Not all of the time. Many people wear certain brands or styles of clothes to attempt fitting in, impress someone (yes unfortunately our aversion to conformity doesn’t end in middle school). While others don’t take much stock in to the latest trends and just wear the clothes they have sitting on the top of the laundry basket.

Personally, too often I’ve succumbed to brand and image worshiping. Meaning, if I wear this (insert over-priced, trendy, name brand here), I’ll fit in, or look important, or impress others. It’s tempting (and common) to overspend or over extend ourselves in order to seek validation or acceptance. Yet, it’s important to realize (and remind ourselves) that any validation you think you need can not be found via the clothes you’re wearing.

How Much Does Self-Esteem Really Cost? Perception Has a Price

Next time you’re at a store, or a car dealership, or anywhere else that you can make a conscious decision about your shopping outcome, just pause before you open you wallet. It’s time to ask yourself if an item appeals to you mostly because of its brand name and symbolism behind it. Being brand conscious is when we wear something because its logo is a representation of status. Are we really just paying for perception? It may make us feel superior or that it will strengthen our sense of belonging to a desirable socio-economic status. There’s an emotional high, a sexy connection even, to whatever-it-is that inanimate piece of material represents.

Watch the eye-opening video below where Payless hires an ad agency to set up a high-end, posh, oh and fake, shoe boutique. They advertised the shoe store under the name Palessi and invited the fashion industry’s top online influencers from the Los Angeles area. Their goal was to see if these fashion influencers would react differently and more favorably under what they were to perceive as a luxury brand.

This provocative social experiment was so convincing that these unsuspecting LA fashion influencers were willing to pay up to 118% (that’s over $600!) more than the actual cost of the footwear. Turns out that they were indeed sold on Palessi’s (oops I mean Payless) craftsmanship, hot, trendy styles and worth-the-price-value. So take a quick look at this telling example of how easily perception influences our buying habits. This also depicts what many of us are willing (well maybe in this case, we wish) to pay for status and what we think luxury should cost. Please leave me a comment below with your reaction, I’d love to hear your thoughts of the clothing and perception connection (and the rest of this article of course).

Okay so I get it, it’s almost unavoidable not to get a little caught up from sexy brand marketing. To adopt some of the characteristics associated with an item of clothing or a designer brand that is symbolic of status is really easy and common. It’s just whether you allow a logo that you wear be worth more than who you are inside.

This doesn’t mean that you are a shallow person because you allow yourself to feel great in a sexy pair of Jimmy Choos! A little self-indulgence can feel rejuvenating and uplifting. Just promise yourself you are the one making any fashion choices, not society and not a self-deception mindset of lies that something from the outside will make you feel worthy on the inside. Let’s now take a look at what drives our fashion choices on a deeper level.

What is Enclothed Cognition – Well it’s Why Clothes are Important!

I came across an eye-opening study by two of Northwestern University’s cognitive researchers, Hajo Adam and Adam Galinksy. The researchers found that a person’s fashion choices have a powerful impact on not only a person’s psychological state, but even one’s level of performance. The term they coined for this thought phenomenon is unclothed cognition.

Enclothed cognition captures the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes…our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts, including those generated by the clothing we wear. Clothing can enhance our psychological states, and it can improve our performance on tasks

– Positive Psychology News

So given these findings, it’s clear, and no wonder, that many of us intentionally choose to wear clothes that will create a desired emotional or psychological state. Why is this important? Mainly because your fashion choices result in an enhancement of your ability to perform at your best. Translation: your subconscious is actually empowering you to rise above that low self-esteem. Pretty cool.

In this sense, using expression in fashion to uplift your mood is a highly effective way to raise your self-esteem. With a higher level of self-esteem, we are more empowered to perform well at work or feel more social and outgoing. This is simply another avenue to help you do your personal best which is fueled by more positive mindset. So thank you Loehmanns!

Fashion Choices and Dressing for Confidence and Joy

Here’s another revealing video by TEDx Talks about clothing and perception and as the presenter calls it – congruent living from the inside-out. We learn about congruent living as it relates to if and how fashion choices define us, and more. It’s about being true to what you wear on the outside be congruent to who you are on the inside. Even beyond fashion, to always work towards making outside choices, ie. job, friendships, relationships, actions reflect who you are on the inside.

This is an uplifting and powerful talk by Stasia Savasuk, a style coach and body-positivity advocate. She shares her personal story about redefining style and wardrobe in order to live an authentic life. Stasia mainly shares how she tried to protect her 5-year-old daughter by conforming to today’s widely- and often blindly-accepted rules perpetuated by the fashion industry and society. But it was her young daughter’s persistence, inner knowing and self-esteem that transformed Stasia’s understanding of how crucial style and the clothes we wear are to our sense of self.

Do You Need to Dress the Part to Feel Empowered and Raise Your Self-Esteem?

Well go ahead and dress for success. Whether it’s for your inner self-satisfaction or a desired outcome you are looking to achieve, we now know the pros and cons. Whatever you own in a physical sense will never measure up to or exceed your worth as a person. Just remain mindful that the clothes you wear do not make you any more worthy of finding happiness or success. Those intangibles were included with the beautiful skin you were born in.

So just as clothes don’t entitle you to be treated any differently, remember to try and avoid the worshiper mindset in that someone else is better than you simply because the scarf they wear is cashmere.

Once the game is over, the King and the Pawn go back in the same box.” – Italian Proverb

I try to keep this in mind whenever I see all of the hoopla surrounding celebrities. After researching how fashion affects self-esteem, I’m so much more mindful about not only what I wear but how I perceive others. This goes for both people I know and those I don’t. It’s pretty easy to fall in to a mindset of unworthiness when you see someone all decked out in pricey, branded attire. Seeking approval and validation is a common human tendency. I’ve noticed I’ll even change my clothes before heading to the grocery store. So for that very reason, just the other day caught myself hesitating before running errands. Should I change? As I was sporting my yoga pants, I decided, nope don’t change a damn thing.

How Clothing Affects Behavior

How fashion affects self-esteem

Now that we know the psychological connection between clothes and performance, it’s time to use that information to our advantage. Do you have an important meeting coming up? Pick out that power suit or the red blouse that screams confidence! Don’t forget with fashion includes accessories. For women that may mean jewelry or a hairstyle you feel makes the statement you need. For men, a tie or those shoes you’ve been saving for a non-rainy day so they don’t get too weathered. Whatever it is, be intentional with your choices. Allow your personality to shine through.

While insecurity or low self-esteem comes from the inside, what you wear on the outside is a helpful step in nurturing your self-image. Be the one in control of your wardrobe, and continually stay in touch with the force driving your fashion choices. Your mindset and behavior is what you truly own.

How to Dress with Confidence … Don’t Forget to Wear it on the Inside

Sure fashion is often a way we express our mood, whether conscious or not. And we know mood affects behavior. When I’m feeling bummed out or depressed, I breakout the sweatpants and oversized hoodie. Is that so wrong? Nah, I know I’m in good company. For me, sweats feel comfy, safe and familiar. Yet now that I think about it with a bit more insight, rarely have I felt myself uplifted and ready for success after having worn my cozy and trusty sweatpants all day.

How fashion affects self-esteem and clothes reflect personality are important to self-image.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel comfortable and indulge in what’s familiar. I mean, life is busy, do we really need one more thing to stress about or spend our hard-earned money on? With that said, let’s just make more conscious choices about what we put on and how we react to others’ fashion choices too.

So whether you’re reaching for your old college hoodie or your smoking’ hot heels, ask yourself what do I want to say to the world and to myself today. You bet there’s nothing wrong with glamming it up a little when it feels right. Men, get your trendy on too! Whatever boosts your mood and empowers you with heightened and healthy self-esteem is awesome. As long as you’re not identifying yourself with what (or who) you have on, I believe anything goes.

After all life is not a red carpet. Yes you want others to respond to you in a positive way and clothes do instigate those reactions. But does fashion define you? No, self-esteem begins and ends ultimately on the inside. So be sure to invest fully on what’s inside first so that you will enjoy the self-confidence, beauty and success that transcends from there on out. After all, you don’t need to own the best … to always Own Your Best.

Clothing and Perception – What are Your Thoughts?


  1. Great article. As I get grow wiser and older I’m definitely more comfortable in my own skin and my fashion choices. Although sometimes I don’t want to dress too young for my age as I do feel “young at heart”.

    • Thanks so much for the positive feedback Patricia 🙂
      I relate, I am also growing more comfortable in my own skin and feel more and more confident in terms of what I wear.
      Stay young at heart <3

  2. Thanks for the wonderful article!

  3. Loved the article, some important messages and lessons. Something I really need to address in my attitude towards clothing!

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