Fashion Psychology :You Are What You Wear

Clothes are like our second skin. The clothes we put on every day tell the world who we are. They also play a major role in impacting our mood and emotions. 

Fashion psychology is a significantly newer and emerging field of psychology that studies the impact of clothing choices on how we perceive and judge each other.  

The term fashion psychology might be quite misleading since the field focuses on more than the clothing’s impact on the individual. The focus on clothing also transcends to consider other aspects that are assumed to be integral parts of self-expression and identity like cosmetics, accessories, etc. 

Fashion is a complex process that functions on many levels. Due to this, several perspectives exist on the origin and diffusion of fashion.  

Psychological Models of Fashion 

What motivates us to be fashionable? Several psychological factors like conformity, the need to express personal creativity, and sexual attraction can contribute to this motivation. Many consumers also seem to need to be unique or different from others. They however tend to conform to the basic outlines of fashion while improvising at the same time to make a personal statement. 

One of the earliest theories of fashion psychology argued that “shifting erogenous zones” are responsible for fashion changes, and that different zones become the object of interest because they reflect societal trends. For example, during the Renaissance-era women used to drape their abdomens in fabrics to give a swollen appearance; because successful childbearing was a priority in the disease-ridden 14th and 15th centuries.

Several studies also focus on how the variations in clothing influence observers’ responses. According to a study- men tended to leave higher tips for waitresses who wore red tops which reflects the "dress for success" phenomenon which is based on the belief that appearance directly impacts the way people are treated.   

The role of clothing in mate selection was also emphasized in research which suggests that clothing gives us a similar ability to distinguish ourselves from a crowd to find a mate. This is similar to the signaling theory where the peacock displays its feathers to attract a mate. 

How can fashion psychology be used? 

In marketing, the psychology of fashion might play an integral role to determine and understand the factors that play a role in the acceptance of fashion. It is beneficial for marketers to understand the factors that make it likely a product will be adopted by a group of consumers, and who need to predict how long that product will continue to stay in fashion. So, part of fashion psychology focuses on changes in acceptance over time. For instance- a classic is a fashion with a long acceptance cycle adopted by a fairly large group. On the other hand, a fad is a short-lived fashion or trend that can spread quickly but is adopted by lesser people. 

Carolyn Mair also explains why and how psychologists can help solve some of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry in the present and the future. The fashion industry has a poor reputation when it comes to social responsibility and psychologists can help with these issues of sustainability. 

They can help the consumers change their habits through developing behavior change programs, and they can also help in predicting demands so that there's far less wastage during the manufacturing process. Currently, fashion forecasters employ their intuition or gut feeling but psychologists are well trained in data analysis and this is another area they can put their knowledge to predict the upcoming trends. 

Moreover, due to the ever-increasing options in the consumer industry, they are becoming more and more demanding and now they require much more to be satisfied. With this, the fashion retail companies have to give consumers a fantastic experience and psychologists are probably the best people that can help design a fantastic experience.

Lastly, fashion psychologists can also be employed with people who are "shopaholics" or people who shop excessively to deal with negative emotions or to feel pleasure. This eventually becomes a habit and a part of their identity. This can be tackled by changing their habits through structured behavior change programs so they can learn to identify what are the habits, and the triggers that encourage them to go out and buy more. These interventions can turn this situation into a win-win situation so they have more money in their pockets to enjoy experiences rather than material objects. This will also be better and more sustainable for the environment in the longer run. 


Fashion is a lot more than the clothes we wear. Fashion psychology is related to marketing, consumer behavior, self-expression, self-identity, environment, etc. When employed appropriately, it can be helpful for everyone who wants to use fashion to upgrade several aspects of their lives. 


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