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Do Clothes Give You Confidence?

“Dress for success.”
“Dress to impress.”
“Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

We’ve all experienced others judging us based on what we wear. We’re also used to putting on clothes that match the way we generally want to feel—comfortable. However, the mental impact of what we wear goes beyond the battle between being “dressed to the nines” and feeling “as comfortable as an old shoe.” 

A concept known as “enclothed cognition” acknowledges that what we wear can change our thoughts about ourselves and can even impact our performance. The researchers who coined the term concluded that putting on garments with symbolic meaning can influence the mind to take on traits associated with that meaning. Their study found that students who put on a lab coat after being told it was a doctor’s coat exhibited improved attention. The same effect did not occur when the students were told the lab coat was a painter’s coat, or when they were told it was a doctor’s coat but only looked at it and did not physically put it on. The act of wearing the lab coat, with its association to the carefulness and attentiveness of a doctor, actually influenced each student’s mind to pay more attention. 

Any of us who have worn a costume or dressed in special clothing for an event can reflect on how different the clothes made us feel inside. Costumes help us get into character. Do clothes give you confidence? It is possible that if you lack confidence from issues with your own self-worth, maybe you can trick your mind by wearing a garment you symbolically associate with confidence.

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