4 Fashion Psychology Secrets You Should Know

By Yuliya Klochan
Medill Reports

The global fashion industry hit $1.9 trillion in retail apparel and footwear sales in 2019, according to Statisticalthe United States becoming the largest clothing market. And what Americans wear has major consequences for their physical and mental well-being.

“If you felt good in your dress, felt good about yourself, and that inner confidence was on fire, it’s that inner light that shines through my entire design process,” Don O’Neill said. , designer of evening and made-to-measure clothing. bridal wear that has dressed celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle and Carrie Underwood. “When you walked into a room in one of my dresses, I wanted people to say, ‘You look great,’ instead of ‘That dress was awesome.’ It was about you rather than the dress.

According Statistical.

Secret #1: Can’t stop buying Prada? The psychology of brand addiction.

Brand dependence is different for luxury brands compared to fast fashion brands. Those who follow fast fashion are fueled by a desire to stay up to date and “keep up with the buzz,” says marketing and fashion expert Mona Mrad. (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

“One of the attendees, he said, ‘Apple is like your wife. Can you divorce your wife? recalls Mona Mrad, assistant professor of marketing at the American University of Sharjah.

Mrad and her colleagues ran a series of focus groups to explore the concept of brand addiction (BA), and she has many stories to tell, some published in a later article. study in 2018 in Business Research Journal.

A woman enrolled in college for a master’s degree so she could get a better-paying job to buy Chanel. Another contestant’s brother convinced everyone around him to buy Hugo Boss. And one man recalled how his friend, having run out of clothes in the middle of a trip to Rome, convinced his group of friends to shop for a Ralph Lauren boutique with him, as he wasn’t ready to wear another brand .

BA is defined as “a psychological state that involves an emotional attachment to a particular brand, driven by compulsive urges that typically provide pleasure,” according to research. paper published by Mrad in Qualitative market research in 2018.

BA can activate the same brain area linked to other addictive behaviors such as alcoholism, but it is not the same as compulsive buying, although the two conditions can coexist. In fact, the presence of BA – which gives people a sense of gratification by buying their favorite brand’s products – may mitigate the negative effects of compulsive buying, according to a 2020 study. study co-written by Mrad and published in Business Research Journal.

One brand addict described her experience shopping for a coat as follows: “‘This brand screams Emily,'” Mrad recalled. “You feel it’s you, it’s who you are. And that’s why you become addicted to this brand – because it represents you. It gives you that kind of mark, that kind of positioning of who you are.

Secret #2: What people wear influences the way they think and feel

models dressed in men's clothing
In a work-from-home environment, more and more people are opting out of matching highs and lows in favor of a “Zoom mullet”. (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

The “Zoom mule”, according to Urban dictionary, is “business up, pajama bottoms”. Many have adopted this attire in the age of remote working, but what are the psychological consequences?

One January 2022 studyPosted in Management Discovery Academyshowed that wearing full house attire, top and bottom, increased worker authenticity and engagement, whereas neither full work attire nor the “Zoom mullet” had these positive effects.

This experiment is one of many exploring the concept of “enveloped cognition”, coined in 2012 to describe how “what we wear can influence the way we think, feel and act”. In this first 2012 studyPosted in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers observed that wearing a doctor’s coat increased people’s attentiveness. They did not observe this improvement when participants were given the same garment, but were told it was a painter’s coat.

A multi-university research team failed to replicate the lab coat study with a larger sample in a 2019 experiencebut, given that there are other studies of enveloped cognition, the 2019 experiment did not fully debunk the theory.

More recent experiments, besides the one on the Zoom mule, reveal new ways in which what people wear influences their behavior. In a 2022 paperPosted in Trends in Psychology, wearing anti-COVID-19 masks has made people more willing to be spontaneous, at least in imaginary social interactions. In a 2019 studyPosted in Psychological reportsthe researchers demonstrated that participants wearing police uniforms were more likely to shoot unarmed targets in a first-person video game simulation.

Secret #3: Painful Heels and Restrictive Skirts: The Role of Gender in Fashion Choices

shelf with colorful stilettos
Studies have shown that wearing heels can increase perceived attractiveness, but also the risk of chronic muscle and skeletal problems. (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

“My mom always said, ‘Vanity knows no pain,'” recalls Kathlin Argiro, evening wear designer and teacher at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “It’s a very old saying, but I wouldn’t say I prescribe that.” Argiro has sold her collection to Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s.

“If you don’t feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing, you’re not going to have fun, and it’s going to show,” Argiro said. But not all designers agree, and people continue to wear clothes that can be uncomfortable and even physically taxing.

The burden falls primarily on women, who are far more likely to wear clothing or footwear that falls into one or more of the painful, distracting, or restrictive categories. These results, collected before the pandemic, were published in a 2021 study paper in Sex roles. The most striking contrasts were gender differences in shoe comfort: women were up to 10 times more likely to wear painful shoes. Up to 55% of women, but only up to 12% of men, said they had worn clothes that left “red marks or welts” on their bodies.

Secret #4: How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected fashion choices

models in evening wear
Retail stores have an average inventory turnover rate of nearly 11, according to Investopedia. This means that stores, on average, restock their entire stock more than 10 times a year due to high demand. (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

“What (the pandemic) has done is realign a lot of values ​​that people have and what they seek to take away from clothing and other fashion-related items,” said Michael Solomon, professor of marketing at the Saint Joseph University. “The biggest change is probably the awareness of sustainability.”

Solomon said the lockdown has given people time to reflect on their values, which has led to rethinking fast fashion and buying from companies that haven’t expressed social responsibility.

O’Neill shared a similar sentiment: “I think there’s been a global awareness of where your clothes are coming from,” he said. Fashion school graduate designers know the origin of their products and the manufacturing process, striving to make it ethical and renewable materials.

Customers are also catching up. “I feel like the pandemic has shone a light on sustainability and environmental fashion, responsible sourcing and responsible fashion,” O’Neill said. Today’s customers also demand transparency.

“It’s not that we stopped buying,” Mrad said. “We will continue to buy, but we will buy differently.” The tendency of consumers is to buy products intended more for comfort than for display. Hard items — those fashion pieces, like Rolex watches and luxury handbags, that last longer — sell better than soft items because people view their new products more as investments. “I’d rather buy a handbag that’s going to be valuable even after a few years, instead of buying an outfit that I don’t know if I’ll wear it or not. And then after a year, it won’t be trending anymore,” Mrad said.

Argiro isn’t planning her next collection yet, but she has some ideas about what she might change post-lockdown: “I’d probably do a really glamorous evening wear combination, but I’d also have things that were a bit more of athleisure. Ultimately, “people would like a little fancy” after being in sweatpants for so long.

Yuliya Klochan is a graduate student in health, environment and science at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @YuliyaKlochan.



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