The Psychology of Fashion


Have you ever considered the fact that your wardrobe has a psychological aspect?! Well I think it's time we delve into and recognize how fashion affects us psychologically, because it does. Of course fashion has always played a role in society and how we form perceptions, it serves as a visual indication of our status, culture, beliefs, gender and so much more. But how did what we wear become something we buy into so emphatically that it's now normal to shop and consume constantly? In fact, the act of shopping has become so normalized that it is widely considered a hobby and an acceptable social event. 

Is it the rise of social media, constantly feeding into our desire to fit in and not miss out on a certain trend or style. We simply must have a garment just because everyone else has it. Or could it be the abundance of shopping malls that offer everything one might need to spend a whole day all under one roof. Maybe it's the retail landscape in general, with companies continually driving their revenue through sales that offer too good to be true bargains. Whatever the specifics of how we started down this path we need to acknowledge our reality. We've reached a point where making a new purchase and wearing something new actually impacts our emotions and makes us feel what we think is happiness. 

So there it is, happiness. The whole truth of how fashion and psychology are related comes down to the belief that it fuels our happiness. This isn't a completely bad thing, of course something you purchase should evoke happiness inside you, why would you buy it otherwise, but when is enough enough? What amount of clothing will make us happy, or is it simply the act of purchasing that makes us happy? Why can't we be happy with what we already have in our wardrobes?  

I want to share two personal examples to help illustrate how psychology plays into fashion:

Case Study 1

A few months ago I discovered a beautiful pink top at a second hand store which made me so happy because it's the perfect colour, style and price at only $ of course I immediately bought it. What I've since wondered is, would I have been as excited if I'd found this top in a fast fashion store? And conversely, did the fact that it's one of a kind impact my desire to buy it and therefore not miss out? Thinking back on the last three months since I've owned the top I've probably worn it a grand total of five how happy does it really make me? Granted, not all clothing is going to fit into the high rotation portion of your wardrobe and as long as you're confident it will be something you'll wear for years you're sure to reach the 30 wears benchmark making it a purchase that is deemed ok. So yeah, it was a guilt free purchase but it also fed my psychological need for something new at the time even though it fit the criteria of a top I'd been looking for.

Case Study 2 

A brand I recently made my first purchase with was having a sale last week and I considered buying a second colour in a striped dress that I already own, and absolutely love. I have had so much wear out of this dress since it arrived in my wardrobe that having a second colour made complete sense...and it was on sale, half price in fact! But I didn't trigger the purchase. Instead I acknowledged the psychological push behind the purchase and understood it wasn't going to change my life, yes I'd feel joy on that day and on the day it got delivered but if I wanted another striped dress I could find one at any point in my life and right now I don't really need it. I already have clothes to wear! Plus do I really need the same dress in two colors, maybe, because I wear it so often, but wouldn't that mean I'd just wear the one I already have less?!

The point of these stories is not to say that purchasing the same garment in multiple colors is bad or that you should only make purchases that will be in high rotation in your wardrobe. It's simply to highlight how psychology played into two different shopping scenarios and how we can all become more aware of the pull of happiness in order to positively impact our purchase decisions.

So next time you're considering a new purchase, be cognizant of the role psychology is playing. Address your motivation behind the purchase and acknowledge whether the purchase will evoke happiness for a long should feel the same emotion time and again from a garment.