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Enclothed Cognition and Why What you Wear Matters

Enclothed Cognition and Why What you Wear Matters

Enclothed Cognition and Why What you Wear Matters

While NYC is one of the epicenters of incredible fashion and style, there are still many in the city and in the sprawling vastness of the modern world that do not hold clothing in much reverence.

Here at Clever Alice, however, we understand the power of clothing--not only the effect that looking chic in a new dress might have on our immediate mood or how others perceive us, but also how they impact our deeper psychology and behavior. 


The Idea:

In a 2012 article, Author Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky explore one idea in the large literature behind the science of clothing. It explores the idea behind enclothed cognition which is "the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes.”

A fitness guru might admonish you against an unhealthy diet and say, “you are what you eat,” in the same way that those who swear by enclothed cognition might posit something like, “what you wear, is what you can become.

In order to take advantage of this psychological phenomenon, you must consider two things: The symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them as highly relevant. Both must occur in unison, and then we can have a drastic impact on how we can trigger certain functions of our daily operations. We could potentially inspire ourselves to be happier, more focused, more motivated, and more physically active.

In Adam and Galinsky’s experiment, they use a lab coat to confirm that those that wear it and complete tasks requiring great focus do best when the lab coat is described as a coat belonging to a doctor rather than a painter. The symbolism behind clothing, and wearing the item can and will activate different responses in the psyche, and wearing certain clothes are better suited to complete different sorts of tasks.

In short, it’s not only what you wear, but what you interpret the piece to be for you.




Enclothed Cognition and Why What you Wear Matters


How to get the ball rolling and benefit from looking good on the daily?

When you get dressed, keep these questions in mind: Am I dressing like my future best self? Or, what are my goals for today? Choose pieces that hold the symbolic meaning of what you wish to embody and make sure you’re comfortable in it. For example, if you’ve been wanting to advance your yoga practice, ditch the sweatpants with holes in them and the tattered shirt you’ve had since college and invest in a set you love that will get you on that mat! If you do, you inevitably will end up embodying the qualities of that elusive and idealized version of you. Try to develop the qualities and behavior you seek to attain by dressing the part. By working backward, from the external to the internal, you can bypass hindrances such as laziness or self-doubt.

By dressing for the occasion, even if the occasion doesn’t call for it, you can inevitably change how you feel about yourself. This can slowly reframe your identity into a more confident and solid version of who you already are and clarify who you wish to be.


Real-world examples of the theory at work are more prevalent than ever.

With the recent corona virus outbreak, schools have switched exclusively to online classes. Many institutions that implement uniforms are making it mandatory for students to wear their uniforms at home during online class sessions in order to stimulate learning. Their goal is to cue students into subconsciously tuning in to their learning mechanisms and help them better absorb information that they might otherwise neglect in clothes they are not used to wearing when in a school setting and engaging with difficult topics.

Similarly, one of our clients recently purchased a red Porto top. Her email notified us that it was for a video conference, that she absolutely loves the top and would most likely sport it for the occasion. Although her work requires her to be virtual during this trying time, and with not much need for a stellar outfit, she recognizes that in order to present at her best, she needs to dress in a way that makes her feel powerful, competent, and completely in the zone.


Productivity at home. 

When it comes to working from home, to foster the same productivity you would in the office, you shouldn’t be wearing pajamas, even in the comfort of your own bedroom. However, enclothed cognition must be appropriately handled: You must dress authentically according to your personal style, otherwise, you’ll feel like you're in a costume. A more conservative dresser, who seeks to come out of their shell should not wear that red mini dress. Instead, they should focus on self-awareness and refine the edges of their personhood, remaining true to their comfort but elevating their pieces to meet the standard of the self they are working towards. Remember, this is a personal endeavor.


Enclothed Cognition and Why What you Wear Matters


Don’t dress for others, but dress for yourself.

Dress informed by the qualities you wish to obtain, not the qualities you think other people want to see from you. Be cautious not to overtax your natural inclinations. If it’s a Sunday and you’re pretty beat from a long week, but still want to be productive, don’t wear that incredibly gorgeous suit. Do, however, maybe put some real pants on. You’ve got this.


Aspirational pieces trigger us into action.

They trigger us to build on traits we want to enhance, to live powerfully, to unleash our creativity, to prompt us to have fun and to remind us of that self-love that we absolutely owe ourselves. It goes without saying that you can use fashion and clothing as tools of self-improvement, as machines that work to benefit you, as weapons of incredible dexterity. These means at your disposal should not be so readily disregarded. So put that armor on and sharpen those weapons: A clever woman is sure to slay in any and all battles that come her way.

By: Sonia Borz

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