What if it could be proven that fashion could inflict positive effects on class participation? What if wearing an outfit that embraces one’s style increases their confidence? Would this relay into the classroom as well? Can fashion have an influence on a student’s academic performance simply by instilling them with confidence? The research that I have undertaken has provided me with this answer.
Indulging into the speculative arena of fashion and the implications it could give for classroom potential when sampling whether clothing increases confidence and therefore academic participation was the research my partner, Hannah, and I investigated. Upon our findings I have deduced that the research practise implied that confidence is interlinked with fashion for many different reasons.
To address this ideology, 94.3% of participants agreed that how you dress stimulates confidence. This strong quantitative evidence illustrates from the start that students believe that fashion influences one’s confidence in class. However, investigating the reasons behind this perception is imperative to understanding the implications fashion provides for classroom potential.
When prompted to provide reason for this overwhelming answer supporting confidence in class derived by fashion, most participants answered with explanations of ‘comfort’. Summarising these answers, participants felt that dressing ‘good’ created confidence and therefore comfort in general. Whether this was in or out of class, participants recorded that they felt comfortable to participate and more likely to learn when feeling comfortable in their own skin, “Both increased confidence in asking and drawing attention to myself, so being an active member of the classroom, and being comfortable to be in the classroom. Basically if I feel confident with what I wear I am more likely to be in a good frame of mind to learn and be present.” This answer summaries this theory. Alternatively, participants determined that feeling confident in class as a response to fashion was a repercussion of a minimisation in insecurity. The perception of other’s and their judgement is decreased when the participant feels confident and comfortable by clothing themselves in their ‘personal style’. Overall, an expression of feeling comfortable in one’s ‘own skin’ and therefore disregarding perceptions of others was an additional outlook on why participants felt more confident academically when wearing clothes they like.
Subsequently, possessing this prefixed idea that confidence within oneself is stimulated through fashion, participants have differing perceptions of what is most important to factor into clothing choices. Prevailing of all the options, this concept of personal style is shaped by aspects such as, “an individual’s clothing style is influenced by aspects of self-concept such as identity, value, attitude, and mood.” (Kodzoman, 2019) (Reed, 1973).
Thus, through these responses a link between fashion and confidence influencing self-esteem which creates positive effects on one’s attitudes is identified and supported by Carolyn Mair, “Nethertheless, clothing and fashion can be used in many positive ways to enhance our life chances, self-esteem and wellbeing. Once more, these are psychological constructs.” (Mair, 2018). This psychological component of our research is my focus point for this opinion piece. Investigating the legitimacy of recording confidence as a natural psychological phenomenon that occurs when wearing a particular outfit within one’s ‘personal style’ was supported by 74.3% of participants. What does this psychological phenomenon mean? and does it really derive confidence through experiencing fashion?
Researchers believe that academic content on fashion and psychology is underappreciated, determining the origins of fashion and reasoning that it is indeed related to psychology, “Because fashion is inherently concerned with human behaviour, it can be considered a form of psychology” (Mair, 2018). Fashion affects the mentality of the wearer and vice-versa. Depending on differing components such as mood and attitude, fashion choices have an overall emotional affect upon the wearer. ““Sontag and Lee  recognized the importance of body image in relation to clothing and included a body image dimension in the Proximity of Clothing to Self scale. They stated that body image may affect clothing behaviour and clothing may affect body image and self-feelings. Thus, how we perceive our bodies can affect how we use clothing.” (Sontag and Lee, 2004) (Kodzoman, 2019). Articulating this scale means to consider how fashion can increase feelings of confidence and self-esteem as we manipulate it accordingly to our body and our desires.
Academics have delved into the subject of fashion as an experience, unveiling emotions in a cognitive process, “We argue that just like physical experiences, the experience of wearing clothes triggers associated abstract concepts and their symbolic meanings.” (Adam & Galinsky, 2012) this is known as Enclothed Cognition. Interviewees supplied us with answers concerning confidence as a result of a psychological phenomenon, agreeing that ‘feeling good’ is a natural reaction to wearing something that accentuates one’s personal style.
Researchers explain this process thoroughly as an amalgamation of many senses responding to clothed experience, “Cognitive representations are based on modal, perceptual content that is based in the brain’s sensory system for perception (e.g. vision, audition) action (e.g. movement, proprioception) and introspection (e.g. mental states, affect).” (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). Confidence is stimulated via these experiences, proving the theory that clothing manipulates one’s emotional state through a cognitive process, “These findings indicate that the effects of wearing a piece of clothing on the wearers psychological processes cannot be reduced to a simple material priming process, and thus they add important explanatory variance above and beyond material priming effects” (Adam & Galinsky, 2012).
Correspondingly, a handful of participants reasoned with cultural conformity stimulating confidence, which is concerned with the symbolism clothing entails, “As a cultural phenomenon, fashion is concerned with meanings and symbols which provide instant visual communication to be interpreted and responded to by those we interact with” (Mair, 2018). An interviewee gave us an epitome of this cognition by reasoning that fashion can be an attraction to particular pop-culture groups and references, “i think my own personal style so i like giving off that certain aura so i’m a fan of wearing like fan merchandise items because a lot of the friends i made through uni are through fandom”.
Therefore, outside of the natural occurrence of a psychological reaction to fashion, cultural conformity may additionally embody a role in confidence, desiring to galvanise a particular impression from the connotations clothing provides, “Thus from a cognitive approach, clothing or other appearance cues are viewed as stimuli that may be selected by a perceiver in order to understand an observed person” (Kodzoman, 2019).
Overall, confidence as a result of a psychological phenomena is supported by many academics including the Enclothed Cognition concept, indicating a coherent source of emotional response to fashion. Cultural conformity is a second stimulus to confidence, combining symbolic meanings and the inherent psychological repercussions of clothing, “Hence we propose a basic cognition of enclothed cognition – the effects of clothing on people’s psychological processes depend on both a) the symbolic meaning of the clothes and b) whether people are actually wearing the clothes.” (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). Confidence is a demonstration of psychological reactions analysing the relevant cultural milieu and utilising symbols to illustrate a perception of oneself in reflection of their self-identity.
Adam H & Galinsky A D (2012) “Enclothed Cognition” journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 48 pp 918-925
Kodzoman, D (2019) The Psychology of Clothing: Meaning of Colours, Body Image and Gender Expression in Fashion” University of Zagreb, Croatia