Whatever Happened to Dressing Up?


I'm such an oddball.  I so believe in dressing up.  I'm one of those people who always shows up over-dressed.  Better over-dressed than under-dressed is my motto.  The truth is, I really believe appearances matter.  Not because it affects who you are as a person, but because it tells the world who you think you are as a person.  And it definitely affects who the world thinks you are.

There was a time when people took pride in their appearance.  They took care to put their best foot forward, always dressing to impress; because whether you accept it or not, first impressions are lasting.  Let's face it, knowing you look good does wonders for your self-esteem and confidence.  There are a lot of people out there who don't want to hear this.  It's superficial.  People should be judged for what is on the inside; for their actions; for their soul.  Of course this is intrinsically true.  Nonetheless, people will make judgements about you within the first few seconds of meeting you.  The way you dress and present yourself will play a major role on what you get from life: a job, influence, respect, power.  Your clothes send social signals that can be very significant, even if not always true.

It's not a strictly human thing either.  The animal world is full of examples of how important visual cues are for the very survival and proliferation of the species.  A lion's mane, a peacock's feathers, a deer's antlers, all important for an individual animal's ability to procreate--the ultimate measure of success in the natural world.  In the plant kingdom, the more beautiful a flower, and more fragrant a flower, the more likely it will be pollinated, thus ensuring the continuation of the species.  Again, the ultimate measure of success.  As humans, we have evolved beyond those basic instincts.  Regardless, we are still biological beings and are still driven by those innate instincts.  We are programmed to make judgements based on first appearances.  Unlike plants and animals, we are able to control our appearance beyond what nature has given us.  We control the visual signals we put out in the world.  Dressing to impress is important, and a key factor in our ultimate success.  Not just because of those critical first impressions, but also because how it affects our performance and confidence.

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There is scientific data to substantiate this claim.  In an article published in Scientific American, Jan. 1 2016, authors Matthew Hudson and Tori Rodriguez write about several studies that show how clothes can affect your mental and physical performance.  One of the studies they refer to (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Dec. 2014) showed how clothes affected negotiations.  When a group of men dressed up for the negotiation process, they were more successful at the negotiation than the group that dressed more casually.  And both of those groups were more successful than a group that wore sweats.

Karen Pine, a psychologist and author of Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion wrote in an article in the Huffington Post:


"What you wear affects you psychologically.  It can profoundly alter your mood.  It also influences how others respond to you.  And the visual illusion created by cut and fabric dramatically changes the appearance of your body.  Your clothes can affect your job prospects, your love life and even your self-image."

The evidence is overwhelming.  How you present yourself to the world is important.  I ask you, isn’t it worth a few minutes of your time to put some thought and care into how you leave your home?  It’s worthwhile.