You get up, do your morning routine, and dress. Do you think about what you'll wear or just grab anything?
Or does it change according to the day? Fashion psychologists say there's a correlation between how you dress and your mental health, so your wardrobe may signify emotional instability. What can you do to tell?
Dr. Dawnn Karen, fashion psychologist and author of Dress Your Best Life, says "attitude and dress" are linked. Your emotional state and how you dress and present yourself in public are connected, she tells TZR. Fashion psychology is the study of how color, image, style, beauty, shape, and fabric affect human behavior while considering cultural customs and sensitivities. The informal definition is "inside-out style."
Karen says there are a few methods to tell if someone's emotional state shows in their wardrobe. They may wear the same clothes, dress incorrectly for the setting, or dress for a different age.
Behavioral psychologist and Psychology pioneer Carolyn Mair says our wardrobe choices are influenced by many factors. “Clinically depressed people care less about their appearance,” she writes.
Psychologist Sarah Seung-McFarland says that how we dress might reflect our inner feelings. She's a designer, stylist, and founder ofTrulery.com. "Clothing is an extension of our imagination and communicates our identity and how we want to show ourselves in the world," she explains. “We occasionally control this message, but sometimes we don't. Clothing can express our ideal self and our mental pain.”
Seung-McFarland says we all express mental and emotional shifts, but how they present varies. "Two depressed persons can look very different," she says. "One person may look put together while another doesn't. [It’s a mistake to assume] one individual is well and another isn't when their depression [may manifest] differently.” She says our dress patterns can indicate the need for an emotional adjustment.
Nevertheless, here are some key markers experts say to watch for.
According to Seung-McFarland, unpleasant purchases may be a sign of clothes anxiety.
Karen says buyers may experience buyer's regret if they buy without a purpose. "Regret sets in when you buy without knowing 'why,'" she says. Are you hiding something? Suppressing your emotions? Feeling isolated? When lonely, you overcompensate by accumulating goods. Instead of excessive shopping, addressing loneliness is key.
Mair suggests pausing at the point of purchase to examine if you need the item, when you would use it, and how much it would cost per wear if you splurge on apparel. She advises considering whether you already have a similar thing. Avoid "buy now, pay later" and only buy when you have the money. She says consignment shops can help.
According to Seung-McFarland, being aware of the outside world makes us more sensitive to fashion changes. She warns that if you mindlessly follow fashion trends without considering how they fit your style, you may rely on them for safety and approval.
If your closets are messy, you may be emotionally distressed. Seung-McFarland says a messy closet may make mornings difficult. A messy closet might be a sign of a hectic life. Structure it and use that as a springboard to organize other areas. First, get rid of clothes you won't wear again to make room for new ones.
Seung-McFarland says caring too much about your size may be an emotional issue. Despite messages about body acceptance and neutrality, some of us still struggle with self-image, she says. "We govern our body and self-image through our clothing size. Women ‘cheat’ the size numbers to deal with their negative ideas. A woman who wants to look thinner will purchase at a store that measures her as a 6 instead of a 10,” says Seung-McFarland. "Vanity sizing" involves buying too-small clothes to feel better. Seung-McFarland encourages introspection if you're overly fixated with garment size. “Why aren't you size ‘blank?’ What are your other strengths? These questions may lessen the importance you place on clothing size in relation to your worth," she said.
If your attire seems "boring," investigate. Seung-McFarland says there are several reasons your clothes aren't motivating. She says that you and your wardrobe may be mismatched if your clothes don't reflect your lifestyle. This may signal additional personal stagnation. She recommends addressing the underlying issue. Then, "create a wardrobe that fits your lifestyle," she says.
Your clothing may indicate emotional distress, so consult a mental health professional. "An obsessive fixation with clothes frequently indicates deeper-seated emotional concerns," says Seung-McFarland. "Internal and external photos match. If we don't fix our mental image, neither our appearance nor our attire will be enough or work properly.” She recommends addressing self-concept or self-esteem issues and using clothing to boost emotional development.