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What even is fashion?

Every morning I look forward to opening my nearly overflowing closet, and picking out articles of clothing. In some way or another, my amalgamation of what I’ve chosen ends up coming together for my outfit for the day. But with Stanford’s most recent dreary and wet weather, I’ve felt constrained and limited in my options. As much as I would love to live in shorts and tank tops, or dresses and skirts, the winter weather seems to betray me. In a weird way, I’ve felt “off.”

Coming from sunny San Diego, wearing long pants, and layers upon layers is not what I would characterize my average outfit to be. And so I got to thinking: How does what I wear influence who I am? I mean, what really is fashion?

I mean, why is it that when it's cold and rainy, somehow putting bows in my hair makes me feel better? Or on days I have a presentation I wear a nice black top with some "sophisticated looking" pants to make me feel more prepared?

What we wear can be an outward manifestation of our identity and personality, as it can communicate to others our sense of self and how we want to be perceived. This concept is rooted in “social psychology”, which studies how individuals interact and behave in social situations.

One of the key theories behind the relationship between clothing and identity is the self-perception theory: individuals form their self-concepts by observing their own behavior and inferring their attitudes and beliefs from that behavior. In the context of clothing, individuals may choose to wear certain styles or brands to convey a specific image or to align with a certain social group, and this can shape their self-concept.

Another theory that explains the relationship between clothing and identity is social identity theory. This theory suggests that individuals form part of their identity based on the groups they belong to, and clothing can serve as a visible marker of membership in these groups. For example, individuals may wear clothing associated with a specific subculture to signal their membership and to connect with others who share their interests and values.

Overall, what we wear can be a way of communicating who we are, how we want to be perceived, and what social groups we belong to, which can shape our sense of self and how we interact with others.

Going back to my point earlier, the cold and wet weather limits my options to curate who I want to portray for the day, ultimately affecting how and what I feel. This concept is often referred to as "enclothed cognition" and also studied within the field of social psychology.

One theory behind this phenomenon is that clothing can act as a form of "priming," which can influence our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. For example, wearing clothing associated with professionalism and competence, such as a suit and tie, can make individuals feel more confident and authoritative. Similarly, wearing athletic clothing can make individuals feel more energetic and motivated to engage in physical activity.

Clothing can serve as a form of self-expression and allow individuals to present different aspects of their personality to others. When people wear clothing that aligns with their self-concept, they may feel more authentic and confident, which can impact their mood and behavior.

The fit and comfort of clothing can also impact how people feel. Wearing clothes that are too tight or uncomfortable can lead to negative emotions, such as irritation or self-consciousness, while wearing clothes that fit well and are comfortable can lead to positive emotions, such as relaxation or confidence.

At the end of the day what we wear can impact our thoughts, feelings, and behavior by acting as a form of priming, allowing us to express our personality, and impacting our physical comfort. On days when it's gloomy and dreary, putting bows in my hair is psychologically supposed to make me feel better right?

In all, I wasn’t crazy in feeling “off” due to this weather, and one can only hope it clears up soon.


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