I have a habit of wearing my dressing gown out. It’s a shabby quarter-leg-length leopard print thing I cut the sash loops off to try and make it less obviously pyjama-like. I feel smug walking around the shopping centre and catching the bus. “The world is my bedroom” I tell myself and inwardly laugh at the people wearing real coats who don’t realise you can be a lazy slob in public and no-one will have any idea. Then I went further and bought an assorted box of vintage nighties. One of them was tomato red and long sleeved, edged with a frilly white lace and I passed it for a retro mini-dress. How marvellous and comfortable I was walking the city streets in full pyjamas, face full of make-up and knee length boots. Until a colleague commented, “I like that you wear pyjamas to work, it’s quirky”. This took me by surprise, was it the congealing pile, the puffy deep pockets, cat hair or smell of roast dinner that gave it away? I lost confidence, were they all laughing behind my back? I didn’t know where to turn, but now I do. There is a small developing stream of clinical psychology called ‘fashion psychology’ and they will work through your issues and wardrobe.
People often view their hair dressing appointment as a clinical counselling session and change their hairstyle according to their ideal personality or way they want to be perceived. The aging woman may cut a fringe to appear more youthful and hide wrinkles while the young woman in a male dominated workplace may choose a cropped style to ward off misogyny.
Whether it’s right or wrong humans judge books by their covers. It only takes a few seconds to determine how much attention someone we just met deserves, and the clothes they wear are an immediate visual representation of status, self-awareness, proficiency of aesthetic flow and likelihood of promiscuity. The fashion psychologist puts this theory into action by assessing an individual’s insecurities, passions and stance in the social environment to formulate customised wardrobes aimed to empower.
Being aware of the image you project can help knit the fabric of perception and reality and stop you wondering why people treat you the way they do. At the same time, clothes are an outer shell and if one doesn’t feel worthy or comfortable sporting a spiffy new suit the doctor’s orders will end up crumpled and unworn on the bedroom floor.
When I was young my mother told me I was a ‘blue’ girl because I’m blonde and my sister was a ‘red’ girl because she’s brunette. For years I always chose the blue option because that was ‘my’ colour. When I began wearing my red nightie/dress it not only broke the rules of societal expectations of what appropriate daywear is, it broke a conception of how I relate to the psychical environment ingrained in me since childhood. That’s deep stuff for frivolous fashion.