One tenth of a second. That’s how long it takes a complete stranger to determine your authority, trustworthiness, or likability based largely on how we look. But how we look shouldn’t matter, right? After all, “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”
I find this expression to be particularly disingenuous. Rant and rave til pigs fly; the fact remains that we judge books by the cover. How you look and how you dress, matters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, accepting this fact can be an incredibly valuable opportunity; for those who choose to use it wisely.
Many are quick to reject this idea as shallow. Hiding behind the wishful thinking that our character obscures our frumpy appearance and that our personality outshines our thoughtless attire. A well-curated appearance is something many women have genuinely never given any serious consideration. We know appearance matters, but we don’t give cultivating this much value. If a woman is believed to “care too much” about her appearance, she’s labeled superficial. So what gives?
What if we embraced our personal appearance, style, and dressing well? Even accepted it as a tool. What if we learned to become not only comfortable with being observed (and god forbid admired), but we prepared accordingly in order to always put our very best foot forward? Personal style is our first unspoken message to the world. Dressing well is an extraordinary resource that every woman can use to facilitate living her very best life. It’s only logical to use it.
Dressing well promotes confidence, self-respect, and overall personal development
You can instantly improve your self-perception and performance simply by changing your clothes. A reasonably rational person would laugh this off as ridiculous, right? How could something as superficial as clothing alter how you perceive yourself? And you’re certainly just as capable in sweatpants as you are in a business suit, right?
A series of unrelated studies sought to test this theory. In one study, when given an attention-demanding task, subjects made half as many mistakes while wearing what they believed to be doctors lab coat, as opposed to subjects wearing no lab coat. In a second study, men dressed in sharp business suits obtained more profitable business deals than their counterparts dressed in ordinary clothing. In a third study, women wearing what they believed to be a pair of counterfeit designer sunglasses cheated in an experiment considerably more than those who believed they were sporting the real deal.
Researchers attribute this behavior to what they’ve termed enclothed cognition; the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychology.
To fully comprehend, consider this.. Our brains, (where our conscious and subconscious live), is within our physical body, (embodied). And our bodies, (enclothed). Hence, the way our minds are tethered to the world, is greatly influenced by this intrinsic relationship. We consciously and subconsciously tie the connotations of our clothing, to ourselves; by way of them being (even temporarily) a part of us. The perceived knowledge and responsibility of a doctors lab coat. The power and prestige of a dapper business suit. Or the treachery of a pair of counterfeit designer shades.
In the words of the iconic Joanne the Scammer, “messy!”
Clothes have a real power to make us feel frumpy, lazy, or less than smart; and equally so, sexy, powerful, professional, glamorous, smart, feminine, or dare I say beautiful.
Dressing well gets you treated better, and could even get you free stuff
Imagine a lion walks into the room right now (a stretch. But imagine). Instantly your brain computes, “umm danger, danger!” If you were to stick around to see if he’s a friendly lion or not, well..
Our brains quickly draw relevant conclusions based on face value, until we have an opportunity to obtain more information (conversation, body language, etc).. And in that time you’ve already ran out of the room (from that crazy lion), or been sized up at your new job.
Before you fall off your moral high horse (you know who you are), appalled at the thought of being judged, understand that quick judgments are nothing personal. It’s a crucial survival instinct hardwired into our primal brains. And how you’re dressed is one of the only pieces of relevant information the world has from which to judge you. Are you friend or foe? Do you have status or authority? Are you trustworthy, competent, or likable? By dressing with intention and dressing well, you have a powerful opportunity to skew first (and ongoing) impressions in your favor.
But why does it matter what other people think of you anyway? Well, because on a subconscious level, we treat people based on our perceptions of them. It’s in your best interest to be perceived well. It’s therefore important to dress how you want to be addressed. Additionally, in our casual culture, where it’s not uncommon to see adults dressed in pajamas in a bank, it’s easier than you think to gain a competitive edge simply by being thoughtful in your dressing.
Dressing well makes you more likely to get a promotion, catch the eye of that cutie in Whole Foods, or get even a free upgrade on your next flight.
Dressing well makes your life and world a more beautiful place
I like to think that we’re all connoisseurs of beauty. Perhaps you savor the beautiful flavors of foods; be it caviar and fine wines, or a damn good slice of $1 New York City pizza. Maybe you appreciate being in beautiful spaces; the charming architecture of Parisian streets, or a serene caribbean beach. Perhaps it’s the beauty of nature, romance, or art that inspires you; beauty, in any and many forms is essential to living a most beautiful, and your best life.
One of my favorite quotes is that attributed to Mahatma Gandhi; “be the change you wish to see in the world.” I’ve taken a physical interpretation of these words. In addition to observing beauty, be the beauty you wish to see in the world, too.
Think of style as your personal contribution to the world’s aesthetic beauty. Clothes should be efficient, but equally so, encourage the elevating power of beauty into our lives.
If you’re a woman interested in discovering or cultivating personal style and dressing well, the world yearns for unique and beautiful contribution. I invite and challenge you to dress well in order to live your facilitate living your very best life. Cultivate your personal appearance to improve your self perception, improve how the world perceives you, and be the beauty you wish to see in the world.