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4 fashion psychology secrets to know

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By Yuliya Klochan
Medill Reports

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According to a report by The Fashion Industry Global, the global fashion industry saw a total of $1.9 trillion in sales of footwear and clothing in 2019. StatistaWith the U.S. emerging to be the largest, largest apparel market. The clothes that Americans wear have major effects on their mental and physical well being. 

“If you felt good in your dress, and you felt good about yourself, and that inner confidence was on fire — it’s that inner light that shines through my whole design process,” said Don O’Neill, a designer of evening wear and custom bridal apparel who’s dressed celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle and Carrie Underwood. “When you walked into a room in one of my dresses, I wanted people to say, ‘You look great,’ instead of, ‘That dress was awesome.’ It was about you rather than the dress.” 

Here are four fashion psychology tips to help you understand the global apparel and footwear industry as it grows towards $3.3 trillion annually by 2030. Statista

 

Secret #1: Can’t stop buying Prada? The psychology behind brand addiction.

Luxury brands are more likely to feel brand addiction than fast fashion brands. People who follow fast fashion are driven by the desire to keep up-to-date. “keep up with the buzz,”Mona Mrad is a marketing and fashion expert. (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

“One of the participants, he said, ‘Apple is like your wife. Can you divorce your wife?’”Mona Mrad, assistant professor of Marketing at the American University of Sharjah, was recalled. 

Mrad and her colleagues conducted a series of focus group discussions to explore the concept brand addiction (BA). They have many stories to tell, some of which will be published in a future issue. studyIn 2018, Journal of Business Research

One woman enrolled in the university for a master’s degree so she could get a better-paying job to buy Chanel. Another participant’s brother convinced everyone around him to buy Hugo Boss. And one man recalled how his friend, having run out of clothing in the middle of a  trip to Rome, convinced his group of friends to search for a Ralph Lauren shop with him, since he was unprepared to wear any other brand. 

BA is defined as “a psychological state that entails an emotional attachment to a particular brand, driven by compulsive urges that generally provide pleasure,”According to a survey paperPublished by Mrad in Qualitative Market Research 2018 

BA can activate the same brain area linked to other addictive behaviors such as alcoholism, but it’s not the same as compulsive buying, although the two conditions can coexist. In fact, the presence of BA — which gives people feelings of gratification from buying their favorite brand’s products — can weaken the negative effects of compulsive buying, according to a 2020 studyMrad co-authored and published this article. Journal of Business Research

One brand addict described her experience buying a coat as: “‘This brand shouts Emily,’”Mrad was recalled. “You feel that it is you, it’s who you are. And this is the reason why you become addicted to this brand — because it’s representing you. It’s giving you this kind of branding, this kind of positioning of who you are.” 

 

Secret #2: What people wear has an impact on how they feel and think. 

mannequins dressed in men's clothing
People are choosing to wear a variety of tops and bottoms when working from home. “Zoom mullet.” (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

The “Zoom mullet,”According to Urban DictionaryIt is “business on top, pajama pants on the bottom.”Many people have adopted this look during remote work. But what are the psychological implications? 

A January 2022 studyPublished in Academy of Management Discoveries, showed wearing full-on home attire, top and bottom, increased workers’ authenticity and engagement, while neither full work attire nor the “Zoom mullet”These positive effects are evident.

This experiment is one of many that explores the concept of “enclothed cognition,”This term was first used in 2012 to describe how “what we wear can influence how we think, feel, and act.”In 2012, the first studyPublished in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers observed that wearing a doctor’s lab coat increased people’s attention. They did not observe this improvement when participants were given the same garment, but were told it was a painter’s coat. 

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A multi-university research team failed in 2019 to replicate the lab coat study using a larger sample. experimentHowever, other studies on enclothed cognition have not disproved the theory. 

Other than the Zoom mullet experiment, other experiments have revealed new ways in which people’s clothing influences their behavior. In 2022 paperPublished in Psychology: TrendsAnti-COVID-19 facemasks increased spontaneity in social interactions, at the very least, for those who were wearing them. A 2019 studyPublished in Psychological ReportsResearchers discovered that participants wearing police uniforms were less likely to shoot at unarmed targets in a first person video game simulation.

 

Secret #3: Painful heels and restrictive skirts—the role of gender in fashion choices

shelf with colorful stiletto heels
StudiesResearch has shown that wearing heels can increase perceived beauty, but also increase the risk for chronic muscle and bone problems. (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

“My mom always said, ‘Vanity knows no pain,’”Kathlin Argiro was a designer of evening wear and an instructor at Fashion Institute of Technology. “It’s a very old saying, but I wouldn’t say I prescribe to that.” Argiro has sold her collection to Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. 

“If you don’t feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing, you’re not going to have fun, and it’s going to show,” Argiro said. Not every designer agrees. Many people continue to wear clothing which can be uncomfortable or even take a physical toll.

Women are most affected by the burden, as they are more likely to wear shoes or clothes that fall within one of these painful, self-distracting, or restricting categories. These results, which were collected prior to the pandemics, were published in a 2021 study. paperIn Sex Roles. The most striking contrasts were in the shoe comfort. Women were up to 10x more likely to wear uncomfortable shoes. Up to 55% of women, but only up to 12% of men, said they’d worn clothing that left “red marks or welts”Their bodies. 

 

Secret #4: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect fashion choices

mannequins dressed in eveningwear
According to the Retail Stores Association, the average inventory turnover ratio is almost 11. Investopedia. This means that stores replenish their entire stock more than 10 times per year because of high demand. (Yuliya Klochan/MEDILL)

“What (the pandemic) has done is to realign a lot of values that people have and what they’re looking to get out of apparel and other fashion related items,” said Michael Solomon, professor of marketing at Saint Joseph’s University. “Probably the biggest change is the consciousness about sustainability.” 

Solomon said that the lockdown allowed people time to reflect about their values. This led to a shift in fast fashion and purchases from companies with no social responsibility. 

O’Neill shared a similar sentiment: “I think there’s been a global awareness of where your clothing comes from,”He said. Fashion school graduates are aware of the origins of their products and the manufacturing process. They strive to make the materials sustainable and ethical. 

Customers are also catching up. “I feel like the pandemic shone a huge light on sustainability and environmental fashion, responsible sourcing and responsible fashion,” O’Neill said. Transparency is a requirement for customers today. 

“It’s not that we stopped buying,”Mrad said. “We will keep buying, but we will buy differently.”Consumers are choosing products that are more comfortable and less showy. Hard items — those fashion pieces, like Rolex watches and luxury handbags, that last longer — are outselling soft items, as people are thinking of their new products more as investments. “I would rather buy a handbag that is going to have value even after a few years, instead of buying an outfit that I don’t know whether I will wear it or not. And then after one year, it will not be trending anymore,”Mrad said. 

Argiro has not yet started to plan her next collection, but she does have some ideas about what she could do after the lockdown. “I’d probably do a combination of real glamorous type of evening wear, but then also have some things that were a little bit more of athleisure.”The end comes out as follows: “people would want a little bit of fantasy”After being in sweatpants for so many years.

Yuliya Klochan, a Medill graduate student in science, health, and environment is Yuliya Klochan. You can follow Yuliya Klochan on Twitter @YuliyaKlochan.


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