On Monday when I spoke I said something I say every time I talk and that’s: “let’s think about using your clothes as a resource”. And why not let your clothes work for you like you do your house, your car and your money? After all those raw materials are allowing you to do many things like work, exercise, travel, and show up in the world as yourself — hopefully. And one way to do that is find those pieces that make you feel confident and shun those do the opposite. And so say researchers at Northwestern university in their article about “enclothed cognition”. Something image consultants already know well:

Researchers at Northwestern University have found that the clothing we wear affects our psychological states, as well as our performance levels. Given their findings, individuals can intentionally choose to wear clothing that will induce more desirable psychological states and enhance task-related performance.

Clothing has an affect on our mood, our mind AND our body. The more carefully we choose what we wear, the more authentic we appear to ourselves and others. Using your clothes to feel more confident IS using your clothing as a resource. Depending on where you shop, it could be cheaper than a therapist!

And if clothes can work for you, they can also work against you.

How do I know that? Because after many weeks of wearing pajamas and sweatpants following a stroke, I decided that leaving the house was not an option. A quiet depression settled in alongside my jersey knit and flannel, and my mind followed my body’s attempt to stay hidden. Begrudgingly, but hopefully I listened to a colleague encourage me to get up and get dressed whether I felt like it or not, and in less than a few weeks I found the clothes working from the outside in, in reverse of how I normally coach people to choose clothing. Once I remembered that I really did like to dress well, and my body was able to feel its way into “enoughness”, I began the process of healing and relishing life again. I had to get to that place where I mattered enough for the clothes to matter at all. A couple of years ago, I worked with a client and we were discussing why people say that “clothing doesn’t matter”. His response to that was so amazing that I am sharing it here with you:

“For me it [getting dressed authentically] was an act of courage. Clothing has always been a way of belonging and feeling like I could never get there. In my relationship with you, it wasn’t about belonging, but about celebrating. To wear my colors and my words is an act of courage when conformity is what is sought. It works both ways. In a sense it is self-expression meaning I reflect what is within but in another sense it is sacramental.   By wearing my clothes I become in touch with who I am working outside in and not just inside out. The move to say that clothes don’t matter is akin to saying you don’t matter, beauty doesn’t matter, ceremony doesn’t matter. To do that is to be disconnected from our humanity, and it was high time I stopped.”

AND, of course you matter, so this week and even this weekend, try wearing something a bit dressier than you normally would and see what happens. Just try it. If you can catch just a glimpse of feeling good, you can have many more days of conscious dressing that give you all the power to feel connected to yourself and others!