Understanding Enclothed Cognition – The Psychology of Fashion


Have you ever wondered why you discover yourself twirling about whimsically whenever you wear your
favorite outfit
and you walk with a touch more stomp in every single step during a specific pair of

It isn’t just your imagination clothes really affect our behavior and our moods and truly can change our brain chemistry due to the symbolic meaning that we as a society ascribe to different sorts of outfits.

Enclothed Cognition- Research, Definition and Outcome

We keep hearing proverbs like “dress for the work you want; not the work you have” or “look good, feel
all the time. Though most of the people don’t really believe it, they struggle to match their attire to the occasion nonetheless.

The term enclothed clothing was sculptured in 2012 from the research of Hajo Adam, and Adam Galinsky, who studied the “systematic influence that clothes wear the wearer’s psychological processes.”


They found that two factors contributed to enclothed cognition:

  • The representational meaning of clothing.
  • The physical experience of wearing them.

An easy example of this supposition is wearing formals for work versus wearing sweatpants to travel or sleep.

As soon as we placed on those cozy clothes, we all know it’s time to relax. Subconsciously, we’ve been thinking and doing things consistent with enclothed cognition the whole time.

As quoted by Galinsky,

“It has long been known that clothing affects how people perceive us, also as how we expect about ourselves”.


In 2012, when the test happened, Adam and Galinsky studied the consequences of wearing a lab jacket on the participants’ attention. Particularly, two of the conditions that were necessitated for this effect

  • The lab jacket needed to truly be worn at the time.
  • The jacket needed to be meaningfully related to a doctor.

“Consequently, when a bit of clothing is worn, it exerts an influence on the wearer’s psychological processes by sparking associated abstract notions through its symbolic meaning – matching to how a physical experience, which is, by definition, already embodied, exerts its influence.”


Participants who got the jacket after being told it had been a painter’s jacket didn’t experience the equal attention boost as the first group did.

Psychological Effect

We consider some outfits to be important while some to be casual or delightful and so on. We even evaluate and judge people whom we’ve just met based on their outfit, the occasion, situation, etc.

Once we try a pair of jeans and that they just fit right, we all know we’re getting to be more confident next time
we’re out with mates or on a date with our spouse.

What we wear, and therefore the symbolic meaning we accompany a specific outfit, has measurable effects on our psychological or mental state.

Effects Can Be Positive Or Negative

These effects are often positive, but can also be negative. It could mean a negative state of being if the item in question is known to be associated with a negative construct.

So “enclothed cognition” may be a two-way street, a touch like our daily clothing choice can make us feel good or bad. But sometimes enclothed cognition fails.

When to wear what to help us feel better, or more like how we might wish to feel, is typically difficult to navigate. Does one need to dress how you’d wish to feel, or simply dress how you feel?

Here are three rules to make enclothed cognition simpler:

1. Do It For Yourself

Dressing to impress others or to fit in with people won’t work. Only when you understand yourself will you be able to dress for no one but you.

You’ve got to work on your inner reality, self-talk, and actions too. If your presence doesn’t work, neither will your outfit.

2. Self-Awareness and Better Self Image

You have to choose the proper quality to catch abreast of the said inner need or lack.

If you’re feeling sad, a loud flower-print dress could seem a bit like the proper thing, but actually feel grossly jarring, and you’ll be happier wearing a beige cashmere sweater for the tactile comfort that you need.

3. Should Align With You and Your Soul

You can’t veer so far that your therapeutic outfit is just not you. If you’re feeling profoundly sad, you’ll just get to wear those sweats on the couch for a day and heal yourself first.

If it’s a hot summer day, and you’re burned out because you’ve been working long hours back-to-back, donning a suit isn’t going to assist you to focus much. You’ll need a break, a much-needed one.

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