Stuck in a (Fashion) Slump


Stuck in a (Fashion) Slump

How what we wear has the power to change our behavior

A year ago, my thoughts used to be, “my life may be falling apart but at least I don’t look like it is.” Wearing a nice outfit to class even when I wasn’t feeling so nice inside had always put me in a better mood. However, today I woke up 10 minutes before my first lecture and threw on the same sweatpants and overpriced sweatshirt from the Penn Bookstore that I have been wearing all week. What has become of me? With the ability to never show my face in class, I no longer feel the need to look presentable – much less put on a nice fit. The monotony of wearing the same, albeit comfortable, clothes every day has put me into not just a fashion slump, but an actual slump, leading me to wonder how much the clothes we wear alter our mood and behavior.

Studies show that what we wear directly affects how we perceive ourselves and our abilities. Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, conducted the “lab coat study,” where he gave participants the same type of lab coat, telling half that the lab coat belonged to a doctor and the other half that the lab coat belonged to an artist. The participants were then given a series of cognitive tests to examine their selective, sustained, and heightened attention. The participants wearing what they believed to be a doctor’s lab coat consistently scored higher than those in the painter’s coat, indicating that what we wear truly does affect our behavior. Joshua I. Davis, an assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College, even states that “we might more readily take on a role that affects our basic abilities” based on what we wear.

Whether on campus or at home during this semester, many of us have been finding ourselves staying inside for days on end, only leaving our hibernation a few times a week. There seems to be no need to wear presentable clothing when there’s no one to see it. However, this lack of attention to our daily outfits has been negatively affecting our perception of ourselves and as an extension, our cognitive abilities. I personally find that I can focus better on assignments and in class if I feel put together. If Dr.Galinsky’s study holds true, try wearing the most professional outfit you have in your closet during your next test and see if you score slightly higher!

With the weather improving after a dreary winter, there are a plethora of ways to get out of this (fashion) slump, even during times of quarantine. Penn student Lucy An states that when she is feeling down for a few days, she goes to “put on a good outfit just to boost (her) spirits,” saying that she “feels so powerful” when she wears something cool. Perhaps the next time you’re feeling down, try dressing up and taking some photos to post a pic on Instagram. Always feel empowered to make Locust your runway and take a nice stroll to show off your killer fit.

Cover photo by Nova Meng

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