Fashion psychologist Dawnn Karen wants people to feel confident in their clothes.
Her self-help book, Dress Your Best Life: How to Use Fashion Psychology to Take Your Look—and Your Life—to the Next Level published by Hachette Book Group’s Little, Brown Spark imprint, came out the same time the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of society and forced us to stay home. That means we exchanged our business attire for loose-fitting athleisure to feel comfortable in our living space-turned-workspace. But now that many of us are returning to the office amid delta variant fears or expecting to return eventually, her fashion psychology curriculum can be applied to the current era.
Sweatsuit to Pantsuit
During the pandemic, many of us may have been suffering from repetitious wardrobe complex, which is what the author defines as wearing the same clothes—or versions of the same clothes—over and over again. That means our tie-dye sweatsuits and other forms of athleisure that we zhooshed up as much as we could for the Zoom calls have kept us in a loop.
Staying at home subtracted the decision fatigue many of us dealt with when it came to selecting five office-friendly outfits for five workdays. Dawnn Karen tells readers to avoid this fatigue when you’re faced with too many options for what to wear and buy, which in turn makes you feel often overwhelmed and paralyzed in making decisions you later regret. Buyer’s remorse, anyone? To get ready for the physical office, she suggests taking the time to sense any discomfort with an outfit that you probably hadn’t put on since March 2020.
Mood is central to our outfit selection, according to Dawnn Karen’s fashion psychology. Before approaching your closet in the morning or the night before, she advises to practice mood illustration dressing, or meditating briefly by matching your outfit with how you are feeling. Feeling upbeat? Wear that pop of color.
Feeling down? Wear that comfortable skirt. Or take another step to practice mood enhancement dressing, or to choose what you wear to modify your mood for the better. It’s a tactic to wear the most office-appropriate attire that will make you feel the most confident, e.g. the not-so-sky-high heels or the cardigan for the air conditioning, especially if returning to the office after a year and a half and feeling the weight of pressure to return to work.
“When you thoughtfully assess your emotional state and then dress to respect or match it,” she writes. “The goal here is not to transform or challenge yourself with clothes but to embrace, accept, and honor yourself exactly where you are.”
Stressing Over Dressing
For women, fashion situational code switching may have plagued our former workdays, particularly when you had to put on the pantsuit, preferably designer or name brand, to compete in the office when you would rather wear jeans and a nice top. Switching your attire up for the social setting can be stressful and can extend to the hair and makeup routine where you feel you have to wear your hair a certain way or tone down your makeup.
Fashion identification assimilation and fashion incongruence could be two issues reflective of the times. The former is when you use style to fit in with or blend into a cultural or social group, the author writes, when the latter is when your ideal dress and perceived dress are incompatible. You may want to wear the comfortable clothes that you’ve been wearing for months at home, but it might break the workplace dress code. Then you might think those black leggings you wore at home can be mistaken for black slacks in the office, but that is most likely a no-go. More employees are expecting rules on lax office wear post-pandemic, business insiders forecast, while some employees may return to an unchanged model.
A focal accessory can bring comfort, the author describes as an item that holds psychological value and may be worn repeatedly. It can be worn with your work and outside-of-work outfits. She advises to start small such as with a family heirloom necklace pendant, which can bring the warmth of protection in spirit.
Comfortable in Your Skin Again
“In my experience, the best way to get off the retail therapy treadmill and break the cycle of buying, regretting, then buying some more is mindfulness,” Dawnn Karen writes in the chapter she named “The Science Behind Shopping.”
Need new threads? This book can help you figure out your wardrobe upon emerging from our forced stay-at-home lives. More Americans are purging their closets for multiple reasons from expired trends to weight gain, according to the Associated Press, as we slowly return to normal.