“Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will.” – Anne Klein
I threw my unwashed hair into my signature top knot, and pulled on some jeans and a t-shirt. This is my standard “mom” uniform. With two little kids, gone are the days of sitting in front of the mirror and taking hours to get ready. I no longer scour my closet for that perfect outfit that makes me feel like I can step out and conquer the world. I’m ok with that. I chose to stay home after my second baby was born last year. I figured the mom-iform was part of the trade.
I looked how I felt. Tired. I glanced at my open closet and all of the items that are hardly ever worn these days. Why don’t I ever wear them? Why did I trade them in for something that made me feel less than great? What would happen if I wore my former office attire instead?
The questions began swirling in my head. I tried to brush them away, but they crept into my thoughts throughout the rest of the day.
By the time the kids were in bed, I had to find an answer to the root of my questions. Does what we wear affect how we behave and feel? I know our appearance has an impact on how others perceive us, but what about on a deeper, more personal level? I turned to Google and found a few articles and studies on the topic, but nothing that really answered my question. Plus, all of them concluded by saying, “more study is needed.” I wasn’t satisfied.
If I couldn’t find the answer, I was going to have to figure it out for myself. So, I came up with my own experiment to test my theories. I decided to try out three different looks and record how I felt and my level of productivity throughout the day.
I thought I had a good idea as to how my self-experiment would go, only anticipating a minor change in my behavior and mood. I did not expect anything life-changing. After I came up with my plan, I told my husband I was going to spend the entire next day in my pajamas. “Why?” he asked. “I’m curious,” I replied.
Day 1: Pajama Day
I woke up at my usual time and continued through my normal routine, with the exception of getting ready for the day. I left myself exactly as I had woken up. Messy hair, no makeup, and pajamas on.
I got my kids up, fed them breakfast, and then we all plopped down on the couch. We sat, and sat, and sat. It was almost lunchtime before I realized that I still hadn’t cleaned up from breakfast and my kids were still in their pajamas. But, I was tired and had no motivation to get up and do something about it. “Pajama day for everyone!” I told them.
We continued to sit around, eat, nap, and sit around some more. I’m shameless to admit that we were all unbelievably lazy that day. By the end of it, we were all grouchy and I hadn’t accomplished anything on my to-do list.
This was not enough to convince me that my pajamas had anything to do with our day. I chalked it up to a fluke. No way my clothes could have this big of an influence on my day.
Day 2: The Momiform
After a day in my pajamas, I welcomed back my trusty jeans and t-shirt. I felt the day start with the simple act of changing my clothes. I never felt that yesterday, I noted and continued about my day. I had a variety of tasks on my to-do list for each day, including household chores, errands, a trip to the park, and work I needed to get done for my blog.
My mood was noticeably better; chores were getting done, and I had more patience with my kids. We even made it to the park. Everything was going great…until naptime. After being way behind on the work that needed to be done for my blog, I planned to dedicate nap time to work.
I sat down on the couch, fired up the laptop, and got ready to work. But first, I was just going to spend five minutes on Pinterest. Ok, just five more minutes. An hour later I hadn’t typed a word for my post and I could hear the baby starting to wake up.
Instant mood switch. I was suddenly irritated and mad at myself for wasting that precious hour.
My focus was now being pulled between the rest of the items on my to-do list and feeling overwhelmed at the mounting tasks for my blog.
At this point I still wasn’t totally convinced that my clothes had anything to do with how my day went.
Day 3: Business Casual
It was the final day of my experiment. I picked out an outfit that I would typically wear to the office. I put on slacks, a blouse, heels, and managed to get up early to do my hair and makeup.
Things started out as usual, but my patience was running extra thin. I scanned my to-do list and started prioritizing my tasks, clearly in business mode. I began tackling some things that I had been avoiding and made a few phone calls while the kids played.
Dishes in the sink were begging me to clean them, but I didn’t feel like it. I’ll get to those later, I told myself. The rest of the chores felt equally dreadful and unimportant but, I was at least satisfied that I had crossed off a couple of neglected tasks.
The kids were still happily playing so I got to work writing. My fingers flew across the keyboard while my voice got snappier and harsher each time one of my kids interrupted me. “Mommy’s working.” I kept telling them. I should dress like this everyday, I thought! “Mom, can we go to the park now?”
Reality check. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the park. Who wants to go to the park in heels? Maybe later, I told them. Looking around, I still had dishes to do and laundry to fold.
But, I was still in work mode, and those didn’t feel like a priority.
After cleaning up lunch and putting the kids down for a nap, I took a second to review my to-do list. I couldn’t deny the correlation to what I had completed and what I still had left to do. My “work” was done, but we never made it to the park and my patience with my kids was nonexistent.
At the end of the day, I reviewed my journal and notes from the last three days. After looking at all of the information, it was painfully obvious that what I chose to wear each day had a big influence on how I felt, my mood, and my levels of productivity.
Now, I had a new question. How do I take this information and use it to better myself and my days? Pajamas all day were out of the question. My casual outfit made it easier to clean, run errands, and play with my kids. But, I found it much harder to focus on work and other mundane tasks. When dressed in business casual, work was easier, but I had a decreased desire to run errands or go to the park.
What I learned
After making a list of pros and cons, I thought about who I wanted to be and how I wanted to feel every day. I pulled aspects from each list and created a new “uniform” for myself. Heels made it hard to clean and play so I replaced them with bare feet around the house or flats. The T-shirts made me feel frumpy so I chose a blouse instead. I’m comfortable in jeans and like the way I feel when I took the time to put on makeup and do my hair.
On days that I take the time to consciously choose what I wear, I can feel a shift. I feel good. I can play and I also feel put together enough to put myself in work mode when I need to.
There is not just one perfect combination. We are all so beautifully different and what we feel comfortable in is going to vary from person to person.
I encourage you to do your own experiment and find what works for you. Notice how you feel in your clothes. What makes you feel happy, powerful, unstoppable, beautiful? If you’re interested in learning more about some of the studies and research behind enclothed cognition (the effects of clothing on the cognitive process) check out this article at Positive Psychology News.
Do you have an outfit that embodies everything you want to feel? We want to see! Show us with the hashtag #feelgoodwardrobe.