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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Betts

What you wear tells a story of you. So what story are you telling?

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

“Fashion has never been a major player in psychological research, even though William James, the grandfather of psychology, believed clothing to be the most important part of the self.” - Dr Karen Pine, one of the world’s pioneering fashion psychologists.

Have you ever asked yourself these questions: Why am I wearing this outfit? How do I feel? What story am I telling? Am I making a statement of any kind? Or am I just blending? Am I happy blending (Blending has it’s place – like someone else’s wedding. Don’t try and outdo the bride)? Is there anything I could do that will make me feel better?

I’m a bit fascinated by intelligent men (usually authors and philosophers) born in the 1800’s who died after the turn of the century. We can learn some good stuff from people who walked the planet before us. I mean, check Will out. What a dude. And I love his quote.

'Do clothing choices affect your behaviour?' That’s the title of an article by Therese Oneill, Sunday Star Times, 05/14.

It caught my attention because fashion frightens some people. ‘But I don’t understand fashion…’ In my work, there were times when people would freak out when I told them they were going to have to take their children shopping to build a ‘modelling uniform’.

Then there's the big difference in ‘putting’ and ‘pulling’ an outfit together. To put an outfit together insinuates a reasonable amount to work with.

To pull an outfit together is more challenging. It insinuates working with what you’ve got, maybe making do since you may have limited resources and money, buying second hand (and I don’t just mean passed from my 1st right hand to my 2nd left hand). A little like pulling a meal together. The object here is you’re working with what you have.

I love SCOTTIES RECYCLE, TATTY'S, RECYCLE BOUTIQUE and one of my favorite second-hand shops is Paperbag Princess, a second-second hand shop where nothing is over $20 bucks. Sweet. Admittedly, you have to constantly scour the actual stores. But that’s part of the beauty of it – sifting through some ugly to find the gems.

The article goes on to say most of us ‘has a gut-level understanding of how fashion psychology works’ and ‘if the data emerging from the burgeoning field of fashion psychology can be believed, your clothes do more than make you feel thin and pretty. There's some serious personality development taking place at the closet door’.

I mean who in their right mind would buy an outfit that makes them look bigger than they actually are? Ballooning and me stopped being friends since I was pregnant. For me, having myself covered in all body shape-weather is absolutely crucial. SPANX, I think I love you.

And this was brilliant by Dr Karen Pine, one of the world’s pioneering fashion psychologists (Dr Karen is amazing and can tell us things like which side of the brain governs our money attitude) when she quoted this: “William James, the grandfather of psychology, believed clothing to be the most important part of the self”. Wow! A bloke said this?

I have to say I couldn’t agree more with William James, and thanks for bringing that so articulately to light, Dr Karen. You’re a better woman at succinct articulation than me.

In all honesty, such powerful knowledge of fashion psychology is beyond my station. I sell people by selling their best attributes. What isn’t beyond my station and definitely an integral part of my work is my understanding and respect to the raw power of fashion and clothing as a means of communication.

You’d hope so having survived and thrived in the competitive fashion industry for over 29 years. After all, my everyday fashion arena has been surrounded by people who seriously know, live and breathe their fashion stuff.

Since the competition is so stiff, it’s lucky for me, then, that I’ve never really considered myself a ‘Fashionista’ and I don't mind if people think I’m fashionable or not. I’ll be the first to tell you I get it right sometimes, and sooo wrong at others!

Evidence: here I am being celebrated as one of 50 unique New Zealander’s in Remix’s 50th Anniversary issue. I thought I looked hot (and cool. VERY big difference) in my 70’s floral polyester dress and 80’s swan belt. Problem is I live in the new millennium:

I don’t wear for what’s in, though. I wear to tell the story I want told. And I love that we get an opportunity to continuously tell whatever story we want.

What I wore when I spoke to over 90 teachers at St Peter’s College about what I believe are serious challenges facing teenaged boys today was completely different to what I wore when I shared some of my story to over 50 foster kids for an incredible programme L’Oreal champion called ‘Face Your Future’. I'm sure you can match said outfit to said event:

In my humble opinion, though, what you wear is one of the most underrated yet powerful ways to communicate.

What use is a powerful voice that can seemingly slice through anything like an Alexander McQueen heel if you're not allowed to speak? Why bother with witty anecdotes or the clever weaving of words if they cannot leave our minds or fingertips? And as for a well-tuned ability to command attention merely by strutting across a room or stage owning it like the world is our catwalk? It’s a waste of a leg workout if we're not allowed to move.

Sure, body language can speak volumes without parting our lipglossed-smeared lips. And a beaming smile can melt the ice in a first meeting with a frosty stranger. All our tricks, abilities, attributes, call them what you want, combined is not nearly as powerful as the ability to stand strong while shouting from the rooftops without uttering a sound simply by what we're wearing.

Back to Fashion Stripped Bare and an experiment carried out by Dr Pine:

‘One experiment was that what you wear affects how intelligent you are perceived to be: when women dressed in ‘masculine’ clothing in a job interview, they were more likely to get the job.’

Ahhh. So fashion's not so Para Pool-shallow after all.

So with such strong statements from fashion psychology heavyweights, do you not wonder why we’re not teaching more about fashion as a communication tool from the moment our child/ren defiantly squeal ‘No!’ as we weave toward them like Jaws with that baubly, unisex, knitted cardi Aunty-June made in hand?

This inspired me to create MAKE ONE CHANGE posts on my blog where I demonstrate how one small change can make a big difference. Feel free to be the judge, jury and executioner as to if I’m a ‘Fashionista’ or not. Your perceptions are yours.

With all this in mind, have fun with fashion. Explore, check out websites, learn, listen and look to others who inspire you. Check out blogs and magazines, join Instagram, expand your networks, watch who wears what and how they wear it.

And when you put on your next outfit, stop, hush that inner critic and just observe yourself, see if you can ‘see’ yourself as others might see you. Learn how to trust your gut feelings if it’s right or wrong when you’re quietly observing.

So the last question which I think is really important for developing your own confidence while stamping your own identity is this: Am I not wearing something because of a fear of any kind? Maybe because of what someone else will say or think?

Thanks for joining me! If you find something that could be useful to someone, share it.

Until next time,

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