What your clothes say about you

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Experts know that how you dress tells a lot about who you are. Your clothes can reveal your occupation, aspirations, confidence, and insecurities as well as whether you’re uninhibited, rigid, careless, likable, modest, professional, difficult and so much more.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner calls it the “psychology of dress.” In her book, “You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You,” Baumgartner helps readers identify the psychology behind their choices, so they can not only develop a personal style that suits their identity but also make positive changes in areas of life. In her introduction, she explains, “Maybe the overly youthful clothing in a closet indicates a fifty-something who finds the experience of seeing wrinkles and a couple of gray hairs just too painful to bear. Or maybe she’s holding on to her past because she hasn’t accomplished her goals in the present.”

Researchers now believe there is a systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes — meaning what your clothes are saying to you, not just about you, and how they make you feel. In other words, the clothes you wear are not only sending a message to those around you, but also to you, yourself! By becoming aware that our dress is giving insight into our personality and desires we can give men, women, and teens a greater understanding of how they can change the way they are perceived and how they can influence their own impression of themselves.

Not only are executives, athletes, politicians, construction workers, nurses, officers, and even women in the sex trade industry identified by their dress, but, religious people have been equally identified by their attire. For those professing Christianity, for example, the focus is less on dress and more on qualities.

According to Romans 13:14, servants of God are invited to: “Dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires.”  While great variety exists for Christians, so does modesty. The guidelines, listed at 1Timothy 2:9-10 and 1Peter 3:3-4, reinforce their high moral standards in their own mind and tell others that they have a dress code to reflect the glory of God over seeking undue attention for themselves.

Admittedly this creates a psychological advantage to the person seeking to live in the spirit of Galatians 3:27: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Of course, people of other faiths also dress in ways to show their reverence to God while the clothes of others reflect no faith in God or no boundaries in exploring change.

Question: If the way we dress can reflect who we are, what we do and who we want to be, should it be taken for granted? To turn this perception into an advantage, we may want to start by taking a long, hard look at ourselves in a mirror. What would you change?

Our clothes offer us freedom of expression in a wide variety of styles and colors. At the same time, it gives us a chance to explore why we dress the way we do and why others react to us the way they do — professionally, socially and religiously.