Bette Midler famously said, ‘Give a girl the right pair of shoes, and she can conquer the world.’
In my work as an Image Consultant, I’m privy to seeing how many of us attribute veritable superpowers to our garments: shoes that make us feel invincible, lucky pants, or perhaps a jacket that makes us seem like catnip to the opposite sex.
Science calls this phenomenon Enclothed Cognition, which suggests that our psychological processes are affected by what we wear. The way we approach and interact with others can be influenced by associations we attribute to certain garments.
So a pair of shoes we wore to a successful meeting can take on those associations with success in our minds, and effectively puts us into that headspace when we wear them again. The garment becomes a symbol that can trigger that mode of behaviour in the future.
Dr. Galinsky, one of the lead researchers in the study, says “clothing affects how other people perceive us as well as how we think about ourselves.”
To trial these findings, I’ve asked five women to open their wardrobes to reveal their “super-powered” garments.
Liza, Corporate Communications Manager
“My shoes make me feel invincible.”
‘My hero garment? It’s my shiny blue LK Bennett shoes. I wore them to my promotion interview (my biggest career meeting to date), where I had to do a presentation about myself, and be grilled thereafter by a panel. My job is writing speeches for other people, but I’m not used to talking about myself. I felt petrified going in, but my shoes got me into character. I wanted to come across as ambitious and well-prepared. These shoes make me feel invincible and have seen me through so many career highlights. Like old friends, we went in and got the job done.’
Sarah, Head of Equality, Ministry of Defence
“In a vibrant dress, I feel I can achieve anything!”
‘My hero garment is a vibrant dress. I’ve always had bright dresses in my working wardrobe, especially red ones. I bought my first one as a graduate. It made me feel “proper,” like I was made for the job and oozed confidence and charisma. Since then, I’ve always worn a similar dress when I need to be taken seriously and want to exude personality. I wore my latest incarnation of the boldly-coloured dress at a presentation for 200 people, and also for a challenging interview for my dream job (which I got!). It put me in that “go for it” state of mind. In a vibrant dress, I feel I can achieve anything!’
Kerry (left), Personal Assistant
“My Jesire jacket is my super-hero dating cape.”
‘My “super-power” piece is my Jesire jacket. I call it my super-hero dating cape. There was a time when I was going on three dates a week through an internet dating site, and I always felt great in that jacket. It makes me feel finished, well dressed and confident.
Maybe it symbolizes what I’m looking for in a relationship – it’s reliable, goes anywhere, looks stylish and never lets me down. We’ve been together through thick and thin.’
Fiona, Transitioning from Architect to Handbag Designer
“My Chloe bag makes me feel hopeful and empowered.”
‘My “super-power garment” is my Chloe Paraty handbag. I loved it so much, I sold a Dior dress and some Prada sunglasses on eBay to help fund my purchase. This bag is a symbol of my career transition from architect to hand bag designer. When I use it, it reminds me of the exciting life change I’m making. I’m actually doing this! For me, this is not just a handbag, it’s a dream coming true.’
Christine, Organisational Development Consultant and Career Transition Coach
“My jacket lets me feel a little bit rebellious.”
‘My hero garment is my Gap Jacket. Although it’s cut like the kind of tailored jacket you might wear in the City, there’s something about the fabric and fit that’s just a bit rebellious. My work is about enabling businesses and people to change. This means helping them to be the best version of themselves (often achieved by challenging them to stop fitting in so well, and start being a bit more unreasonable). Wearing the jacket allows me to access the part of myself that is both able to fit in and be provocative. It lets me feel a little rebellious.’
Do you have a garment that affects how you feel?
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