Personal Style and self-esteem

You’d never guess it to look at me, but fashion is a micro-passion of mine. So last week I travelled to the capital to see not one, but two, fashion exhibitions. Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto and Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Style. Despite my passion, I’m aware that not everyone’s a fan of fashion. In fact it often gets a bad rap. And quite rightly so. At its worst it can be fickle, wasteful and elitist. But at its best? Its transformative, confidence boosting, almost magical. Enabling us to express our inner self, and forming a relationship between style and self-esteem.

The power of fashion

Who hasn’t employed the power of fashion as armour? Woken up feeling run down, vulnerable and tired. Desperate to crawl back under the duvet and nurse their mental scars. But through the process of putting on your face, finding a dress that flatters and downing an espresso, something shifts. Even if only slightly. You still have problems, but now you feel more prepared to leave your front door and face the world.

Anything that enables you to do this – to ignite energy, to spark a feeling of control and allow you to feel more like yourself – is a good thing. Personal style and self esteem often go hand in hand. Indeed, Gabrielle Chanel, herself a convent educated orphan from a deprived background, harnessed the power of fashion. And it paved the way for her to enjoy opportunity, success and great wealth. Sometimes the old saying really is true, “Good clothes open all doors.”

Fake it ’til you make it

Ever worn a ballgown and been treated like a queen? Well, psychologists have a name for this. It’s enclothed cognition. And it happens when we wear a garment, and either our behaviour shifts to embody its imbued properties, or other’s perceptions of us change. By way of example, cast your mind back to the department store beauty hall and the Clinique staff in their starched, white, cotton overcoats. To be clear: they were not trained technicians, chemists or pharmacists. They were retail assistants. Yet the Clinique uniform ascribed them with a sense of scientific knowledge, attention to detail and general authority that was missing from the other cosmetic counters.

And the same is true for the little black dress. It’s literally a short, black dress. Similar, aside from colour, to a small blue one. But its link to sexual power, sophistication, and seduction is embedded in everyone’s psych. And should you be wearing one, you’ll likely get in the mood for a romantic evening faster than if you were in a tea dress.

I could talk about style and self-esteem all day, but I’m no expert. However if you want to hear more from a person with a genuine PHD in the subject then I can recommend fashion psychologist Dr. Dawnn Karen.

And if you’ve ever personally benefitted from the very real power of having the right clothes, then you’ll know how valuable a charity like Smartworks is. It’s an excellent organisation that helps women with all parts of the recruitment process. From practising interview skills to picking the perfect outfit to wear.

I’d love to hear your opinion on style and self esteem, so either drop a comment below or email me at

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