Fashion Psychology

Feyan Hoffman, Online Editor

If you have never heard of the term ‘fashion psychology’, especially used in the context of serious research, you’re not alone. It is an emerging field of study–and for good reason.

Dawnn Karen describes herself as as a “fashion psychologist”. As a brand consultant, therapist and instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she says that Fashion Psychology is a “study and treatment of how color, image, style and beauty affects human behavior, while addressing cultural norms and cultural sensitivities.”

Dr. Carolyn Mair is one of those bringing the study of Fashion Psychology to fruition. As a British psychologist and scientist with a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience, Dr. Mair has introduced many to this subject by developing the world’s first master’s degree program in Fashion Psychology at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. She defines this subject as the concern over the diverse individual, societal, and environmental issues that arise from the fashion industries. She says, “although fashion is an exciting, creative and dynamic industry, it has many problems. Applying psychology to solve these enables us to predict and ultimately change behavior for the better.”

So, what is wrong with the fashion industry? To put it in three simple words: beauty, money, and production. Dr. Mair says that the industry has affected how people see themselves. Dr. Mair also said, “body image, self-esteem, confidence, the sexualisation of women, and the selection/treatment of models… compulsive spending… over-consumption that results in the disposal of unworn items… the problem of landfill sites and other pollutants… ecological issues [in regards to production], such as pollution of lakes and rivers from dye, depletion of natural resources from over-production, etc.”

What we wear can either positively or negatively influence us. On one hand, we can experiment with different styles that make us feel confident with who we are, thus making us more prone to living a better life. On the other, we can become overcome with the societal pressure to literally fit into what the fashion industry and advertising convinces us is the epitome of body image. At this point, it’s not even about clothes anymore. Hating your body and anything you use to clothe yourself is an issue that is much more than skin-deep, and it’s most likely rooted in the foundation of the fashion industry.

This topic has gotten traction recently because of how dire the situation in fashion is. The negativity people bring upon their own body can have alarming consequences, and this perception has the ability to manifest into serious psychological issues and disorders. But as I have mentioned before, fashion can have its positive and negative effects, and there is a lot to discuss about how fashion can help someone overcome a struggle.

The study of Fashion Psychology is a field that has yet to emerge entirely. But, as the subject gets more traction and more people become aware of its research, hopefully light will be shed on these issues and people can come together to create solutions. You are not only what you wear, but what you wear has a huge impact on the world around you.