What Your Wardrobe Says About Your Psyche

Such high heels, Lady Gaga. Feeling inept? Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for SiriusXMWatching makeover shows can be amusing — if occasionally cringe-inducing, particularly when people are forced to throw away that sweater they've had forever or favorite old pair of shoes. “That can be traumatizing,” Dawnn Karen, New York-based fashion psychologist, tells Yahoo Shine, “because people are attached to their clothes.” That’s where Karen and others in the relatively new but growing field of fashion-psychology step in — by helping folks who want to reboot their wardrobes figure out a little more about themselves first. a way to get to the heart of the matter for folks wanting to reboot their wardrobes.

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“I use counseling to assess where they’re at and why,” explains Karen, who uses her background in psychology, design, modeling, and performance to counsel clients ranging from CEOs to entertainers. “That way, the changes tend to stick.”

This week, the Australian publication Daily Life wrote about the rise of Karen’s field, noting, “This niche group of professionals applies psychological theories to what we wear, understanding that our clothing choices impact not only our own thoughts and emotions, but also those of the people we come in contact with.”

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It works the other way too, of course, with emotions, psyches, and underlying issues driving people to wear what they wear. And that aspect — what your clothes really say about you — is pretty fascinating. So Yahoo Shine checked in with Karen for a little insider info about what tight pants, too-high heels, dated clothing, and other looks reveal about the mindsets of those who wear them.

If you wear very high heels often …
“You stand on solid ground with your shoes, and they carry you through life, so they do say a lot. Wearing very high heels might mean she feels rather inept and cannot look at people at eye level, and uses the shoes to elevate her, both physically and in her mind.”

Perez Hilton, not dressed up at a red-carpet premiere. Need validation? Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images If your wardrobe is trapped in the ’90s (or ’80s, or any other time) …
“No updating means they’re stuck in a time period. The clothing could be from and symbolize a time when they were at their best. So they’re stuck in a mold from when they were most confident, when they were younger and hip and in their heyday, instead of thinking: How am I evolving?”

If you are slavishly, hyper-trendy …
“I love these people because they are very expressive, but it’s like, who are you? Yes, you look awesome and I see all your Instagram pictures, but you’re constantly changing. Are you ever slowing down to settle in and to ask, 'Who am I?' Are you hiding from something?”

If you refuse to ever dress up — or down …

“It’s cliché to say, but this goes back to your comfort level and when you feel your best. I had a client once who purposefully would not dress up for anything — he didn’t know how to dress up, it was a comfort-level thing — but he would literally do it to piss people off. Then there are the others who wear a fur and stilettos and it’s like, 'We’re just going for brunch!' They want all eyes on them. Both cases are seeking validation. Perhaps they’re not getting it somewhere else in their lives.”

If you cling to too-tight clothing …
“It could simply be ignorance of not knowing how to dress for one’s body type. Or, culturally, and in an urban world, it’s very cool and va-va-voom for clothes to be tight — it gets a lot of attention. So it could be a way for women to feel sexy, and that they just don’t know how to portray sexy without clothes that are tight.”

If your outfits are too baggy …
“Perhaps they don’t like their body, and don’t want the world to see it. They could have low self-esteem, and don’t know how to feel comfortable in their own skin. Or maybe something traumatic happened; a woman who has been sexually abused may want to shield her body from the world.”

Of course there is always a person’s mood of the day to take into account, Karen notes. “Mood enhancement is a term I’ve coined about dressing your mood,” she says, explaining that dressing up when you’re feeling down — or down when you’re feeling down, whatever helps — can go a long way. “It can be very therapeutic,” she says.

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