How Powerful can our Clothing Choices be?

Elena Mychaliska (’23) discusses how design choices-from fashion to interior design-influence both our perceptions of others and how we feel. “…enclothed cognition …is the effects of clothing on cognitive processes. Studies show that our mood can be affected depending on what we wear.”

As the premier of the new season of The Crown nears, and Princess Diana’s iconic, and symbolic, style makes its way back into the media, I cannot help but find myself fascinated by the power of clothing. Whether it be her iconic black sheep sweater or the famous revenge dress, it was one of her most notable forms of communication with her audience: communicating happiness, sadness, and even rebellion. 

Princess Diana’s life can serve as a case study of the influential role clothing plays in how a person is perceived: used as a tool to communicate aspects of a person’s identity, their emotions, and their goals. This phenomenon, or better yet strategy, of careful fashion choices is so influential it has been used as a tactic by the most wealthy and powerful people in the world throughout history. Independent of Princess Diana, newly elected, far-right Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has been seen consistently wearing Armani, since her swearing in. Georgio Armani’s position on dressing controversial politicians is that fashion “goes beyond politics”. As a classic, politically neutral, “made in Italy” brand, it is hard to criticize, making it the perfect choice for the controversial new Prime Minister. But the impact of our clothes does not stop there.

Not only do clothes heavily impact how others view and treat you, it also impacts how people themselves behave. In 2012, a study was conducted at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in which people were asked to perform tasks while wearing a white coat. Those that wore a white coat, believing it belonged to a doctor, had sharp increases in their ability to pay attention. Whereas, those that wore the white coat believing it belonged to a painter showed no improvement in their ability to pay attention. 

This phenomenon is called enclothed cognition, which is the effects of clothing on cognitive processes. Studies show that our mood can be affected depending on what we wear. Moreover, it has been observed that our emotion upon waking up can have an effect on what we choose to wear on that given day. Happy clothes, or clothes that evoke positive emotions, have a tendency to be flattering and made from bright, beautiful fabrics. Sad clothes, or clothes that evoke negative emotions, however, are just the opposite. Although, this is subjective. Generally, positive clothes are ones that the person feels the most comfortable in. When I think of school design, color palette and furniture selection play a significant role. There are many conscious choices regarding what evokes calming and productive feelings. Green, blue, and beige. Couches, lamps, and rugs. In thinking about how to encourage success in an academic setting, clothing could have a similar effect, following school design as being a new piece of the academic success puzzle, amongst a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast. Making this a conscious element of school preparedness and success could significantly improve how people feel when taking a math test or completing an English essay, or even socializing with their peers. So next time you go to bed, do yourself a favor and pick out your outfit for the next morning-it could help you on your next assignment!

Music: The Perfect Study Tool 

Vera Naines (’25) explores how music impacts our focus and study habits. “The human brain, in some sense, is an enigma. There are tons of ins and outs to enhance its performance, and music is one of them.”

Recently, I’ve been doing a fair amount of studying due to the quickly approaching finals. I go downtown, make my way to a campus study spot, put headphones on, and get to work. I look up to view the people around me and notice something we all have in common: we’re listening to music. This made me wonder… is there a deeper reason why so many students listen to music while working? Turns out there is, and it has all to do with our brains and how they function. 

As you might know, sound travels as soundwaves. When these hit our eardrums, the vibrations are turned into electrical signals by the tens of thousands of nerve endings in our ears. These signals then travel to the brain which has to do a lot of work to interpret them. This is where the magic happens. Music is great for studying because it turns on parts of the brain that might have been dormant. It also has different effects in each part of the brain. For example, when you listen to music, the nucleus accumbens releases dopamine. Nucleus accumbensis the part of your brain responsible for turning motivation into action. In fact, music is a form of treatment for ADHD, which is partly characterized by lack of dopamine, because of its ability to release it.  Dopamine is so important because it makes you happy. This improves creativity by broadening your mindset and increasing the desire to explore. Music also stimulates the secretion of adrenaline, serotonin, and other hormones responsible for upping levels of energy and mental focus. Plants have even been shown to have better growth when exposed to classical music!

Music can and should be used to help your brain promote and sustain productivity. The only question is what type of music to listen to. Different types of music do different things, so you can pick and choose the genre for what you want it to do. Listening to music you might have listened to long ago can help bring back memories. Listening to happy music increases divergent thinking. In terms of studying, though, there are some types that rise above the rest. Anything with no lyrics works best as to not distract you with meanings. Slow blues and jazz are great for this reason, and because they enhance alertness and creativity as the tune changes unexpectedly. However, classical music is, in my opinion, the best. It has all of the positive effects previously mentioned, plus a decrease in stress due to the calming effect of it. Generally, no matter what music, it is important to keep the volume at the right level so it doesn’t drown your thoughts, but it still blocks background noise. 

The human brain, in some sense, is an enigma. There are tons of ins and outs to enhance its performance, and music is one of them. So next time you find yourself studying, try it out. Put on some tunes, and feel the power for yourself.