Clothing and Your Emotions: Is There a Connection?

Do the clothes really make the person? You may rarely think about it, but what you’re wearing today might have been a direct expression of how you felt when you selected the outfit this morning.

Several studies show our mood can be affected depending on what we wear. Likewise, how we feel upon waking can affect our choice of outfit and subsequent moods.

A 2012 study by Professor Karen Pine, from the psychology department at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain, found that 57 per cent of women admitted to wearing a baggy top when depressed, compared to 2 per cent of wearing one when feeling happy. Similarly, 62 per cent would put on a favourite dress when happy, compared to 6 per cent when sad.

And the outfit women turn to when they are feeling down? Jeans, with more than half of the 100 women interviewed turning to their trusty denim on a blue day.

Clothing and Your Emotions
Clothing and Your Emotions

“Happy” clothes tend to be those that are flattering, well-tailored and made from bright and beautiful fabrics, Professor Pine said.

Research by senior marketing lecturer Dr Alastair Tombs, of the University of Queensland’s business school, backs up the strong link between women’s emotions and their clothes.

“By interviewing 30 women, we have found that outfit choices are made to match the mood and as a form of self-expression, but we’ve also found that clothing is used to control or mask emotions,” he says.

He’s also discovered that memories or emotions attached to our clothes can evoke good or bad feelings when we wear them.

“If someone is complimented on their clothing, then the good feelings they experience often come back when they wear that again,” he says.

“Conversely, many women said they could never wear the same clothes again if something negative happened in them, such as breaking up with a boyfriend or losing their job.”

Personal stylist Annalisa Armitage says it’s important to let go of clothes we associate with bad times or feelings.

“When women open their wardrobes and have clothing they don’t like, clothing that doesn’t fit them or their husband hates, it’s negativity hitting them in the face immediately,” she says.

Maybe you didn’t care or were feeling down when you were getting dressed. But on a day you do care or you have something special to dress up for, you take extra time to look your best.


Ponder these ideas about how clothing reflects your feelings:


  1. Consider a trip to the hospital. As soon as you put on that baggy hospital gown, you feel vulnerable, unsure of yourself, and defenceless. Your physical symptoms may even worsen. Who feels fantastic wearing a hospital gown? No one.
  2. Think back to the last time you wore some new workout wear. Did you feel like you had your best workout ever when you were dressed in your new activewear?
  • You likely felt more serious about what you were doing and gave your best effort.


  • Maybe you believed you were looking pretty buff that day and that you were on your way to your strongest body yet.

  1. Research supports the connection between clothes and feelings. One researcher had some of her students put on Superman T-shirts and then take a survey about how they felt about themselves. Those wearing the Superman shirts reported they were more likeable and even physically stronger than those not wearing the Superman shirts.
  2. When you dress up to go to a wedding or fancy dinner, you feel elegant. For most of us, putting on our “Sunday best” brings out our best manners and makes us feel confident about our looks.
  • The better you think you look, the better you feel about yourself. That’s surely a vote for looking your best whenever you can.
  1. Women who are depressed focus on wearing the same clothing. A recent study found that rather than looking at their entire wardrobes, women with depression selected clothing from just ten percent of all the apparel in their closets.
  2. If you find yourself wearing your jeans often, you may be depressed. According to additional research, women who were feeling down in the dumps just grabbed their jeans and put them on.


  • So, when you’re repeatedly slipping into those old, comfortable jeans, examine how you’re really feeling.
  1. Think back to when you wore something you disliked. If you’ve ever thought your pants were too tight, your behind looked too large, or the bright colors showcased your flaws, you likely experienced negative feelings rather than positive ones about your clothing. How you feel about your outfit can negatively affect your day.
  2. Now, consider how you feel when you wear your favourite clothes. Maybe it’s that light blue shirt with the grey pants. Or the red polka dot cocktail dress with the white scarf and navy heels. You feel fantastic when you wear clothes you love.


As it turns out, your feelings are closely connected with the clothes you wear. When you have a wardrobe that’s appealing to you, you’ll live a happier, more confident life. Consider going through your closet today and donating those outfits that seem to bring you down. Who knows, those same clothes might lift the spirits of someone else!