Dress to Impress: Social Virus or Pure Science?

Setting and Following Trends in Our Generation

Most of us are infected by a social virus called fashion. It is
actually more of a social and psychological influence. We have come to
a unanimous consensus nowadays that what you wear decides your social
status and whether you are “cool” or not. We view articles that always
tell us what to wear, programs on TV with titles such as “What Not to
Wear”, and Internet articles telling us what is right or wrong to
possess in our wardrobe. What’s the real reason behind the young woman
who pulls out two months salary’s worth just to buy that tiny Prada
handbag? Or the young man who’s been hounding that Rolex watch?
Keep in mind that your clothes talk about yourself in unsuspected
ways. It can get you attention (wanted or unwanted). They can get you
to make a good first impression. But basically, the clothes that we
buy tend to make us feel good about ourselves. And what we buy to wear
also explains a lot of things, like our values and beliefs. Our
appearance communicates our values to others. We were all born and
raised in different cultures and communities, so others may identify
you as different if you go beyond the circle you live in. So if your
appearance is different than others, you may not fit into that
picture. This is why we tend to follow fashion frenzies. To fit in. We
also dress up during the day because we never know who we might meet.
We only have one first chance to make a good impression and we may as
well do it by looking good! People are critical of others they don’t
know and if you meet someone for the first time, they will size u up
in a matter of 15 seconds as you walk into the room. Whether we like
it or not, the first impression we make is purely visual, without us
having to say a word, and there is no going back because there is no
erase button in people’s minds! Here are some statistics we are
evaluated upon: 55% based on body language and appearance, 38% verbal
tone, 7% verbal content.
Fashion gives access for its followers to develop and maintain a
unique identity. Clothes play an important role in how people view
themselves and each other, helping them define who they are and how
they feel. By buying clothes that provide for their specific needs and
wants, they can feel comfortable and secure, knowing that they look
good. Fashion can not only create identity, but change it as well.
There is something called self-transformation, both mentally and
physically, and this may be quite an experience, all in a matter of
changing our style in clothes. New Clothes can go as far as boosting
self-esteem, maybe temporarily. Now, this does not have to be the case
for everyone, but it sure helps. “Fashion is multi-functional and full
of contradictions. It can be used to impress or rebel, to fit in or
stand out. Fashion is a personal choice, but it is also how people
decide to present themselves to the world.” Fashion is both Public
and Private. The impression we make on others and how we explore our
personality and tastes. There is a paradox in the fashion world which
is To Fit in and Stand Out at the Same Time. This may never work in
the normal world, that is why we are in constant pursuit of finding
the right thing to wear, even on a normal day, and not just for a
formal occasion. Fashion designers always seem to know when a trend
seems to get too boring and they instantly come up with new things for
people to wear. This is one of their tricks. There are four types of
fashion categories that are followed: The individualist (fashion
explorer and innovator), the Mimic (imitates fashion leaders and is
up-to-date), the Arbiter (fashion leader with an individualist style),
and the Follower (socially traditional and is classic). Designers tend
to use celebrities via the media to establish new trends. The shopper
may like what they see worn by celebrities or may want to imitate
them, and by making the purchase they feel closer to the celebrity
they admire or want to be.
For example, girls tend to wear clothes that accentuate our figure
and things that express our personality. Sweaters and shirts that are
low-cut provide visual interest to others. This is the truth, and
whether we like it or not, consciously or sub-consciously, we do tend
to pick the low V-line shirt over the turtle-neck… even it zero
degrees outside and freezing! Same goes for pants: we don’t see loose
trousers anymore these days. They are considered as frumpy and not
very trendy. We always seem to follow the fashion for whatever the
trendsetters/designers are determined for us to wear. What about
shoes? Have you ever wondered why women wear high heels? There is a
reason for that that dates to many years back. The shape of the shoe
or heel is complementary with the shape of the foot, the actual heel
and the leg, all in all making the legs appear longer and giving a
thinning effect. It also gives good posture for the appearance and
boosts self-confidence. I mean, a shirt is just a shirt, but when you
stick a designer logo on it, it probably becomes worth hundreds. The
person wearing it becomes a walking advertisement, for the seller’s
benefit. People who buy clothes just for the brand are even more
encouraged by the people around them in society. (i.e.: the buyer’s
self worth is elevated by society by their brand-conscious peers).
Brands can create a community based on what you have in common with
others. This creates a bond that helps identify who you are.
Another reason why we tend to wear “fashionable” clothes is that
trends seem to be born overnight, and we have to keep up with all of
them, if possible! What could be “in” today, may be “out” tomorrow.
Generally, the public does follow the flow most of the times quite
closely. Catwalks and celebrities are scenes that are scrutinized all
the time and are motives for the rest of the local people. Clothes
make a statement and more often than not, people are judged by their
style selections the moment they step out in the world. Another reason
why we tend to dress up to the nines is to attract others. People are
conscious of the choices they make. Fashion is a form of expression
that allows guys and girls to communicate without uttering a word.
What about colors? Have you ever wondered why we tend to pick one
color over the other? Colors also speak out according to one’s
personality. A person wearing a red top can mean that s/he is loud,
aggressive, or flirtatious. A person wearing blue can mean they are
calm, easy-going, and peaceful. Not that all guys have the psychology
of a clothes designer, or that they are all interested in it. On the
contrary, women are not trying to attract men by wearing fashionable
clothes, but they are trying to give themselves an edge over potential
rivals.
Appearance can make a difference in getting a job. Correct appearance
can be your competitive advantage over someone else. A business
organization is a “society” in itself. When you work for that
organization, you become a part of that culture. When you are a
component of that “culture,” you are expected to be a sign of the
values of that organization. If your appearance is very different from
the other employees, you may not “fit” the image that the company is
on the lookout for. Therefore, when seeking employment you may need to
alter your appearance to match the values of the company where you are
seeking employment. Potential employers scrutinize based on how you
carry yourself and the way you look. Here are a few tips for
appropriate interview attire:
• Select a skirted suit, pantsuit or conservatively tailored dress
that draws the eye to your face.
• Skirts are traditionally knee-length but those slightly shorter or
longer are also acceptable.
• Select blouses or sweaters that provide visual interest, but avoid
transparent, tight fit, or have low necklines, revealing waistlines or
details that detract from your face as a focal point. Typically, arms
are covered at least to the biceps and often to the wrist.
• Always wear hose to interviews. Wear plain-style, non-patterned
hosiery and select colors that flatter your coloring. For traditional
industries, wear a neutral color. For other industries, you may choose
to wear hose that coordinates with your skirt. Carry an extra pair in
case of runs.
• Perfume should never be strong. A fragrance can cause an allergic
reaction or offend the interviewer. When in doubt, do not wear
perfume.
• Use natural-looking makeup and clear nail polish. This keeps the
focus on the interview.
• Do not carry a purse with a briefcase. Choose one or the other.
• Wear flat shoes or low pumps in colors that avoid making your feet a
focal point. Be sure that they are clean and polished. Avoid shoes
that hinder walking fast. This lowers credibility. Avoid open-toed
shoes since associated with social agendas.
• Add accessories to express your personality and accentuate your best
features. A scarf or necklace is an effective way to focus on your
face. Keep it simple!
• Women in general wear too many accessories at the same time such as
earrings, necklaces, and rings. These can accentuate your personality
and can be an asset if worn in moderation. Avoid dangling earrings and
wear no more than one ring per hand and a dress watch. Be sure all
jewelry focuses on the face.
• Wear a matching suit in navy, black or gray (pinstripe or solid) or
wear a navy blazer and gray dress slacks. They serve as a visual
background that draws the eye to the face.
• Wear white or a light blue dress shirt that contrasts with the
jacket and/or tie. Typically, arms should be covered to the wrist.
Exposing arms by rolling up your sleeves is interpreted as less
powerful and is less formal.
• A (silk or silk-like) tie should coordinate with the jacket and pant
but choose one that strongly contrasts with the color of your shirt;
selecting subtle or simple patterns enhances credibility.
• Socks should be calf-length or above the calf. Choose natural-fiber
blends that allow a flow of air and do not hold in perspiration and
heat. Choose colors such as dark blue, black or gray.
• Wear conservative, clean, and polished shoes.
• Select lace-up (not slip-on) dress shoes. The color should be dark
or blend with pant.
• Select a leather belt that visually blends or matches your shoes.
• A short hair cut and no facial hair is expected.
• Minimize jewelry. Avoid a necklace. Wear no more than one ring per
hand and a dress watch. Be sure all jewelry supports a focus on the
face.
• A full-length coat can be worn over your suit; avoid casual coats.
• Cologne should never be strong. A fragrance can cause an allergic
reaction or offend the interviewer. When in doubt, do not wear
cologne.
• Your briefcase is part of visual effect; consider a simple portfolio
as an effective substitute, and try to select a color that supports
your visual effect.
• Do not wait until you are pressed for time and have to make a hasty
decision or a choice that is not in your budget. Remember that
self-confidence is your primary goal when selecting your professional
interview attire. Purchase clothing with multi-use potential.
• Invest in impressive, classic, well-made separates that can be
combined for a ‘professional’ or ‘casual Friday’ look.
• Begin by selecting your best ‘neutral’ as a nucleus for a
professional wardrobe. Colors like black, dark gray, and navy are
versatile, but pearl gray, stone, steel blue, camel and celery are
fashionable options that lend new dimensions to any working wardrobe.
Your best neutral is dependent on personal coloring and personal style
as well as your best visual impact. See Exhibition for examples.
• Purchase matching components. Having options such as wearing a skirt
or pant with jacket or vest multiplies possible combinations.
• Use shirts/blouses/sweaters to create variety of visual effects.
• Select ties/scarves and jewelry that add to possible visual variety.
• Consider investing in season-fewer fabrics that drape and travel
well, such as lightweight stretch wool, washable matte jersey or a
blend of cotton and rayon.
Feeling Good about ourselves is one of the factors why we dress up.
Other reasons why we tend to care about clothes are because of our
Values. Values are beliefs that are significant to you. They affect
the choices that you make and the type of outfits that you have on.
Your look communicates your standards to others. We all live in
different communities and are born into diverse cultures so when you
go outside of your culture group, others may label you as being
different. One other important reason is First Impressions- or Social
identity and how we perceive the person wearing the clothes. Do
clothes actually make the person? You only have one first chance to
make a good first impression. A person will size you up in a matter of
15 seconds as you walk into a room full of people. What you have on
says a lot about who you are, or are presenting yourself to be. First
impressions are almost purely visual. This means paying attention to
every detail from head to toe is essential.
With first impressions, there is no erase button so make certain that
the first impression is positive. Not that fashion has this effect on
everyone. Some do not want anything more from their clothing than
comfort and flexibility and resourcefulness. They might not feel the
need to create a “new look” when they are feeling blue, and they may
not feel obligated to follow the latest style 6r fad. However, even if
they do not find recent trends appealing 6r attractive, they establish
a social identity with the clothing they already have in their
wardrobe.
“Whether you are following trends or not, the effect of [using
fashion] to code yourself makes people believe in you and your
political statement, and makes you feel more comfortable. It is
vitally important in today’s societies,” says Simon Ekrelius, a
fashion designer based in London.
Fashion makes certain statements and is full of contradictions at the
same time. It can be used to impress or rebel, to fit in or stand out.
5t 5s a personal choice, but it is also how people decide to present
themselves to the world.
“Fashion is both public — the impression we make on others — and
private — the way we explore our own personality and tastes,” says
Evelyn Brannon, author of the book Fashion Forecasting. “Since the
desire to fit in and stand out at the same time can never be
fulfilled, people are in constant pursuit of this goal,” she adds.
This paradox is the core of fashion’s influence in society. People buy
the newest styles to establish themselves as individuals, but the
styles are not new for very long. Soon they turn into trends, with
everyone parading around town in the same clothes. To save the
innocent populace from the dire fate of looking like everyone else,
fashion designers and marketers evaluate current trends, recognize the
minute a trend becomes too boring, and then release a new style onto
the market. This cycle allows people to repurchase a unique item of
clothing, re-establishing their individuality. Do different colors
affect your mood? Colors are Omnipresent. In addition, they do
actually affect your mood. This is due to a science called color
psychology.
How do you dress to impress?
The way a person dresses is a sign of their personality. The way you
dress can have a huge impact on your success. It is not difficult to
dress to impress. Here are a few rules that certify that your
appearance will be making a positive statement:
• Most obviously, wear clean clothing that is well pressed.
• Dirty clothes and wrinkles indicate sloppiness. Even if you are just
running to the store to buy milk, it is never a good idea to wear
something that came out of the laundry. You never know who you will
see, so it is better to put on something presentable.
• Don’t let important fashion information slip by you.
• Choose clothing that fits well, covers everything it needs to cover
and does not slide up or down when you sit.
• Hair is also very important when making fashion statements. If it is
disheveled or not clean, it sends a message that you do not have the
time to care for it. Running a brush through your hair or pulling it
back gives you a more polished and put together look.
• Fragrance also plays a role in how you depict yourself. Choose a
fragrance that is not overwhelming because it can sometimes be
distracting.
Biological reasons why women dress the way they do
A new study shows that young women in relationships may dress a bit
more provocatively as they reach the ovulation phase of their monthly
fertility cycle. Thirty college women who were studied were more
likely to wear lace-trimmed tops, skirts instead of pants, and more
revealing ( but still appropriate) clothes as they neared ovulation
(biological term for when an egg is released from an ovary.) “Near
ovulation, women dress to impress, and the closer women come to
ovulation, the more attention they appear to pay to their appearance,”
Haselton says in a UCLA press release. “They tend to put on skirts
instead of pants, show more skin, and generally dress more
fashionably,” Haselton adds. The 30 women in Haselton’s study were
UCLA students and 21 years old. All were in relationships, were not
using hormonal contraceptives and had regular menstrual cycles. The
women took urine tests to estimate where they were in their cycle.
They were also photographed twice — once on a high fertility and the
other on a low fertility day. They were not told what the study was
about. The photos were not glamour pictures. The women simply stood in
front of the same background both times with their hands at their
sides. The researchers at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin-Eau
Claire showed the women’s photos to 37 judges — 17 men and 25 women.
Most of the judges were 18 to 23 years old; the two oldest were 41 and
above. The judges analyzed each set of photos, with the near-ovulation
and far-from-ovulation photos shown side by side. The women’s faces
were covered so the judges could focus on hair, jewelry and clothes.
The judges were asked: “In which photo is the person trying to look
more attractive?” In almost six out of ten cases, the judges chose the
picture in which the woman was closer to fertility. In the high
fertility photos, this is what the researchers said: “… Two women who
dressed similarly in each session wore tops with lace trim at high
fertility; three wore skirts instead of pants; one woman added a
fringy neck scarf; and several women simply showed more skin,” the
researchers write. What women wear is not just about hormones; moods
and schedules may also affect garment choices. E.g.: a woman dresses
in a different way if she is dashing across campus for an exam rather
than going to an interview. “The approach of ovulation had a much
stronger impact on the way women dressed than the onset of
menstruation,” Bleske-Rechek says. Specifically, a recent
UCLA/University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire study found that women dress
more provocatively during ovulation. The study’s authors noted that
ovulating women wore skirts rather than pants, showed more skin, and,
in general, dressed more fashionably. And it turns out, this behavior
isn’t species-specific. Though human females have the least “telltale”
fertile periods in all the animal kingdom, we still send signals to
potential mates each time we shimmy into our “skinny” jeans, says
evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa. “In nature in general,
female ovulation is widely advertised,” he says. “When female primates
ovulate, their genitalia enlarge and often acquire a bright color, so
that anyone within a one mile radius can tell.” Recent studies have
found that in guy-only places like strip clubs, dancers who are
ovulating usually earn bigger tips.
Are women who dress to impress other women at a disadvantage? You
could probably point them from afar. For instance, let’s define the
polarity by saying that women fall into two categories: Jessica
Simpson? (Defined as Guy-hot!) , Kirsten Dunst? (Equals Girl-hot.)
Kirsten looks adorable all the time, while Jessica continually appears
as if she is posing for a magazine. Some women rock back and forth in
between the two extremes. If you were going out with your friends, you
would want them to say, ‘You look cute!,’ so you would wear something
short but not form-fitting. On the other hand, if a girl were meeting
up with a guy, she would wear something to show off her body. And
heels. Flats just aren’t conventionally sexy. Amazingly enough,
science and fashion agree on this particular point. ( Ideas from
Maureen Dempsey, Tango’s executive editor and resident girl-hot guru
Who do you dress to impress: Men or women? And what’s behind what you
wear? It turns out the fine art of fashion may be a science, after
all.
OUT OF A SAMPLE OF 10 GIRLS AND 10 GUYS in BEIRUT:
GIRLS / GUYS
need, search of style, when in bad mood, make up excuses for going
out, average prices, stressed out Buy because they like something, or
need it.
No occasion for shopping No occasion
60% shop alone, 40% take others for advice 100% shop alone
60% dress for self, 40% for fashion Dress for comfort 100%
Family, fiancés, and friends notice new clothes Wives or no one
60% casually dressed, 40% classically Usually dress in sport-chic clothes
100% depends on situation for getting dressed up 50% no, 50% yes
First thing to buy: 20% Trousers,40% shoes, 20% tops and shirts, 20%
according to color 50% said Shoes, 50% Everything
100% dress to impress other people 50% do, 50% don’t

The girl-hot versus guy-hot dilemma seems to come down to a solid
science. What about free will and freedom of choice? Unquestionably,
there has come a time where we all stood in front of the closet until
we found the perfect ensemble to suit our mood. Are choices really
linked to an unconscious urge to pass on biologically in the genes?
There is a truth to it, but psychological and social factors also play
a big role in the choices you make when deciding what to wear. The
sexiest part of the body is your brain, people say. Being funny,
smart, daring, curious, artistic, and inspired are what make you
attractive.

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