Dress for Success


closet-clothes-donate-600.jpgIn High School, I had many teachers who were avid on practicing the "Dress for Success" rule when test day arrived. Extra credit would be handed out if you rocked your sleekest heels or shrugged on your iron-pressed blazer. I always struggled to follow this rule (considering I am most comfortable in my over-worn grey sweatpants and large Penn State hoodie), but I did wonder what the reasoning was behind this so-called "Dress for Success". 

Turns out that your outfit of choice can have an almost direct impact on your educational/psychological performance. This is referred to as "enclothed cognition", which involves the co-occurance of two independent factors- the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them (Brokaw, MITSloan). Clothing that pertains to a certain role in society (for example: doctor's lab coat) can affect our psychological performance when wearing them. Because it is a lab coat, studies have shown an increase in subject's attention when wearing it. Because the clothing has a feeling of "importance", people respond accordingly.

Everyone knows the feeling after purchasing a desired good. Whether it be a suit, new set of pumps, or a cute pair of skinny jeans- we all embrace these goods by wearing them confidently the next day. By doing this, Kellogg professor Adam Galinsky believes, "we are not only giving impressions to other people, but we are also giving an impression to ourselves." By embracing our newly-worn clothes we are meanwhile feeling confident in ourselves, helping us to perform better. Don't get me wrong, wearing a business suit to an interview will look good to the boss, but it's your own boost of self-confidence that can really seal the deal. 

So next time you take a step into the mall, remember: what you buy can really affect your performance. That suit you spot in the corner may help with your presentation at work. Those cute boots over in the next session may boost your confidence for your upcoming blind-date. Or those jeans may be the next step towards getting you an A. Either way clothing has a bigger impact than we think, so dress accordingly. 

Here's a link to a book that digs deeper into the congnition behind clothing, if intereted-check it out!


  • Wear, Gty Clothes Dm 120405 Wblog You Are What You. "You Are What You Wear."ABC News. ABC News Network, 5 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.
  • Brokaw, Leslie. "MIT Sloan Management Review." MIT Sloan Management Review RSS. MITSloan, 5 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.


In fourth grade, my teacher had us give science presentations. He always had us put on a white 'scientist' lab coat, and it was the coolest part of giving the presentation! Dressing up definitely boosts one's self-confidence, and dressing for the part makes a person feel like the 'real deal'! Even as a fourth grader, wearing that white lab coat for my presentation made me feel like I was part of NASA. Our culture has certain expectations for different roles in society, including the way someone dresses. Dressing for the part you want to potentially play after graduation will make you feel like your one step closer to where you want to be!

I am a strong believer of the "dress for success" saying, despite people often mistaking this way of thinking for vanity. I've always thought that the way you dress can definitely have an impact on the way you portray yourself, which can then have an effect on others. For me, this goes beyond trends and fashion. it's what you feel good wearing and what will give you the confidence to go out there and do what you need to do. I throughly enjoyed reading this post!

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