if a dark masculine suit is not your personal style preference, it might affect
how much you let yourself be a feminine woman in a business environment.
Professor A. D. Galinsky and Assistant professor H. Adam use the term
“enclothed cognition” to describe the influence that clothes have on the
wearer’s psychological processes.1 They say that clothing has a
certain identity which you accept by wearing it and then behave accordingly to
Do you know what identity does your clothing have and how the clothing you wear changes the way you behave?
Clothing for women found in men’s wardrobe
Back in Coco Chanel’s time, she wanted to create clothing for women that would give them freedom – the one that men already had. This freedom that she wanted to promote, Coco Chanel found in men’s wardrobe. When I read her biography, I saw a woman that wanted to be as far as possible from portraying herself as soft, nurturing, and “sweet” –traits that were often assumed for women at that time. Being unmarried and without children, she wanted to create a personal style – free without any limitations in movement – that would fit her way of life.
Nowadays, 99% of clothes even at Zara and Mango are so masculine, that they still seem to be inspired from men’s wardrobe. Moreover, most mass-market clothing brands show a kind of uniformization for women.
Wearing masculine clothing might make you behave in a masculine fashion
I recently did some research on this topic and visited the workplaces of female leaders to see how they dressed and behaved. I found that there was a certain correlation between these two. The woman who was dressed in masculine clothing – mostly in dark colors and reserved style– smiled less, asked more questions, focused on facts. The feeling I got from her was that she was judging me and that I needed to prove myself in front of her. Overall in women, who had dressed in a masculine fashion, I observed more stereotypically masculine traits – logic and structure winning over emotions and relationships.
I have realized that for me living and working like a man, because of the understandable necessity to be taken more seriously, is extra pressure in already overwhelmed work-life balance. Therefore, I have made the choice not to overwork myself but to find strength in my feminine core instead.
Clothing to express your femininity
Do you remember your school graduation – how you were searching for a dress for one of the most important days of your life? Do you remember how you dressed up and felt beautiful? You know, this doesn’t have to be a once-a-year experience.
For some women who love to wear dresses (myself included), there is some awe when we talk about our favorite one – colors on the dress seem like flowers that have bloomed, the silky, cool fabric feels like a gentle touch.
Today, many working women try to find the balance between being a mother, a wife, and a successful entrepreneur. I strive for this myself, and I also want to wear a dress that helps me express myself, telling the story about who I am and what I stand for. A dress that encourages me to feel beautiful, that is designed for aesthetics and pleasure, but also gives off a business-like feel – a dress that is full package – so I could present myself as a strong woman with ambitious dreams.
How do you choose what you wear? What factors lead you to choose a more masculine suit versus a dress and vice versa? How does each of these make you feel and behave?
1 Adam H., Galinsky A.D. (2012). Enclothed cognition. Journal of Experimental psychology, 48, 918-925.