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Applied Psychology in Fashion

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Fashion is commonly associated with frivolity and exclusivity. Yet even this is a façade made to induce feelings that prompt consumers to behave in a way that will lead to sales. Fashion is as much about the clothes that corporations and brands produce and sell as it is about the zeitgeist that accepts these products and integrates them into itself. To research the impact that psychology plays within fashion is therefore to try to understand the ever-turning wheel of supply and demand. To understand how coolhunting will make Trend Forecasters promote a style that will be picked up by Designers, produced by Technicians, promoted by Marketers, sold by Retailers, purchased, used and discarded by Consumers who will style themselves in a way that will be scouted by Coolhunters, and the cycle starts anew.

In the end, what is Fashion Psychology? I define it as the application of psychology to understand people through their changing understandings and behaviours. Fashion psychology also attempts to incorporate ethics into fashion. As a field of psychology, the individual's well-being is paramount. No other product interacts with humans as much as clothes. They are incorporated into our lives and become our second skins. They can fulfill our needs from the most basic, to the highest. They can shield us, cover us, promote us, affiliate us to others– clothes help us express who we are, and who we want to be. They express our age, our beliefs, our values. Clothes are so intertwined with us, they are inevitably also used to manipulate us. Our ideals of beauty and success can be skewed with advertising. Our opportunities and limits can also be constrained or released through clothing and style due to social mores and norms.

Clashing of generations' fashion ca. early 1800's in France

The manner in which these complicated interactions can happen is what the scientific study of Applied Psychology in Fashion aims to uncover. Through the use of qualitative and quantitative research methods, various breakthroughs have come about like Adam and Galinsky's (2012) theory of Enclothed Cognition, Bellezza et al.'s (2014) Red Sneakers Effect and Masuch and Hefferon's (2014) grounded theory analysis of positive psychology in Fashion. In this blog, I want to explore different research, concepts and misconceptions that I have learned throughout my MSc. I hope that these will provide some insight into my field of research and that this knowledge may help in improving the industry.


Adam, H., & Galinsky, A. D. (2012). Enclothed cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(4), 918–925.

Bellezza, S., Gino, F., & Keinan, A. (2014). The Red Sneakers Effect: Inferring Status and Competence from Signals of Nonconformity. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(1), 35–54.

Masuch, C.-S., & Hefferon, K. (2014). Understanding the links between positive psychology and fashion: A grounded theory analysis. International Journal of Fashion Studies, 1(2), 227–246.

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