Here's How Others Really Perceive You When You're Wearing Formal Clothes

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Do you remember the last time you admired someone in a suit or got excited to dress for a black-tie event? Formal clothing has an allure all its own, and it's been a contemporary fashion staple for some time. This doesn't mean it's been stagnant, though. In fact, formal wear has seen an interesting evolution ranging from the dark suits and stiletto heels of the 1950s to the more laidback pants, dress shirts, and business skirts of today. It's easy to see, then, why we owe ready-to-wear fashion a huge "thank you" for helping us look spiffy for more than a century, as we wouldn't be able to swap our clothes or trends without it. 


Nowadays, people not only choose to wear this type of clothing to work and work-related events but also to weddings and even first dates. Our collective fashions have gotten more comfortable while remaining formal and chic. As such, maybe you've spent years carefully curating your office wear and choosing clothing that best brings out your personality, or maybe your idea of formal wear is to follow the latest trends. But did you know that you might also want to consider how others perceive your clothing, especially when it comes to formal wear?

Formal clothing exudes confidence

Formal clothes, like other dress codes, speak their own language. According to a 2015 study published in the scholarly journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, wearing formal clothing can make people perceive you as "socially distant." What's more, while this correlates positively with the wearer's abstract cognitive thinking abilities (intelligence), it could cause others around you to view you as both more professional and less approachable. Perhaps this is why formal wear is the go-to for work environments and casual clothing is preferred for parties. 


We've all heard the phrases "dress the part" or "dress to impress" when preparing for a job interview, and there's truth to these notions. Personal stylist and author of "Look Like The Leader You Are: A 7-Step Style Strategy For Ambitious Women" Lizzie Edwards wrote on LinkedIn, "Before you even utter a word, your image creates perceptions of you; your perceived level of intelligence, competence, affability, self-esteem, confidence, power and success." Formal wear lets the world know that you're accomplished and should be taken seriously, as well as being a symbol of leadership. Its symbolism doesn't end there, either. How you dress influences how you perceive yourself, too.

You can feel extra confident, too

Think about the time you put on your gym clothes an hour early just to get in the mood to work out. Did it work? If so, you're not alone. Researchers and fashion enthusiasts have long been interested in the psychological effects that clothes have on us, and in 2012, two scholars — Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky — published research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that named this phenomenon "enclothed cognition." The name stuck, and it helped scientists understand the emphasis our brains put on certain items. 


As such, if you want to feel more confident, powerful, and accomplished to get through the day, you may want to opt for formal clothes. They can help you feel confident just as they can help people see you through a confident lens, per a study. Dressing formally is also positively linked with someone's intelligence and negotiation skills, according to a different study that measured the skills of sweatpants-wearing individuals against those donning suits. Yale professor Michael Krauss, who conducted the study, told NPR that those in suits acted more "dominantly," while those in casual garments showed signs of nerves. "Not only are people changing their judgments of you, but it's allowing you to be more effective," Kraus told the outlet. 


So, next time you want a boost of confidence, think about combining a blazer with your favorite T-shirt. After all, you never have to sacrifice comfort in formality's name.