Fashion has been identified as one of the prevailing entities that can be observed all throughout history. It is an indication of styles and customs that are widely practiced at a particular time. Nonetheless, the usage of such term is always associated with clothing. However, in a greater sense, the concept of fashion encompasses more than clothing— it is something that pertains to a much bigger picture. The interest if humans in fashion are not just of recent origin.
To prove such point, since the pre-historic many people have adorned their skins with colored clays and even tattoos, while clothing has been considered as one of the most absorbing yet was also treated as an important issue in life as it represents many things about life as a whole. However, while fashion from the past was regarded as an aspect only reserved for the wealthy populace, the influence of such entity can now be felt everywhere, anytime at this moment.
Today, from the poorest to the richest, from the inhabitants of the most metropolitan areas to the inhabitants of the most rural places, many individuals indulge in extravagant fashion. From here, one can simply ask what is it with fashion that motivates people to recognize it as a powerful entity? While physically fashion posit lots of benefits for individuals following the latest trend, limited studies were centered in understanding the benefits that fashion can offer for those who follow it.
In this respect, this paper sought to answer the question: What are the psychological benefits of fashion for individuals following the trend? What is fashion? In order to give depth to the subject being taken, it is therefore an imperative to discuss what fashion is. One researcher pointed out that fashion is “a series of recurring changes in the choices of a group of people, which though they may be accompanied by utility, are not determined by it… Fashion is marked by rhythmic and innovation, by alternate uniformity and change, but neither of these phases obeys the principle of utility” (Ross, n.
p. qtd. in Hurlock, 4). From the given perspective, it can then be assumed that fashion is a response to the ongoing cycle of change. Although it can not be widely utilized, fashion for many is a solution for the conventionality of life. Therefore, there is a greater element of luxury and lesser element of usability. Because of this, fashion has become an integral part of the social environment. Today, fashion affects almost all aspects in life. Fashion can now be seen in architecture, manner, automobiles, home furnishings, personal adornments, music, games and the likes.
As the society tends to become an organized group that perceives fashion as something more, it is therefore possible that the chances of fashion to hold on for long is high, because fashions are transferable from one individual to another within the groups they belong because of the sense of imitation (Hurlock). So what is it that motivates individuals to follow such trend? The answer is simple; it benefits their psychological well- being other than the physical usefulness of such entity. Psychological benefits of fashion
Sense of acceptance and belongingness Both ridicule and scorn are the sanctions that force people to embrace fashion, and in such case the dissenter is said to be powerless in such manner. When one refuses fashion that has been widely accepted by many, the dissenter is more likely to hurt himself, but rarely hurts fashion itself. Public opinion is a powerful entity which can persuade a person to accept fashion (Hurlock). Today, however, fashion is now more of a pavement that leads an individual to gain entry to a particular group.
For instance, a group wears a certain memorabilia so as to indicate their allegiances to education. People follow fashion, most especially in the context of wearing clothes, in accordance to their age cohorts, ethnic backgrounds, social class and professional affiliations. It is noteworthy that every individual has the innate desire to belong to a system or an established group, thus recognizing fashion is one way of signaling membership within a relevant in-group (Baumeister and Leary, 1995 qtd. in Saad, 2007).
There are numerous practices that are done in order to solidify the behavior of an in-group, one of which is their consumption choices that re-affirm the membership of individuals. The fashion industry is often seen as a group exercise of conformity and identification. In short, the innate need to belong is sufficed by the fashion industry. As an industry that is followed by millions of individuals; consumers are therefore repeatedly engaging in behaviors that ensure that they indeed belong to the “fashionable group.
” Thus, fashion in itself has usurped the innate needs of humans to belong. Specifically, the overt signals of belongingness are labile in nature such as in order to become fashionable and to gain entry to a fashionable group an individual must continuously buy the continuously changing fashion, accessories and adornments. While some claim that fashion trends are mere representations of the pretentious life of wealth and are only made available to the privileged classes (Locke and De Chamfort qtd.
in Saad), the popular fashion trends of today are now made available to the masses, thereby allowing consumers that originate from any social classes can now feel the cues of belongingness, most especially within the reference group through the fashion trends that they have come to adopt (Saad). The innovations provided by fashion, such as new clothing and the sole benefit of the adopter to such particular innovation, specifically that of belongingness and acceptance is just one of the many instantiated psychological benefits of fashion. Establishment of Identity
Psychologically, identity is said to have two important dimensions, the personal and the social. However, both dimensions of identity are related in the psychological concept of “self,” “self-identity,” and “self concept. ” Yet each of the said terms more often than not given complex and at time inconsistent meanings which makes it hard for identity to be defined. Therefore, the safest way to define identity is that it is the subjective concept or representation that an individual holds of who she or he really is (Vignoles, Regalia, Manzi, Golledge and Scabini, 2006 qtd.
in Dittmar and Halliwell). The said definition highlights two important aspects. First is that identity is in the position of a person’s subjective psychological experience instead of referring to it as an objective essence. Second is that, identity is inclusive, which often involves individual, relational and group level representation of the self (Sedikides and Brewer, 2001 qtd. in Dittmar and Halliwell).
This also implies that identity is multi-faceted in nature, and that it is made up of various self- representations that vary from each other which instead of making a unitary structure integrates varying aspects of the self (Donahue, Robins, Roberts and John, 1993, 834 qtd. in Dittmar and Halliwell). Generally, the given definition means that every individual has multiple identities. Such perspective has been consistent from research findings, as people who are often asked “who are you ? ” listed differing qualities and material objects that satisfy their needs (Gordon, 1968 qtd.
in Dittmar and Halliwell). From William James’s “Principle of psychology,” he identified that one of the many representations of the identity is the “material self. ” He noted that an individual’s identity, aside from the body’s physical boundaries also includes material goods (James, 1890 qtd. in Dittmar and Halliwell). In addition to personal identity, another domain that is manifested within its context is that of body image, which connote one’s thoughts and feelings about his or her physical body (Dittmar, 2005c qtd. in Dittmar and Halliwell).
Traditionally, body image is not considered as a domain of identity. However, as body image constitutes a subjective concept, wherein a person sees this as the self-representation of their bodies to other, therefore it makes a lot of sense to hold such concept as a part of identity (Dittmar,Phillips and Halliwell, 2007; Halliwell and Dittmar, 2006 qtd. in Dittmar and Halliwell). So, how are these this related to fashion? For the most of its followers, fashion may it be in the aspect of music, arts and the likes, is the gateway for them to develop and maintain their identities.
Fashion, in most part, plays a significant role in the lives of many because it makes them view themselves in a different light; helping them define who they really are and how they really feel. By simply purchasing the things that they want and are in style, their specific needs are already met and they already feel secure about themselves, because they know that they look good in the eyes of others (Zborowski). In short, fashion is in touch with the identity domain of the “material self” and “body image,” as it satisfies the needs of material goods and the attention that one gives in his or her body as a whole.
Fashion does not only create identity, but also changes it. One person can go from “hip-hop” to “goth. ” Not at all times fashion have the same effect on everyone. For some, they are satisfied with their clothing’s comfort and versatility. They may not feel the pull that they have to follow the latest trends, but the fact still remains that they already established a social identity by allowing themselves to recognize that fashion is an on-going cycle.
Take for example in clothing, whether an individual follows a trend or not, the effect of stating one’s own fashion through such medium can already serve as a code for people to believe that an individual is who he or she is by the clothes that he or she wears; the person may inculcate a political statement or just become one of the crowd. The multi-functionality of fashion as well as the contradiction it presents can be used as a means of impressing, rebellion or either to fit or stand-out of the crowd.
As fashion is a personal choice, it gives its followers the liberty to decide on the how they can present themselves to the world (Zborowski). According to author Evelyn Brannon “fashion is both public—the impression we make on others—and private the way we explore our own personality and tastes” (Brannon, n. p. qtd. in Zborowski, 30). People are apt to think that as fashion meets the desire of an individual to differentiate oneself from the group, and at the same time to conform to the social norms, buying new styles are efficient means of establishing individuality.
Soon enough, the styles they opt to use will be recognized by everyone else that, the same clothes and accessories they wear will eventually be paraded by other people. As such, in order to deviate people to like just like everyone else, most fashion designers recognizes the minute a trend is already plunging into the conventional level. So, they would release new styles because they understand that every individual’s need to express themselves. The cycle would then eventually flow once again: people will purchase unique and fashionable items in order to re-establish their identities (Zborowski).
Sense of Positive Well-Being Historically, psychology has been pretty much concerned with the indicators of a person’s ill-health and unhappiness. Recently, the focus of psychology is on the explicit factor that promotes a person’s well-being, which is known as “positive psychology” (Csikzentmihayali and Csikzentmihayali, 2006 qtd. in Dittmar and Halliwell). It has been noted that one of the most important aspects of a person’s well-being is his or her experience of happiness, which is truly subjective in nature. Apparently, the good and bad events in one’s life affect an individual’s happiness temporarily.
However, it should also be understood that people can and do adjust with this happiness. For example, one study found out that lottery winners and victims of accidents that both ended in wheelchairs after their initial reaction to their good and bad experiences, have returned to their levels of happiness prior to experiencing such events (Brickman, Coates and Hanoof-Bulman, 1978 qtd. in Dittmar and Halliwelll). However, happiness is something that cannot be easily measured; as such recent studies have focused more on the construct of a person’s subjective well-being (Diener, Suh, Lucas and Smith, 1999 qtd.
in Dittmar and Halliwell). Such construct may include over-all cognitive evaluation of one’s life, sense of satisfaction, the “frequent experience of positive emotion and the absence of negative emotions. ” From the said perspective, it can be said that self-evaluation, like dissatisfaction about life or body, the measure of positive experiences, such as high self-esteem and body-esteem, and the measure of negative experiences like depression and anxiety, can be clear indicators of positive and negative well-being.
Additionally, in relation to an individual’s material and bodily well being, behaviors such as disorder eating patterns and compulsive buying of goods are also detrimental for the psychological and physical health of a person in order to identify whether their well-being is healthy or not (Dittmar and Halliwell). How does fashion fit in the big picture? As stated from the given perspective, some of the indicators of a person’s positive well-being are high self-esteem and satisfaction.
Partaking in a shopping spree in order to buy and select the latest fashion is an exhilarating experience that promotes self transformation may it be in the physical and mental sense. Although, fashion is temporary at times, in the long-run it boosts an individual’s self-esteem, and provides them the confidence that perhaps they may have lost in some events in their life, allowing them to feel that they are special and unique (Zborowski). To prove such point, a shirt is just a shirt—until a designer logo is placed on it, and knowing the caliber of such things, its price is far higher compared to other goods.
So, why do people pay for such large amounts just for the privilege of wearing it? For many the reason is within two perspectives. First, designer labels allow individuals to have a sense of self-worth by just the association of it. Personally, once individuals purchase fashionable stuffs with designer labels, the wearer’s self-esteem is temporarily boost because they somehow made a connection with well-known and expensive names that not all can experience. Although mass-produced, that fact that the purchase is not the same as others makes the buyers feel that they are special and unique.
Likewise, designer labels also serve as the symbolical representation of who the person is and who he or she hopes to be. Parallel to this, the self-worth of an individual is further elevated by the society or maybe their peers that are brand conscious, making them happy temporarily as they feel that they already fit in the circle and they are already at ease in the situation wherein in a regular basis they often feel out of place (Zborowski). In addition to this, fashion followers tends to make connection with other individuals who have common outlook in life thereby reinforcing bonds that in a regular setting does not usually takes place.
For instance, a mere inquiry about a certain design of a current home decor can catapult an individual to share what he or she knows about the said product. For the person who shared the idea there is a sense of fulfillment because within himself or herself, he or she knew that he or she already shared something significant to the individual, and this is something that is priceless. On the other hand, the person who inquired about the product can approve of such outlook, as he or she may perceived the same thing and it is quite a confirmation of what she or he feels.
Meanwhile, fashion can also be a form of relaxation and an escape from the monotony of life. For one, shopping for fashion is not an easy task, but for many it is something that lifts their spirit as it is an indication that the person is in control of his or her personal environment. As stated, there are no laws that make an individual accept fashion. “No fashion is imposed upon an individual by force” (Hurlock, 8). Both the acceptance and rejection of fashion is in accordance to individual discretion.
As such, person is free to make decision as to what actions he or she will take. Fashion is an invaluable tool that allows a person to move to through the world, may it be in the social or business setting. It serves as a communication where in an individual can freely move on top of things; persuading an individual to accept such freedom. More than anything else, freedom is something that allows an individual to gave a positive outlook about himself or herself, because there is no one to condemn his or her actions, and such perspective can be seen in fashion.
As stated earlier, a high-self esteem and satisfaction are some of the key factors of attaining positive well-being, and this is provided by fashion through freedom of choice and the affirmation of an individual’s character and spirit. In other words, following fashion have become an imperative means of acquiring, attempting and establishing one’s well-being as it signifies the liberty to choose and symbolizes the ideals of happiness and a break away from the conventional.
The association of individuals with the products that they feel are fashionable connotes that they are utterly re-evaluating themselves in order to know what type of particular trend or style they feel happy about. Moreover, a person’s inclination with fashion is one vehicle for them to escape depression, stress and anxiety because they know within themselves that on their life there is one thing that truly decreases their ill feelings, which is fashion. Conclusion From the given perspectives, it is safe to say that fashion is truly something that is inescapable.
Since time immemorial people have been engaged in such aspect and over time it has developed into something that is far more reaching. It is a sign of change, as it is an on going cycle that allows a person the opportunity of following the trends or not. While many people claim that fashion is an indication of higher standards of living, current conditions today makes fashion available to everyone else most especially to the masses, making it more recognizable and diverse.
For the followers of fashion, such word encompasses not only being fashionable; it is also a host of myriads of psychological benefits that makes it worth engaging to. Fashion is perceived as an avenue for individuals to feel a sense of belongingness and acceptance. It serves as the rights of passage for people to become comfortable and inclined with groups that share their same interests. Fashion is able to provide the innate needs of humans to be accepted and to belong through its continuous change of concept and availability to the public.
It allows an individual to make allegiances with people they knew would understand them. One of the greatest benefits posted by fashion is its capability to establish and change and individual’s identity. Because it satisfies both the domains of material self and body image, a person is able to freely express himself through the fashion trend that he wears and practice. It creates a sense of individuality and promotes proper self-representation because in many ways fashion expresses the inner self of an individual.
Establishment of a positive well-being is also another benefit that can be derived from following fashion. With the freedom it gives individuals in order to choose what they believe is fit for their personality, fashion promotes high-self esteem and satisfaction which spells an individual’s positive outlook in life and happiness. Although it is limited at one point or another, the happiness provided by fashion is just enough for individuals to see themselves in the light of who they wanted to become.
Likewise, the ability to take control of themselves and their environment through fashion is something that inimitable as it provides them ground to realize the many good things that life has to offer. Generally, fashion is a clear manifestation of how trends, styles and changes, and in a greater sense the power of individuals to develop the sense of belongingness and acceptance, establishment of identity, and a sense of positive well being that greatly benefit their psychological well-being. Works cited
Dittmar, Helga and Halliwell, Emma. Consumer culture, identity and well-being: The search for the “good life” and body perfect. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008. Hulock, Elizabeth. The psychology of dress: An analysis of fashion and its motive. Manchester, NH: Ayer Publishing: 1976 Saad, Gad. The evolutionary bases of consumption. New York, NY: Routledge: 2007 Zborowski, Megan. “The fashionable brain: Dissecting why fashion gas such a grip on the minds of the masses. ” Colored Stone Magazine, vol. 17, No. 6 November/ December 2004