By: Mary Krauss

When you meet a person, what do you notice first? Sometimes it’s their bright blue eyes, or crooked smile, or bowl cut—but often it’s their stylish corduroy skirt or perfectly-thrifted sweater. Judging people based on what they’re wearing is a common response; people often represent themselves by what they put on their bodies and how they hold themselves. Though the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” is common, I find it counterintuitive because the cover exists to represent what’s inside. Designers put just as much thought into book covers as people do into their appearances.

I always believed that people express their personality through their outward appearance, but while studying Advanced Communications during my sophomore year at GU, I realized that my outward appearance was affecting my personality. I noticed that whenever I wore my favorite sweater—though I was confident in the way I looked—I was not confident in the way I felt or spoke. My favorite sweater is baggy, long, and perfect for fall. However, it made me feel quieter, more timid, and caused me to question myself. I realized that the sweater was allowing me to hide behind the long sleeves and cover myself as much as I could, which subconsciously made me feel weak. This pattern confirmed what I’d suspected: that my clothes were definitely affecting my view of myself.

Color plays a huge part in the feelings that clothing gives the wearer. Junior Deryk Rumbold said that he wears brighter, warmer colors because they make him feel comfortable. Senior Maggie Schoepke said, “I’m an expressive person and when wearing expressive clothing, it helps me to feel more like myself. I find that wearing plain shirts and neutral colors makes me feel restricted or trapped.” Aligning with scientific evidence, warm and bright colors like yellow and red invoke energy, joy, and optimism.

Senior Cait Scott shared that 85% of her clothes are black and grey, saying, “I feel more confident and powerful when I’m wearing dark colors.” Senior Jasmine Bavaro prefers darker tones as well, like grey, navy, olive green, black, and brown. “These colors make me feel casual and comfortable, “ she said. “I like blending in and not drawing a lot of attention to myself. The colors make me feel cool, calm, and collected.” While Cait finds dark colors to be empowering, Jasmine finds them calming. This is also grounded in associations made by our brains; brown is generally related to comfort and confidence, and black to power and elegance. Colors of clothing are interpreted differently by everyone and affect each person’s confidence in a unique way.

Some people are much more purposeful than others about the clothes that they put on their bodies. Deryk puts a good amount of thought into his appearance every day, explaining, “

I always feel clothing is a good platform for starting conversations with people.” He also believes that “the more thought I put into the way I dress, the more confident I feel in presenting myself to the world.
Maggie said, “An outfit that was thrown together at the last minute makes me feel last-minute. Putting more time into myself makes me feel equipped for the day.” It is a general consensus that wearing clothes that are comfortable, attractive, and intentional makes the wearer feel more confident and happy. Cait expressed, “If I really like my outfit I feel like I stand up taller. It’s easier to walk across campus and look people in the eye when you’re feeling good about yourself. Usually if I own something that makes me feel self-conscious, I get rid of it so I don’t have to mess with being worried about my clothes.” Jasmine brought up an important point, saying, “I think clothing does definitely have an impact on my confidence day-to-day, but I don’t find or put my value in what I look like. I will say that wearing certain clothing items does make me feel more confident and ready to take on the day.” Feeling comfortable in our look is important and confidence-boosting, while placing our value in what we wear can become an unhealthy obsession. As long as we do not define ourselves solely in our appearance, we can use this confidence boost intentionally on a regular basis.

However, not everyone is aware of how their clothing makes them feel. What some people don’t realize is that, though we mostly decide to reflect ourselves in our clothing, sometimes the clothing can actually shape us. As I learned by wearing my favorite sweater, the fact that we love a piece of clothing doesn’t mean it’s boosting our confidence. Figuring out what things help each of us individually to feel confident is the first step in being able to amplify that feeling. Once amplified, we can face life with a more confident smile. Confidence thrives somewhere; it’s time to find it and let it flourish.

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