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Zen in the Salon

by Mary Larkin |

Is shopping for your new wardrobe an appropriate time to be reflective? Is it possible to be zen while panning through clothing racks? Modern trends in psychology urge both the researcher and the consumer to take time and analyze popular shopping trends. Is there a particular pattern with which you make your fashion decisions? Always going for the revealing look? Consistently attracted to more comfortable options? We tend to use fashion as an unspoken expression of our personalities, underhandedly giving people clues about the borne-in attributes that we wear under our clothing. Because some of this happens subconsciously, your outfits may be telegraphing messages that you aren’t aware of, and may be making statements about your personality and decision-making processes that you don’t intent to communicate. The next time you reach into your closet, reflect. You may be able to exhume some latent insight into your personality and character by examining your habitual style choices with the careful eye of a fashion psychologist.

A few examples of how chronic fashion decisions can be used as a window into the psyche, according to Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, author of You Are What You Wear:

A person who constantly dresses in her work clothes may associate her personality with her work life, valuing herself largely through her propensity to perform in her career. While a successful working life is something that someone should feel proud patching onto her sleeve, these signals have unwanted undertones that could mean catastrophe for the wearer. Focusing too intently on your working life could mean that you have difficulty finding value in the more inherent qualities of your personality; like compassion, creativity, or selflessness. Dr. Baumgartner recommends taking time to reflect on those qualities that make you a star outside of the workplace, and making an effort to dress casually from time to time.

Some people tend to dress in a manner that is inconsistent with their age. Dressing as a person younger or older than yourself may be a vehicle for the communication of internal age, whose use remedies a sense of dissonance that is felt when the age of your body doesn’t match your maturity. Plenty of older people tend to dress like a twenty-something who is ready for the club, and plenty of young people dress with a sophistication and conservativeness that is unbefitting of their youth. Again, these symbolic gestures are not all malicious - it may be favorable to communicate that you feel young in your body, or that you have a preternaturally mature personality. With this in mind, it is still beneficial to reflect on your wardrobe to determine whether your style is communicating what you want it to communicate about you. In these cases, Dr. Baumgartner recommends dressing as a utilitarian: wear what will help you to get a promotion, craft a new relationship, or otherwise achieve one of your goals.

With this phenomenon exposed, we must also be mindful that we are not reading into our clothing inappropriately - obsessing over the messages woven into your wardrobe creates a toxic fashion atmosphere, detracting from your ability to make stylistically appropriate decisions. It may be that you are only in tune with modern trends, and are simply acting as a vessel for contemporary customs. Just as anything in the Zen tradition, this meditation is meant to be used in moderation, to unveil a hidden dimension of your personality that, so far, only your wardrobe has been aware of. As we advocate for a nouvelle, healthy, and mindful salon atmosphere at (IN)LARKIN, we want you to be in total control of your wardrobe and all of its symbolic significance. Join us in bringing this contemplative tradition into the Zeitgeist: today, pause and consider what secrets your clothing are keeping to themselves, and tomorrow, engage in a constructive dialogue with your armoire. We know that you two are always in need of the deepest harmony.