Put on Your Power

The sparkly cardigan has become my new power suit.

Clothes do much more than cover your body and protect it from the climate and elements. As it turns out, clothing invades your psyche and affects your body. What you wear changes your psychological experience. There’s a name for this phenomenon — enclothed cognition, a term coined by researchers at Northwestern University.

I am living proof the enclothed cognition is real! Dressing up daily in February has nudged me to try on new outfits and new personas. Now in the morning, I lay in bed for a moment while I wonder who I want to be that day. I might start with a vibe. Do I feel artsy? Laid back? Cozy? Powerful? Sassy? Other days I start with a song. If I wake up humming “Diamonds and Pearls,” then I might be inspired to wear yellow. “Willing and Able” cues the earth tones and a rich brown. And on yet other days, I start with a wardrobe item that pops into my mind, like my green moto jacket, and then build an outfit around it.

You could say I’ve become a mood dresser, and at the same time, I’m becoming more intentional too. Because clothing can be used as a competitive advantage.

The old adage about “dress for the job one level above yours” proved true for me back in my public relations agency days in New York. I would strut around in a pinstriped suit with a Chanel-inspired gold chain link belt feeling all good about myself as I climbed the agency ladder from intern to associate account executive and beyond. I figured dressing the part worked because others would see you as someone who looks presentable for that role. When you dress like the vice presidents, the higher-ups can more readily imagine you as a vice president. They can imagine you fitting in at the conference table with important clients.

But there’s another layer of nuance expressed in the concept of enclothed cognition, which is how you feel inside. You throw your shoulders back and carry yourself a little taller, you take pride in everything you do and you pay attention and give care to your work. Very Princely indeed!

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