How Clothing affects the mind

Great news. Science is one breakthrough closer to understanding the brain chemistry behind your intense interest in clothes, and as it turns out, your outfit may alter how you approach and interact with the world. In preliminary findings from a study published on the _Journal of Experimental Social Psychology’_s website, subjects who donned white coats that they thought belonged to doctors performed better on tests than those who wore street clothes, or those who thought the coats were associated with artists. Their heightened focus was evident only when subjects actually put on the coat in question (not merely when they were in the same room). It’s no secret that assembling an outfit is like selecting social armor, and that what we wear has power over others (if there weren’t truth to the cliché “lady in red,” designers wouldn’t be making so many scarlet dresses), but this study shows if you have a strong cultural association with a garment, wearing it can affect your cognitive processes. This phenomenon is called enclothed cognition, meaning that if your brain links **Miuccia Prada’**s or **Phoebe Philo’**s collections with powerful, intelligent women, you’re likely to take on those attributes when you wear that Prada pleated skirt or Céline jacket.

To explore this theory, Vogue asked several women—in careers ranging from art to e-commerce to politics—what pieces in their closets helped them bring their A-game to work. Though none had appropriated **Hillary Clinton’**s famed pantsuits, some veered towards popular icons that assert command (“A power outfit for me always begins with a great pair of heels,” says Gabriela Palmieri, senior vice president at Sotheby’s in New York), while others cited correlations between brands and confidence. Lauren Santo Domingo made careful selections when raising funds to launch Moda Operandi, where she is a cofounder and creative director. “We were meeting the best investment funds around the world and I felt that they would take one look at my Peter Pilotto techno print shift with my ironically mismatched Charlotte Olympia clutch and immediately know that I barely broke 500 on my Math SATs,” Santo Domingo says. “I quickly shuffled around my wardrobe and relied on Céline with sprinklings of Acne to get me through these intense meetings without letting my true eclectic fashion roots betray me.” In time, Santo Domingo says she felt strong showcasing her personal style, and eventually saw it as an asset. Model and psychology student Julia Frakes always gravitates toward Prada for interviews, and has a go-to brand for test taking: “I wore Marni when I took my Wechsler exam [designed to measure adult intelligence]. I swear Marni increases one’s self-perceived intelligence levels.” Suffice it to say, Frakes scored a high performance IQ.

So, tell the skeptics: Your closet isn’t frivolous, it contains a myriad of channels to heightened performance, a selection of gateways to the best versions of yourself. As Jonathan Lethem said in his novel You Don’t Love Me Yet: “You can’t be deep without a surface.”