Typically people dress for comfort that’s suitable for daily use. However, despite the fact that dressing yourself is a necessity on a daily basis, some people take fashion more passionately. Whether it’s blending in with others or standing out from the crowds, we use our style to represent our personality and express our characteristics. “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” says Rachel Zoe, an American fashion designer, businesswoman and writer. It gives us power to be seen and to communicate our personality. Our style is the resulting factor of whether we choose to peek over the top of our comfort zone and express our personality.
We don’t easily notice it, but fashion also influences our behaviour and performance as our outfits make us feel a certain way. When we feel that our clothes are expressing our personality, it makes us feel confident and self-empowered. Sixteen-year-old Petra says that by being a devoted skier, she is constantly put on the spot to stand out and beat records when it comes to racing down a hill. But when she’s creative with her outfits, she is bold and courageous. She describes this feeling by saying, “Outfits like leggings and a hoodie make me less inclined to put in effort, but when I dress a little nicer, I feel more sophisticated and professional. I usually act more loudly and less reserved.” Similarly, Giuliana enjoys wearing shorts or short skirts with the added touch of heels that finishes off the look. It gives her the feeling of longer legs and it gives her the impression of being taller overall. This is the key aspect to an outfit for Giuliana because it helps her overcome the unconfidence of her height.
Fashion also allows us to reveal a creative side. Other students in grade 11 at École Alpha Secondary School who spoke to 8forty for this article consider seventeen-year-old Mateo as one of school’s known “hypebeasts.” Most people know him from his Instagram pictures and his everyday style that stands out in the halls. He gets inspiration from several celebrities from K-pop idols, such as G-Dragon and Suga, to Western pop stars such as Justin Bieber and grunge artists like Kurt Cobain. Mateo formerly designed clothes and currently assists some local brands, Bronsino and Revelations with their designing. His designs were inspired by doodles and graffiti, as well as more precise architectural sketches. He explains that his hand-painted designs give a vintage, yet modern look to the clothes.
Mateo defines his designs as “unique since most people do not see the reason to have paint on clothes, they see it as damaging the article of clothing, but I try to make it the unique beauty of the item.”
Not only do clothes have an impact on the way we feel, but it also leaves an impression on the way others interpret our personality and attitude. First impressions are crucial and an outfit is the aspect of a person’s appearance that stands out the most; it paints a picture for everyone to catch sight of our personality in a single glance. “I like to feel comfortable everyday and not so restricted, but also try and give off a clean image if I talk to people I don’t know very well,” says Carter, a sixteen-year-old athlete who is used to adapting his outfits to sports events. Regardless the occasion, whether it’s an interview, a date, parties, sports or a fashion show, the way you choose to present yourself conveys a specific message to others if it’s intentional or not.
“Since I am a [fashion] designer, I am mindful of what I wear because I think [my outfits] seems to be the first thing people analyze. I take pride in my work so I will try to look more put together and sometimes [my outfits] lead to random conversations with people, which makes me happy” says Agnes, who has been a designer for six years. She is currently designing clothes for next year’s summer season. Agnes gets her inspiration to design clothes from styles that were well done in the past and she is constantly trying to predict the trends for next season.
Agnes helped in the designing of this woven two-piece stretch crepe suit from the Kensie spring 2019 collection.
“I compare being a fashion designer to a chef,” explains Agnes as she guides us through the outline of a design process. “To make delicious dishes, you need the right ingredients. That’s like with clothes too, we need nice fabrics, colours, and trims to make beautiful clothing. It needs to look appealing, or else no one will buy it.”
In the Kensie spring 2019 collection, Agnes helped design this woven jumpsuit in Meadow Floral print.
But when it comes to her wardrobe, she expresses that if we were to open her closet, “there isn’t one colour that overtakes my wardrobe, and it reflects my easygoing and quirky personality.” Her inspiration comes from everywhere: “anything that stirs my soul. It could be nature, music, art, food or thoughtful conversations. But, if I could pick one thing, it would be nature. Nothing beats its beauty or design.”
We can easily identify if someone is athletic, hipster, conservative or bad-ass. Colours can also often say a lot about a person’s personality and lead us to make assumptions about what their mood is that day. Typically bright, bold colours are associated with the feelings of being fearless and striking. On the other hand dark, dull colours are associated with sadness and carelessness. However, there are so many shades in between that aren’t very generic, which makes everyone different because a combination of different colours and patterns can tell a distinct story each time.
One of École Alpha’s theatre students, Emma, gives us her insight into what fashion means to her from the perspective of an actor. Costumes are a key necessity for performances, it allows the actors to be more engaged into the characters’ personality and it helps the audience truly understand the character on a personal level. “Having clothing that fits the character that you’re portraying can help immerse yourself in the character. When you physically feel like your character, that will seep into the nuances of your performance” Emma says.
Not only does fashion have a significance in theatre production, it also has an impact on the audience. Emma explains, “from an audience perspective, without costumes, even if the acting is impressive, the production can feel incomplete. Fashion onstage can make or break a performance and the receptiveness an audience will have to a character.”
A phenomenon known as “enclothed cognition” describes how clothes impact the way we think and act. It depends on the symbolic meaning and the psychological experience of wearing the clothes. Psychological researchers from the universities of Columbia, California, Iowa and Northridge carried out studies that demonstrate how wearing formal clothing enhances abstract cognitive processing. In the research, they found that when people dress more formally, they are more likely to process information in a more abstract way, being more likely, for example, to consider a camel a reasonable example of a vehicle. This is just one way that how we dress affects how we think.
Fashion-driven seventeen-year-old Hana says that she is more ambitious and committed to get through the day when she makes her style important to her. “Especially when I wake up excited to wear an outfit because it helps me get out of bed in the morning and start a productive day. The right clothing gives [me] a sense of power that inspires my motivation” she said.
Our style may also be influenced by the atmosphere we live in, our experiences and our culture. Sixteen year old Giuliana, has experienced several different environments, perceiving style in an assortment of ways. She was born in France, then proceeded to travel around Europe which led her to living in Korea. She was back and forth between living in Korea and Canada until she officially moved to Canada in 2017. “I think that living in Korea my whole life and then moving to Canada does have an impact on the way I dress,” she says. “It might also be because Korean culture is becoming popular in American countries.” She goes on to describe how a lot of her clothes were bought in Korea when she used to live there so she doesn’t realize it, but she says that “my friends sometimes tell me that my outfit makes me look like a ‘fob’. However, now that I’ve moved to Canada and have lived here for two years, I have bought a significant amount of clothing here as well, so I think my general style is becoming a mix of Korean and American fashion styles!”
The average person dresses for comfort and confidence, but there are also factors that we don’t typically consider every time we put together a look. Style is the way to define ourselves without saying a single word. American fashion designer, Marc Jacobs describes, “To me, clothing is a form of self-expression — there are hints about who you are in what you wear.”
Image Credit: Unsplash / Charles