Psychological Effects of Color & Design on Clothing Selection

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, learn about the relationship between clothes and emotional states. Examine how clothes can impact self-confidence, mood and attitudes and explore some psychological effects that color, patterns and accessories can have on your mood. Updated: 06/17/2022

Dress Better, Feel Better

Yesterday, Lisa woke up feeling good and took the time to choose a nice shiny outfit. Suddenly, she was feeling confident, people were giving her compliments and she was feeling great.

The clothes you choose to wear might be affecting not only how others see you but also the way you feel.

There is a growing interest in examining the possible relationship between what we wear and our emotional states. Some studies suggest that the clothes you choose have a psychological effect on your mood and attitudes.

We sometimes make clothing decisions based on our mood but also, certain outfits can make us feel better or worse, more confident or more shy. It is a cycle of stimuli and responses. A certain mood can make us choose some type of clothes, which in turn, will reinforce the way we are feeling.

Wearing cheerful clothes can help you feel good
Woman wearing colorful clothes

If you are feeling happy and confident this cycle might work great, but if you are feeling down, maybe it's time to break the circle and let your clothes help you.

Cultural Significance of Clothes

In our history, clothes have been practical objects meant to keep people warm. However, as tools and technologies evolved, clothes became a social matter. We started associating them with status, wealth, social occasions, good taste, personality and many other fixed ideas. As a result, clothes became part of the culture and acquired specific meanings.

Of course, every individual is unique and personal preferences are also important. However, there is a tendency to feel a certain way about some clothes and this has to do with those predefined cultural and social structures that we learn in our early years.

For example in America, the clothing you select for a funeral is unlikely to include a colorful dress (or shirt) with animal print. You've learned that restrained black attire is the social convention for funerals. But in other cultures, that might not be the case and someone could actually be offended by your black clothes.

In funerals, people often wear dark neutral colors to express respect and a mourning feeling

Psychological Effects of Clothing Selection

Let's examine some effects of the most common aspects of clothing, such as color, cut, design patterns and accessories.


The psychological effects of color are often taken into consideration in graphic design and advertising. Many believe that red evokes passion and confidence, and orange energy and enthusiasm. White is often associated with purity and black with seriousness.

Clothes of a specific color can evoke feelings and attitudes associated with them. For example, a red outfit could make you feel confident and passionate and might attract attention towards you. Some experiments have found that waitresses wearing red tend to receive higher tips.

Although blue might inspire calm, blue clothes might also make you feel a little ''bluer'', so they might not be the best choice if you are feeling sad.

Cut of Clothes

The cut or silhouette of clothes can also have an effect. Although your comfortable baggy pants could be the first pick if you are feeling down, they might not help to cheer you up. Something that highlights your body figure might work better.

A woman feeling beautiful and sensual might choose to wear a short dress with a figure-enhancing cut. She may want simply to impress, but whatever the reason, wearing that dress might make her feel even more beautiful and likely to produce a positive impression on others.

A woman wearing red clothing that shows off her figure may feel better for it
Woman in a red dress

Design Patterns

The different design patterns of clothes can boost a specific mood and make us feel better or worse about our image. A dress with an elaborate pattern of flowers might make a woman feel confident about her beauty and perhaps also help her feel younger.

If a man is not confident about his weight, perhaps horizontal lines wouldn't be a smart choice. This striped pattern usually makes people look wider and shorter, so he might end up feeling fatter and less self-assured about his figure.

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