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Psychology Of Clothes

( Originally Published 1924 )

UNDOUBTEDLY there are a few geniuses, a few positive characters who are able to "rise above" their environment, who are able to impress the ones with whom they come in contact in spite of their clothes. Sometimes we read of some learned woman, who has "made good in her profession," who boasts that she has not looked in a mirror for years; but such a woman is a rare exception, and one is not safe in gambling with one's chances of success by following her. It is not the geniuses with whom we are concerned, however, for they are few and somehow manage to take care of themselves. The vast majority of the race are not so blest, and we need observe but little to realize that with them the reaction of clothes is an important factor.

Young children, even, are susceptible to the effect of clothes. A child dressed in dingy rags slouches and shrinks when observed; the same child adorned with a new ribbon or a pair of new shoes will brighten and grow confident. One day in a very poor district of the city a test was made to verify this theory. A dirty, ragged little girl was found and over her soiled clothes a new, clean dress was hung. Immediately she was changed from a broken-spirited listless child to a saucy and rather impudent little creature. Then all her clothes were removed; she was put in a tub, and given the most thorough scrubbing of her young life; her hair was shampooed, her nails manicured, and she was dressed in a complete outfit of clean, pretty clothes. The transformation in her manner was startling. Gone was every trace of the gamin impudence. She became, through her unconscious reaction to cleanliness and clothes, a self-respecting and respectful little woman.


School girls should know that clothes may make or mar a career ; happiness and leadership in all the years of high school and college life may be affected by the story a Freshman's clothes tell. Many a girl with a keen mind, who has a natural disregard for clothes, perhaps, or who has not been trained in the appreciation of beauty in clothes, has lost her opportunities for leadership and self-expression which by right her brain power should have given her.

One of the mental faculties which we all exercise and yet exercise most unconsciously is that of passing judgment on the people we meet. In a majority of cases the judgment is superficial and inaccurate; but nevertheless the estimate is made. Some peoplea very few—reserve final judgment till they hear one talk and will judge one by the tone of voice and by what is said as the true index; but the vast majority will form an opinion based largely, if not entirely, on appearance. One tells the world daily of one's ideals, ambitions, one's very degree of culture or good breeding through dress ; and it is told so plainly that "he who runs may read"—and, perchance, he who reads may run.

All the preaching against appearance as a snare and an empty vanity has never changed the fundamental fact that dress has a tremendous influence upon individuals, upon both the wearer and the beholder. The consciousness of being becomingly and fittingly dressed for the occasion, whatever that occasion may be, strengthens and insures one's self-confidence tremendously, gives poise and self-command, encourages the brain to forge forward, emboldens the timid tongue, and quickens one's wits along the avenues of resourcefulness, inventiveness, graceful speech, and tact. In fact all of one's faculties are stimulated and inspired by the consciousness of being properly attired.

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