What is dressing for status?
When you get dressed for a special occasion meant to impress, do you feel the anxiety of dressing for status? Whether applying for a job, going out with the girls or attending a special event, wearing the appropriate “uniform” has always been a signal to gain acceptance in a particular social circle.
The way we dress is more complex than just wearing the latest outfit featured in a trendy magazine. There’s a whole psychology that revolves around our clothing choices.
The First Impression
So how does clothing impact a person’s first visual impact? We only get about seven seconds to make a first impression. What you wear gives you an added boost in making the right first effect.
Clothing is a non-verbal form of communication that gives clues about a person’s background, financial status and personality. It can also be a statement reflecting your mood, culture, interests, age, level of confidence and authority.
The Impact of Status
Status is different than class or caste. It’s based on the cultural position, the prestige of holding certain occupations or the family background and carries with it a particular anxiety of dressing for status. Throughout history, poets and painters could be considered high in status but might be as poor as church mice.
In the industrial revolution era, wealth did not ensure moving up in status. A successful businessman could dress his wife in the latest fashion. He could entertain high society with extravagant parties, but his social status remained the same; he was a tradesman.
In Victorian times, widows could only wear black for one year and one month.
An early example of a dress code is ancient Rome. Only senators could wear garments dyed purple.
In the early Roman and Greek culture body shape and weight were also a sign of status and social standing. As early as 2900 B.C. both men and women were concerned with a slim silhouette. Artifacts suggest young men wore constricting belts that confined their waistline. And there have been periods throughout history when it was perfectly reasonable for a man to wear a corset.
In China, the centuries-old tradition of foot binding included breaking the foot and reshaping it to resemble a lotus bud. This gruesome-shaped appendage raised the likelihood of marriage among women and increased their social status.
Society and Status
Throughout history, the clothing we wear has been capable of displaying and epitomizing a person’s culture, financial status, and social power. Perceived status gives a person power and along with that, there is an anxiety of dressing for status. Your needs and opinions along with what you say and do hold more weight than others around you and gives you more influence.
This carries through into a person’s career, the ability to earn and achieve wealth. These advantages may be derived simply by our gender, the way we dress, our race, age or religious affiliations. Society teaches us to conform and be part of the crowd.
Notoriety and Status
Celebrities, with their sometimes-inflated conception of self-worth, often flaunt their lofty status by ignoring social constraints and conformity. In an attempt to keep the celebrity wagon rolling, these people continually draw attention to themselves by various means. Whether it’s outlandish fashion, acting bodacious or being diva-like and ungracious. Public figures use every tool available to maintain their status.
It’s sort of an ongoing battle; if you free yourself from social constraints and conformity, you’re more likely to achieve a level of notoriety and status. If you don’t continue to push the envelope, that celebrity status will quickly wilt. A celebrity is constantly making sure their public presentation garners attention and reinforces their status.
It’s all well and good to follow fashion trends, but sometimes bucking the trend goes a lot further. If you radiate the confidence that you’re someone who already has high status, you’re more likely to be perceived as a person with high status.
Fashion can be a form of art. It encourages creativity and expression. The freedom to wear whatever you want is also a liberating experience that’s available to anyone, regardless of class or social status.
What Class Do You Fall In?
Quietly, or yelling at the top of your lungs, everyone has at least a little concern about making an impression and rising in social stature.
Some folks do this by wearing the latest in fashion and spend far above their budget. Other people are into anti-fashion and make their point by wearing outrageous getups. Another group just goes with the flow and hope to fit in.
Maya Angelou wrote, “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”