Clothing and psychology will forever be intertwined, so it only makes sense that at the start of a new season to further investigate these connections, placing them under a magnifying glass and bringing out our sartorial desires and what they say about our personalities and needs.
With the help of Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, renowned psychologist and clothes-ologist, and author of You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You, I’ve asked a variety of questions based on current trends happening this spring to find out more about the designer influence and customer impact on shopping and consumer behavior. Please read on below for this insightful, fascinating interview, which is made possible by the partnership of T.J.Maxx and Marshalls with Dr. Baumgartner.
FPD: Menswear and womenswear trends have been converging the past few seasons; what do you think that says about shopping personalities and the state of fashion and its effects on the individual?
Dr. B: The convergence of menswear and womenswear is not new but cyclical. For example, as women made notable gains in society their wardrobes were punctuated with a traditionally male wardrobe item. Recall the 80s power suit as women broke out of the glass ceiling and onto Wall Street.
As gender roles blur in society, we see the convergence of traditional male and female clothing on the runway and in our closets. As in psychological assessments, we ascribe certain internal qualities to “maleness” and “femaleness.” Male traits are often associated with strength, competitiveness, and individuality, while female traits are associated with nurturing, softness, and togetherness. Designers are questioning traditional gender roles by putting menswear on women, womenswear on men, and gender neutral items on both.
Those who choose to wear these items are comfortable taking risks, calling to question societal norms, and flexible with their gender to experiment with the opposite. The effect convergence has on the individual or society at large is habituation. The more we are exposed to this convergence, the more comfortable we become with them the more likely we are to design them, wear/buy them, and observe them.
FPD: Floral trends are nothing new to fashion; what is it about the pattern that has a permanent draw to it, psychologically-speaking?
Dr. B: We are bombarded with many negative events and images that extend from our community to the world. Using fashion to soften these harsh realities helps balance what we may psychologically find distressing. Nothing is as fragile, delicate, innocent, and uplifting as florals and it is for those reasons that we may choose to wear them. While florals are always in, the type varies. This year, the rage is all about the daisy, throwing it back to the 70’s. I’ve seen some great options at T.J.Maxx and Marshalls featuring the daisy floral pattern on everything from designer sweaters and on-trend skirts to colorful watches.
FPD: Some of the patterns/trends that are destined to be hits (featured below) are heavily steeped in the 60s and 70s; what is it about fashion trends and nostalgia that is so appealing?
Dr. B: When we move forward to the future, we tend to idealize the past. The 60s and 70s were about peace, love, and freedom in times of national and international unrest. We are experiencing those times now, so it makes sense that we use the fashion from the past to find comfort in the present.
FPD: The plaid trend seems to be an unusual one for spring, however there has been a push in recent months to make collections and clothing more ‘seasonless;’ do you think this will have mass appeal going forward?
Dr. B: Fashion is moving very quickly and designers are not determining what we wear or do not wear – the customers do. Due to this increased speed, the lines between the seasons have blurred. We can wear what we want when we want and the rules are thrown out. That’s why I enjoy shopping at stores like T.J.Maxx and Marshalls because you can find a variety designer fashion from classic wardrobe staples to more on-trend quality items each store visit.