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Dress for Success: Why We Do Better When We’re Looking Our Best

By Celine Macura

You wake up at 7:05; fifteen minutes to go until you have to be waiting outside for the morning bus. You throw on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, whip your hair into a messy bun, grab a pair of shoes, and run down stairs to see if you can squeeze in breakfast. You could probably throw on something more put-together, but then you’d have to sacrifice a few more minutes of sleep, and everyone knows how important sleep is.

While yes, sleep is indisputably essential, how we look is too. Walking into a test or a presentation wearing a wrinkled tee and slouchy pants isn’t doing much for our performance. When in that outfit, we are mentally cuddled on the couch with a bag of chips instead of proving to our teachers and peers that we deserve respect. But a pair of jeans, boots, and a sweater prove we’re on task and ready to take on the day—both to those around us and to ourselves.

We do our best when we feel our best. With this formula, confidence is key. While our messy hair and comfy clothes may have seemed appropriate when we rolled out of bed that morning, we inevitably feel underdressed by the time the third period bell rings. We can’t confidently walk into a room before a big test if we’re feeling displaced, and we certainly lose the lose the confidence to raise our hands to answer a difficult question. Approaching a teacher after class to ask about a test? In that outfit? Why should they respect us if we don’t respect ourselves?

This claim is more than just a theory; it’s been scientifically proven that dressing for success is more than just a witty saying. According to a study in Social Psychological and Personality Science magazine, dressing more professionally increased people’s long term strategizing and creativity because of the powerful feeling that dressing well gives us.

But of course, picking out a pair of jeans and a matching shirt in under four minutes is nearly impossible. Since no one wants to sacrifice a few minutes of morning sleep, we need to find other ways to make sure our outfits match our attitudes. The easiest time to do this is the night before: we should lay out our outfits before we go to sleep at night. In addition to being more cognitively aware at night, we’re also more motivated. While our exhausted morning brains don’t care to pick out color coordinated shoes and tops, they are willing to follow pre-set regiments. If it’s already picked out and ready to go, we’re more likely to put it on.

So tomorrow, when you wake up at 7:05 with only 15 minutes to make the morning bus, you won’t have to look like it.

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