The “journal” doesn’t have to be anything fancy—a paper notebook, an app, or the notes feature on your phone will do. Think about how you feel while wearing a particular outfit, noting specific emotions that come up or your overall mood for the day. Did that blazer make you feel like a powerful force during your work presentation? Did that flowy dress you wore to the beach bring out your free-spirited nature? On the flipside, did a pair of jeans make you feel uncomfortable and kind of insecure? These are all valid feelings to tap into. Additionally, jot down any positive feedback you received from others about your clothes—and how that made you feel. Reviewing your notes can help you spot trends in the type of clothes that bring you pleasure (and help you figure out what you should probably donate).
2. Choose colors that excite you.
Consider the colors you’re drawn to if you don’t know where to start. “Everyone has a color or two they like,” Dr. Johnson says. If you’re stumped you can look to the psychology of color, which is somewhat universal, according to Dr. Johnson. For example, the color Baker-Miller Pink, which has a bubblegum hue, can have a calming effect6. Want to feel a little more vibrant? Try orange hues, which research shows are stimulating and playful7. For a happy vibe, try yellow7, which is associated with warmth and cheer.
All of that said, context is important when it comes to color, Dr. Benkendorf says. In addition to current trends, your memories, family traditions, and personal beliefs can influence how you perceive color8. So even though research says some shades of pink may be calming, you may find the hue repulsive if you associate it with a bad memory. In that case, avoid it!
3. Experiment with textures.
Wearing your favorite, worn-in cotton T-shirt can feel as inviting as a hug—and there’s a reason for that. The tactile effects of clothing texture can make you feel a particular way. For example, soft fabrics like flannel can put you in a cozy mood,9 while silk can make you feel sensual9. Try wearing clothes made of different materials and pay attention to how you feel in them. Doing so can help you pick the right texture to match the mood you desire.
The visual and audible effects of material can affect how you feel too. For instance, research suggests that visually, satin gives a sophisticated vibe. In contrast, opaque fabrics tend to look sporty. Clothes that make a faint rustling sound, like taffeta, can make a person feel elegant9.
Regardless of the fabric you choose, it’s important to feel comfortable. If a particular item feels scratchy or stiff against your skin, then you probably won’t feel very good in it, Dr. Benkendorf says.
4. Capture your personality with accessories or undergarments.
Research10 shows that you likely try to balance two competing forces when deciding on how you want to present yourself: the desire to fit into a social group and the need to be recognized as an individual, Dr. Johnson explains. You may grapple with balancing the two, for instance, if you wear a uniform or suit to work. Outfits devoid of your personality may not foster any strong positive emotions, but you can inject pizazz with accessories, like a colorful handkerchief or a bold necklace.