How much does the way we dress affect our self-esteem?

Since high school I have always been told I “dress nice.” Most of my classmates back then usually dressed in athletic shorts and t-shirts. This trend is still more often true than not in college. I knew then and I know now that my fashion choice tends to be a little more complex than athletic shorts and t-shirts. I do this because I think “dressing nice” is respectable and it also helps boost my self-esteem. This got me wondering how much the way we dress actually affects our self-esteem? For me, I believe it helps a lot, but what about everyone else? Would “dressing nice” increase the self-esteem of people a minute amount, a lot, or not at all? If so, why do people decide not to “dress nice?” Is my assumption that people wearing athletic shorts and t-shirts is not “dressing nice” wrong? Do people consider that “dressing nice?” I will try to answer as many as these questions as I can, but this is my hypothesis: How much does the way we dress affect our self-esteem?

The first article I found focused on how a person dresses affects the self-esteem of elderly women in nursing homes. This experimental study found that elderly women consistently reported feeling more confident when they would feel they were dressed nicer than normal (Pensiero). Another study that also used older women (55+ years old) found that the way they dress and their overall appearance had a direct affect on their self-esteems. Appearing poorly dressed, having messy hair, and having poorly done make-up were all shown to have negative affects on a person’s self-esteem, while appearing well dressed, having a good haircut, and having well-done make-up resulted in higher self-esteems (Joung). I think it would be acceptable of us to apply both these findings to people other than the well-aged and elderly. We are all people with volatile self-esteems that can constantly increase and decrease. Would it be so much of a risk to try this method if you are lacking in self-confidence?

The third scholarly article I reviewed did their research on the fashion and self-esteem of Indian women. It found that wearing prestigious fashion brands increased the self-esteem and perceived social status of the women in the sample (Khare). Their results were also reported as having a p-value of .02 (or 2%) which is scientifically significant. This study is yet another example that supplies more evidence towards the claim that the way people dress affects their self-esteem. Why is it that we connect the way we dress with our social status and self-esteem? Maybe it is because we live in a world where we rely on other peoples’ opinions to judge ourselves. It also could be that we strive and ache to live and look like the models and celebrities we see every day. Is this a naturally occurring phenomena? Or is this a result of our society that taps into our innate desires to sell products?


All three of the articles I discussed focus on slightly different aspects with slightly different participant pools, but they all touched on the overarching theme of clothing choice and self-esteem. They all provided evidence to support my thesis that the way we dress affects our self-esteems. So if you ever feel yourself getting a little down, put on your favorite button-down, lace up your nicest shoes, and strut your stuff.

Works Cited:

Pensiero, Marcine, and Mary Adams. “Dress and Self-Esteem.” Journal of Gerontological Nursing, vol. 13, no. 10, 1987, pp. 10.

Joung, Hyun-Mee, and Nancy J. Miller. “Factors of Dress Affecting Self-Esteem in Older Females.” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, vol. 10, no. 4, 2006, pp. 466-478. doi:10.1108/13612020610701983.

Khare, Arpita, Ankita Mishra, and Ceeba Parveen. “Influence of Collective Self Esteem on Fashion Clothing Involvement among Indian Women.” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, vol. 16, no. 1, 2012, pp. 42-63. doi:

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4 thoughts on “How much does the way we dress affect our self-esteem?

  1. Cristen Heaton

    I am the type of girl to rock the leggings and big sweatshirt, so I found your blog post rather interesting. I do have to agree 110% with you when you say that when someone dresses nice it boosts their self-esteem. When I pick out a cute outfit in the morning, I usually feel better about myself through out the day. I struggle with picking out clothes that look good on me because somedays I feel like my body isn’t the way I want it to look and so on. The studies you found are a great representation of the different cultures and age groups. But on the other hand, it’s kind of sad that people have to dress a certain way to feel more confident about themselves. You know what I mean? Like can’t a female/male feel confident wearing sweatpants and sweatshirt to class? I mean, some do. Congrats to them because that takes a lot of self confidence. When I wear that stuff I am always wondering if something is thinking about how big of a mess I look like. I thought this article was a great read from Google Scholar, Take a look!!!

  2. Rebecca Aronow

    I love waking up in the morning and picking out my outfit. I definitely think that dressing well increases self-esteem—if you pick out an outfit that you feel reflects your inner self and makes you feel confident as you walk down the street, I think that makes you feel overall more confident and happy. This could be, like you said, a result of our ego and our need to receive praise and attention from others. But I think reverse causation also plays a role. When I wake up and am in a bad mood, I often won’t have the energy to pick out an outfit or I won’t feel compelled to look good, so I will just throw on some sweatpants and a sweatshirt and walk out the door. I usually dress well when I already feel confident and happy in the morning and dress poorly when I feel down on myself and sad. So my experiences in how I dress and how I feel shows that dressing well leads to positive self-esteem, but also negative self-esteem can lead to dressing ourselves worse, which can in turn lead to lower self-esteem. I think an interesting question to look into would be why we dress how we do. This could be seeing if our emotions affect what we wear but also looking at how trends start and if trends are just our need to be accepted by our peers.

  3. Olivia Anne Browne

    Extremely relatable post! In high school I often dressed very nice most days. Now being in college, I find myself in athletic clothes or sweats to class everyday. It is somewhat sad to think I am looking nice when in my gym clothes. I do agree that the way you dress effects your self esteem but I feel as if at School, most people aren’t trying to dress to impress, it is a more relaxed vibe in my opinion so I would find it hard to say the effects here in state college. I think you did a great job of analyzing three articles as opposed to one to add insight on this topic. Great job!
    Check out this article on how your clothes effect your mood!

  4. Matthew Edward Simco

    This is a very interesting idea for an article. I know that for me, the way I dress correlates strongly with my confidence. When I am wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt, I often feel bad about myself. The opposite can be said about me when I am “dressing nice”. When I am dressed nicely, I feel a lot better about myself and my self-confidence drastically increases. I think that the reason some people do not “dress nice” is because they feel that the effort involved in getting dressed up is not worth the reward of looking nice.

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