That puffer vest you’re sporting says more about you than you’re cold. And your all-black outfit? Yep, it’s communicating a whole different conversation to passers-by. In fact, what your wardrobe style says about you might actually knock your socks off!
But without a degree in fashion speak or psychology, how would you ever know what you’re clothing choices are (non-verbally) revealing to others about your personality? Two of Australia’s fashion scene gurus speak ‘wardrobe’ fluently, and are only too happy to decode the lingo behind our outfits.
Here, Dr Nadine Cameron, faculty member at The School of Life, where she teaches The Art of Getting Dressed workshop, and Tracey Lang, Marketing Director at UNIQLO Australia, reveal what your wardrobe says about you, how to mix it up (and say more!), and how subconsciously, the clothing choices we make can be reflective our inner lives…
Your wardrobe style: Classic tailoring
What it says about you: “What so-called classic tailoring communicates to other people, like anything else, will vary depending on who they are and how you are wearing it,” explains Dr Cameron. “For many people, a preference for classic tailoring will indicate formality or seriousness, professionalism and/or ambition. Interestingly, however, if the classically tailored item contains even a tiny but highly contemporary detail, it is this detail that will stand out for certain audiences and communicate to them an awareness of current trends or, put another way, high cultural capital. Similarly, an otherwise classically tailored item that has something unconventional about it – like an unusual arrangement of buttons – might signal originality or artistic sensibilities to the discerning viewer.”
Style upside: “Classic silhouettes and tailoring are a timeless addition to any wardrobe,” says Tracey Lang, Marketing Director at UNIQLO Australia. “Good tailoring can help to provide the right shape and proportions for your body and outfit, by providing a visual instinct of where clothes should begin and end. Key staples such as a good quality linen shirt and tailored pants can help to provide the building blocks of an outfit.”
Mix it up: “Classic tailoring can be integrated into any wardrobe” explains Tracey. “Try layering a white linen shirt over a pair of UNIQLO’s Ultra Stretch Jeans for effortless chic, or a long sweater dress over cropped trousers for an unexpected look. An A-line skirt is a staple for any wardrobe, and can be easily worn with a crisp white shirt for the work-place, or dressed down with a flannel shirt or knit jumper for a more casual outfit.
Related: How To Update Your Stripey Wardrobe
Your wardrobe style: Colour
What it says about you: “A vibrant colourful wardrobe generally suggests a few main things,” Dr Nadine Cameron explains. “It can suggest sociability or extroversion (or a desire to develop these qualities); bright colours attract the eye of other humans and can invite engagement. It can suggest one’s sensitivity to one’s environment or context (where some people will be really affected by the colours they wear and other things around them, others won’t be quite so much); often people wear bright colours to boost their own mood or manipulate it in some way. It might instead convey a love of nature or art; sometimes people wear particular colours because of what those colours remind them of: a particular painting, say, or their favourite flower, for example.”
Style upside: “Having a wardrobe full of fun, vibrant colours is the perfect way to make dressing yourself fun every day,” says Tracey. “How you dress can have an effect on your mood, and dressing in bright colours can be the perfect way to lift yourself up on a bad day. It’s also a great conversation starter.”
Mix it up: “Try playing around with different tones of colours to create a simple yet bold look,” Tracey suggests. “Layer subtle variations of the same colour for a provocative understatement, or try clashing tones to make an impact with your outfit.”
Your wardrobe style: Activewear
What it says about you: “Wearing an activewear or a puffer vest, again, can communicate a range of things but the most obvious one is a pragmatic approach to dressing; vests are incredibly warm and can be worn over so many different conceivable items,” says Dr Nadine Cameron. “If the puffer vest is in an especially bright colour it might instead be worn to indicate the wearer’s outgoing nature (see more on colour below). Interestingly, more recently, puffer vests were embraced by those fashion elite who adopted the ‘acting basic’ style of dressing (or what the public came to know as ‘normcore’); a trend that was identified by forecasters, K-hole. The ‘acting basic’ trend was about wearing things that were very common but in a way that was able to convey very subtly one’s nuanced fashion knowledge. So, puffer vests might have been worn with other plain things but also a very up-to-date haircut, or with a fairly standard cut of jeans that were nevertheless a high end brand. In this way, puffer vests – and the ‘acting basic’ trend as a whole – very selectively communicated to other fashion elites.”
Style upside: “Function and style can and should go together,” says Tracey. “Clothes should be able to keep you comfortable and enhance your mobility, protection and warmth. Puffer vests have become popular amongst Aussies as they provide warmth and comfort, without compromising on style.”
Mix it up: “At UNIQLO, we designed the Ultra Light Down (ULD) technology to provide a range of lightweight, insulating down pieces to work under or over your clothes,” Tracey explains. “It’s available in a huge range of colours and patterns so you can add your own individual style to your outfit, and it packs up small so you can keep one in your handbag and it’s ready to be worn whenever the weather requires. Consider layering a colourful ULD vest over a denim shirt for low-key weekend style, or team it over your leggings to keep you warm on the way to the gym. You can also wear the vests underneath a parker or thick winter coat to provide another layer of inner insulation.”
Your wardrobe style: Monochrome
What it says about you: “Wearing monochrome means different things depending on the colour,” explains Dr Nadine Cameron. “In the recent past – when few people were doing it – wearing all black symbolised rebellion. Given, now, that so many items are produced in black it can convey the opposite: a desire to blend in. We can’t discount the fact that others wear black for the sake of being pragmatic; an all black wardrobe means that everything ‘goes’ with everything else. Wearing all of one colour when that colour is pale orange or deep indigo, say – and where it doesn’t indicate group affiliation of some kind – is likely to have a very personal meaning for the wearer.”
Style upside: “Having a monochrome wardrobe is the perfect way to save time and take the stress out of dressing in the morning,” says Tracey. “By investing in high quality pieces in black, white and grey, you’ll always have clothes that match and can achieve maximum outfits with minimal items.”
Mix it up: “To avoid getting bored with your monochrome outfits, try playing around with the proportions and textures of your outfit,” Tracey suggests. “Try experimenting with different layers of textures such as cashmere, merino wool and puffy jackets such as UNIQLO’s Ultra Light Down range to provide more depth and excitement to your look.
Your wardrobe style: Statement trend pieces
What it says about you: “Trends are often worn by people to show they have their fingers on the cultural pulse and/or to fit in and be accepted,” explains Dr Nadine Cameron. “Sometimes, though, someone is wearing something that just happens to be in fashion are in fact wearing it because they feel it suits them or it reflects their values in some way. A statement piece might be worn because the wearer is enamoured with the beauty or the craftspersonship of item. They might instead to be wearing it as an emphatic comment on a value or particular attribute they possess.”
Style upside: “It’s great to have statement pieces on hand for those special occasions, to make an outfit feel unique and stand out from the crowd,” suggests Tracey. “Invest in one or two trend pieces every now and again, such as a UNIQLO bomber jacket this winter, to keep your wardrobe updated and ensure you always feel current.”
Mix it up: “Making it work is all about confidence,” Tracey admits. “However if you are feeling a little less bold some days, try incorporating a statement or on-trend accessory such as a scarf in this season’s hottest hue to bring your outfit to life.”
Q. How do our clothes choices reflect our inner – and outer – lives?
A. “Some of the clothes we wear to reflect our inner lives have a meaning that only we have attached to that garment (or style thereof),” explains Dr Nadine Cameron. “For example, we may have woken up feeling reflective or nostalgic and so wear something that belongs to a now deceased grandmother, or an old boyfriend, perhaps. Or perhaps we’re feeling socially playful and wear something that we previously wore when we had a great deal of romantic or social success. We can also wear garments that communicate meaning more broadly. For example, our culture tends to associate passion of various kinds with the colour red. If we wear red because we’re feeling exuberant or confident, others are likely to receive that message about us (and react to us accordingly). Similarly, we might be feeling vulnerable and so swaddle ourselves in lots of dark coloured clothes in soft, natural fibres like wool. In this case, people would be more likely to keep a distance from us compared to if we had been wearing, say, a multi-coloured jumpsuit. Trends can also signify certain things to a larger populace, but not everyone will pick up the message we intend to convey through wearing them. By wearing jeans customised to have certain parts missing (cuffs, for example) we might be trying to signify that we are culturally informed and also a little edgy. Where some people will read as we want to be read others might instead take us for being poor or scruffy. If we want to communicate something we often need to think about who we are aiming our messaging at. In sum, sometimes we only want to express our emotional life or affiliations to or for ourselves and sometimes we want to communicate to others and with have variable success with the latter.
“Using clothes to express our outer lives is another way of saying we wear clothes to express an aspect of our socially performed identity. (It’s quite possible to also identify with certain values or ideas in a private way, only). We can communicate that we are ambitious in our career by wearing expensive, highly tailored and immaculately kept garments, for example. And by wearing casual clothes and running shoes, say, with the appropriate team scarf we can communicate that we’re a devoted supporter of our child’s sports team. Few of us have only one identity and often feel we need a variety of clothes to reflect the different roles we have because they require different attributes or qualities. At work, we usually required to be pragmatic where, as a lover or parent what people generally want from us is tenderness of some sort. Of course, some people will wear the same things all the time irrespective of their context. A good question is whether it is helpful to change our outfits so significantly to convey different ideas about us or whether we should dress only to please ourselves and rely on our actions alone to demonstrate our competence in different roles.”
See something you like? Visit Uniqlo where you’ll find all of these styles and much more.