Aaron Risch

Personal Attitudes Towards Clothing and Clothing Choices

April 4, 2021   /  

Name: Aaron Risch
Major: Psychology
Minor: Theatre and Dance
Advisors: Dr. Susan Clayton, Dr. Amber Garcia

Clothing is one way that individuals form and announce both personal and public identities. The present research investigates how people think about the role of clothing in self-perception and self-presentation. Using a survey asking questions about personal attitudes towards clothing, I expand upon the research looking into the role that clothing plays in the conveyance of identity, personality, emotion, and mood. Why do people choose to wear the clothes that they do? How much time and thought do people put into making their clothing choices? Are there societal standards of dress that are more important to follow than others? To what extent does gender impact perceptions of clothing? Fifty-one students at The College of Wooster participated in this study, completing a survey on Qualtrics. Means of how important it is to follow situational standards of dress for each setting were calculated showing that following situational standards of dress was moderately important in the majority of settings. Pearson’s correlations were run to analyze the ways in which the opinions of others impact the clothing people wear, how people feel when shopping for clothing or when getting dressed, the ways in which clothing is related to personal identity, and the ways in which gender play a role in clothing choices. ANOVA were conducted to look for differences between groups defined by gender identity and the following variables: the importance of clothing to personal identity, the amount of time spent getting dressed each day, how often people receive complements based on their clothing, and how frequently someone wore clothing just because it was considered trendy. Participants found comfort, fit, fitting in, and dressing appropriately for the given situation, to be the most important considerations when choosing what clothing to wear. It is important to examine how we interact with clothing physically, mentally, and socially, in order to understand the ways in which clothing impacts the perception of ourselves and the world around us.

Aaron will be online to field comments on April 16:
2-4pm EDT (PST 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

37 thoughts on “Personal Attitudes Towards Clothing and Clothing Choices”

  1. Thanks for introducing me to this interesting topic, Aaron! Do you think your theatre minor helped to inform the questions you asked, or the way in which you thought about clothing?

    1. I wanted to ask precisely the same question as Dr. Clayton! This is really interesting and I’m sharing it with my high schooler. I know clothing choices are both a source of empowerment and stress for my child!

      1. Hi there! My minor in Theater and Dance definitely informed my research. I have taken several courses in costume design and construction, as well as working as assistant costume designer for last spring’s production, Silent Sky. My work with costumes and their significance to the portrayal of characters on stage made me question what messages we send with the clothing we wear in our day to day life. In my experience, clothing can be seen as a tool both for self expression and roll fulfillment, and I was curious to what extent and in what ways others experienced the use of clothing in their lives.

  2. Congratulations, Aaron! This is a very interesting subject and and provides a thoughtful lens into so many daily experiences. I really appreciate your work and all you have contributed to the life of our community in your time at Wooster!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad to have contributed in significant ways to the community at Wooster.

  3. This is a really nice study. I wonder if there are any environmental factors that might override or augment some of your results? I also if a person’s baseline personality traits may influence your results. Regardless this is very interesting work.

    1. Hi there! I was thinking about that myself, especially in the context of the pandemic. Having been remote for a year now, the importance of what clothing we wear day to day has certainly shifted. If I had a time machine, I would love to have conducted the same study before quarantine, and compare those findings to my present ones. I certainly think that comfort has taken on a greater importance, and I have a suspicion that the time taken to get dressed in the morning has decreased due to being at home so often. In regards to personality, I would say that that is a nuanced question to ask. There are the categories of introvert/extrovert/ambivert, which could be a simple question to ask, but I would argue that personality can also be influenced by someone’s interests and upbringing, which can be more difficult or time consuming areas to ask about. If I had the opportunity, I would like to conduct another study solely looking at the impact of personality on clothing choices. Thank you for asking these questions, these are great points you brought up!

  4. Congratulations Aaron! You’ve done such a cool project that addresses your interests, and I’m so glad I got to see some of the behind the scenes and so happy it came together! What’s your favorite outfit you wore while working on this project? (a very important question)

    1. Thank you for stopping by! That is a very important question. My favorite outfit I wore while working on this project would have to be my sparkly rainbow turtle neck with olive green overalls, gnome earrings, and my purple floral combat boots. I can’t remember what mask I wore that day, but I do enjoy wearing my mask with pink, purple, and blue succulents on it.

  5. Aaron, this is so good! I know you work with costumes in theater, and I was wondering if that specifically impacted any of your research/how this project came to be?

    1. Great question! Working in the costume shop and with the theater in general definitely had an impact on choosing my research topic. Before deciding on everyday perceptions of clothing, I had considered looking in to how actors perceive themselves in relation to their character pre, during, and post costume, and what impact that might have on the quality of their performance. With that, I also wondered if I could look into the audience’s perception of performers in and out of costume, and if that impacts their theatrical experience (also looking in to forms of theater that don’t typically involve costume, such as improv). However, after some thought, I realized I may not have a large enough participant pool to pull from, and logistically how could I monitor a performance pre, during, and post dress without a show or or audience to observe? If I have the opportunity to look into this question in the future, I certainly would like to!

  6. Congrats Aaron!! Your research is really interesting and provides useful insight into the psychology behind everyday choices. You are such a cool person and I’m grateful for the friendship we have formed. Best of luck with your future plans!!!

  7. Congrats for all your hard work Aaron! Best of luck in all your post-graduation endeavors.

  8. Congratulations Aaron! This is super interesting. You did an incredible job!
    Do you think that other age groups would have different considerations when choosing what clothing to wear?

    1. Hi there! I certainly think that age has an impact on the clothing choices people make, and the ways in which they perceive clothing. In my experience, the importance of following gender expectations, the extent to which one can engage in personal expression, and importance of following professional and formal etiquette varies based on age group. I would be interested to see how middle age to older populations (40-90 years) perceive clothing, and how important they feel it is to pass on their expectation of clothing choices to younger generations.

  9. Congratulations on a great project!! What was the most surprising thing you learned about this topic? Did any of your respondents take longer than an hour to choose their outfit daily?

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I was most surprised to learn that male respondents felt that their clothing had a higher level of importance to their personal identity than female and nonbinary respondents. Perhaps the idea that men are more restricted in their clothing choices could lead to a more cohesive fashion identity among men. The gender separation between men and women’s clothing can be restrictive, and if a man were to be seen in a skirt, his identity as a man could be brought into question. This could be why men felt their clothing had a high importance to their personal identity, because part of being a man is how you dress or do not dress, whereas being a woman or being nonbinary has more leniency in clothing. Despite clothing having a higher level of importance to their personal identity, all male respondents took less than 15 minutes to choose their clothing each day. The few respondents who took over an hour to choose their clothing each day were primarily nonbinary. Considering that nonbinary people often have to take into account the shift in their gender/ gender presentation ideal for the day, this was unsurprising to me. Overall, I do think that the amount of time people take to pick out and put on their clothing each day has likely decreased since becoming primarily remote, as people don’t need to account for being in public as often.

  10. Congrats on finishing your I.S.! I found your I.S. to be really interesting and well done! I was wondering if you had more time what other variables would you have looked into? Would you have been interested in seeing how someone’s different cultural and religious backgrounds influenced their way of dress?

    1. Hi there! I had asked myself the same thing when coming up with my survey. I would have loved to expand my questions to include the influence of age, culture, personality, upbringing, and religion, as well as invite participants outside of current students at the College of Wooster. If the cost of participant engagement weren’t an issue, I’m sure my survey could have been an hour long with all of the questions I have. In my present research, all participants were students at the College, and overwhelming majority of participants identified as white/Caucasian. I expected this, however it skews my results to reflect primarily 18-24 year old, white college students. If I had the opportunity to do this study again, I would reach out to populations other than the College student body. I am confident that there is much to be learned by expanding these types of questions to address as many identities as possible.

  11. “Does it Spark Joy?” is popular question put forth in recent years, when it comes to clothing and clutter. The de-cluttering of one’s mind with respect to their clothing presentation takes time, and is a concept that the general public is just beginning to recognize. This is important work! Congratulations

  12. Congratulations, Aaron! This is a really interesting topic to me, as I have an interest in the changing norms of concealment and augmentation between cultures and over time. There are so many directions your research could go. What would you want to know more about were you to do a follow-up project?

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I would love to have expand my survey to include questions related to age, personality, cultural background, socioeconomic status, and religion. I would especially like to look at the impact of culture and race, as the majority of my respondents in the present study were white college students. If I had the opportunity to travel back in time, I would like to have given this survey pre-pandemic, and compared those findings with the present ones. There are many directions this research could go, and I’m glad to hear that you’re interested in my work!

  13. Congratulations on finishing I.S., Aaron! It’s a fascinating topic and you did a fantastic job with it. Did you have a favorite part of the process?

    1. Thank you for the affirmation! I would have to say my both my favorite and least favorite part of this project was conducting my statistical analyses. On one hand, I discovered all of these interesting relationships, confirming or surprisingly disproving my hypotheses. On the other hand, I had to run many statistical tests and interpret the numerical results, translating them from statistical language into common English. If I had the opportunity, I would have like to have hired an assistant to run all of the tests for me, giving me the time to reflect in greater detail on the implications of these findings.

  14. Hi Aaron! Congratulations on completing your IS! I’m curious as to how you measured the different variables in your survey if you’d be willing to describe them.

    1. Thank you! If you’re referring to my statistical analyses, there were several ways in which I measured the variables in my survey. The majority of tests I ran were Pearson’s correlations, which measure the strength of a linear association between two variables. For example, when correlating the importance of clothing to personal identity with how embarrassed participants would feel if someone did not like what they were wearing, there was found to be a significant positive correlation (r = .318, n = 51, p = .023). This means that the more important clothing was to someone’s personal identity, the more embarrassed they would be if someone did not like what they were wearing. The second type of tests I ran were ANOVAs (Analysis of Variance) followed by a Tukey HSD test, which were conducted to look for differences between groups defined by gender identity and several variables. In this test, the goal is to gain information about the relationship between the dependent (example: the amount of time spent getting dressed each day) and independent variables (gender identity). In this instance, a significant interaction between gender identity and the time spent getting dressed each day was found (F(3,46 = 3.155, p = .034), and the Tukey HSD test revealed that nonbinary respondents spent significantly more time getting dressed each day than males did (p = .027), and although not at a significant level, nonbinary respondents took more time getting dressed than female and other identifying respondents. I also calculated means for how important traits were to consider when picking out an article of clothing to wear (sorted from most to least important) and how important it is to follow situational standards of dress for each setting (overall, formal, informal, public, private). These means were then displayed in tables. If you have any more questions about my findings, feel free to email me!

  15. Great job, Aaron! You’re the greatest roommate and I have had the best time watching you complete this IS and hearing about your research and results. 🙂

  16. This is such an interesting topic! I think that clothing is so important to understanding the world, but, as a history major, I usually think about it from a historical perspective. Reading about your project has reminded me that many factors about why people choose certain clothing have remained constant over time. I think this is super important because it shows the relationship between the past and the present.

    1. I’m glad to hear that you’re interested in my research! Having taken courses in costume design, I can also see how things like situational standards are found to be important. One thing I would say has certainly changed is the amount of clothing the average person has, due to industrialization and fast fashion.

  17. Congratulations! This sounds like a very relevant topic for society today. So many applications could come from work like this. I’m glad you were able to work this topic into your interests. Nice job!

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