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Clothes As Therapy For Scam Victims: When & How Does “Enclothed Cognition” Work?

You have all heard the phrase “Clothing Makes The Man” (or Woman)

As trauma victims, finding ways to overcome your trauma and regain control in your life is very important and powerful.

We talk a lot about trying to let go of the anger and the artifacts of the experience, but we humans tend to surround ourselves with other less obvious artifacts of our experiences. Additionally, we tend to invest our emotions into other things or places we have.

An example of this is the way we keep the scammer chats and images. These are toxic artifacts from the scam experience, but people hold on to them as a kind of “life-raft.” It is like letting go of them will drown you. It can be incredibly liberating to let them go and dispose of them. But we are humans and this is a hard thing to do until we fully heal and these objects lose their value to us.
The past is something to hold onto, not so much because it has value, but because we are reaching into an uncertain future. We hold onto the stable side of the chasm because we do not yet have the ability to grasp the other side or take the leap of faith we need to let go. The objects that remind us of the traumatic experience are much the same.

But there are other objects that we keep that become infused with the emotions of our experience as well, and clothing is one of them. I would encourage you all to listen to Debby Montgomery Johnson’s “Stand Up Speak Up” show from today September 3rd (, because it deals with aspects of this. The point though for you is that what you wear is also serving to remind you of your trauma and that making a change can also be liberating in a way you might not have thought about.

Such as: stop wearing clothes that you wore during the scam. Even going to the point of disposing of them in a ritual, such as a Viking Funeral of burning them all to end their hold over you.

Taking a good look at the artifacts in your life – especially those that were acquired during the scam or which were infused with emotional baggage from it – is something you may want to consider disposing of.

In a similar way, new clothing or even clothing from before the scam can be liberating as well. One way to return to your former self might be to begin wearing clothes from before the scam.

Here is an article on the topic of what is called “Enclothed Cognition.”

The subject is interesting and empowering because our clothing is one of humanity’s oldest artifacts, almost as old as tools and weapons. Societies and institutions use clothing (uniforms) to inform attitudes and perceptions about the self and their tribes. And it applies to victims of trauma too!

May 27, 2018
By Anabel Maldonado

“It has long been known that clothing affects how other people perceive us, as well as how we think about ourselves”, Adam Galinsky, one of the foremost researchers on enclothed cognition, has said. While as a concept, wearing certain items or looks to affect others’ perception of us is nothing new, it’s the latter part of this statement that is less often discussed, but that has more profound beneficial implications for humanity.

It’s unsettling that everyone from consumer psychologists to laypeople explain a desire for higher-priced investment items, logos, certain brands, It-bags and the like, within the scope of trying to impress others or to communicate a level of class, status or achievement to others.

From years of observations of what and how things sell in the luxury fashion industry, and as someone who dresses for herself, I find this largely inaccurate and overly simplistic. For example, I didn’t spend £1,250 on a Saint Laurent bag to prove to my friends that I’m raking it in. I spent that saved-up cash on the bag because of how it makes me feel. Every time I look down at it, it reminds of me who I want to be. Not a fake, dishonest portrayal of myself, but as part of a vision of the person who I am working towards becoming. By dressing like this future-best-self, I live into her. I end up embodying her. When I don’t feel like working, am discouraged, or when I’m lacking motivation, I am reminded of my need to hustle by a glance at that shiny logo. That’s why we spend so much on fashion. These aspirational pieces provide a tangible touchstone for qualities we are lacking, but want more of. It’s the same reason we are drawn to minimalist vs decorous architecture, lively vs remote travel destinations, or gregarious vs strong-and-silent type of partners. This thing outside you that you can look at and experience helps you develop in the direction that you seek.

Enclothed cognition is real. Like many other people who frequently experience anxiety, I am also drawn to neutrals – beige, sand, stone, grey – because they calm me. Freelancers who work from home know that wearing pyjamas or sweats all day doesn’t foster a focused mindset. It helps to put on some “real clothes” to get into productive mode. Our pilot study, although in early stages, is beginning to demonstrate clear correlations between mood, personality and aesthetic preference, which will hopefully serve to help create a better fashion psychology framework.

But sometimes enclothed cognition fails. The heartbroken girl who dresses overly sexy for a night out to heal her profound sense of rejection only beings to feel worse, as this look is too out of alignment with her inner state. During my own low periods, certain days where everything went wrong and I felt abandoned by friends and family, I had a tendency to go full-out fashion Darth Vader, an all-black armour-like Carine Roitfeld-esque look with a belted jacket and black boots, which in all fairness looks cool, but is too out of alignment with my baseline aesthetic. In the morning this look gave me a quick boost of emotional protection. I felt fierce. But by lunchtime, after some mundane chatter with my colleagues dulled my emotions, I felt like I was wearing a costume.

When to wear what to help us feel better, or more like we want to feel, is sometimes difficult to navigate. Should you dress how you want to feel, or simply dress how you feel? Here are three rules to make enclothed cognition more effective.

You have to do it for yourself. Dressing to manipulate others without at least partially authentically embodying the quality you want to convey doesn’t work. You’ve got to work on your inner reality, self-talk and actions too. If your presence doesn’t work, neither will your outfit.

You’ll need good self-awareness. You have to choose the right quality to compensate for the said inner need or lack. If you feel sad, a loud flower-print dress may seem like the right thing, but actually feel grossly jarring, and you may be better off in a beige cashmere sweater for the tactile comfort.

The disparity can’t be too large. Much like my all-black Darth Vader look, you can’t veer so far that your therapeutic outfit is just not you. If you feel profoundly sad, you may just have to wear those sweats on the couch for a day and heal yourself first. If it’s a hot summer day, and you’re burned out because you’ve been working long hours back-to-back, donning a business suit isn’t going to help you focus much. You may need a break.

As we continue to develop a framework around fashion psychology and enclothed cognition at The Psychology of Fashion, we hope to empower consumers with awareness about how to really dress their best in order to feel how they wish. Clothes to help dampen anxiety, uplift depression, inspire focus, foster ambition, slow anger and achieve calm. We also hope to demonstrate to brands that using this framework as a lens when designing and putting together collections, and knowing the psychological profile of their consumer will help them commercially. A win-win, and a new crossroad of fashion and well-being.


Consider how this might be applied in your life. The process alone may be insightful. If nothing else, it will help you think about your experience in the context of time and what else about your life has become attached to it that you want to break away from.

It just might be that what you wear is holding you back.

We wish you all the best and hope the though topics like this we can continue to help each of you find your path forward.

Tim McGuinness, Ph.D., Director
Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.


TAGS: SCARS, Important Article, Information About Scams, Anti-Scam, Scams, Scammers, Fraudsters, Cybercrime, Crybercriminals, Romance Scams, Scam Victims, Clothes As Therapy, For Scam Victims, : Enclothed Cognition

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