Dressing for Your Body Type: How Fashion Can Empower You
It was the year 2014 when Olivia Naava founded what would become one of the most impactful projects of her life. In an effort to open up job opportunities to women with disabilities, she launched the Tailoring and Crafts by Kampala Disabled Initiative, a non-profit organisation run by differently-abled women, all of whom tailor and produce various fashion items ranging from handbags and backpacks, to beautifully designed dresses, to even slippers and aprons. Thanks to this project, women who have been constantly receiving the short end of the stick on the job market have become more independent and sustainable. Not only have they managed to improve their living standards, but they also got the opportunity to undergo various training to equip themselves with marketable skills.
Olivia's project just goes to show that fashion has the power to empower people, and not just in terms of securing jobs and leveling the playing field. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology explored the phenomenon "enclothed cognition," which argues that our clothing has a profound effect on our cognitive processes. A doctor's coat may seem like an ordinary piece of clothing, but if someone who knows its symbolic meaning wears it, the wearer can be put in a different psychological state.
As highlighted in detail on Inc, there is research that proves that clothing, especially power dressing, can increase abstract thinking and provide people a broader perspective. While we all know that formality of clothing may influence the way others perceive a person and people perceive themselves, it turns out that it could also affect decision making in more profound ways through its influence on processing style.
A study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education also notes that fashion consumers are inclined to wear garments that enhance their body shape and create illusions of desirable images. This emphasises the importance of dressing according to your body type, as doing so can boost your confidence.
Style Craze issued a comprehensive guide on how to pick clothing for one's body shape. They recommended that you should select garments that accentuate your features. For instance, those who have apple-shaped bodies would look better pieces that create an elongated illusion of the torso, while those with a pear body shape should wear clothes that enhance the lower body. Additionally, people with bodies that are similar to the inverted triangle shape should stick to pieces like straight-cut jeans and dresses that naturally have an inverted V-look, while those with a rectangle body shape can benefit from clothes that flaunt the arms and legs. People with an hourglass body figure are more proportioned, and they would look best wearing body-hugging dresses.
As for people with petite figures, Pretty Me's guide to the best dresses for petites explains that those with smaller frames should stay away from form-fitting clothes but gravitate more toward sheath dresses, as they highlight the shape of the body. Other options that petites can consider are wrap dresses, shirt dresses, button-down dresses, and vertical-patterned dresses.
Of course, all of this is for naught if you're unable to figure out what your body type even is. There are plenty of instructions for doing so online, but Who What Wear's quick guide recommends measuring your shoulders, bust, waist, and hips and using tried and tested formulas to compute for what your body shape really is. Remember, knowing what works for you starts with knowing yourself and knowing your body, and this is where empowerment begins.
Fashion was once deemed as merely a tool for self-expression, and while that's true, it also has the capacity to make people feel empowered, one garment at a time.
[Article specially written for fashionomicsafrica.org by Emily Lamb]