The advice that “when you look good, you feel good” is too often touted by beauty salons and make-up manufacturers only interested in selling you their services. It can be a shallow concept - or even a harmful one, when appearance or body image image takes on too much importance and becomes an obsession.
But without going that far, there is truth in the idea that taking care of yourself and making sure you look presentable can be a benefit to your mental health. This doesn’t mean wearing a ridiculously expensive suit, spending all your time in the gym or slathering on layer upon layer of makeup, but simply a moderate commitment to presentability.
There has been some research into the area, and one 2015 study led by Abraham Rutchick at California State University found that wearing formal clothing changes the way people think and makes them feel more powerful.
Good-looking formal clothing has been in the news recently, as Meghan Markle has released a new clothing line in partnership with charity Smart Works. For every item in the five-piece line purchased, the same item will be donated to the charity to be worn by a woman in long-term unemployment at a job interview. The idea is to create a sense of community between women helping women, and empower long-term unemployed women to feel more confident.
The Princes Trust, a UK-based charity working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds has long been offering a similar service, providing grants to young people for smart new clothes to help them ace that interview.
It’s not just clothes which are important for looking and feeling good. Another UK charity, ‘Look Good Feel Better’, runs workshops for cancer patients offering beauty treatments and advice for taking care of their appearance. “The effect a Workshop has on appearance and confidence is life enhancing during such a difficult time,” says Dr Natalie Doyle, a Nurse Consultant. “It allows people to take control of how they look and feel, when everything else feels like it’s outside of their control.”
Dr Doyle makes an important point about taking care of your appearance helping you to feel in control, and it can be applied to anyone, whether they are struggling with cancer, Chronic Pain, or any other illness. It’s worth making that extra effort to find a new pair of trousers that you feel comfortable in, to iron that crumpled shirt, or get that haircut you’ve been putting off for so long. And remember, you don’t need to look good for anyone else, just for you!