The results of our fashion psychology study, which measured personality traits and emotions against fashion choices, revealed one of the biggest dividers among respondents to be around prints. One of the biggest differences was rooted in the trait of neuroticism. Those who loved prints were more optimistic, worried less and found it easier to stay in a good mood, while those who disliked prints were more prone to anxiety and worry, but were more creative and fashion-forward.
What is it about prints that causes such a divide and reveals such differences in the psychology of those whose like them versus those who don't? As someone who never felt "right" in prints, I’ll attempt to offer some insight into this dynamic. To start, I never hated all prints on other people. I loved them on the Italian fashion directors I would see on Tumblr. There was never a print Giovanna Battaglia, Anna Dello Russo or Viviana Volpicella couldn’t rock.
But generally, I was much more drawn to solid-color looks. Perhaps it was my Francophilia. I had a string of French boyfriends, looked to Parisian streets for style inspiration, and maybe read one too many guides to French style, which dictate that only neutral solid colors are chic. Grey, navy, taupe and black. And maybe beige and white in the spring and summer. Everything else, to the French, is gaudy.
Once in a while, prior to my thirties, I would force myself to buy a printed dress or top to diversify my wardrobe. But then without fail, I’d wear it and feel tacky and wrong. Only by the time I was in my early thirties could I really wear a few prints (namely, a dark Erdem-esque floral or a Mary) and feel good. It could because a new wave of innovative designers including Erdem, Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto modernized prints enough to be appealing. But also, it made me reflect on how my perhaps my psychology had shifted. How I had changed.
Falling in line with the research findings, I have always been neurotic. I can be needy, sensitive, and overly melancholy. I would guess that some of this is owed to early childhood experiences, and some to a genetic predisposition. (To my fellow neurotics, do note, this quality is also correlated with positive traits such as intelligence, creativity and a nurturing personality.)
In my late 20s I met my current boyfriend, which spurred a much-needed spiritual awakening and healing of sorts. Throughout the years we’ve been together, I’ve become a lot more resilient and emotionally whole. Happier. Lighter. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my being happier and becoming less neurotic has coincided with feeling better in prints.
Prints are a bit like sunny days, loved-up couples and happy songs. I once read that people who feel low or depressed don't enjoy sunny days because they feel that the sun and good vibes are mocking them somehow. Rainy weather and darker gloomy days feel comforting and in-sync. Upbeat songs, happy couples, sunshine and prints stand at the a too-distant end of the spectrum. They are far removed from life's darker elements, and feel too polarizing to those in the throes of exactly that.
So can one use prints to cheer themselves up and adopt a more positive outlook through fashion? Or would it be forced? Enclothed cognition dictates that clothing can affect one's mood, but one has to believe it has the power to do so. Meaning that wearing prints can cheer you up if you are convinced that it will and if the print is not too far away from your baseline style.
If like me, you were a lover of neutrals and solids, keep this fashion psychology spectrum in mind and start with a darker floral. Not all prints are created equal, so graphic patterns and moodier palettes may work best. Steer clear of anything too extreme - overly cheerful florals, butterflies, candy-colored hues and anything of the sort.
Do you like or dislike prints? Does your personality and mood match these findings? Tell us in the comments.