Clothes Make the Girl
While Tracy DiNunzio worked around the clock from her kitchen table to launch the online clothing resale shop Tradesy, she started to notice that what she wore affected how she felt—and how successful she was in business.
While building Tradesy, DiNunzio started to notice a trend. On the days she wore sweats, she was far less productive than on the days when she dressed up; when she donned designer suits that she loved, she performed better in meetings than when her clothes made her feel meh.
“At first it didn’t make sense for me to dress up just to sit behind a computer all day,” says DiNunzio, who’s built a $10 million business over the past three years. “But I started to notice that the days that I didn’t look as nice were the days I didn’t feel as good or perform as well.”
Science in Fashion
DiNunzio began researching her hunch and found an abundance of scientific research linking the power of fashion to a person’s psyche and success in business. For example, researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University conducted a study in which participants wore identical white coats. Some were told the garments were doctors’ coats, while others were told they wore a painter’s jacket. Those wearing the “doctor’s coat” performed far better on cognitive tests than those in the “painter’s jacket,” even though the clothing was exactly the same. “It’s all about what our clothes say to us, and what we tell ourselves we’re capable of,” DiNunzio says.
Today, DiNunzio wears designer jeans, a Chanel blazer and heels—even when working from home. She also uses what she’s learned about the fashion-psychology connection to help other women perform better in business and life. Some of her insights are based on science, while other observations come from her work with women whom she helps clean and organize their closets. “While helping women purge their closets, I started to notice patterns,” DiNunzio says. “As I started to get to know the women, I found that my sense about their personalities and lives was true. Today, when I look at a woman’s closet, it’s like reading her horoscope. I can really get a sense of what is going on in her life.”
Here are some common closet habits, and what they say about the owner:
Drawers stuffed with unworn clothes, tags still attached
“This tends to correlate with an inability to be grounded in reality,” DiNunzio says. “These women live in a fantasy world of unrealistic expectations, and they suffer from a sense of disappointment all the time.”
Closets full of the same style or color, such as one sweater in multiple colors or everything in black and gray
“These are women who are afraid of risk and commitment in their relationships and in work,” DiNunzio says, adding that this closet profile often also comes with timid and inflexible personalities.
To get out of your fashion rut, DiNunzio suggests three tips:
- Go to a department store and try on at least one item from every department— women’s, sportswear and various designers—especially those you may have shied away from in the past. “It’s important that you see yourself in a new light,” she says.
- Go shopping with a fashion-savvy friend who knows the real you. “We often don’t see ourselves clearly, and it can be very, very useful to have another set of eyes from someone who can help you get past your mental blocks and bring out the best in you,” DiNunzio says.
- Don’t rely too heavily on designer logos. One study published in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior found that a woman wearing a sweater with a designer logo got a response rate of 52 percent when asking people on the street to fill out a survey. But when she wore a plain sweater, that rate dropped to 13 percent. That said, DiNunzio advises against relying on lots of logos in the professional world: “I recommend discrete logos or well-made designer clothing. It’s about the confidence that you gain by wearing something that is really beautiful and well-made—not broadcasting that you’ve spent a lot of money.”
If you’re looking to dress for success, here are two interview outfits for less than $200 that DiNunzio styled:
Make an Impression
Fitted Linen Jacket ($49.95) at H&M
(Get a 20 percent off coupon when you sign up for the H&M newsletter.)
Stitch Seam Cigarette Trousers ($45) at Topshop
(Get free shipping on orders of more than $50 through Topshop sales.)
Satin Blouse ($34.99) at Mango
(Enjoy free shipping when you spend $150 or more with Mango discounts.)
High Heel Court Shoe With Ankle Strap ($49.90) at Zara
(Get free shipping with Zara sales.)
Play It Safe
T Tahari Myra Dress ($128) at Neiman Marcus
(Get free shipping at Neiman Marcus & save with a discount gift card)
Nine West Shoes Flax Pumps ($69) at Macy’s
(Take 15 percent off orders of $100 or more with Macy’s coupons.)