If psychology is taken as the study of our human behaviour, then its translation into the world of fashion challenges and influences how we dress and what we wear as extensions of our emotional states, our socio-economic and political situations, our climates, religions and cultures. Fashion and dressing can be taken much further than than the act of putting on clothes, especial when fashion is taken in the context of Psychology. Consequently, the important values of applying psychology to fashion are more than what clothes say about others. Leading players in the fashion industry have to acquire certain skills and knowledge to compete effectively in this dynamic industry, hence the purpose of this paper. In order to begin to tackle some of these broader and more complex topics, it is important to break down some of the fundamental criteria into useful skill sets and approaches to work. The following essay will explore and detail these, using the critical analysis of theorists and writers to solidify a basis upon which to approach more intricate ideas within the subject.
According to self-perception theory, we interpret our own actions the way we interpret others’ actions, and our actions are often socially influenced and not produced out of our own free will, as we might expect (Bem, 1972). Kaiser applied this to the psychology of fashion by reworking the definition as the way in which one can utilise and integrate knowledge of the fashion industry with science and human psychology in order to come up with a curative tool that will assist humans in developing desirable self-perception, personal mood and good behaviour. Ironically these are also the preliminary skills required to take one up this point, as well as beyond. What I mean by this is that the outcomes of this aforementioned remedial tool are also attributes required in order to begin applying psychological knowledge within the fashion industry. Critical thinking, for instance, involves the use of cognitive processes such as observation, reasoning, perception and categorisation (Hughes, 2012). Critical thinking, and all that is involved in this process, originates from the individual before it can begin being utilised in a group dynamic.
Critical reading stimulates critical writing which is an important process that involves precision, analysis and verifiable reasoning (Freeman & Stone, 2006). Both students and professionals alike in fashion psychology have to devise ways of incorporating various aspects of critical thinking, especially the cognitive elements, to solve various problems. Understanding people’s culture, language and perception of fashion is essential in determining what they may be interested in. For example, in the textile industry, the type of cloth a customer chosen is strongly influenced by individual taste, but also on contemporaneous trends, climate, religion etc.. It is therefore important to mention here the the significance of cloth choice irrespective of gender.
It is also at this juncture that it becomes of particular importance to involve critical thinking with collaboration. The strong ability to communicate — with students, customers, clients, business partners — effectively is imperative for the understanding of client taste and preferences. This includes but is not limited to the ability to effectively describe, and transcribe, observations and other research findings, in order to bring ideas to the table that can be fully explored. Michael Kallet reduced this down to two key ingredients: persistence and thinking (Kallet M and Kallet M, 2014). Good communication skills ensure there is an efficient and effective flow of information. In order for a group dynamic to be healthy, differences and nuance in opinion need to be appropriately managed, sparking debate and discussion rather than conflict, and breadth of exploration rather than biased opinion.
The psychology of fashion involves group work in collaborative projects such as presentations, writing reports and running statistical tests. However, during collaboration, some challenges occur, and it is upon the group members to come up with effective ways of addressing these challenges. It requires resilience and strong personal development skills to build confidence and cope with frustrations when challenges arise (Freeman & Stone, 2006). These skills provide members with a strong sense of responsibility and commitments towards achieving group objectives. Effective monitoring and evaluation of work as it is done, ensures better planning of future group projects and ensuring that the problems encountered in the previous projects are not repeated. The assessment of group work is as important as the assessment of personal work, therefore, interpersonal and self-awareness skills should be utilized at all levels of the fashion psychology profession.
Hannover and Kuhnen (2002) importantly said that fashion is primarily about people, and therefore as well as creativity (which is often a given), it requires perception, communication and social interaction. Managerial skills, similar in a way to critical thinking and collaboration — insofar as they require level headed prioritisations and coordination — enable the development of strategic forward vision. This also requires retrospective understanding as these skills will assist in assessing past performances comparatively with current performances to come up with effective strategies for achieving better results. Also, management skills will enable decision making in the best interest of the project. The ability of a fashion psychologist to organise and maintain a positive relationship with employees determines the success of the business (Heil, Bennis & Stephens, 2000). As a fashion psychologist, efficient management skills will be essential for managing employees and technology to ensure an efficient realisation of their duties. Needless to say however, management knowledge and abilities are acquired over time with practice (Freeman & Stone, 2006). Opening this up from individual and personal management, it is also important to note that effective communication is essential in any development, and is far more complex than we often expect. The form and context that communication is taken in, either in the work place or at university, has potential to determine an individual‘s characteristics, their role in society and their relationships (Benjamin, 2009). The world of the psychology of fashion is no different to any other work place, and good communication skills are required, particularly in relation to the study of human behaviour, culture and perception (Cottrell, 2013).
Fashion psychology not only interprets what clothes say about people but also helps reveal human behaviours, using the context of fashion as a tool for interpretation. What determines the success of fashion psychology is the ability of fashion psychologists to put the skills acquired into practical use. Much of this begins with research. Research monitors and understands changes in fashion, both from the top down, but also from the bottom up. Skills such as finding information and using numerical data — collecting, analysing and presenting data — not only assist fashion psychology students in class but also in the work place. It is through research that people’s cultures, beliefs, values and interpretive frameworks are understood, and, furthermore, that there is sufficient information about people — their aforementioned cultures, beliefs, socio-economic inputs — for fashion psychologists to be able to develop products that meet real needs. It is through research conducted within the fashion industry that central questions of inquiry into dress and fashion have been formulated. For example, male perceptions of clothes and fashion is different from female perceptions; women put more emphasis on colour while men tend to concentrate more on style. Research identifies factors influencing the fashion industry and seeks pitfalls and flaws in order to propose possible ways of solving these problems. Similarly, research aptitude provides a platform for discoveries and changes in the fashion industry that may help the fashion psychologist to adapt to changes in the industry, and also to stay one step aheadof the game, through preemptive trend spotting.
Assessing the structure of human cognitive architecture is important in evaluating ways in which diverse thought and areas of fashion psychology relate to each other, and how these relationships go on to influence human communication (Cottrell, 2003). Writing and reading are crucial evaluative skills since they are necessary for understanding customer needs and expectations, and, getting closer to the original sources within the industry, they are also crucial for understanding the development of trend. In the communication process, there is a key relationship between language, behaviour and interpersonal skills. Great command of language determines the ability to communicate with customers.
Mental organisation skills are those skills that enable one to make a sound decision, prioritise issues and concentrate on work to deliver good results. Physical organisation is the general arrangement of activities within the organisation. Good mental organisation skills are required to avoid errors and conflicts when carrying out tasks and duties. Additional skills such as patience, analysis, flexibility, and awareness are essential for effective time management. To manage time effectively, fashion psychologists and students thereof must develop a weekly schedule that shows time allocation for study, work, and leisure activity (Knaus & Ellis, 2002), as a way of creating an overview and foresight. It is with respect of time and order, to oneself and also to the running of a team, that work runs most smoothly and cohesively.
It is common knowledge that clothes strongly influence the way other people perceive us, and it is a fashion psychologist‘s job to come up with various collaborative, interpersonal, critical thinking, and interactive skills to influence customer groups. A fashion psychologist may be talented and qualified but it is crucially important for them to integrate and utilize the science of psychology and the industry of fashion in order to come up with manageable tools that ultimately aid in the development of desired results in both the perceptions of clients, as well as targeted objectives in business models. These are not just skills that are required in the field of fashion psychology, but also, at their essence, they are skills that any person can adopt for the furtherment of their student or professional lives.
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