What you wear plays a role in looking and feeling confident. Throughout history, women have become slaves to fashion even as female beauty standards have changed from time to time. From the restrictive, breast-boosting corsets and flowing ankle-length dresses of 19th century England to social media icon Kim Kardashian’s controversial shape-hugging sheer trends of the 21st century. Societal norms and the media tend to blur the lines between that which is classy versus trashy. However, there’s no need to go skimpy with your clothing choices—positive first impressions matter. You can still be sexy and gain confidence with your clothes on. Here’s how to overcome the pressures of how you think you should look and begin to feel good about yourself in your own skin fully clothed.

Here’s What Clothes Can Tell a Person About You

There’s an old proverb originally published in Latin in the 1500s, “vestis virum facit” (or “clothes make the man”). This old adage means that people will judge you by the clothes you wear. Researchers have proven that clothes have a significant bearing on how people look at you. In one study, it was shown how a man in a tailored suit was seen as being more confident and flexible as well as a more successful, high-earning person. People make snap judgments about you within seconds of laying eyes on you. It doesn’t even always matter how cleanly dressed you may think you are, people’s judgments have been ingrained since childhood.

Certain Outfits Reflect Exactly What You’re Feeling

There have been research studies conducted that showedclothing affects not only how you’re perceived but also how you feel. In one such study, participants who wore a white coat believed to belong to a doctor felt more focused, whereas those who wore one belonging to a painter did not change. The white coats were identical yet the perception totally opposite. Likewise, people typically choose what style, colors and comfort-level of an outfit based on how they feel. If you feel happy, wear bright cheery clothes. Sometimes wearing those bright colors can actually help when you’re feeling depressed or unmotivated. You may not have realized it, but clothes can alter your mood and your performance.

What You Wear Also Affects Your Behavior

Enclothed cognition is the term for how a person’s thought processes can be influenced by certain types of clothing they wear. In a sense, certain clothes can make you smarter and perform better. The wrong clothes can have the opposite effect as well. In another white coat study conducted by the same researchers, participants were divided into two study groups: those who wore a white lab coat on those who wore street clothes. When given a test on their ability to pick out congruities, those wearing a white coat made half as many errors as those in street clothes. So, it would be safe to assume that if you wear a business suit, you’ll feel smarter and perhaps work smarter. If you feel sexy and decide to dress sexy, then you’ll think it may cause others to see you in a different light. That light might not be better. Proceed with caution.

Sexy Sells but Revealing More can Backfire

You may not realize how even the slightest hint of trying to dress and feel sexy may negatively affect how others perceive you and your ability to perform. Let’s say, as a high-level manager, you had on a conservative business-type skirt and blouse. Something as seemingly innocent as wearing a skirt slightly above the knee and one unfastened button on a blouse could make others view you less-favorably. A longer skirt and buttoned blouse versus a shorter skirt and unbuttoned blouse could mean the difference between being taken seriously. For certain traits including intelligence, confidence, trustworthiness, responsibility, authority and organization, researchers have shown how dressing sexy no matter how subtle may hinder your success.

Tips to Dress for Success and Build Confidence

Hopefully, you’ve gained a good understanding of enclothed cognition. Now you’re ready to put it to practice in your favor. Here are a few tips to get you going on how best to determine what to wear to boost your esteem and build confidence.When you wake up, take a moment to think about how you feel. What mood are you in?Where are you going and what style should you wear? Something businessy for work? Something casual for time with friends or family? Something a little sexy but not overdoing it for a night on the town?Consider what style and color matches that either matches your mood or will help boost your mood. Bright colors to get you in the mood to workout? Neutral colors to feel professional? Sparkles to get you in the mood to dance?Comfort is key! While it’s trendy to wear stacked heels or body-shaping waist-trainers, if you’re not relaxed, it’s going to show. You can still look sexy in a low heel or flat. If you don’t like your shape, then change your diet and exercise.Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, “How would somebody that doesn’t know me perceive me?” Do you look professional, smart, reliable, trustworthy? Or, are you revealing a little too much and may give the perception of looking a bit sleezy?If you’re satisfied with what you have on, how you look, how you feel and how you think people will see you, then go out and conquer the day.

There’s definitely something to be said about the saying “never judge a book by its cover.” As you can now see, what we wear can have a significant impact, both positive and negative. A simple article of clothing can change how we’re perceived, how we feel and how we behave. Enclothed cognition plays a huge part of our psychology. Keep it in the back of your mind as you pay attention to what you wear while working having more self-esteem. Dressing for success is all about still feeling sexy on the inside without having to bare skin on the outside.