How Can Clothes Reflect Our Identity?


Clothes – we all wear them, we all buy them. But we don’t think a lot about what they mean to us and how they are a remarkable tool for expressing how we feel and who we are. With this year’s DUCFS centring around identity, why not delve into how clothes play a huge role in our identity, often without us even noticing?

For a long time, fashion has served as a personal ‘identity’ tool that enables people to express how they feel and what comes to define them.

‘We are not what we wear, but we have to recognise we can become what we wear’ –Ramdial 2015

Clothes offer us the basic need of warmth and protection from England’s disastrous weather. Even more, clothes affect our moods 2 and behaviour; they have a psychological effect called ‘enclothed cognition’, meaning they influence your thoughts, actions and consequently how you perceive your daily life. For instance, clothes can enhance personal confidence: either unintentionally or intentionally we see clothes as a non-verbal
communication to the outside world regarding how we feel.

With high-street shops sweeping out our bank accounts, it is all too predictable these days to walk into the Billy B and find someone wearing the exact same jumper as you. How can you define your own style if you can’t be unique? How can you express your own self through clothes if they are just a replica of what someone else is wearing? The difficulty is with all this high street fast fashion brands is that the actual brand is just becoming part of an identification tool, not the clothes itself. Wrapped up in brand names, flashy labels and fleeting trends, we have lost sight of what our clothes actually mean to us. It’s time to stop dressing for the sake of impressing others in the hopes that people will perceive you in a certain light. Instead, DUCFS calls for the process of self-discovery for the benefit of
understanding one’s own self; rather than using clothing a way to mask our own true selves, clothing should be used for discovering our own individuality.

Charity shops are fantastic for finding your own style and creating your own identity. Imagine walking into a shop, having no idea what you are going to buy or what you might pair it with. Even better, imagine not being aware, or caring about where the clothes are actually from. Here, you can start to craft your own identity, without all the brand tags (let
alone hefty price tags) attached. Fashion is a creative and exciting way to find your own identity and learn to become comfortable with it.

All in all, clothes aren’t just stitching of fabric they are a stitching together of the self. Fashion serves as a vital instrument for self-exploration: clothes allow us to reflect on
ourselves, explore new pathways for our own identity, integrate with other people (whether they share a similar identity or not), and ultimately come to accept and embrace who we

On a side note: thinking about identity and clothes also raises more links with how to shop more sustainably, which is increasingly important in today’s age. Yet another thing to ask yourself at the till before you buy a branded jumper associated with a fleeted trend. Why not ask yourself: ‘does this style reflect my values and who I want to identify as?’

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Durham University Charity Fashion Show is a Durham SU student group whose details are: Durham Students’ Union (also known as Durham SU or DSU) is a charity registered in England and Wales (1145400) and a company limited by guarantee (07689815), and its principal address is Dunelm House, New Elvet, DURHAM, County Durham, DH1 3AN.