Gemma McLean is a style coach and wardrobe consultant; and fashion psychology is her secret weapon. Gemma's mission is to equip clients with a mood-boosting wardrobe that encapsulates what it means to be you.
Fashion has long been dismissed as a frivolous pursuit, and therefore the fashion industry's potential to contribute to the wellness industry has been largely dismissed. However, Gemma is fully aware of the power of dress—when approached mindfully, our wardrobes have the power to make us feel confident, positive and inspired. Gemma's approach to styling helps you do good, as well as feel good. If your style is a true reflection of self, it is considerably less vulnerable to manipulation by trends—your shopping habits should support you, not the fast fashion cycle. For Gemma, personal style manifests as a wardrobe that feels grounded and comfortable—comfort is always key.
We spoke to Gemma about the transformational power of dress, the benefits of sustainable fashion, and the best clothing markets to mooch...
I can’t remember the exact moment I discovered fashion psychology, but once I did I just wanted to learn more. I read as many books and articles as I could about the psychological processes affected by clothing and how what we’re wearing affects our everyday life. I conducted my own research by keeping a diary of my outfits and how I felt that day—it was such a fascinating process.
I wear a lot of beige and brown—which I feel is a very grounding colour palette. But I love a pop of blue, yellow or red when I’m needing more of a boost. Wearing colour can be both a reflection of and an influence on how we feel.
Getting dressed is absolutely an act of self-care. Self-care takes effort, as does getting dressed and presenting ourselves to the world. It is that act of doing something for ourselves and our well-being that shows we care for ourselves.
Right now, there are not many people talking about the psychology of fashion in mainstream media—but that is changing. Hopefully, more people will begin to utilise the power of dress positively in their lives. Through my content, I encourage people to look internally to figure out who they are and how they want to reflect that through their clothing. It is tough to switch from mindless to intentional shopping but it can become a habit over time—awareness is the first step. Getting dressed is something we do every day—we might as well benefit from it!
Out with the old
Clients can be reluctant to part with old pieces. My tip is to store items away for some time, say a month or three months, and then revisit them with this question: does this item reflect the best version of me? If the answer is no, then it’s time to let go. If you’re not sure yet, or just not ready to let go, that’s okay. Set it aside again for another few weeks or months and keep checking in with it.
Trends? So last season
A lot of my clients come to me because they’re tired of chasing trends—they're looking for something more stable in their wardrobes. My approach is to build a core 'style uniform'—key items which don’t tend to be trend-led, such as jeans, blazers, shirts and midi skirts. Once you’re happy with your staple pieces, you can add in a few trending items each season if you wish to keep on top of trends. Often, clients are so glad to have found something that works for them that they don’t actually want to clutter their wardrobes with new, trendy pieces.
Attitudes towards fast fashion are changing and most people want to make better decisions when it comes to shopping. However, being able to shop from ethical and sustainable brands is a privilege that not everyone can afford. In order for consumers to make better choices, we need better options made accessible to all. I feel there needs to be more legislation in place to ensure ethical standards are being met across the board.
Repurpose > replace
Simply knowing how to look after your clothing makes pieces last a lot longer—which of course means they’ll need to be replaced less. Sometimes we just need to find new ways to style something for it to feel fresh in our wardrobes again—I find Pinterest to be a great source of inspiration.
(Mindful) shopping spree
I'm obsessed with Vinted for pre-loved finds—especially when I’m looking for something in particular. I also love going to Camden Market or rooting around charity shops—I love a good rummage.
For anyone looking to learn more about the psychology of dress I recommend: One of the first books I read—You Are What You Wear by Dr Jennifer Baumgartner—and one of the most recent books I read—Dress Your Best Life by Dawnn Karen. YouTube is a great place to get started too.