Great news. Science is one breakthrough closer to understanding the brain chemistry behind your intense interest in clothes, and as it turns out, your outfit may alter how you approach and interact with the world. In preliminary findings from a study published on the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology’s website, subjects who donned white coats that they thought belonged to doctors performed better on tests than those who wore street clothes, or those who thought the coats were associated with artists. Their heightened focus was evident only when subjects actually put on the coat in question (not merely when they were in the same room). It’s no secret that assembling an outfit is like selecting social armor, and that what we wear has power over others (if there weren’t truth to the cliché “lady in red,” designers wouldn’t be making so many scarlet dresses), but this study shows if you have a strong cultural association with a garment, wearing it can affect your cognitive processes. This phenomenon is called enclothed cognition, meaning that if your brain links Miuccia Prada’s or Phoebe Philo’s collections with powerful, intelligent women, you’re likely to take on those attributes when you wear that Prada pleated skirt or Céline jacket.
To explore this theory, Vogue asked several women—in careers ranging from art to e-commerce to politics—what pieces in their closets helped them bring their A-game to work.