The power of lipstick

I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of enclothed cognition, which Angie has mentioned in the past. In case you missed it, this is the scientifically proven theory that what you’re wearing can change the way you think.

This makes a lot of sense to me, because I’m a firm believer in the power of a great outfit. I’m well aware of how my clothes can affect my performance in the classroom, on the sales trail or out with friends. At this point in my life (existential crisis, career uncertainty, years of therapy) I’d like to explore the idea further and consider how I can use my wardrobe to pull myself out of this funk.

In the meantime, I owe you all a picture of my new haircut and the Ann D’s. Not to mention my thoughts on cropped flares (I’m still struggling) and a true red lip (I’m a fan). I could talk at length about all these things, as well as this look I cribbed from Angie, or how these surprisingly comfortable shoes can elevate the simplest of outfits, but what I really need to tell you is this.

It pains me to say it, but lipstick, heels, the right bra and a good haircut really do change the way I feel about myself, however temporarily. For a few moments in front of a cheap camera in poor lighting I can loose all that baggage and somehow come up with a handful of pictures that remind me who I am and who I can be. During a bout of seasonal depression, what could have felt like a mindless extravagance turned out to be an amazing boost.

Yes, I’m worth it. A new Facebook avatar earns a like from a man who broke my heart thirty years ago. That’s the power of a strong lip and a bold shoe.

I found more confirmation today when I put on a well cut blazer, Japanese-style harem pants, a Breton shirt and vintage oxfords. The effect was calming and meditative: I felt serene, balanced, grounded and receptive, so I went to look at some art with Mr Edge. It’s entirely possible dressing like a Euro intellectual boosted my IQ, because later in the day I managed to find a lot of Dutch words I didn’t know I knew. I also felt somewhat aloof and slightly smug.

Further tests are needed.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Anne replied 4 years ago

    You look fabulous!!

  • Xtabay replied 4 years ago

    I'm pretty obsessed with the whole concept of enclothed cognition.  It fascinates the heck out of me.  Knowing more about it has resulted in some pretty fantastic clothing purchases (not necessarily in my budget, but oh, well!)

    The AD's are beautiful, and I'm ashamed to say I was one who tried to talk you out of them because you said they were pricey and you weren't even sure you'd wear them.  I'm glad you didn't listen to me, because they are obviously meant to be on your feet.  The outfit you're wearing showcases them beautifully.

  • replied 4 years ago

    You DO look fabulous.  

  • Emily K replied 4 years ago

     Although there are many comments I might make about your thought-provoking post, I just want to say that I am really glad that the shoes worked out and are found to be comfortable.  Win!

    ETA:  And, as one also prone to funk (seasonal and otherwise) I hope you find a way to see some sun!  :-)

  • tulle replied 4 years ago

    Approprio, you look so sexy!  All I can do is stare at these pics, hoping to absorb some of your mojo, because I could really use it right now.  Thanks for the inspiration.  Haircut, jacket, pant length, glasses, and those formidable shoes--all fantastic.  All clothing is costume, I believe, so it makes sense that getting it right should help you play your various roles.

  • karen13 replied 4 years ago

    You look amazing! Love Love Love!!! 

  • Greyscale replied 4 years ago

    I really enjoy reading what you write about style.

  • lyn67 replied 4 years ago

    That one "like" worth a million isn't it:-) Damn on those who broke our young  and  delicate hearts of 30 years ago - they deserve to deeply regret and eat their crime up :-)) YLF lipstic, hair, specs, outfit and sexy shoes....from head to toe, Approprio!:-)

  • replied 4 years ago

    A very interesting post, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.  Every once in awhile it DOES all come together, doesn't it?  And it's always amazing how great it makes you feel. Happy to hear you had one of those days .  Your hair is looking great, and so are those cropped flares ;)

  • UmmLila replied 4 years ago

    I love those boots -- and in general you look great, having that smart, powerful and gorgeous vibe going on.

  • Barbara Diane replied 4 years ago

    You look amazing.

    And I agree with what you said. And I know it.

    I bought a new red lipstick a few weeks ago and I feel powerful when I put  it on. I am definitely affected by weather. Even getting outside under the eves when it is raining helps. 

    On the other hand, I have been unable to find new eyeglasses that suit my personality and fit right. I'm wearing a very very old pair and I feel old in them.

    Off to wash the good bras that make me feel better. Been wearing the other ones that go in with a regular wash load. Thanks for the inspiration/nudge.

    And I'm way overdue for a haircut. 

  • Jenni NZ replied 4 years ago

    Yes- and no. I agree with some of what you say. I do think you look amazing in the photos and very arty which fits with your work! The shoes are great on you! I haven't watched the High Heel Sashay videos you sent the links for yet but I will if I want to wear the high rope soles red shoes again, so thank you.
    I have also had depression and I still take a half strength antidepressant tab daily for maintenance although I've been essentially well for years now. I can tend to anxiety still and the meds help me be nicer to my husband and adult children if I'm not getting grumpy partly due to anxiety.
    I do feel better after a haircut for sure, it will be 7 weeks tomorrow and one is due, may have it today. Though my husband prefers it a bit longer so I often let it go to 7 weeks when I might prefer 5. He likes the softness but I prefer the pixie to look a little sharper, I feel younger and more on top of things. I have a dread of looking like an " old lady" with fluffy grey hair. But at the same time, and here I am about to offend all those in YLF who dye their hair as they age, going grey was a choice for authenticity and improving my mental health by actually accepting the ageing process and being who I am. I appreciate this is only my take on it but I feel it's a feminist issue also and always have done. Most men do not see the need to dye their hair ( OK, some powerful men do but not the majority).
    Of course, you are worth it. But I really detest that L'Oreal tagline and refuse to buy L'Oreal products in almost all cases because of it. I was upset when I found L'Oreal owned Maybelline as I like Maybelline and was happily buying their lippies. Why should we be "worth it" to spend lots of money on their overpriced goop for our faces that we could be spending on good food, books for our intellects, travel or our retirements? I am being a hotheaded feminist again. Hope some of you have read Naomi Wolf's " The Beauty Myth" from 1990 as I have? I was 29 then and it changed my life, goodness knows how many thousands I've saved by not buying face goop or " holy oil" for the face.
    Apologies in advance to all YLF readers who like hair dye and face creams! Cheers Jenni

  • Sheila replied 4 years ago

    You.Look.Fab. And...You.Feel.Fab.

    And that's the point, right?

  • Thea replied 4 years ago

    Wow - you look fab! Love the new hair, outfit and the shoes! Oh those fabulous shoes! I'm glad it all helped to lift you up, and hope the seasonal depression lifts even more with the blooming of the tulips. 

  • Kate replied 4 years ago

    You look fantastic. I feel uplifted just looking at your pictures!

  • Bijou replied 4 years ago

    You look stunning, everything about this look, is perfect and true to you as a woman and intellectual. I find these simple things help me too, I feel more confident when I am well dressed. I want to be that best self.

    When at uni I always had my hair, make-up and nice clothes on for exams, when most other students were wearing track pants and had their hair unbrushed. Why? Because it psychologically helped me, to feel that I was in control and could face whatever was thrown at me.

    Jenni, you make some great points, I think with everything, it is a question of getting the balance right which will differ for each of us. Your comment about accepting ourselves especially as we age is totally on point, which is why I love Liz's look which is authentically her. Being our authentic selves is what matters most.

  • rachylou replied 4 years ago

    Fabulous and pretty!

  • jill58 replied 4 years ago

    You look wonderful and your shoes are beyond amazing. They are perfect for you.

  • cindysmith replied 4 years ago

    You look freaking amazing!

    And you're definitely on to something. What I'm wearing can absolutely affect my attitude and outlook. Some things make me feel powerful, other things make me feel sort of lazy and luxurious, and then there's the stuff that makes me grumpy (which is what I out on when I have something grossly dirty to deal with).

    It's not always something that's at the forefront of my mind. Sometimes it's just a little niggling bit of vague discomfort that I can't find words for.

  • elpgal replied 4 years ago

    Rock on, lady!

    In a similar situation myself and don't want to hijack your post but I couldn't agree more.

  • shevia replied 4 years ago

    I hope I don't go on too long.
    1. You look amazing.
    2. Oh that facebook like hit home. A few years ago I ran into an old heartbreak in a supermarket (quite shocking since our relationship was in New York). Although I was in the process of growing out my dyed hair and therefore had a huge skunk stripe on my head, he is the one who spotted me and told me that I looked exactly the same. I was there shopping for my family. He was there shopping with his mother. I am pretty sure my emotion was similar to yours with that like.
    3. Yes, of course how we dress affects our thinking. Everything apparently affects our thinking. I am reading a book on marketing (Pre-suasion, highly recommended). Customers that see fluffy clouds on the landing page of a sofa store value comfort over value for money. Customers that see dollar signs (or something like that even less blatant), the reverse. By a shocking margin.
    4. My most powerful sartorial weapon turns to be a leather jacket. Vintage Margiela and you probably don't remember but I owe you a picture.
    5. I have done my own experiments. The world treats you differently if you wear lipstick. I understood none of this when I was younger and have gained new appreciation for conventional wisdom in my older age.
    6. I knew I would go on too long. Love your post.

  • Jenni NZ replied 4 years ago

    Liz, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to hijack your post. :(

  • Style Fan replied 4 years ago

    You look incredible.  I love reading your posts.  So timely.  I will keep it short but I have also realized how much the way I dress and whether I wear make up impacts my mood.
    Those shoes are so right for you. 

  • harmonica replied 4 years ago

    You look amazing! Empowered and authentic. Thanks for your post. Life is full of challenges that take its toll. Keep up with what's good for you. I know a lippie, haircut and the right pieces can impact your selfhood. Thanks for your wonderful spirit and motivation in your post.

  • approprio replied 4 years ago

    Ladies, I can't thank you enough for your wonderful feedback - not just for your compliments, but for thinking along with me. I always come here for a rich discussion, and I'm never disappointed.

    Xtabay: no shame in cautioning me on the shoes. I'd probably have said the same if the situation were reversed. It was very wise advice which I needed to hear, I considered it along with all the rest and if they hadn't been wearable, they'd have gone straight back.

    Now, regarding the subject at hand, I want to know: what did you buy and why? How do you use them in practice? And where does tulle's costume and role play fit in?

    Do we need a thread on power pieces?

    JenniNZ: please don't apologise! I totally agree with you. In fact, I should be thanking you for calling out a tired cliche in a hurried piece of writing. We're all walking a fine line between the need for personal empowerment and how advertising manipulates us with empty promises. See shevia's insightful comment.

    Barbara Diane: oh so hard to find the right specs! I'm very glad I held out for these and didn't settle. And that foundation garment is so, so important. (I air them between wears and wash them in a bag on the delicate cycle. Much simpler.)

    Bijou: that's fascinating! I was never much good in exams as a youngster - I bet you aced them all!

    , I love your description of "grumpy clothes"! Takes the idea to a whole different level, and if I may say so, perfectly channels your bold, assertive style. 

    shevia, I always need to see vintage Margiela. A friend recently scored the most amazing trench coat dress from the glory days. I wish I had more from the brand myself. And yes, the old loves... as lyn67 points out, their approval is so much the sweeter when we know we don't need it any more. That book looks fascinating!

    And everyone else...thank you for your support! Ultimately, finding our best selves is what our clothes are really for.

  • viva replied 4 years ago

    I don't know the concept of "enclothed cognition" but I do know the experience of dressing and feeling changed. So, yes.

    I love these pictures, your hair (that color is always so amazing, so fiery and energetic), and the outfit. Your top (is that a Breton? Why do I always think a Breton is a long striped tee?) is one of my favorite classic shapes - but I call it a short-sleeved fitted turtleneck (which sounds so boringly American). Anyway, I love it. Super flattering with the wide pants and short hair. Perfect choice.

  • approprio replied 4 years ago

    viva: thanks for the compliment and the correction. Sorry for misleading you: it is indeed a turtleneck in the picture. The Breton was part of a different outfit, and yes, it's a classic long sleeved stripy tee. Armor Lux make the best ones. Can't "find" one to show you just now. 

  • replied 4 years ago

    I definitely think other people take you more seriously when you dress up, and so it stands to reason that you take yourself more seriously.

    I don't know though. I seem to work equally well in sweatpants and dress-up clothes, and makeup/no makeup..This might explain why I feel ambivalent about makeup and hairstyles: they just don't make that much of a difference to me in terms of work ethic.

    One thing I have noticed though: I am able to focus much much better if I have a pencil in my hand and a pad of paper in from on me. So maybe our specific objects make our brains shift.

  • viva replied 4 years ago

    To smittie's point about "other people" .... I started working from home when my daughters were young, still in grade school. My look quickly slackened, and I often worked in pajamas, reveling in the casualness of it all. And I distinctly remember my very bold younger daughter, probably about 11 or 12, suggesting that I get myself more "pulled together," like I used to when I went to work in an office. (In some ways, she was entirely right. In most cases (and unlike smittie) I take myself more seriously when I am fully dressed, too.)

  • Staysfit replied 4 years ago

    I think the concept of enclothed cognition is fascinating. I haven't heard that terminology used before, but I have dealt with state trait behavior, because it is a primary concept in my work. The many nuances of using the concept have taken me years to master when working with children. I do think there is some power in the effect an outfit can have on ones mood. I know that when I am not feeling well, either because of a headache, viral illness, or poor sleep, I take extra care to wear my more flattering clothes and to take more time with my makeup. Looking good during the day, helps me feel better, even though I do not. If I stay in my lounge wear and do not put on makeup, I typically feel sluggish and notice more physical symptoms. There may be no difference between my symptoms in either scenario.

    Each of your choices is associated with a cognition. We know it is helpful to take actions that support positive cognitions which then support positive moods when someone is in a funk. It really can be as simple as picking a beautiful red lippie, or a great outfit to wear instead of something that is sloppy or less flattering. So when I'm tired, I pick colors that give me energy, when I have a headache I pick items that make me feel unstressed and balanced, etc.

  • kkards replied 4 years ago

    i too, am a firm believer in the power of a great outfit.  sometimes its the outfit itself, but more often than not, its the power of the thought and intention that i put into the outfit. its about getting my head around how i want to look instead of how i feel. 
    anyway, love the red hair, and the shape and cut, add the glasses, and you get a fab look that say, yes, i am everything i think i am and more.

  • Suz replied 4 years ago

    You look absolutely sensational. And lipstick, amazing shoes, fabulous specs, and a new haircut may not be cheap, but they're no more expensive than therapy. Love you in the crop pants outfit -- you may feel you are struggling but it looks sensational. 

  • lpr200 replied 4 years ago

    You look totally fantastic and all those things...why not? Apart from pure function, isn't that why we wear clothes and adornment?

  • Xtabay replied 4 years ago

    Really enjoying this thread!  You always jump-start my brain, approprio.

    BTW, since you asked -- here are a few things I've bought lately that help me realize what enclothed cognition is all about:
    - A black leather Veda jacket.  I really feel like a bada** when I put that on.  Good for days when I'm lacking in moxie and self-confidence.
    - Several pairs of Eileen Fisher pants.  They were crazy-expensive (for me), but they fit like they were made for me and I feel both chic and comfortable when I'm wearing them.
    - A black sequined Alice & Olivia jacket.  I looked at several less-expensive ones, but this one fit like a dream and just sort of melted onto my body in a very effortless way.  I feel like the Queen of the Night when I wear it. 

    All worn with my favorite MAC lipstick, of course!

  • Angie replied 4 years ago


    I enjoy your musings as always, Liz. BIG FAT YES TO ENCLOTHED COGNITION. It's why I have a business and feel so very passionate about it. I'm always going on about how we need to LISTEN TO OUR EMOTIONS when it comes to our outfits. I'm glad you did, Liz - and reaped the reward. 

    Go Team Comfy Fab Footwear, Pretty Undies, Fun Haircut, Mascara and Lipstick. 

    And I am sooo with Smittie. I believe you're taken more seriously when you're dressed up. I believe you get better care as a caregiver when you're dressed up. And I DEFINITELY am happier when I'm dressed up. It's why I never wear T-shirts unless I am sleeping or in loungewear after my evening shower. 

  • Sal replied 4 years ago

    Wonderful pics Approprio.  You look stunning, and authentic and interesting.  In dark and difficult times, these small acts can signify a positive step towards feeling stronger and lighter and more empowered.

    I agree with Jenni, there is a balance to be had between adornment, and authenticity, and it sits at different places for all of us.  Some people take great pride in their natural look, others a much more constructed look (Linda McCartney compared to  Madonna).

    I am pleased the new shoes are proving such a success, excellent purchase!

  • Aquamarine replied 4 years ago

    You look fantastic and you're ready to slay dragons.

    I don't have a power piece exactly, but I do need my hair to look it's best and some lipstick helps, too. I work from home 85% of the time, and I can sink into lethargy pretty quickly if I don't feel like I look good, even if no one will see me. Lately I've been wearing perfume at home alone, and it energizes me when I catch a whiff. Radical, I know :-)

    Love Suz's comment.

  • bonnie replied 4 years ago

    This is such an interesting post, and your photos are wonderful. I love reading you - you write things that really resonate with me. When I was young, I felt strongly that the way women were expected to act and dress was a way of controlling them. I did not conform to expectations and would not wear heels, revealing necklines, makeup, or fitted dresses. Now that I'm older I've found to my great surprise, that I'm becoming interested in fashion. I'm still a bit unconventional but I've found that I enjoy trying new ideas. They often don't work but it's fun. I don't worry too much about what other people think and I now love to wear lipstick, funky shoes, and interesting tops. 

  • Penny replied 4 years ago

    Love this post, and you look sensational. As a petite blond attorney, I feel much more powerful in heels with a blazer and lipstick, and am glad that dressing the part has both internal and external effects. At the same time, I feel best when these pieces are true to me - the fun and challenge of curating and updating a professional wardrobe!

  • UmmLila replied 4 years ago

    As to enclothed cognition, I have been working from home for a bit more than 18 years. My daughter is now almost 18. I am a lawyer and it was a major transition for me going from the all suits look to the nursing mom and then mom of small child look. I had a couple of years where not having spit up on me was a good look, and not having crying or barking in the background was an achievement for conference calls. However, I did settle in to a relatively casual but more dressy than my rural New England environment look for the long haul. I just cannot work in pajamas or athletic clothes. I have to be showered, wearing something nice, and have some makeup on. My major concession to casual is wearing driving shoes because we don't wear outside shoes in the house. I will never give up my love of dressy jackets and blazers because I get that powerful feel from them.

  • Echo replied 4 years ago

    Liz, you look magnificent. I fully embrace the idea of clothed cognition. However, I do want to add that your comments are always equally enlightening and expansive, regardless of how you are dressed when you post them. The real YOU comes through in your posts, and you are always intellectual and challenging others to think; this is part of the reason I always appreciate your posts.

    I'm sorry you feel in a funk right now. It certainly doesn't show from the outside. 

    As for ACTUAL cognition, yes, I find that clothing matters. When I go to conferences all decked out, I feel confident about what I have learned and ready to teach it to others. When I am dressed more casually, I often feel iffy about the material and ready to defer to others. The clothing does't necessarily make the man or the woman, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

  • Gigi replied 4 years ago

    I've noticed that what I wear often makes a huge difference in how I feel. I work at home, and on some days when I'm feeling depressed, if I take the time to examine my outfit and make changes, I find that my mood lifts significantly. As another commenter said, dressing is kind of a form of therapy in and of itself. I try not to overspend on clothing, but I am also aware that it's OK if I treat myself now and then, because the emotional boost I get from a "happy" outfit is so life giving.

  • Sisi replied 4 years ago

    I'm happy to know that you are feeling good in your outfits, and well, you look fab. I totally agree that the right clothes and the right makeup can do miracles on our mood. Ah, the power of a pink lipstick!

  • Janet replied 4 years ago

    I enjoyed this post too. I'd never heard that term before, but the concept is all too familiar to me, as another who made a transition from working in an office to self-employment, and consequently fell into the trap of working in pajamas way too often.

    My magic doesn't come from lipstick (I don't wear bold shades well), but from a balance of flattering shapes and a bit of edge. My blue leather moto, great stompy boots, etc. Outfits that make me look longer and leaner. A bit of sexy along with some modern edge really helps me feel more like a badass.

    You look amazing in these photos, so it's easy to see how empowered you feel. Rock on! I love your musings and your style.

  • approprio replied 4 years ago

    Guys, I'm so sorry it took me so long to get back to this thread. I'm having some technical issues here, but in reality there's so much interesting stuff here that I barely know where to begin. 

    Xtabay: thank you so much for that beautiful picture. I love opera and The Magic Flute is one of my absolute favourites. You could find no better inspiration than the Queen of the Night for a gorgeous black sequin jacket.

    Staysfit: thanks for weighing in with your professional insight. I'm very interested in trait theory, but I'd always missed the "state" aspect of it. Makes much more sense that way. I will keep this in mind and look into it when I next visit the topic. 

    Angie: I'm taking your comment on t-shirts on board. They've always been an easy fix for me given my problems finding good fit and flattery on the upper body. I'll give that some thought.

    Everyone else....Janet, Gigi, Echo, Bonnie, UmmLila, bonnie, Penny, viva, smittie, Sisi, Suz, Aquamarine, kkards, lpr, KG/Sally, and anyone I may have missed - Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I wish I could condense them all into a paragraph, but I'd never do them justice. You all continue to amaze me.

  • MovingFashionForward replied 4 years ago

    Spectacular photos -- I love your aesthetic. You look phenomenal.


  • SarahTheWhite replied 4 years ago

    I so enjoyed what you wrote and can identify with how hair, clothing and makeup can change so much! Also, I love those photos! You look absolutely amazing and I feel like I can really see YOU - which is, in my opinion, exactly what it's all about! :-) Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Lisa Rayes replied 4 years ago

    You are looking fab.
    Great choice.

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