Change your Clothes, Change your Brain?

Fashionistas & their Opposites
A brain-based look

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Brain-Based Series
Collaboration with
Jodie’s Touch of Style

Fashionistas First

You’ve seen them on television, on the internet, in the tabloids, maybe even in your own neighborhood, right?

Whatever we think about how they put themselves together, we tend to notice that we see them in a different outfit every time we see them – even if we see them several times on the same day.

Many of us who like to think of ourselves as serious thinkers love to make fun of them.  We frequently believe they’re vapid, self-focused vanity plates wasting time and energy on items that don’t make one whit of difference.

And we’d be wrong.

They might not be changing the world, but they certainly are changing their clothes!  And that’s not such a bad thing, you’ll come to find out as you keep reading.

Frozen Fashionitas

Most of us have met at least one of these ladies.  A perfect example is the college beauty queen who hasn’t changed her style since her heyday, despite the fact that she is now middle aged or older.

Her hairstyle is practically the same, often chemically processed at considerable trouble or expense to remain exactly the same color.  Her wardrobe usually has a slightly “Delta Dawn” feel to it – frozen in time.

Youngsters sometimes point them out in a manner you wish they wouldn’t, and often at the top of their lungs, “Look Mom – that old lady looks just like Aunt Theresa!”

Another example is “Sensible Susie.”

She has decided what is appropriate and what is no longer suitable for any number of reasons: since she’s gained or lost weight, now that she’s older, the kids are in middle school, her husband got a promotion — whatever!

She may well be right, but the problem is that she turns what might have been a good idea into a rule book from which she never varies.

She may be easy to shop for, but nobody would ever accuse her of being “fashion forward,” and she’s often one of the first to point out the supposed flaws in the outfit of a contemporary.

Make way for “Matching Molly”

My own grandmother could have been the Matching Molly poster girl.  If an ensemble was purchased as an outfit, the various items might as well have been sewn together.

Suggesting to her that she could wear the jacket from Outfit A over a dress – or with the skirt from Outfit B – was practically enough to give her apoplexy.

She had a fit if I mixed and matched in my own wardrobe too, especially with items that she had given me as birthday or Christmas presents — there was no such thing as “separates” in my grandmother’s closet or her world view.

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Flip/Flop: The Anti-Fashionistas

Most of this group have simply given up the attempt.

“Sweatpants Sarah” is more likely to stay home if she can’t wear her grubbies.

After a few kids, “Soccer Mom Samantha” no longer owns many items of clothing that still fit.

Sam rarely feels like she has time in her schedule for anything as unimportant as clothes shopping anymore — even if she used to enjoy it, but especially if she never really did.

So What’s My Point?

Changing anything is brain-friendly.  Not only is “playing dress-ups” in your own closet and shopping for a few new alternatives not a frivolous waste of time, it is actually a relatively quick and easy-to-do creative activity that supports remaining cognitively nimble as you move through life.

As long as we don’t resist or resent the process, the daily task of choosing something different to put on our bodies is akin to priming — making it easier for us to remain decision and choice-friendly in other arenas as well.

It also reminds our subconscious mind that WE matter and are entitled to a few “frivolous” expenditures of the minutes of our own lives – especially those of us who have tremendous time-consuming responsibilities otherwise.

  • Even those of us on extremely tight budgets can usually find something on sale we can afford and would enjoy wearing – or in a thrift-shop, yard or garage sale – as long as we don’t close our minds to the idea.
  • A non-buying trip to see what’s in vogue this century can also give us a few ideas that allow us to “shop our own closets” with an eye toward putting things together in a way that is fresh and different, even if we’re squeezing every penny until it screams — as long as we don’t consider the idea a total waste of time or remain fixed on the “what goes with what” idea.
  • Shopping and buying don’t have to mean the same thing at all – and trying on what’s new in the stores to see how it looks on our very own bodies opens our minds to more than fashion.

Introductory Post: Making Friends with Change

Life’s a BALANCE

The important thing is to jettison the wardrobe shoulds and musts as part of how you live your life.

It’s simply cruel to censure or make fun of single moms who adopt the “work uniform” approach and barely have time to get dressed in anything at all on Saturday for failing to make time for fashion.

While they certainly can’t be faulted, they would probably feel less harried or resentful if they could find some way to dedicate an afternoon once in a while to figuring out how they want to present themselves to the world.

It’s self-esteem enhancing.
We all feel more positive when we like the way we look
and practically skulk around when we don’t.

But “liking the way we look” doesn’t mean we never change how we look.

Collaborating with a Fashion Blogger

the various ways in which women relate to fashion at different points of their lives.  She plays with the idea of fashion throughout the lifetime on her blog,  Jodie’s Touch of Style.

Each week she takes on a current trend or wardrobe challenge – like mixing prints, for example, or finding a brand new way to wear an old favorite – and gives her readers various examples of how that idea might be expressed on “real women” who have already established lives, families – and styles!

Jodie models looks and clothing more likely to appeal to 40-50-somethings, along with her  stepmom, Nancy (who’s the 60’s model) and her mom, Charlotte (the 70’s model).

We decided it would be fun to put our heads together to see if we could come up with a week’s worth of challenges (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) specifically designed to shake things up, forcing change to our SELF-images on the way to helping us become more “change- friendly” overall.

Together we will explore how playing with what we choose to wear – recombining items we already own or adding something inexpensive to alter the look – can be a terrific way of making friends with change.

As I commented in Jodie’s first post of this 3-part series . . .

Not only have researchers begun to discover the importance of “play” to healthy brain development and continued health, any time we spend making friends with change is what is called “neuro-protective.”

Change forces the brain to build new pathways, which become all the more important as we age, when some of the old pathways die off or become corrupted.

Changing how we dress ourselves is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make friends with the habit of looking for ways to build new pathways.

So we can all take shopping and fashion off our “guilty pleasures” lists.
No need to feel guilty about something that’s actually good for the brain!

So head on over to Jodie’s Touch of Style to see how our models fared with our first challenge:

Take something you usually wear one way, and shop your closet specifically for something to pair it with that will allow you to wear it in a different manner.

More interested in the science than the fashion?

Scroll down to the Related Content links for more about neuroplasticity and healthy brain aging.

If you you’ve got the time for a TED TALK by the guy who has been banging the plasticity drum for decades, you won’t be disappointed with the talk by Michael Merzenich. 

In this TALK, he shares one of the secrets of the brain’s incredible power: its ability to actively re-wire itself to enhance our skills and recover lost function.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

53 Responses to Change your Clothes, Change your Brain?

  1. reocochran says:

    I don’t follow experts or a lot of fashion magazines. I love sundresses with sweaters almost year round! I just take the sweater off more in the summer! 😉
    My brothers both think wearing dresses will eventually call attention to myself and hope I will find a man to be a friend and life partner for the rest of my life, Madelyn.
    I am hoping to live as long as my Mom who us still lively at age 88, will be 89 in November. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll bet you look wonderful in those sundresses, Robin, sweater either way, 🙂 and I hope you catch the eye of that life partner any day now. If you both remain as lively into your 90s as your mom, you will have more wonderful years together than many marriages, despite meeting later in life.

      Fashion is only ONE way to change things, btw — there are probably a bazillion others. The reasons behind “changing your clothes” apply in many domains, the fashion was simply a very handy example that it doesn’t have to be a complex process.


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  5. Bernadette says:

    Madelyn, I just love this post and your collaboration with Jody. I have always been interested in fashion and take pride in my appearance. I am so very happy to learn now that it is good for my mind. I once wrote a post about how putting on my makeup and getting dressed saved my life. After Andrew’s accident I was so depressed but forced myself to stick to the routine of “putting on my face” and taking care with my attire. The routine saved my life mentally.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am so happy to read that!

      You are not the only one, Bernadette, who found that grooming routines were life savers. I have heard similar comments so many times (and how much easier it is to isolate when you lose the habit of getting ready for the day, and then everything gets worse.)

      I’d love to read the post (and I’ll bet others would too) — can you come back with a link?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bernadette says:

        Madelyn, here is the post that I spoke about: -CLOTHES- (MAY)- MAKE- THE- WOMAN/
        JULY 20, 2015 BY BERNADETTE

        Liked by 1 person

        • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          Apologies for how long you have been waiting for me to approve & respond. My comment feed is not working today, so I haven’t been able to see the comments TO approve them. Hopefully somebody at WordPress will find and fix SOON!

          Meanwhile, I am inventing new ways to work and playing catch-up. I’ll be back to respond a soon as I am able.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Bernadette says:

            No problem Madelyn. I hope the Word Press gremlins are banished from you computer quickly.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you Bernadette – the comment notification seems to be working this morning – no more spinning wheel of frustration. I finally gave up my attempts last nite.

              I have learned that I do better cognitively when I don’t get behind and plan carefully to avoid it where I can — especially with blogging/writing.

              So I go NUTS when WordPress refuses to work as designed and throws monkey wrenches into my planning (HOURS or days, not minutes – I’ve never been the road rage, tapping my foot kind of girl).

              I don’t rush well, and catch-up usually requires rushing. 😦 Lots of catch up today, along with appointments so it may take me some time to get back on anything approaching “schedule.” Not sure what I can drop – and it always does involve shuffling of that type. ::sheesh::

              Liked by 1 person

            • Bernadette says:

              Take a deep breath and try to enjoy the spring weather.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I know – and thanks for the reminder, Bernadette. I was especially frustrated during this challenge collaboration, since each of the last two posts took HOURS longer to get online, primarily due to Gremlin Glitches (Friday Fun took SIX additional hours total – last night and this morning – and that’s after the post was drafted!)

              Is the universe trying to tell me to give up blogging?

              Liked by 1 person

  6. Fabulous post, Madelyn. It is important to take an interest in yourself and how you look – it definitely increased your confidence and self esteem. My husband is a tie dyed pin stripped accountant [meant in the nicest possible way]. So he used to quite often comment on my attire – to many colours, flowers and ostriches don’t go, etc. So, in retribution, I decided to have a 50 shares of pink, yellow, blue or what ever other colour struck my fancy, dress day once a week. Needless to say he now only comments on those days as I look relatively normal [in his eyes] on the other days [giggle].

    Liked by 2 people

    • It does make a difference, that’s for sure. The tricky part is that when we most need to fix up, the less we feel like doing it.

      Your poor hubby – 🙂 – he will never be able to force you to dress within the lines, but he does seem to have learned to leave you relatively alone with your “madness” if he wants you to keep things down to an acceptable roar.

      GREAT way to handle it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • robjodiefilogomo says:

      I have to admit, that I used to think there was only one right way to dress–so I can see your husband’s point of view. Luckily this blogging has taught me that I was incredibly wrong!! And I’m sure your fabulous experimenting with different colors has opened your husband’s eyes too (even if he won’t admit it!!)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great minds think alike. When I was younger I was a real Fashionista as the saying goes. Of course when I was a little girl my Dad would take me shopping in Macy’s and basically he picked out all my clothes. Fortunately Daddy had good taste. I also picked up my sense of style from my mother and my paternal aunts. I idealized my late great Aunt Thelma a great deal. She would take me shopping to Syms and other downtown lower Manhattan stores back in the 70s. Aunt Thelma was a Fashion forward Lady. There was a running joke in our house that I had to get dressed up to take the garbage out!! LOL!!

    Then in my 20s obviously I was picking out my own clothes and my favorite color was Black. In fact nearly everything in my wardrobe was Black and I had what looked like a million pairs of shoes!! My Dad asked me if I was practicing to be a Ninja and felt I was a follower of Imelda Marcos who was famous for all her pairs of shoes.

    I also tended to be Matchy-matchy in my 20s & 30s perhaps a little into my 40s I suppose because at that time I was a manager at a Non-profit and I wanted to look professional. I did spice things up when I went out with my friends. Now as I make my way through my 50s getting dangerously close to 60 I’m all for the bright colors, patterns, loose fitting (my tummy is no longer flat), African, American-Indian jewelry, Clothing made in India. The clothing cannot be too loose or too big as I’m petite and I believe a Woman should wear her clothing the clothes should not be wearing her. I’ve seen the now grown up Full House twins at museum special events and they are really small petite ladies and they looked like they were being swallowed up in their outfits.

    I’m no longer afraid to mix what most people would call opposing patterns for an eclectic look. I’ve received many compliments from co-workers and friends on my outfits. Spring, summer and fall are my favorite seasons because I can really cut loose with outfits and I’m Thankful to the WWW/Web because I can get so many new and interesting ideas for what looks best on me.

    I’m even doing a little more experimenting with make-up. I was never really big on make-up even when I was young, but adding a little color to my face to avoid looking washed out.

    I feel so much inspired by this excellent blog post that I am going to follow up with my personal fashion post this upcoming weekend.

    Thank you!!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. robjodiefilogomo says:

    I think it’s so interesting that we can relate our love of clothes and changing it up, to using our brain matter!!
    Thanks so much for being a catalyst in this, Madelyn!
    I can’t wait to see what you have to say about copying the young girl’s outfit for Wednesday!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. -Eugenia says:

    Outstanding read, Madelyn. I love to match and mismatch my wardrobe. In fact, the change up in ones wardrobe helps with making changes in your mind. Change is good!

    My wardrobe is made up up of separates – consisting of jeans, leggings, tops and blouses in various styles and colors. I love scarves and have many of them. I don’t dress for my age but I don’t dress like an 18 year old either.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Really enjoyed reading and pondering this article Madelyn. It is so true for each of us. Again change is hard but it is so fun when we don’t allow others to make us but rather show us. We know we learn so much by watching and as you say, changing our brain.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Where are you right now? Stop stalking me! In reality I live in black.(I live in Melbourne OZ after all!) and my style is very different to all my previous styles and wardrobe. Because I am no longer a petite 10 or can be bothered with jeans…… be continued.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lol – I am making fun of my own wardrobe proclivities (any shade of black is fine with me!). I have also developed a passionate love affair with leggings since my hand was broken – no zippers and hyper comfortable as I sit and type for hours on end.

      Being my own guinea pig as Jodie and I strategized this collaboration, I have noticed that my thinking is more open and easy about something else I was attempting to “force to fit.” I’ve also gotten a few comments asking me why I was “dressed up” as Tink and I meandered down the block. Oops – guess I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut, huh?


    • robjodiefilogomo says:

      We all do that!! My mom just told me that I was always wearing jeans & shirts, and she was right! I took her words to heart (and Madelyn’s brain thoughts) and wore my culottes today!! It’s not about size or age—but it’s not always easy to remember that!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You got THAT right, Jodie (not about the extent of my expertise – lol – but about how hard it is to force ourselves out of our ruts). It’s BECAUSE it’s not easy that makes it so good for the brain long-term, however – so it’s worth making the effort for reasons that we rarely consider when we’re standing in front of our closets with “nothing new to wear.”


  12. I giggled while I read about the frozen fashionistas… that is so true :o) for me changing something in my wardrobe is a kind of therapy…I can see that I grow somehow when I try new things :O)

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL – I left out the “gotta’ do my laundry first” frozens — If we had ONE more cold week here, I might have become known as the lady who always walks her dog in flannel pajamas! 🙂 (Hoping to make it to the laundromat this eve to get it ALL done at once and have some choices – Cincinnati weather can turn on a dime!)

      Liked by 1 person

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