Dressing against the norm — what does it say about you?

From eccentric socks to dressing against our gendered expectations, many people push the limits of social norms when it comes to fashion. Research has shown that non-conformists can be viewed as being of a higher status and more competent than those who follow the rules of fashion. We take a look at what different clothing says about the wearer…

Against gendered expectations

The line is becoming increasingly blurred between male and female clothing. Many people are speaking up, opposing the ideas that men and women should be dressed according to their sex. But, are you presenting yourself in a different way when you dress against the gendered expectations?

Although fashionistas are saying that they don’t agree with gender rules, some research suggests that we’re still stuck in our old ways. Psychologists in New Jersey found that attitudes towards gender stereotypes hadn’t changed much between 1983 and 2014.

There is an argument that shows that it’s favourable for women to cross the gender barrier but perhaps not men. Back in 1990, it was found that — despite the sex of the applicant – if the clothing that they wore was more masculine, they were more likely to be hired. When men dressed in pink however (a colour commonly associated with females), they were seen as less intelligent than women who were wearing the same colour.

Eccentric wear

Another way of going against the grain when it comes to style it through eccentric clothing. When we think of outrageous outfits we may think of people with brightly coloured hair, patterned clothing and over the top jewellery. But, there are other ways to express freedom through dress.

For example, people who wear unconventional socks are viewed as being rebellious and expressive. One of these people is Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister of Canada, who shows off his fun side by wearing funky socks with a traditional suit. You can make your own subtle ‘eccentric’ changes through patterned socks by CT shirts, online retailers of men’s formal shirts and accessories. Or make yourself stand out from the crowd through bright scarves and other extras.

By dressing against the norms, studies have shown that you build a brand of being ‘gutsy’. And in fact, people have the potential to see you as more brilliant, creative and successful. One study, published in 2014, found that those who go against conformity can be viewed as of a higher status than those who don’t. They were also considered to be more competent — potentially influencing the impression that they give off in the workplace.

Not only does it affect people’s perceptions of you but it can also affect the way you think, feel and act — this is through ‘embodied cognition’. Since eccentric dress gives you greater potential to express your individuality, it’s possible that it can make you feel more confident and comfortable in different situations. This could then go on to improve your performance at work or in challenges where you want to push yourself.

Against the dress code

In some situations, for a job interview perhaps, it can be argued that dressing in accordance with expectations is the best thing to do.

Under some circumstances, we think that people with extraordinary appearances are more successful.

Men who wear smart, fitted suits as they are often expected to wear in a formal situation, were perceived as being more confident, successful and thought to be earning a higher wage. This was compared to men who weren’t dressed as smartly — in a loosely fitted suit.

In one study that looked at the effects of clothing, it was found that senior managers were rated less favourably if they were dressed more ‘provocative’. This was a skirt slightly above the knee and one button on the blouse undone. It’s clear to see that it is important to consider our dress style carefully as people can make many assumptions without any evidence.

In some environments, wearing your set uniform can improve your productivity. Research found that in a lab, those who were wearing lab coats felt smarter and went on to perform better!

As we can see, dressing against societies expectations can have many effects on the opinion of others and your own performance. Although it’s important to express yourself through dress, you don’t want to hinder your work or your impression on others in formal situations. Wear a pair of crazy socks underneath your day-to-day outfit instead…

X Factor Fash Off Week 6

The latest edition of X Factor proved to be the battle of the boybands, with Union J proving the victor. On the fashion front, the honours were pretty much even again, with Tulisa the clear winner on Saturday night, and Nicole looking wonderful during the live results show.

Saturday saw Tulisa go all Downton Abbey on us with a stunning Art Deco style beaded dress from Alice Temperley. This was a column dress that had previously been worn by Shirley Bassey, but it was a classically beautiful look that gave Tulisa an elegance that she rarely exhibits. She chose an interesting hairstyle with this dress that also had a Lady Mary feel, pinned underneath it gave the impression of a triangular bob. I prefer her long locks, but full marks for experimentation, and overall I thought that the younger lady looked simply divine.

Nicole went all androgynous in a white trouser suit by Jean Pierre Braganza. Now this look is iconic and has been worn with immense style by the likes of Angelina Jolie, but on Nicole it just didn’t appeal. I think it was all the layers – the shirt, what looked like a waistcoat and then the Tux. Maybe if she had just worn the tuxedo Bianca Jagger style, this would’ve worked, but the trousers also seemed a little on the large size for the svelte Miss Scherzinger, so maybe not.

Vero Moda LULIX – Blazer – white 


White Lux Twill Slouch Blazer £24.99 

Somerset by Alice Temperley Mesh Beaded Long Dress, Black £299 

Untold Beaded maxi dress £144 

Petra Lace Beaded Maxi Dress £300.00 


Sunday results show

You really can’t beat a bit of McQueen, and the vintage McQueen gown worn by Nicole on the Sunday results show was super stunning, if not a little beachy. I seem to recall a pregnant Angelina Jolie (yes, again!) wearing a green version of this dress when she was pregnant, but the soft grey was a really great colour for Nicole, and with loose hair this was a very romantic look that I just adored.

Tulisa so nearly got it right on Sunday night. The black dress by Forever Unique is beautiful, with stunning embellished detail across the top and back. But this dress is better suited to a nightclub or party than to the X Factor, being a little too short. Also, this dress has already been worn by TOWIE’s Lucy Mecklenburgh and widely photographed, so it was a bit of a faux pas to wear this on prime time television.

KENNETH COLE Safari bandeau maxi dress 

Jane Norman Beaded maxi dress £25 

FOREVER UNIQUE Lisa embellished dress £410.00 


Layla Long Sleeved Lace Midi Dress

Did you have a preference for a particular outfit this week? Let me know who you think is winning the fashion battle.

TM Lewin present the perfect white shirt

The perfect white shirt is the holy grail of shirts. Finding a shirt with the right cut, the right fit, the perfect buttons, the crispest whitest of whites is not an easy task, and when you add into that the fact that of a rather large bust that needs to be flattered rather than flattened, you make the task virtually impossible. So thank goodness for the legendary English tailoring of TM Lewin.

TM Lewin has been a must visit London destination for the discerning gentleman since 1898, when Thomas Mayes Lewin first opened his Jermyn Street store. These days the company has just under a 100 stores in the UK, catering to the shirt orientated needs of both men and women.  Recently there has been a surge in interest in women’s shirts, as androgynous styling and boyish trends have been adopted by stylish stars like Rihanna and Alexa Chung. Adding another lustre of cool to the brand was the recent use of this masculine tailoring as an accompaniment to the millinery of Philip Treacy during London Fashion Week.

So when you are looking for the perfect white shirt, it is hard to look anywhere else but TM Lewin.  I found my perfect shirt in the Fitted White Poplin Shirt. This was a gorgeous white cotton shirt that addressed a lot of my needs in a shirt. It had a cutaway detail on the neckline, which I felt was more flattering than a buttoned up design. I also loved the cut of this shirt with its contoured side detail and seams, again adding shape to the general design. I loved that this shirt was slightly longer in the body meaning it could be worn tucked in as well as hanging loosely. All in all, this was a shirt that seemed made for a curvier body, designed to flatter and enhance those curves.

Fitted White Poplin Shirt £32.50 click to visit TM Lewin

This is a versatile piece that every wardrobe needs – it can simply be styled so many ways. I concentrated on styling two classic ways. The first was based on a Olivia Palermo look. Olivia Palermo styles her white shirt in a luxe boho style with a maxi skirt. I love this look and wanted to see if I could do something similar. Here was the result.

 The second look is the absolute classic, indigo blue denim and crisp white shirt and flats, a la Kate Moss, Marilyn Monroe, and a whole host of other icons of style.

This shirt would also look great under a suit for a perfect, smart workwear look, worn open over a coloured cami for a casual look and even teamed with city shorts for a cool summer look.  Everyone needs a crisp white shirt in their wardrobe, and this one has the cut, the tailoring and the crispness that makes it a wonderful, versatile buy.

More fab shirts from TM Lewin

Fitted Berry Flower Print Shirt £32.50 click to visit TM Lewin

Fitted Blue Print Shirt £32.50 click to visit TM Lewin

Fitted Black Poplin Shirt £32.50 click to visit TM Lewin

Fitted Black Stripe Shirt £32.50 click to visit TM Lewin