Fashion impostor syndrome: why expensive designer clothes can be bad for your health

Researchers have identified a new psychological condition that affects some wearers of luxury items – although notably not those with a huge sense of entitlement

Name: Fashion impostor syndrome.

Age: New for spring 2020.

Appearance: Glamorous, insecure.

How do you catch this particular syndrome? You contract FIS by repeatedly buying high-end fashion items in pursuit of elevated status and confidence.

Huh. It’s one of those problems that people wish they were rich enough to have. Perhaps. Except that many people find that an expensive handbag doesn’t automatically confer increased self-worth.

Of course not. You need the shoes as well. In fact, it can do the opposite.

What do you mean, the opposite? Expensive clothes and accessories, far from making you feel better about yourself, can exact a significant psychological cost.

What kind of cost? Luxury consumers often experience feelings of “inauthenticity” because the sense of privilege such items are meant to confer feels undeserved.

They feel their own clothes are sneering at them? That’s hilarious! Show some sympathy. This is a recognised condition.

No, it isn’t. It is backed up by a scientific study from Harvard University and Boston College, published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

What are some of the symptoms of FIS? Consumers can end up less confident than they would be if they had gone out wearing non-luxury clothes.

So I would do better at a job interview if I turned up in a dress made from a flour sack? I think it depends on how much you paid for it.

What if I buy posh stuff and keep it at home? Will that help? Apparently not: the study found that even expensive items used in private, such as skincare products and makeup, could bring on FIS.

Won’t it be damaging for luxury brands when shoppers find out that buying their stuff only makes them feel worse? Yes. “But boosting consumers’ feelings of ‘deservingness’ through sales tactics and marketing messages can help,” says the study’s co-author Nailya Ordabayeva.

So they will have to trick people into believing that paying lots of money for something won’t make them feel terrible, as well as poor. Only some people. Not everyone suffers from FIS.

Some folks are immune, you mean? Exactly. According to the study’s authors, the effect is mitigated “among consumers who have an inherently high sense of entitlement”.

What you’re saying is that high-end fashion works for all the wrong people, for all the wrong reasons. ’Twas ever thus.

Do say: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Don’t say: “What an amazing dress! You look pathetic.”

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Anti-viral fashion: why Naomi Campbell is the perfect celebrity for our health crisis
The model is a renowned germaphobe and has long been wearing face masks and gloves in public. But her new airport hazmat attire takes it to another level

11, Mar, 2020 @3:46 PM

Article image
LOL Surprise! dolls: the must-have festive toy of your capitalist nightmares
This year’s fad is a series of garish plastic figures designed to exploit children’s acquisitiveness and test parents’ patience. So far, so Christmas

05, Dec, 2017 @3:40 PM

Article image
Eau so expensive! Chanel's £4,410 water bottle
The eye-wateringly pricey accessory is selling out fast. But is it the costliest water bottle ever made?

03, Feb, 2020 @1:44 PM

Article image
Why are our wardrobes full of unworn clothes? Because most purchases are not rational
We often buy dresses for the people we’d like to be, and hold on to things because they remind us of good times. But a new survey has revealed that UK shoppers own £10bn worth of clothes they do not wear

Lucy Mangan

02, Jan, 2018 @1:52 PM

Article image
Fashion addiction: expensive clothes hid my loneliness – then I gave 90% of them away
Grief and pain lay behind my obsession with buying new clothes. Moving in with my fiance forced me to shed the material burden, and the persona I had been hiding behind

Huma Qureshi

04, Nov, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
Is Prada’s £270 white T-shirt pure ‘filth’ - or a designer bargain?
The internet has been up in arms over the brand’s plain white cotton top, but, shockingly, it doesn’t come close to being the world’s most expensive T-shirt

25, Jan, 2019 @5:14 PM

Article image
Is Poundland’s new sex toy range Nooky more than just cheap thrills?
From ‘finger fun stimulators’ to ‘vibrating love rings’, shoppers can now pick up all sorts of bedroom gizmos at the discount retailer

27, Sep, 2017 @11:55 AM

Article image
Glass half-full: why self-serve beer isn’t the end for bar staff
The introduction of a contactless beer pump in a London bar doesn’t bode poorly for pub workers – as long as we don’t only drink ale in the future …

18, Dec, 2016 @3:00 PM

Article image
Who is Adrienne Vittadini – and why is her name in Ivanka Trump’s clothes?
The president’s daughter’s fashion line has being sold with an ‘Adrienne Vittadini Studio’ label in the US discount chain Stein Mart. Sad …

25, Apr, 2017 @2:46 PM

Article image
The perfect mother-of-the-bride dress? Black, barely there and eye-wateringly expensive
There are plenty of options for sober, tasteful outfits for the bride’s mother to wear. But if you want to make a statement, step this way

13, Mar, 2019 @3:25 PM