The Psychology Behind Fashion

Laura Tolentino

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Reasons behind people’s attraction to luxury fashion products can be complex. At their core is an inborn human need for authenticity that deserves further exploration; fashion psychology itself offers plenty of insights worth uncovering.

Economically, consumers may be willing to pay more for luxury products that convey social status (Dwivedi & McDonald, 2020), though other considerations could come into play as well.


Luxury fashion is more than a trend; it is an artform used to communicate one’s identity and alter one’s perception of themselves and others. People seek out luxury items perceived as symbols of wealth, status, and power that provide both aesthetic pleasures as well as emotional benefits like increased self-esteem and satisfaction.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that self-actualization for an individual consisted of striving to become what they are capable of being; he described this tendency as the tendency for them to realize their potential as complete individuals. Self-actualization is the ultimate aim of human behavior. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory provides an insightful basis for understanding why some are attracted to luxury goods.

Maslow held that lower needs, such as physiological, safety, love and esteem needs, must first be satisfied before higher ones can emerge. He posited that without fulfilling basic needs like physiological safety love and esteem needs an individual will become motivated solely by survival instinct and will sacrifice fulfilling esteem or love needs in favor of survival of their body.

Individuals who can meet their basic needs tend to prioritize higher-level needs over meeting social or intimate ones; an acclaimed artist might prefer spending more time painting than fulfilling social needs; this phenomenon reflects what Veblen called the “living above one’s means effect”.

Luxury consumption may be motivated by an attempt to validate an inflated sense of self-worth. Many Gen Z individuals exhibit narcissistic tendencies and purchasing luxury items can help validate an elevated sense of themselves and pride. Furthermore, luxury items can help those feeling insecure feel they have more worth than their peers through this act of validation.

No matter the psychological motivations for purchasing luxury goods, all purchases have one thing in common. Be it designer watches, Prada handbags or luxury cars – they all satisfy unconscious desires that don’t promote healthy and responsible decision-making processes.

Social status

Consumers seeking to show off their wealth and social status drive luxury fashion consumption. Sociologist Thorstein Veblen identified this phenomenon in 1899, coining the phrase “conspicuous consumption.” This behavior involves buying visible items beyond one’s means or needs as a form of social status-enhancing status symbolism; luxury brands utilize this trend by creating easily recognisable logos such as Louis Vuitton’s monogram or Chanel’s interlocked double C symbol. Displaying luxury goods to enhance social status also applies to fashion accessories like shoes, belts and handbags.

However, not all consumers who purchase luxury goods are narcissistic. Some may use luxury purchases to reduce feelings of low self-esteem that manifest as needing admiration from others. According to research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, some luxury shoppers feel unworthy when owning luxurious items; such feelings subside once marketing messaging asserts they deserve them.

Luxury fashion also allows consumers to express themselves and their values through storytelling. These narratives may have either positive or negative ramifications on a person’s self-esteem depending on the message sent; for example, stories centered around uniqueness may lead to anxiety or depression from trying too hard to stand out from others; conversely, brands that promote sustainable issues may help combat this by cultivating identities that are socially responsible and eco-friendly.

Luxury shoppers are an extremely discerning audience that can distinguish between sustainable and non-sustainable fashion brands, so using marketing tactics to target this demographic can boost sales and brand loyalty. Research indicates that emotional appeals such as pride and gratitude increase consumers’ intentions to share information about these brands through social media. Brands can capitalize on this motivation by co-creating sustainable products with customers so that the message resonates and using this tactic as motivation to spread awareness of a new product launch.

Emotional attachment

Attachments form during one’s lifetime in various forms; from early bonds with family members, romantic, and friendship relationships. People with unhealthy attachment patterns may suffer from depression, anxiety, or other symptoms associated with these patterns; one way of breaking these cycles would be seeking the assistance of a mental health professional.

People with healthy attachments typically form strong, loving and supportive relationships. They can easily recognize when someone toxic is around and avoid those situations, while still knowing how to keep themselves safe by setting boundaries and maintaining an independent sense of personal identity. Such an attachment helps maintain balance between their needs and those of others.

Luxury fashion often relies on emotional connections for its success. A person might purchase a designer handbag as they believe it will increase their self-esteem and make them feel more desirable; however, researchers caution that such feelings might not reflect reality but could instead be caused by social media and perceptions of status consumption as well as views regarding luxury consumption as social integration.

Future research on luxury consumers must include examination of how their perceptions of brands impact purchasing decisions. Researchers need to test the validity of models such as Luxury Brand Attribute (LBA), which asserts that perceived social value and functional value are better at predicting consumer buying intentions than emotional or economic values.

As another area for further study, designers could investigate the link between luxury products and moral engagement, leading to increased consumption of ethically produced and eco-friendly clothing. By understanding its effects, designers could better design appealing and high-quality garments that meet consumers’ social needs and values.

An important issue requiring further examination is the relationship between social media and luxury product purchases. Previous studies have linked social media to luxury product purchases; however, their exact mechanism remains unknown and studies tend to focus on behavioral intention rather than word-of-mouth impact in consumer purchasing decisions.


Luxury fashion industry is an intriguing business with many psychological complexities that can be explored. Success lies in understanding how your brand can trigger the appropriate psychological responses in clients at exactly the right time, as well as providing convenient purchases both online and offline – this means offering both fast and hassle-free experiences when purchasing luxury items.

Recent studies have shown that consumers purchasing luxury brands are increasingly turning to digital technologies for shopping, especially younger generations. These findings have important managerial ramifications for luxury fashion companies; they should respond by creating digital innovations which deliver excellent customer experiences like live chat features, virtual appointments and the option to try on products using Augmented Reality technology – not to mention offering their customers multiple payment methods online.

Luxury consumers are also seeking authentic experiences when buying luxury goods. For instance, they prefer buying clothing items with high levels of authenticity as this gives them peace of mind that what they are purchasing is genuine rather than counterfeit and more likely to leave consumers satisfied with their purchases.

Therefore, many luxury fashion brands provide various authenticity-related features, such as specialized production processes and exclusive distribution channels. This helps build credibility of a brand as an authentic luxury product; additionally some brands promote it further by featuring authentic product packaging or logos on their websites.

Some luxury brands even use social media such as Instagram to showcase images of their products to customers and generate buzz around them. Social media accounts such as this one can be an effective way to promote products while also raising brand awareness – but be wary – they may not work as intended when used alone without other marketing efforts in place.

Luxury fashion brands must also employ digital strategies that ensure their products are safe and secure, such as providing a list of authorized resellers and clear information regarding counterfeiting to safeguard their brands from potential threats. Furthermore, luxury fashion brands should make their websites easy for target audiences to navigate while emotionally engaging them through interactive visual elements and engaging storytelling narratives on their website.