Tokyo Adorned

Clothes speak volumes. 

    They reveal our deepest secrets and our wildest dreams. They tell our stories and embody who we are and who we wish to be.  As Alison Lurie, author of The Language of Clothes writes, “Even when we say nothing our clothes are talking noisily to everyone who sees us.”  Indeed, clothes certainly impact how other people see us. People make snap judgments about us based on our appearance especially what we are wearing. But what we wear has meaning beyond what the outside world sees and perceives. What we wear also affects the way we perceive ourselves.  

    Each one of us has to get dressed every day and the decisions we make about what we wear are deeply tied to our sense of who we are. As curator Andrew Bolton describes, “there’s nothing so immediate as fashion in terms of an expression of one’s values and
one’s state of mind.” When we talk about fashion, the focus is all too often on the impact the clothes have on others but it’s also worth considering the impact it has on the wearer.  

    A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology elegantly demonstrates this. The researchers asked two sets of people to wear the same white coat. One group was told the coat was a doctor’s coat and the second group was told it was a painter’s smock. When asked to perform tasks requiring attention, the group wearing the lab coat performed better. The researchers theorize this was because a lab coat is generally associated with attentiveness and carefulness. Psychologists call this phenomenon “enclothed
cognition”. It captures the influence that clothes have on the people who wear them.  

    Clothes hold symbolic meaning and Tokyo Adorned provides an embodied example of the symbolic power of the clothes people choose to wear and how it affects them. The outfits worn by the individuals depicted in the photographs are clearly an extension of who they are. They represent the ultimate in self-fashioning.  

    The effect that one’s environment has on creativity and productivity among other psychological processes is well documented. 
Art, natural light and proximity to the outdoors have all been shown to make a difference. For example, people sitting at a neat desk are more likely to donate to charity, eat healthy snacks, and generally maintain the status quo whereas people sitting at a messy desk are better able to come up with creative solutions to work problems.

    Clothes are our most immediate environment and the individuals depicted in these photographs literally inhabit their ensembles. 
It is where they feel most at home.  The images of Ai capture this perfectly.  Ai is a successful corporate employee who dresses according to a strict dress code during the work week. During her free time, however, she sheds her professional costume and transforms herself into a look she describes as “Strawberry Lolita.” As the photographs show, she embraces the look in its totality which goes far beyond the clothes. The strawberry pink of her nail color, the strawberry adorned hat, her carefully applied matching make-up all contribute to the overall sense and sensibility of her appearance. It’s a look that takes time, money and effort to pull together. Every single detail is attended to. Indeed, Ai looked “picture perfect” long before Thomas Card came along and asked to take her photograph.  

    In dressing this way, the individuals depicted in the photographs are sharing information about themselves and thus exposing themselves to possible misunderstandings, exploitation or mocking by others but also to the rich possibilities of communication. One cannot help but notice the sense of joy and celebration in their appearance. They seem to revel in their outfits and in the public display of self-expression. Without saying a word, their appearance has given them a voice. Thanks to Thomas Card, their stories are loud and clear.


Dr. Samantha Boardman


For more of Samantha's work visit her website