Clothing as a stress factor – study examines how fashion can improve well-being

Who doesn’t know it – a sweater scratches, a pair of jeans is too tight or your favorite shirt has a stain that won’t come out. Or even being forced to wear clothes you don’t like — all factors that cause people stress from clothing, according to a new study.

An online survey conducted by the Hamburg market research institute Appinio on behalf of the Japanese clothing group Uniqlo at the beginning of March asked 500 German men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 (average age 41.7 years) about how clothing significantly influences daily life. The aim was to gain insights into how fashion contributes to reducing stress in everyday life, can improve well-being and which characteristics are valued.

“Throwing on a shirt made of the finest linen and feeling the soft material on your skin turns a stressful morning into something very special. When things get hectic and you have to go to a meeting quickly, loose and functional clothing keeps you fresh and helps you concentrate on the essentials. And in stressful situations, muted colors ensure calm,” reveals Uniqlo in the press release on the study. Here is an overview of the most important findings.

Germans appreciate comfort and individuality…

In general, fashion in Germany has to be comfortable above all; this was most important to 44 percent of respondents. They prefer comfortable and practical clothing that they can wear well in everyday life and that does not restrict them. For 26 percent it is most important that their clothing is an expression of their personality and underlines their individuality.

“An interesting result of the survey is that the older the age, the more important the comfort of clothing becomes. While only 29 percent of the younger generation (Gen Z) consider comfort to be an important factor, this proportion rises to 54 percent for 55 to 65-year-olds. So this shows that the preferences and needs in relation to clothing can also depend on the age group,” the study found.

… and sportiness and nonchalance

When asked about their own style of clothing, the majority (56 percent) of respondents described it as “sporty” or “casual”, with multiple answers being possible. More than a third (37 percent), on the other hand, prefer a “timeless” or “classic” style, while 29 percent prefer restraint – they dress more “subtle” and “inconspicuous”.

Around a quarter attach importance to being dressed “fashionably” or “trendy”, while less than a fifth would describe their personal clothing style as “classy” or “elegant”. A good 10 percent of those surveyed chose “alternative” or “unconventional”, or “unusual” and “extravagant” (around 7.5 percent) or “close to nature” and “handmade” (around 6 percent).

The agony of choice. Image: Cottonbro Studio/Pexels

Material preferences depend on age and gender

When asked which fibers they preferred for spring/summer everyday clothing, nearly half of respondents (46 percent) said they had no preference. However, just a little less (44 percent) said they preferred “natural fibers with natural function.” Around a tenth relies on synthetic fibers with specially developed functions.

“However, there are slight differences between women and men: 47 percent of women prefer natural fibers compared to 41 percent of men. In addition, the choice of fibers becomes more important with increasing age: while only 32 percent of 18 to 24 year olds are interested in natural fibers, among 55 to 65 year olds it is more than every second (55 percent),” found the investigation out.

Comfort before sustainability

However, wearing comfort and convenience are important for a majority (56 percent). Versatility comes second for a good third (34 percent) of those surveyed, and “attractive design” comes third (31 percent). High-quality workmanship, high-quality and sustainable materials follow in places four to six (between 25 and 18 percent).

The trendy design comes in seventh place, followed by the material composition and sustainable production. Odor-inhibiting properties, respected brand, cooling function and an “unusual design” also took places ten to thirteen.

Stress influences clothing choices

When asked if stress had an impact on their clothing choices in everyday life, 41 percent agreed, with women being more likely than men to find a difference in the way they dress when stressed than men (47 percent vs. 36 percent).

“Particularly among younger generations, there is a change in clothing when stress is felt (33 percent of 55-65 year olds vs. over 40 percent of all other age groups),” according to the study.

Feeling good and muted colors balance stress

More than a third (37 percent) of those surveyed choose a comfortable outfit to defy the stress, followed by a familiar or feel-good outfit (25 percent) or one that suits the weather (23 percent). Around 15 percent do not take any fashion risks or choose fabrics that are comfortable to wear (around 12 percent) or clothing that covers up/covers things up (around 11 percent).

Around 10 percent of those surveyed indicated that stress influences their choice of color, which was explored with a follow-up question: “When feeling stressed, most Germans tend to choose muted and neutral colors to calm themselves. Black is the favorite at 57 percent, followed by shades of gray (37 percent) and blue (36 percent),” according to the study.

Green, brown and red tones are in the middle, while purple and violet tones, pink, yellow and orange are rarely chosen. If the clothing does not match their personal style, around 27 percent of those surveyed feel very stressed.

The feeling of having nothing to wear is also stressful

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nothing to wear Image: Ron Lach / Pexels

Another stressor associated with clothing is feeling like you have nothing to wear. “59 percent of Germans sometimes have the feeling that their closet is empty. Women are particularly affected, with 72 percent of them sometimes feeling this way, compared to just 45 percent of men,” the study says.

31 percent of those surveyed feel very stressed as a result and have bought clothes (14 percent) for this reason in order to consciously reduce their stress. Jackets were in the lead (9.9 percent), followed by dresses (7 percent) and sweaters (6.3 percent) or T-shirts, sweatpants and shoes (all 6.3 percent).


As the Uniqlo and Appinio survey showed, clothing plays an important role in reducing feelings of stress in everyday life. “Comfortable clothing and outfits that reflect personal style are particularly important. The majority of respondents choose muted and neutral colors like black and gray in stressful situations. The feeling of having nothing to wear can also be a stress factor. To relieve stress, many people use various methods such as exercise, spending time with friends or taking a nap. Overall, the survey shows that clothing can play an important role in improving well-being and reducing stress,” concludes Uniqlo.

“High-quality materials feel good on the skin, beautiful colors and patterns lift the spirits, combining different pieces lets you express your personality. LifeWear’s mission is to design clothes that have a positive impact on people,” concludes Cédric Charlier, global design director at Uniqlo.