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Haifa Al Mubarak Speaks on The Psychology of Dress With The Zay Initiative

Written by: Nikoleta Morales

On April 13, the Zay Initiative hosted a Psychology of Dress workshop with renowned speaker Haifa Al Mubarak, psychologist & CEO/Founder of Know How Management Consulting in Abu Dhabi. She has inspired many individuals through her practice in the areas of psychology, leadership development, and coaching. She has been a business influencer in the United Emirates since 2000. Mubarak has helped transform individuals and organizations by helping them realize their personal potential. Mubarak has done an ongoing research on United Emirates personality types with over 70,000 nationals because she is a “strong believer in social responsibility.”

“I think when we wake up and begin our day, part of our routine is to choose what to wear. The first conditioning factor will always be the external element, such as the weather. It will always play a factor within our daily lives and the way we dress. Our clothing can also signify religious is a significant aspect of our life as well because we celebrate special occasions in our lives by the way we dress...we get a sense of belonging to a substructure through our dress,” said Dr. Reem El Mutwalli, founder of the Zay Initiative.

Part of the fashion psychology dialog was how internal and external weather influence the choices of fashion. Internal weather is considered to be how one feels on the inside. Mubarak uses a personality test to determine the types of personalities and their fashion choices. She says that clothing has a great impact on culture, personal values and it governs the choice of clothing.

“The clothes we wear will speak about our emotions and our values. What we choose to wear is directed by our climate, mood, behavior and attitudes. We all have a favorite outfit and it makes us feel confident. There are occasions directly linked to what we wear. The way we dress is an integral part to the way we behave and most importantly to our identity. Emotions also play a role and the associations we have with the clothes,” says Mubarak.

Mubarak says that the way one dresses is the outcome of one’s state of mind. An example she gave was that if one is in a bad state of mind, one would wear dark colors. If one is happy, one would dress in brighter colors.

“It can be a reflection of what you feel on the inside and a tool that changes how you feel on the inside. It can work both ways,” says Dr. Mutwalli.

Dr. Mutwalli gave an example how bright colors in India are looked as positive in the workplace and in Russia they show a lack of professionalism and are damaging to credibility.

Mubali talked about cultural norms and the way one dresses. She raised the concern of internal anxiety due to differences in beliefs and cultural values.

“This type of conflict causes anxiety,” says Mubarak. “When we talk about values, they affect the way we dress. My value is religion but my first value is my ambition to have a career. Value determines how we dress, according to personality and our value system.”

In that regard, Dr. Mutwalli talked about how the Western world misinterprets the Hijab when it comes to Arab and Muslim women, which causes misconceptions.

“Everybody has different values but the end result is the same,” says Mubarak.

The Myers Briggs Personality Type identifies 16 different personalities. Depending on the personality, there are different clothing choices, such as: extravert vs. introvert, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving.

“Sensing is more traditional. Intuition goes by their own imagination. The feeling, for example, may wear high heels but they want to be comfortable and adaptable. Perceiving like casual clothing and the spontaneous change their mind. Judging will arrange the clothing for the whole week and will stick to it. The perceiving can change it if they don't feel like it,” explains Mubarak.

“The way you carry the piece is how you depict your own personality through it,” says. Dr. Mutwalli.

Mubarak works with clients to get to know their personality types and offers a stylist who will mix and match clothes based on personality and skin, body shape, and what is best for the client.

“Clothing is [like] a box. You want to be confident. You have to be yourself. How do we mix the two? It's what we do,” says Mubarak who helps clients understand who they are through their choices of clothing.

“There are symbols and signs that we project to the world without having to say a word. That's what's so interesting about clothing and the way we carry ourselves. We give a signal and people read it in different formats. It is a wonderful tool to explore body language, social etiquette and deeper cultural values, such as hierarchy, formality and status. It can show a person’s individuality, social norm and style trends. It can speak on political and religious and economic influences, as well as trade exchanges. But most of all, it can help us understand our personal inner emotions and our collective shared humanity. It helps us build bridges across cultures because if we can understand others, we can dispel many misconceptions,” says Dr. Mutwalli.

For more events, dialogues and information on the Zay Initiative, visit:


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