Nothing about interpreting fashion is exact. But some messages are universal and fairly easy to read. For example:
- A turtleneck top -- unapproachable, aloof
- A V-neck top -- open to possibilities, approachable
- A button-to-the-top jacket or shirt -- closed-minded, stringent
- Big prints, metallics or fluorescent colors -- Need for attention, showiness
- Miniskirt -- youthfulness
- Leather, cashmere, supple suedes -- wealth, decadence
Most of us quickly pick up on the non-verbal cues clothing colors send out.
White signals purity; black, sophistication; blue, loyalty; red, passion.
Certain colors can even evoke reactions in us: yellow triggers happiness, blue makes us calm.
Sometimes there are many different levels of non-verbal communication going on in an outfit.
Take Jennifer Lopez' Versace infamous cut-to-there dress from the 2000 Grammys. That dress was screaming.
But what it was saying much more than just "look at me!" (For those who forget 'the dress,' it plunged to south of the navel and was slit up almost to the crotch and held in place with tape. It was a green, sheer floral fabric.)
Examine Lopez' dress closer and there are many other messages: the color green is associated with fertility, and the oversized floral print can imply a "large-scale, generously physical female nature," according to Lurie in The Language of Clothes.
So what did the overtly sexy dress mean?
"Bright, 'sexy' clothes are sometimes worn by people who want to be admired and loved, but have little interest in getting it on with anyone," said Lurie.
Think you've got the hang of interpreting what clothes are saying? Put your observational skills to the test by clicking through this photo gallery and see what clues you pick up on.