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Are you a pushover for the latest fashion fad? Can’t resist a sale at DSW or Nordstrom?

Or are you a Frugal Fannie?

Or perhaps you are neither a spendthrift nor a penny-pincher. You don’t care about being fashionable or even how your clothes look…just as long as they are comfy!

Believe it or not, your fashion tastes (and your spending) may be temperament-related.

A recent study of identical twins reveals that certain tastes are inborn. Identical twins separated at birth are the perfect research subjects for identifying those characteristics of our personalities that are due to our environment (nurture) and those that are inborn or heritable (nature). Researchers from Stanford and the University of Florida used twin studies to see whether certain tastes (such as chocolate or hybrid cars) and spending habits (deliberate or impulsive) were genetically based.

It turns out that we have an in-born tendency to either shop impulsively – and to buy expensive, unnecessary items – or, on the other hand, to be cautious and to purchase only what is needed.

“Some people may be born with a tendency to ‘be in the mainstream,’ whereas others tend to ‘live on the edge,’” commented the authors commented the authors of the research study, to be published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.


Sanguines shop

I’ve always thought that temperament has a lot to do with the way we dress and shop. The extraverted, fun-loving (and rather impulsive) sanguine is often a die-hard shopper at heart.  When the going gets tough, the sanguine goes shopping.

We sanguines simply can’t resist a fashion craze either. I have an old, embarrassing photograph in which I am wearing clunky platform shoes, a tube top, and a bright yellow flowy skirt straight out of Haight-Ashbury.

Was I that gullible?

Yes, and I still am.

But with age comes a little wisdom. I now go shopping with my melancholic daughter, who has excellent fashion sense and knows how to find the best deal.  She is extremely thrifty and careful (which is another temperament trait the researchers discovered) – the exact opposite of an impulse shopper.

“Step away from the Coach bags, Mom,” she tells me. “You don’t need an overpriced designer handbag with lots of bling.”

Sanguines can’t resist shopping, bling, fads, and fun. They like being the center of attention, so they dress accordingly. They are the ones wearing the Kelly-green tux with tails (my sanguine son once wore a Nehru tux to the prom) and driving the flashy red Corvette. They also don’t keep close tabs on the check book (such a boring, depressing activity!) and are likely to just charge it.

Melancholics are thrifty, conservative, and classic in their tastes; they pay attention to the details and always look put-together. Think: Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn. They would never accidentally wear brown shoes with a black suit (phlegmatics, are you listening?) or white socks and dress slacks. Trendy has no sway over them. They have a budget.


Phlegmatics seek comfort

Phlegmatics don’t care what they wear, as long as it’s comfortable. They don’t notice the designer labels; they don’t even notice whether their clothes match. I still have to tell my husband that he can’t wear the blue shirt with the olive green slacks. Phlegmatics are humble and simple in their tastes. They are not easily persuaded to spend money on frivolous items – for one thing, that would just take too much energy!

Cholerics are the power dressers. They will wear whatever gives them an advantage in the upcoming meeting, class, or social gathering. However, they also don’t care what you think. So, unless they are partly sanguine (sanguines care what people think) they will dress the way they want to – but they don’t like cheap.

And generally, it will be a power suit, a red tie, or a slick leather briefcase. They’d probably rather spend their money on something that will advance their career or save them time – a Blackberry or iPhone, for example.

Though our temperament does bring certain tendencies to bear on our shopping and our tastes, ultimately we are always free to choose to respond in a way different than our temperament (or our upbringing or our environment) might dictate.

Most importantly, our faith tells us that we are always free to accept God’s grace and to grow in holiness and friendship with him (no matter what our fashion tastes are).




Editor’s note

Learn more about temperament by reading the four-part series Laraine Bennett wrote for CatholicMatch: part one, part two, part three and part four. Then take the CatholicMatch temperament test.

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