Why you should plan your outfits the night before

Why you should plan your outfits the night before

In the light of two studies on different aspects of decision making, you might make better outfit decisions if you start the night before and give yourself time to consider their attributes.

Most of us have been in this situation: it is way too early, you are already running late, and you still have to pick out clothes for the day. Your closet might be full, but choosing what to wear remains the most difficult decision of the day. You have to take several things in consideration, such as the weather, the day’s activities, and your personal style. With so many aspects, it can be a daunting task to make the right choice. Luckily, there are ways of making this process a little easier.

Start the night before

The first step is to rewind time. Go back to the night before, and schedule a few minutes between brushing your teeth and locking your door to think about what you are going to wear tomorrow. Select two or three outfits from your closet and rate them all separately, so that you have a clear idea of how much you like them. When you have made your selection, go to bed for the night.

So what is the reasoning behind picking several outfits the night before? Research by Karmarkar et al. (2017) has shown that sleeping on a choice might have certain positive effects on preference-based choices. In their experiment, participants were presented with four different laptop satchels. They saw the brand and a picture of each satchel first, followed by the brands and pictures again, now along with several attributes for each one. Some of these were positive, such as ‘trendy’ and ‘spacious,’ whereas others were negative, like ‘not waterproof.’ After reviewing the satchels and their attributes, the participants had to rate each one from 1 to 11 on several scales: how much they

liked it, whether they would buy it, and how interested they would be in owning the satchel. After several other small tasks, the first session of the experiment was finished.

The next day, when the participants returned to the lab after a good night’s sleep, they had to repeat their ratings of the satchels. They also had to indicate what their favourite satchel was, how easy this was to decide, whether they felt confident in this decision, and how satisfied they were with this decision. As it turns out, people did not feel more satisfaction towards their decision the next day. However, they did feel more positive about the satchels, giving them higher ratings than the night before.

Wait a little

So sleeping on your outfit choice will not make you more satisfied with your final decision, but It will make you feel more positive about your options. This will make your morning just a little more pleasant. However, you would also like to make the best choice for the day, selecting the outfit best suited for the weather and for your activities. To do so, think about the positive and negative aspects of every outfit, then step away from your closet to do something else for a few minutes.

In a second study, by Bos et al. (2011), participants were asked to rate four different cars on a scale from 1 to 20. Two of these cars were so-called Quality cars, that had four positive attributes and eight negative attributes. The other two cars were Frequency cars, with eight positive and four negative attributes. You might now think that the Frequency cars would receive much higher ratings, as they had a lot more positive attributes. This would definitely be true, had it not been the case that the few negative attributes were a lot more important than the many positive attributes. The negative attributes included having difficult transmission and bad mileage, which would be more important to almost any prospective car owner than having tinted windows or a spoiler, for example. The opposite was true for the Quality cars: the few positive attributes were more important than the many negative attributes.

During the experiment, participants were divided into two groups. One group was told to rate the cars immediately after reviewing them. The other group was told that they had to do the same, but that they had to wait until after they had completed another short task. The results then showed a remarkable difference: people who had to wait, gave higher ratings to the Quality cars than the people rating them immediately and were thus better at ‘weighing’ the different attributes appropriately, so according to their importance.

On top of that, it was shown that it is crucial to know that you are going to rate something. When a third group of participants did not know that they would rate the cars at a later stage, they still weighted the attributes more appropriately than the group immediately rating them, but they did not do as well as the people who knew they would have to rate the cars. So for your brain to actually do some preparatory work, it actually has to know that it has a task to prepare for.

Choose your outfit

Now return to your outfit choice. Remember their attributes in terms of weather, activities and style? By reviewing your options and then distracting yourself, you have enabled your brain to weigh these options more appropriately. Hence, your choice will depend more on the important aspects of each outfit, so your decision will be more fitting for the day ahead.

So now that you have slept on your decision, enhancing your positive feelings of the different choices, and weighed their aspects appropriately, selecting the most important ones, go back to your closet. You are now ready to choose and make the best decision possible. So pick the clothes you are going to wear, hold your head up, and walk away without any rushed fashion flops.


Karmarkar, U. M., Shiv, B., & Spencer, R. M. C. (2017). Should you Sleep on it? The Effects of Overnight Sleep on Subjective Preference-based Choice. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 30(1), 70-79. DOI: 10.1002/bdm.1921

Bos, M. W., Dijksterhuis, A., & Van Baaren, R. B. (2011). The benefits of “sleeping on things”: Unconscious thought leads to automatic weighting. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21(1), 4-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2010.09.002