Dopamine Dressing

Fashion stylist Michelle Duguid asks whether the way we dress can enhance our mood, and even have the power to make us happy

Guess what. If the catwalk collections are anything to go by, then happiness is back on trend but more importantly science is beginning to understand that great, happy looking clothes can actually make you smile. From head-to-toe colour drenching, sharp confident tailoring styled with a fancy-dress hat, or even everyday simple shapes but in a bold print, they all have the ability to transport you out of the darkest mood. But how?

There are many reasons why clothes can determine your mood. Our need for cosy comfort dressing during the pandemic made us more casual and maybe a little bit dull. The journalist Catherine Price in her book ‘The Power of Fun’, argues that fun is the key to living a more meaningful, fulfilling and happier life. If you choose fun, you will on a basic level, “Be healthier, less stressed and have more energy.”

Looking at the autumn/winter catwalk shows you can see that this desire for fun is bubbling under the surface. It can be argued that we are running into a world cost of living crisis straight after a global pandemic so perhaps we need all the relief we can get. Innovation always strives in times of pressure. Thankfully, creativity is back, so if you agree that your dress sense reflects your personality, character, mood, style and what actually you are as an individual, then now is the time to go for it.

Bold colours have brightened up the international fashion week map in recent years, with designers taking inspiration from their childhood chunky Crayolo pencil case. Termed ‘dopamine dressing’ for its mood-busting qualities, we’ve been loving the butter yellow dresses and flamingo pink suits. How amazing did Jacob Lusk, the vocalist from The Gabriels, look in a shocking pink tail suit when he joined Elton John to perform at Glastonbury. Dopamine is responsible for allowing you to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation - so basically emotions - and it plays a fundamental part in our brain’s reward system. There hasn’t actually been a scientific experimentation yet to show if we do get a real dopamine hit boost from colour, but a feature on BBC’S Science Focus, suggests that there is a relationship between the clothes we wear and how we act and feel.

As cult American fashion editor Diana Vreeland once famously, remarked, “The mirror fashion holds up to society, one can see the approaching of a revolution in clothes." Our world has had strict rules for so long that it's influenced the way we dress. These distinct categories are thankfully blurring now and the beauty of fludity has gone mainstream. It’s all fair game so go ahead and express yourself. Surely that freedom is very powerful and addictive in itself.

According to Professor Carolyn Mair PhD, a behavioural psychologist and author of ‘The Psychology of Fashion’, “When we feel good in what we are wearing, we tend to be more confident, and we are able to exert influence through our confidence alone. When we feel good, we are likely to be perceived as looking good too, as our posture, voice and other nonverbal aspects will be more positive.”

Many fashion designers now call themselves creators as they play with a variety of ideas and creativity whilst the pressure is on to innovate newness which sell. Brands need to clear shop stock, but also it’s important to sell the brand identity through column images and hashtags. The easiest way of creating something that people notice as new is the production of social media-friendly pieces that have a novelty, madcap or even surreal element to stimulate shoppers to add to basket. We all love the recent quiet luxury trend but sadly its very quietness kills an Instagram post, even though it’s beautiful in real life. Wearing a well-chosen witty accessory is the gateway purchase to the land of fun without compromising your usual style.

Shakaila Forbes-Bell, fashion psychologist claims that playing dress up provides wearers with a dose of escapism that positively impacts their mental wellbeing during particularly stressful times. You can argue that this might not just lift the wearer but also the people around them too. Fashion has always been about extremes, so minimalism and maximalism are the celebration of excess. It’s bold patterns, experimentalism and eccentricity. It’s not just about colour but about pushing yourself out of a comfort zone, rebelling against your boundaries, or simple reaffirming who you are. If you were to wear any of the clothes shown in this article then who wouldn’t feel great, and maybe that’s the most powerful thing of all. Pure Joy.

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