Something We Have Known About for Years!
|Billy Porter attending The Fashion Awards |
wearing a Richard Quinn dress
and black platform heeled boots.
BY AMY DE KLERK MAY 17, 2021
There seems to be a feeling of hope in the air as we dare to dream of better days to come. This mood is something which has certainly been reflected in designer collections for the past two seasons, with retailers banking on bright colour and joyful dressing as key trends to watch out for once we are on the other side of the pandemic. This association between brightly coloured clothing and happiness is not new; in fact, the idea of instilling joy through what we wear has a name – ‘dopamine dressing’ – and has long been the subject of psychological research. But, can the colours we wear actually have an impact on our mood? And, is this something we should be thinking about when we get dressed every morning?
To understand this concept, it is first important to grasp the basics of dopamine, which is a type of neurotransmitter. Maria Costantino, a lecturer in cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion, explains.
Our bodies produce dopamine and our nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells. “It has many functions: it is involved in reward, motivation, memory, and attention. When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward which motivates us to repeat a specific behavior.”
In theory, this specific behavior could include the feelings we have when we buy or wear new clothes, Costantino explains. This concept of wearing certain clothes to make us happier is something which Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire decided to investigate in 2012. Pine undertook a study into this idea of ‘dopamine dressing’ and found that when participants wore clothes of symbolic value to them, their perceived confidence increased.
The theory of ‘enclothed cognition’ teaches us that the attributes we associate with specific clothes are incredibly powerful. When we wear these clothes, the associations have the power to change the way we feel and even change the way we act. So, for example, if you associate a yellow jumper with happiness, then you will embody that feeling of happiness when you wear it.
But ultimately, if you're looking to encourage feelings of happiness and contentment through your own wardrobe, you don’t need to turn to a specific colour, just look to what you already know you love.
Vogue also is drawing a direct correlation between your sartorial sense(s). Happiness levels might feel a touch ambiguous but according to US fashion psychologist Dawnn Karen, who founded the Fashion Psychologist Institute, it’s a genuine strategy she recommends to (her) clients. The author of Dress Your Best Life: Harness the Power of Clothes to Transform Your Life and adjunct faculty member at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says at its core, dopamine dressing is about “dressing to best optimize your mood”.
Science News reported in an article about joy of running, that sense of well-being, freedom and extra energy that runners often experience is not just a matter of endorphins. The new study shows that the "runner's high" phenomenon is also caused by dopamine, an important neurotransmitter for motivation.
My "Escapes" have always been a source of well being that has a lasting effect on my overall mood. Maybe it is the excitement or the sense of self-awareness. I always feel better after getting out. The fashion industry is calling it "dopamine dressing"; something we have known about for years!