CAN FASHION REALLY MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD?

Words: Thea Bichard. Images: Clark Franklyn

 

As we probe the future of feel-goodness and ways to find your SUPERSELF, we’re turning to fashion and delving deep into how what we wear affects how we feel. Read on as we explore the science of ‘dopamine dressing’ with Professor Carolyn Mair, the power of expressing ourselves through fashion, and using clothes to feel closer to each other.

CAN FASHION REALLY MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD?

Words: Thea Bichard. Images: Clark Franklyn

 

As we probe the future of feel-goodness and ways to find your SUPERSELF, we’re turning to fashion and delving deep into how what we wear affects how we feel. Read on as we explore the science of ‘dopamine dressing’ with Professor Carolyn Mair, the power of expressing ourselves through fashion, and using clothes to feel closer to each other.

Words: Thea Bichard. Images: Clark Franklyn

 

As we probe the future of feel-goodness and ways to find your SUPERSELF, we’re turning to fashion and delving deep into how what we wear affects how we feel. Read on as we explore the science of ‘dopamine dressing’ with Professor Carolyn Mair, the power of expressing ourselves through fashion, and using clothes to feel closer to each other.

HOW COLOURFUL CLOTHES CAN BOOST OUR MOOD

Bottega Veneta’s Parakeet green, Loewe men’s nu-rave neons, JACQUEMUS’s rainbow of Bambino bags – this season, designers are continuing to flood collections with bright, optimistic colour, and the phrase borne from the boldness has been repeated far and wide: ‘dopamine dressing’. But does science support the headlines? Can we really harness fashion to feel better? 

 

We spoke to Behavioural Psychologist specialising in Fashion, Professor Carolyn Mair PhD, author of The Psychology of Fashion and Founder of psychology.fashion, who explained that dopamine is often misunderstood. “It’s not the pleasure neurotransmitter that people think…dopamine gets boosted when it motivates us to seek a reward.” That reward may not always necessarily be good for us – dopamine is also involved in drug addiction, motivating the brain to seek out the next fix – but the good news is that, yes, it can be wielded via our wardrobe for positive effect. “If our reward is to get a good outcome from our interactions, our appearance, our best selves, then our dopamine is going to kick in and it’s going to give us that boost and motivate us towards getting that.”

 

The sunshine yellow dress that Emma Stone wore in 2016 film La La Land sparked similar conversations about the effects of colour on our mood. We often hear that yellow invokes happiness, while red begets romance, black embodies sophistication, orange floods us with joy – but ‘colour therapy’ isn’t quite so black and white. Here’s the catch: “The reason that colour can make us feel good depends on the cultural associations we have with that colour,” Professor Mair explains. “So, if we go back to the yellow ‘dopamine dressing’ dress, when we hear that over and over again, it becomes a belief that yellow makes us happy.” But the effects are variable. Whereas in Britain, red is often used to represent romance, in China it represents luck, and while black is customary for British funerals, in China it’s white. This lack of universality is where a single, prescriptive colour theory comes unstuck from science. However, Professor Mair explains, “the fact that colour can make us feel good does make sense when we think about the sociocultural associations we have with colours.” In other words, if we do learn to associate yellow (or green, or purple) with happiness, that can create a perfect placebo effect that will leave us and our clothes of whichever colour contented.

HELMUT LANG - Fuzzy cropped cotton-blend cardigan / ISA BOULDER - High-neck cut-out stretch-knit top / SUSAN CAPLAN – Pre-loved Christian Dior earrings (coming soon) / THE VINTAGE TRAP – Pre-loved Dior sunglasses (coming soon)

THE POSITIVE POWER OF DRESSING TO EXPRESS YOURSELF

Colour is just one way of wielding fashion to raise a smile. Miuccia Prada once referred to “instant language” to describe the way clothes communicate something about us in a split second – who we are, how we’re feeling, what we believe in. Art Director, Stylist and Creative Consultant Jamie-Maree Shipton describes how “fashion can make you feel safe; it can also make you feel like taking risks – in a good outfit, you feel like you can take on the world just by walking down the street. This is why it’s such a big part of how we express ourselves to the world.”

 

To find your rewardrobe and feel the positive effects of an expressive outfit, try what Professor Mair calls “conscious dressing”. Dress with purpose and select styles that you have come to associate with positive outcomes through experience – it could be the jumper you wore the day you nailed a job interview. “We have to believe that this jumper, for example, makes me confident. And then I also have to believe that there will be good expectations – I’ll get what I want,” she explains. “Expectations are really important because we then build towards reaching those goals. It sounds a bit like magic. But it really isn’t. It’s belief and expectations.”

 

Disclaimer: there is no one magical jumper that we can recommend you buy to unlock the power of a joyful Monday morning. It sounds like a cop-out, but it could be any jumper, dress or pair of trousers, so long as you love it, and it expresses something for you. “Imagine you have 100 women, you give them one item of clothing, they’re not all going to feel the same. They’re not going to have the same outcome in it,” says Professor Mair. “It’s a much more individual thing, that we bring the power to our clothing. I think that’s so much better because it’s for everyone. It’s not about how much you can afford… everybody can maximise their own power through fashion.” And, in recent seasons, personal style has been winning out over prescriptive trends, so there’s no better time to experiment with expressing yourself sartorially.

ISA BOULDER – Waves ruched bikini top / COW VINTAGE – Metallic mini skirt (available in-store at Selfridges London) / SALOMON – OXT-Wings 2 ADVANCED woven trainers (coming soon) / MISSOMA – Baya mini sterling-silver hoop earrings / PACO RABANNE – Paco Rabanne x Kimura Tsunehisa Wave brass-blend necklace / COPERNI – Metallic leather shoulder bag (coming soon) / BALENCIAGA – Mirrored sunglasses (coming soon)

FORMING FEEL-GOOD CONNECTIONS THROUGH CLOTHES

Let’s backtrack a little here – sometimes, it is about the clothes. We can form connections through fashion by investing in clothes that positively impact people and the planet. It’s about finding fashion that feels good because it aligns with our values – be that Pangaia or Patagonia’s earth-conscious material innovation (both part of our Project Earth for Nature edit); Black-owned labels such as Bianca Saunders, Wales Bonner and Farai London; an outfit from our Selfridges Rental service that you love and then leave (guilt-free), or a pre-loved Gucci bag from our RESELLFRIDGES edit that connects you to an iconic heritage.

 

On that last point, returning to fashion’s buzzword du jour, we don’t have to buy new – or buy at all – to get that dopamine hit. Jamie-Maree’s penchant for pre-loved (Demna Gvasalia-era Balenciaga in particular), has the same effect: “those pieces that have a story, a history, a reason to collect them and keep them forever. That kind of fashion – and it’s always the pieces people ask about – that feels the best.” Professor Mair agrees with this power of pre-loved, “If we talk about ‘dopamine dressing’ to be our best selves, rather than to buy something new, then it’s fine with me, but I think it’s now become such a thing that it’s for any pleasure because we get pleasure out of ‘new’. But I always say it doesn’t have to be new – it is new to me.”

DRIES VAN NOTEN – Graphic-print relaxed-fit cotton shirt / RAF SIMONS – Turtleneck knitted top (coming soon) / VALENTINO – Straight-leg woven trousers (coming soon) / LOEWE – Puzzle leather belt bag and Jacquard bucket hat (coming soon)

EXPLORE MORE WAYS TO DISCOVER YOUR SUPERSELF

From enriching stories to practical tips to elevate your everyday – join us as we explore the future of feeling good.