What is the connection between clothes and happiness? I don't necessarily mean the thrill of a new purchase or the excitement of high-fashion, but rather the way conscious choices around how we dress can alter and improve our moods.
You might have heard of the trend ‘dopamine dressing’. To explain, dopamine is a neurotransmitter, basically the body uses it to send messages. Maria Costantino, a lecturer at the London College of Fashion, tells Harpers Bazaar “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 behaviour.”
As this trend has circled the internet and social media platforms it has often been reinterpreted and over-simplified often reducing the idea of ‘dopamine dressing’ to colour alone: simply wear bright colours, they say, and you will get your daily dose of dopamine. But it’s not that simple. There is a lot more to this trend, and it may have nothing to do with colour at all.
What is dopamine dressing all about?
Beyond colour, this trend is about what brings you the dopamine hormone when getting dressed. So really, it is down to the eye of the beholder. Forbes-Bell, fashion psychologist and author of Big Dress Energy, explains, "Essentially, dopamine dressing is psychological grounding to the ‘look good, feel-good’ concept. When you wear something you associate with happiness, you embody that emotion and feel happy.”
I would even go so far as to say that I think dressing for that dopamine hit is about more than the clothes themselves: it includes the time and care we can spend getting ready for the day. The act of dressing ourselves is part of our morning routine, maybe an act of self-care. Dress yourself in clothes you feel good in, with intention to start your day off in a positive direction, a happy direction.
As you participate in this intentional act of getting dressed, give attention to what brings you the happy feels. It could be how the fabric speaks to you, the fall or the texture against your skin. It could be what the piece of clothing symbolises or what memories it evokes. Perhaps the print on the fabric is what sparks that excitement within you. Whatever it is, you need to take a moment to consider, pause and reflect to understand your own version of dopamine dressing.
This is what we should be taking away from this trend; an opportunity to take a look inward, to have a moment of self reflection and pay attention to your feelings when dressing yourself. It’s a trend that celebrates the chance to explore your individual expression through clothing.
How can you dress for dopamine?
This isn’t about retail therapy or shopping for new clothes. This journey can begin in your very own closet. So take yourself there, have a look, try things on and ask yourself ‘what makes me happy?’ What makes you feel giddy or expansive when you put on certain pieces of clothing? For some, this indeed could be colour. Many believe that certain colours do evoke certain feelings, like happiness. But if you don’t have this belief, then it won't bring the dopamine rush you are hoping for.
As you put clothing on, try different outfit combinations you’ve never tried before, take notice of how you feel. The fabric on your skin, the texture, and, yes, the colour. Do some clothes trigger memories, both good and bad? Do some pieces remind you of a certain person, positive or negative? Forbes-Bell says that “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.”
Pay attention to your intuition, your gut feeling and your very personal associations as you put your clothes on. I recommend recording outfits you love and feel good in so you can reflect back on them: take photos, post them to your Instagram or TikTok accounts, or simply keep an album in your phone. This is how you will start to see patterns in the clothing you are drawn to and outfit combinations that bring joy. Experiment and play over weeks and months. Live the day in these outfits to truly get a sense of how you feel in them. If you love to write, take notes.
This tuning in can be one of the greatest tools to discover and understand your own true personal style. You will begin to become more receptive to what you really love to wear, and in turn, what dopamine dressing means to you.
What I’ve learnt through my own experience.
I have been exploring this idea of dopamine dressing and taking my own advice of shopping my own wardrobe for many months, experimenting with outfit combinations, and recording my OOTD. What I’ve learnt is that colour is actually less important in my style happiness; it doesn’t bring me dopamine on a rainy day. I do love certain colours, here and there, but I’ve realised that I am more sensitive and in tune with the fit and fall of the clothing and how the fabric feels when being worn. I have also found that I feel most ‘me’ when I wear vintage clothing or something I’ve designed and sewn myself.
Through this style exploration I have almost rediscovered how much clothing and fashion plays a role in my life and more specifically my creativity. Somewhere along the way, I downplayed this; maybe it was covid, and the rut that put many of us in. Whatever it was, I felt I had lost a sense of ‘my personal style’. I was missing this part of me which I knew was important to my creative self expression. Through trying dopamine dressing, I have found it again. Through this experiment, I learnt how dopamine dressing can result in something very different depending on each individual’s tastes, personality and life experience. Most importantly I have learnt that dopamine dressing really is the epitome of finding one’s own personal style.
Go get your own daily dose of dopamine!
So, why not begin this journey of self reflection and discovering your own personal style. Open up your closet: where does your eye fall? What do you reach for first? Think about why. Remember: really, they are just clothes. And as serious as clothes can be (we’ve all attended that work meeting in the wrong outfit, don’t worry), there’s something to be said for letting go: let yourself and everyone else wear whatever they want.
Fashion is just a moment. It’s not nothing, but it’s not everything, so just have fun!
This is a bid to allow yourself to experiment, to play, because it is a journey, and there is no destination. Take every day as a new opportunity to experiment in your own wardrobe.
And tag us! Share your journey with HERA. We’d love to see which outfits bring you joy and how this concept has helped you reconnect with your wardrobe–with or without denim! [Insert insta handle]
What is Dopamine: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/dopamine
Fashion Psychology, Carolyn Mair
All denim jeans featured are HERA Denim styles cut for small waists and wider hips, bums and thighs. Shop them here.