Dopamine dressing: Can what we wear improve our mood and wellbeing?


dopamine dressing
Ready to brighten up? (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

There are a lot of fashion trends doing the rounds at the moment.

From Uggs making a comeback (as long as they’re mini), to the revival of ‘twee’ and ‘indie sleaze’ (bringing with it horrendous flashbacks of disco pants and skinny scarves), many are… dubious.

However, one that is worth checking out is so-called ‘dopamine dressing’.

This is a trend that comes around every so often, and is linked to wearing colourful clothing — like bright prints, patterns, and bold colours — to improve how the wearer feels.

The concept can be interpreted any way you like; meaning that it rarely goes out of fashion.

It’s all about harnessing your clothes to make you feel better which, according to research by Professor Karen Pine, from the department of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is a very real and valid concept.

In fact, Pine found that clothing has mind-altering properties, and when participants were asked to wear items that held some symbolic meaning, their confidence increased.

‘Whenever you think positively about yourself, or experience a positive mood, then dopamine and serotonin – the feel good hormones – are released into your brain and you experience an emotional lift,’ explains senior therapist Sally Baker.

Street Style - Berlin - May, 2021
Dopamine dressing is all about embracing fun (Picture: Christian Vierig/Getty Images)

‘Feeling amazing in clothing of your choice can create those feel good hormones. The feel of the fabric; the cut of the clothes; the colour of the items.

‘How we dress has an incredible impact on how we feel,’ agrees psychologist Danielle Haig.

‘Representing ourselves and how we want to be seen (or not seen) in a sartorial way can really improve your mood.

‘Think about putting on your favourite suit or uniform for work: It empowers you and created a mental trigger to be in “work mode”. Putting on your party shoes and sexiest evening outfit would make you feel completely differently.’

Danielle points out that, during the pandemic and its multiple lockdowns, we all started to wear more comfortable clothing.

While that can be liberating in its own way, many people feel they’ve lost a sense of identity – and over time it’s lowered many people’s mood.

Street Style : Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear Spring Summer 2020 : Day Seven
Embrace colour and texture that bring you joy (Picture: Christian Vierig/Getty Images)

Why is it popular now?

Miranda Holder – aka The Feel Good Fashion Coach – specialises in exactly this area.

According to Miranda, dopamine dressing, and embracing all things bright and colourful, will gain serious traction in 2022 because after the time we’ve been living through, we all need a bit of cheering up – and instinctively, we know that this is the way to achieve it.

‘There is now a sense of lost time and seizing the moment, of celebrating life, and what better way to celebrate it than putting on your glad rags and showing up to this life as the very best version of yourself,’ she says.

‘Fashion is a language and colour is a way to communicate subconsciously. And colour is powerful because you have the added benefits of colour psychology too.

‘Getting back to quantum physics, colour, just like us, has a frequency and a certain vibration or resonance – and different hues have different vibrations which have been scientifically to affect our mood and wellbeing.’

She suggests thinking red for ‘energy and dynamism’, pink for ‘tenderness and empathy’, and green for ‘peace and balance’. It’s why hospital waiting rooms are always painted in reassuring, cool professional blue for example. 

Can anyone pull it off?

Iris Apfel’s 100th Birthday Party at Central Park Tower
Iris Apfel: If that’s not dopamine dressing, what is? (Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

It might feel inimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you are unsure about wearing such bright colours, Miranda suggests starting with tones that you are naturally drawn to, as the chances are you are craving that energy on some level.

She advises the following: ‘If you are unsure whether a colour suits you, begin with accessories – a playful bag, scarf or bold bracelet in a jewel tone is a fun way to liven up an old outfit and create several new wardrobe possibilities.

‘Once you have confidence wearing colour as an accessory, try a one-piece such as a dress or jumpsuit in one colour so all the matching has been done for you.

‘If you are unsure about trying out different colour combinations then do what stylists do and take inspiration from whatever is around you.

‘I often look to nature, packaging and interior design schemes when planning looks for myself or my clients.

Fashion Photo Session In Paris - May 2021
‘If you love it, then it’s perfect’ (Picture: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

‘The bottom line is if you love it, then it’s perfect for you.

‘There are no fashion rules any more, anything goes – the only thing worth living by is if you feel good then you will radiate confidence and poise and have a better day. Who doesn’t want that?!’

Her advice around prints is similar – but she also reassures not to worry about going ‘over the top.’

‘Just check out how amazing Iris Apfel looks!’ she says, rightfully.

‘She looks wonderful because she is truly dressing to reflect her essence, who she really is and that is beautiful.

‘If she had listened to critics touting the “fashion rules” of how to dress at her age it would be a very different picture and she wouldn’t be as nearly as charismatic.’

Finally, she suggests trying the ‘old stylist’s trick’ of ‘high-low dressing’, which is matching something smarter ‘high’ with something more casual ‘low’.

So think of silk blouses with jeans or trainers, or floaty skirts with a soft knit….

If you’d like to try it for yourself, here are some of Metro.co.uk’s favourite pieces:

Green relaxed fit suit

Green relaxed fit suit
Yes to the orange flip flops (Picture: ASOS)

Is there anything that’s more of a mood booster than a lime-esque green suit that also looks very comfy? Wear with some bright orange, purple or pink accessories for a full dopamine rush.

Also comes with a mini-skirt option, if you fancy mixing things up.

Buy it here for £76.

Pink and red colour block dress

Pink and red colour block dress
A head turner (Picture: never Fully Dressed)

Pink and red is the most delicious of all the delicious colour combinations out there, and this dress is perfect for making a dramatic entrance.

Balloon sleeves, a v-neck and a flattering cut. Wear with even more shades of pink to really jazz things up.

Buy it here for £89.

River Island Plus cigarette trouser suit in purple

purple suit
Dreamy partywear (Picture: ASOS)

Mix and match these separates for endless looks.

Buy it here for £40

Pink and red statement dress

Pink and red statement dress
We’d suggest a brighter shoe to make it really pop (Picture: ASOS)

Can you tell we’re a fan of a red and pink colour pairing?

This one is an absolute winner – with its seamless colour block, puff sleeves, and cut out front, it looks more expensive than it actually is.

Buy it here for £60.

70s inspired patterned co-ord

70s inspired patterned co-ord
Gorgeous 70s print – go for bright accessories for your full dopamine boost (Picture: ASOS)

Wide leg: Check. Relaxed fit: Check. Pockets: Check. 70s vibes: Check.

For full dopamine dressing, pair it with some bright pink, or yellow.

Buy it here for £34.

Bright green patent leather boots

Bright green patent leather boots
Main character energy (Picture: ASOS)

ASOS describes these cuban heeled chelsea boots as having ‘main character energy’ and, honestly, it’s hard to disagree.

Perfect to pair with other bright shades, for a statement colour blocking effect. They’ll work especially great with pink, lilac and purple colours.

Buy here for £38.

Luxe lilac trench coat

Luxe lilac trench coat
Parma violet tones (Picture: ASOS)

This coat, with its fur trim and parma violet tones, is such a standalone item that it would bring any outfit to life.

As pictured, match with multiple shades of purple for a super eye-catching look.

Buy it here for £80.

Powder blue cropped jacket with fur

Powder blue cropped jacket with fur
A softer option

Or if powder blue is more your thing, try out this one.

Similar inspiration; different pastel and length. Same amount of impact.

Buy it here for £60.

Pink and green zip neck jumper

Dopamine dressing
Alpaca blend wool (Picture: Shopbop)

Pink and green should always be seen. Isn’t that what they say?

Basically, pink looks good paired with any colour – and this shade of bright green is no exception.

Buy here for £116.

Tailored blazer and flares co-ord

Tailored blazer and flares co-ord
For (almost) any event… (Picture: ASOS)

With a retro-inspired, paisley print and a flattering silhouette, this suit will take you… anywhere you want to go, whether a party, wedding, work event or party (we know it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes…).

Buy it here for £178.

Yellow patterned dress

Yellow patterned dress
Bright sunny vibes (Picture: ASOS)

Sunny yellow is an immediate pick-me-up and this bright number is no exception.

Beautiful material and classic Ghost shape – again, pair with brighter accessories to make it sing.

Buy it here for £89.

Bright blue blazer

Bright blue blazer
There are trousers to match – or wear it with another colour for extra impact (Picture: River Island)

This structured blue blazer is versatile and, surprisingly, can be worn with most other colours.

Look at the orange peeking out – it works.

Buy it here for £70.

Purple knot-tie dress

Purple knot-tie dress
Pop on some orange shoes to make an impact (Picture: Dorothy Perkins)

This dress from Dorothy Perkins (!) is purple, satin, and dramatic. A perfect combination for improving your mood.

To really elevate this dress, pair with clashing, bright accessories. Orange and purple is a surprising satisfying combination.

Buy here for £30 (reduced from £50).

Balloon sleeved jumper and joggers co-ord

Balloon sleeved jumper and joggers co-ord

Comfy AND dopamine boosting, this colourful set could be worn dressed up or down. Again, the key is to team with other bright items.

Buy it here for £110 (on sale).

Ribbed co-ord feat. mini-dress and flared trousers

Ribbed co-ord feat. mini-dress and flared trousers
Green and pink is a brilliant combination (Picture: ASOS)

Green is everywhere this season; and this set could be worn anywhere.

Pair with cerise pink for the ultimate colour pop.

Buy it here for £42.

Floral print mini dress

Floral print mini dress
Don’t you feel happier just looking at it (Picture: The Outnet)

This De La Vali floral-print satin mini dress is a head turner, for sure.

The belted waist and neck detail alone should be enough to perk you up.

Buy it here for £108.

Monki checkerboard faux fur coat

Monki checkerboard faux fur coat
May also double up as a (beaut) dressing gown (Picture: Monki)

This coat is quite a marmite number (in that Marmite is actually the best of all spreads).

While not everyone’s cuppa, it’s a proper statement coat that’s sure to make you feel cheery – and it looks like the comfiest thing ever.

Buy it here for £95.

Checked mini skirt and jumper

Checked mini skirt and jumper
Wear as a set, apart, or under a bright, clashing coat (Picture: ASOS)

As much as we love co-ords, the great thing about them is that they can be split up too – and this Ragged Priest jumper and skirt would work equally as well paired with other colourful garms.

Or, wear as a set under a bright, clashing coat for maximum impact.

Buy it here for £42.

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