Do you need wardrobe therapy?
Don’t let January drag you down. Kim Jones explains how what you wear can boost energy levels, improve mood and even calm anxiety
Today is said to be the gloomiest day of the year, but if “Blue Monday” is getting you down, don’t despair. Help could be closer to hand than you think.
Psychologists believe what you wear can have an immediate impact on how you feel, so could your wardrobe hold the key to happiness?
TV presenter Amanda Holden raised smiles when she posted a photo of herself on Instagram taking the bins out at her London home while dressed in a glittery pink ballgown. She was inspired by the Facebook group “Put Your Bins Out in Your Ballgown”, which currently has more than 12,000 members.
The group is full of people sharing snaps of how they’re lifting their spirits by wearing something glam to add a bit of sparkle, shimmer and shine to their day.
Here, fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell ( fashionis psychology.com) explains why it works.
“Your clothes can help you escape current reality,” she says.
“We’re living through one of the most trying times of our lives, so it’s important to develop strategies, no matter how small, to help take your mind away from the doom, gloom and uncertainty.
“One way to do that is by playing dress-up – it is a form of escapism.”
While putting on make-up, styling your hair and wearing a knock-out dress might seem ridiculous when you’re stuck at home, it can have a positive effect on your mind. “Wearing clothes that are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of everyday life acts as a symbol for leaving that life behind, even for a few hours,” says Shakaila.
“Studies have shown people have fun by simply wearing outlandish, sexy or even eccentric outfits that contribute to a feeling of escapism.
“While comfort is important, you should attempt to get dressed up once in a while to help you escape day-to-day life, even if you have nowhere to go.”
Here’s how you can embrace the mood-boosting power of your wardrobe.
For energy wear... BRIGHT YELLOW
The Pantone Colour Institute chose a bright and cheerful yellow as one of its colours of 2021. This sunny shade, described as “sparkling with vivacity and imbued with solar power”, is perfect for a mood boost.
“Yellow is the colour of optimism and hope – a joyous and radiant colour commonly associated with sunshine and feelings of warmth, cheerfulness and optimism,” says image consultant Lindsay Edwards (reimagise.net).
Research on the impact of colour on emotion, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, found that people who live in rainier countries are more likely to associate yellow with joy. “Wear it on a drab day to give yourself and others a surge of energy. If you’re a little nervous about embracing such a bright colour, try incorporating it into your outfits with accessories such as jewellery, scarves or bags,” she suggests.
For comfort wear... SOMETHING SOFT
“Wearing something soft can make us feel comforted and relaxed,” says behavioural psychologist Professor Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion (psychology.fashion). “Soft clothes envelop us like a second skin, making us feel safe, warm and comforted. They don’t demand attention or restrict movement, they don’t pinch or itch, so they enable us to focus on other activities and deal with more pressing demands such as communicating and solving problems.
“Because we have fewer opportunities to touch other people than we did pre-Covid, we are turning to our clothes to give us that reassurance we felt in times when we took socialising and physical touch for granted.”
With far less physical contact with others, soft clothes can be comforting, like a cocoon that protects us and can help us to feel physically and psychologically safe.
“Wrapping a heavy blanket round ourselves can mimic the sensation of a hug, bringing warmth and protection from the elements.”
For concentration wear... A CRISP SHIRT
A smart suit or a crisp well-ironed shirt could help you perform better at work, say psychologists. Researchers at Northwestern University in the US found that how we perceive certain clothes influences how we feel and act when wearing them.
“Because we associate wearing a business suit with competence and professionalism, when we wear one, we can behave accordingly,” explains Professor Mair.
For happiness try... MEMORY DRESSING
“Remembering good times can be a great way to boost your mood and if you have an outfit that was worn during a positive time, wearing it again can trigger positive associations,” says Professor Mair. So dig out that tiara you wore at your wedding and wear it to do the dishes, or pull on a woolly jumper you wore on a wonderful walking holiday and relive happy memories.
For positive thinking wear... A MESSAGE
We have fewer opportunities to touch so we turn to our clothes to get reassurance
“Clothing is a form of communication, so wearing a logo, slogan or image on a garment helps communicate the message you intended,” says Professor Mair. “A smiley face or a cute animal sends a positive message to those who see us. If it makes someone smile, we smile back – creating an upward spiral of positivity.”
“In nature, blue represents our ever-present sky and the steady flow of water, which is why so many people associate it with stability, tranquillity and calm,” says Lindsay.
“A worldwide YouGov survey revealed blue is the most popular colour in 10 countries, which is why it often feels a safe colour to wear. It’s associated with trust and security.” Choose a blue you feel drawn to, whether that is sky blue or royal blue or wear a mix of blue hues for a feeling of all-over peace.