Dopamine Dressing

Is this simply a fashion trend, or can it be a way to increase our happiness?

Lizzie Yockney
12th May 2022
Image: Instagram @hope.macauley
Spring has officially sprung (although you wouldn’t be able to tell with these grey Newcastle skies) and it is a great time to start dressing like it. Think bright colours and patterns, pastels, and chunky knits.

Dressing in bright colours can have a physiological effect and boost your mood

Image: Instagram @hope.macauley

This sudden interest in bright colours can partly be attributed to ‘dopamine dressing’, the idea that dressing in bright colours can have a psychological effect and boost your mood. Though this trend has recently risen to prominence in fashion publications and on social media platforms such as TikTok, a study was conducted in 2012 by Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire, in which Pine found that “what a [person] chooses to wear is heavily dependent upon [their] emotional state”, meaning that clothing choices not only determine your mood, but also reflect it. Although in her study Pine refers specifically to women, ‘dopamine dressing’ can apply to anyone. ‘Dopamine dressing’ is especially poignant after the past few years, where most people would admit that they lived in sweatpants and jumpers. This spring and summer both feel particularly liberating, as all pandemic restrictions have been lifted, and this trend reflects that shared sense of happiness.

The trend can be seen across Spring 2022 ready-to-wear runways, such as Jacqemus, Gucci and Marques’Almeida and is encapsulated by brands such as Hope Macaulay (a brand based in Northern Ireland that makes sustainable, dreamy knits). The influence of the bright and bold ‘Euphoria’ makeup looks can still be felt in this trend, as I think that ‘dopamine dressing’ shouldn’t just be limited to dressing. I’m excited to invest in some bright eyeliners and struggle to recreate graphic eyeliner looks that I come across on TikTok.  

Image: @hope.macauley

Although ‘dopamine dressing’ is a trend circulating in fashion commentary at the moment, I think that it can be used in everyday life. It is not just about wearing bright colours but putting together outfits and makeup looks that make you feel happy. For me, the appeal of ‘dopamine dressing’ is in the importance that it places on personal style and choice. Its ethos is basically to dress what makes you happy, because it will make you happier. I know that when I put on an outfit that I love and do my makeup, it helps to make me feel more confident and less anxious, especially when I’m getting ready to go out. It’s kind of like a suit of armour. There are also certain colours and patterns that I am drawn to (at the minute I am pretty much buying only green clothes) and there are colours that I associate with my friends and family.

The best part of 'dopamine dressing' is that it is rooted in happiness and places importance on personal style

However, I do acknowledge that some people don’t place as much value on their clothing choices, which is absolutely fine, but again, the best part of ‘dopamine dressing’ is that it is rooted in happiness and places importance on personal style. Ironically, although ‘dopamine dressing’ is currently a trend, I think that at its core it is inherently off-trend for this very reason. Further, ‘dopamine dressing’ is obviously not a way of curing mental health conditions and absolutely should not be treated as such, however I think that it is a small, simple way of potentially increasing your happiness and boosting your mood.

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