Here’s everything you need to know about ‘dopamine dressing’, the trend promising to boost our happy hormones through the power of fashion.
Throughout the SS/24 runway shows back in September and October, we were presented with a myriad of colours. From deep cherry reds as part of Sabato De Sarno’s first Gucci collection, to sky-blue hues from Alaïa and JW Anderson, it’s clear that colour is officially back — a welcome change from the minimalist looks (see: clean girl aesthetic) that largely dominated 2023.
As the days gradually grow lighter and we look forward to finally stuffing our winter coat away for the summer season, as well as branching out from our neutral colour palettes (or, at least, trying to), the age-old question begs to be asked — can the colours we wear actually have an impact on our mood? Apparently, the answer is yes.
“Dopamine dressing uses the simple methodology that wearing brightly coloured clothes can brighten your mood,” says Megan Watkins, head stylist at SilkFred.
Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that plays a role in the way we feel pleasure, happiness and find things interesting — it’s also known as a happy chemical and the feel good hormone. There are a number of ways to boost the hormone yourself naturally, including regular exercise, getting an adequate amount of sunlight and making sure you get enough sleep.
Dopamine dressing, a trend that has had a recent surge in popularity with the hashtag #dopaminedressing having garnered 200 million views on TikTok, is a part fashion, part mindfulness approach, which consists of dressing for your desired mood. And though the trend is rightly associated with bold colours and patterns, dressing in an outfit that makes you feel confident can also have the desired effect.
“As humans, we subconsciously look for little dopamine hits all the time, particularly after the never-ending bouts of bad news in recent years,” Megan continues. “Dopamine can be really helpful for things like motivation to get to the gym, or on a day where you might need a little extra boost. For example, when you walk into the gym feeling your best, you’re more likely to perform your best, especially if you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and think, “I look good — a cute gym set can be great for this.” So, how can you make dopamine dressing work for you?
@demicolleen Contrary to belief, dopamine dressing is not just a trend of picking colourful clothes off a rack. Whilst you may think that you pick clothes you enjoy to wear every day, it’s not the same as the theory of dressing for dopamine. Understanding the psychology of colour and how it affects our relationship with fashion is so fascinating. It’s why we see red as energetic but also anger, orange as friendly but so cheap. I usually see black as overly serious but whilst I’m battling my January blues I’ve decided to reframe it as protective & aspirational because I need that energy right now as well as compassion to myself with pink and a healthy dose of self reflection from spiritually aligned purple. What do you need right now? #dopaminedressing #colourtheory #colouroffashion ♬ Confidence (sped up – full song) – Ocean Alley
Wear colours that make you happy
“The meaning we associate with certain colours is generated through socialisation, which underpins beliefs, shapes experiences and ultimately influences behaviour,” says Megan. “Therefore, if we believe yellow is a happy colour and we choose to wear a yellow dress, the belief can lift our mood.”
You’ll want to base your outfit around colours that excite you. If pink makes you feel good, try adding a pop of pink to your outfit, either in the form of a statement blazer, or even your shoes. Pink, as well as the colour blue, can both evoke feelings of calm, which are great for hectic days.
“If you’re off to a big event, try a sunny orange or bright green, both of which have uplifting and mood-boosting qualities. They’re both bang on trend this winter, too,” says Megan.
Find what makes you feel confident
Is there anything better than heading to the office, or a social event, with your headphones on, in an outfit that makes you feel like your best self, with the Tube (or streets, if you’re walking) as your runway? Just as going out in an outfit you feel uncomfortable in can ruin a perfectly fine day, wearing an outfit that adds to your confidence can greatly improve your mood.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to finding an outfit that makes you feel like your best self, and this will vary person to person. Perhaps, it’s an oversized T-shirt and your favourite pair of jeans. Or, it could be a dress that accentuates your curves. Experiment with clothes that you already have in your wardrobe and find what makes you feel good. You can then add similar pieces to your wardrobe, so when you have a day where you could use a little extra boost, you’ll know what to reach for.
Dress for your desired mood
It’s important to remember that dopamine dressing isn’t really about the colour you wear, per se, but more about what you associate with that colour. Our psychological connections to colour are totally subjective, though of course some associations are more widely experienced.
Shades of green, blue and teal can have a calming or soothing effect, so can be particularly effective on a day where you might have added stress, for example, a big work meeting. Red can be empowering, so is great for job interviews (or hatching things out with an ex). Happy colours are usually bright colours, like yellow, orange and pink.
@ellaellaw DOPAMINE DRESSING- which one was your fave? #fashion#inspo#outfits ♬ Escapism. – Super Sped Up – RAYE
Make sure you put in the effort
Since the pandemic, and with the rise of hybrid work set-ups, it’s now easier than ever to put as little effort as possible into our appearances. And while, of course, we’re grateful for the opportunity to work from the sofa in our pyjamas every once in a while, sometimes you’ll feel better if you actually get up, have a shower and get changed into normal clothes.
If you’re having a meeting via Zoom, give it a try. You might find that making the switch from pyjamas to even jeans and a T-shirt will make you feel more empowered and motivated. And, when you do find that killer outfit that makes you feel like you can take on the world, be sure to make a note of it. That way, when you’re in need of an extra boost, you can re-wear it, knowing you’ll have the power to take on anything the day throws at you.