How to tap into the power of dopamine dressing to boost happiness

Dopamine dressing is this year’s hottest fashion trend. Here’s how to add some razzle-dazzle to your wardrobe – and in turn, to your life. 

Feeling a sudden need to wear a pink power suit, a bright yellow blouse or an emerald green party frock?

Welcome to dopamine dressing — a stark contrast to the baggy tracksuit pants and leggings of the past two pandemic years.

The idea is to dress in a way that brings you joy, releasing a chemical in the brain called dopamine that makes you feel good.

While bright colours are the stand-outs, experts say different styles and textures can also lift your mood.

Why all the colour?

Sydney psychologist Michelle Pal believes many of us are looking to spice up our lives.

“The lockdowns, and lack of life and activity, have led many people to crave more vibrancy… and an easy way to do this is through our clothes,” Michelle says.

“I’ve certainly noticed many fashion houses becoming more vibrant and colourful with their designs post-lockdown, which I think is a reflection of what we all needed.”

How clothes affect dopamine levels and mood

Our emotional state, attitude and behaviours can all be manipulated by our clothing choices, Michelle explains.

“Fashion psychology researchers have termed this ‘enclothed cognition’ — which refers to the influence that clothes have on the psychology of the person wearing them,” Michelle says.

“For example, studies show that wearing a doctor’s lab coat increases performance on work-related tasks, and that wearing a suit increases negotiating and problem-solving abilities.”

Thoughts and actions matter to mood

Our thoughts and actions can influence our mood — and vice versa.

For example, when we force a smile, we tend to feel happier, Michelle explains.

Similarly, choosing our clothing each day is an action that can affect our mood for the day.

Michelle suggests treating your wardrobe decisions as a daily form of self-care.

“Consider what you would want to achieve for the day and dress for that,” Michelle advises.

Creating a brighter mood through clothes

Personal stylist Rebecca Jane says colour is not only a great way to brighten your eyes and your complexion but can leave you feeling energised, too.

Feeling sluggish or gloomy? Dress to match the mood you want to create.

“Instead of thinking, I’m just going to wear black and white today, go for the brightest colour to change how you feel,” Rebecca explains.

How to find a colour to suit you

For many people, not knowing which hues suit them best is a barrier to incorporating colour in their clothing choices.

The first step is figuring out whether your skin tone is cool or warm — and finding colours that complement that, Rebecca advises.

Khaki, for example, is a warm green shade that might suit people with brown eyes and olive complexions, while emerald green is a cooler shade that could look striking against pale skin.

You can also test which colours suit you by holding various shades under your chin (with no make-up on, but ensure there’s plenty of natural light), Rebecca suggests.

“Some colours will brighten your eyes and your complexion but if the colour isn’t quite right for you, it could bring out darker circles under your eyes and dull the complexion,” Rebecca says.

Feeling confused?

If head-to-toe colour feels a bit much, Rebecca says there are plenty of nifty ways to incorporate small splashes of colour, such as trying a vivid shade of lippy or wearing earrings in your favourite hue.

“If you’re scared of colour close to your face, try a cross-body bag or tie your favourite coloured scarf to your bag as a way to slowly introduce colour,” Rebecca suggests.

Written by Larissa Ham.