Over the years, mental health has started to become less of a taboo and more something that people can recognise as playing a part in every aspect of our lives. From the way we create and maintain relationships with others to the way we talk, see and even dress. Many may have overlooked the latter, seeing as fashion is often associated with superficial notions of people. However, there are various studies and articles written on the cognitive connection between what a person wears and their emotional wellbeing.
Granted, this does not mean that clothes are going to solve deep-rooted anxiety, depression or any serious mental health concern. But implicitly, fashion influences us more often than we give it credit for, especially regarding our emotional wellbeing. It may be difficult to see at first but our choice of garments is undoubtedly stimulated by our moods and, in return, our clothes affect our attitudes as well as those of others.
"What a strange power there is in clothing." - Isaac Bashevis Singer.
A fresh pair of eyes: fashion and the world outside ourselves
We can start from the outside, looking at how people react to what we are wearing. You may have experienced that whenever you wear something that is “in-style” or ‘trending’, other people may seem to respect you more. Even demonstrate some admiration. This shows a sense of belonging and acceptance towards a specific group and the framework set by said community.
Additionally, clothes can impact the qualities that we attribute to a person simply by what they choose to wear. Research has compiled evidence of how, for example, teaching assistants wearing formal attire are seen as more intelligent but less interesting than those who dress more informally. Similarly, cues provided by accessories you wear such as a tie can indicate that you are traditional, therefore reliable. However, depending on your audience it can also mean you are set in your ways and less adaptable to change.
What you communicate through your clothes ends up depending on who you communicate it to.
Taking a deeper look: fashion reflecting our inner world
Fashion is also a way to not only represent our taste and preferences but to visually portray our identity and inner state. By being deeply connected to our confidence levels, clothes can be an even clearer statement of our mental and emotional well-being than the one we give to our therapists behind closed doors.
It is clear the link between our fashion choice and the effort we decide to put into our day-to-day outfits. A well-picked outfit can make us feel like we are on top of the world, ready to take on any challenge. Whilst, selecting an ill-fitting outfit can make you overly self-conscious throughout the day and pick away what little confidence you woke up with that morning. It could make us avoid social interactions and feel small or awkward in situations where we could have been way more confident.
A study conducted by Karen Pine asked women to choose what they would wear when feeling depressed. The majority of them chose baggy, common clothes that wouldn’t make them feel confident and, instead, would give them a sense of anonymity. Thus, creating a cycle of the type of mood the wearer is in.
How to use fashion in favour of your emotional wellbeing
Extensive research and studies have shown that we should dress in the way we wish we would feel. If that wish matches the way you are currently feeling, you are already on track. However, if it doesn’t, you should strive to dress in a way that will uplift yourself. Although it may cost more effort, at the end of the day you may surprise yourself with the mood you are in simply by visually empowering yourself through clothes.
Here are a few tips on how to adapt your style to lift your mood:
Choose at least one colour brighter than what you would go for (it could also be a bold print)
Groom yourself but in a way that fits your personal style; for example, if you are into casual and comfortable styles, replace that old hoodie for a cute loungewear
Dress to accentuate your favourite features about yourself
Accessorise! Sometimes a mood-boost can be done simply through accessories that elevate your outfit
Put on your favourite fragrance; not only can this be a huge confidence boost, but it can link us to a memory of a happy moment
And most important of all, dress for yourself. Decide what YOU like best.
In the end, the choices you make will affect you more than anyone else; make sure you are helping yourself be the best you can be.