If you have ever put on a new dress and red lipstick after a particularly bad day, week or month, and it made you feel like you were a whole new person. You have already discovered the beneficial effect fashion can have on mental health. After all, clothes are designed to provoke an emotional response in people – and not just in the ones who see them, but in those who are wearing them as well.
A well-known historical fact that shows just how important the way we look is to our mental well-being is that lipstick production never ceased during World War II in Winston Churchill’s UK, in fact, it was never rationed despite the tremendous difficulties the country was facing, because Churchill deemed it necessary to keep women’s spirits up, He wasn’t wrong.
Celine Dion turned to fashion after a string of personal tragedies, switching to a bright and life-affirming colour palette and vivid prints to lift her out of the dark place she found herself in. It is proof that clothes are much more than pieces of fabric – they are a reflection of our inner world, but also an important factor in our emotional well-being. It is much like smiling: we smile when we feel good, but we can also make ourselves feel better by smiling.
We have all experienced the short-term boost of happiness that comes with buying a new pair of shoes or that stunning dress from the store window, and it can often be reason enough to go on a “therapeutic” shopping spree… but fashion’s effect on mental health goes much deeper than that. It is about the way we present ourselves to the world, what we become when we put on something that has the power to transform us on the inside.
The link between mental health and fashion is tremendous! Young women who are especially vulnerable to people’s opinions, who are still developing their personality and looking for role models can find an ally in fashion. Self-expression is a powerful weapon, and if done right, it can help us overcome the obstacles of fitting into society and finding our path in life. Therefore, it is crucial to understand and learn from an early age how we can use fashion to the advantage of our emotions.
First of all, fashion can give us confidence. I will go even further and say that it is extremely difficult to feel and act confident without wearing clothes that give you a sense of harmony and help you convey the message you want.
Nostalgy is another crucial factor. Wearing outfit inspired by a bygone era is not just a nod to our ancestors – it can change our behaviour, make us feel more elegant, demure, combative or powerful.
Most women do not just get dressed to communicate something to the people they meet. They find genuine joy in looking good, which inevitably has a positive effect on their mental and emotional well-being and triggers their inspiration and creativity.
But most importantly, the way we dress is an integral part of our identity. It is the face we show the world, it influences our behaviour and thoughts, and whether we do it consciously or subconsciously, it still says a lot about who we are.
A significant change in a person’s mental state can reflect in their wardrobe choices. Some people tend to dress in a monotonous and uninteresting way when they feel sad or depressed. Others do just the opposite: when in a high-stress situation, their defence mechanism includes dressing up to the nines, perfectly matching colours and fabrics, emphasizing their curves, hiding their imperfections and highlighting their best features. This makes them feel confident, protected against whatever they are dealing with.
As we can see, there is no universal feel-good formula when it comes to dressing up. Apparel have a different effect on every person. Some feel their best in muted earth tones; others get energy from vivid hues or monochromatic looks. However, the psychological impact of colours is more than just a subjective perception. Read our article on the psychology of colours to find out more about how wearing certain shades triggers a response in our brains that stimulates us and changes our behaviours.
Some people feel protected and comfortable in skin-tight clothing; others feel suffocated and anxious in it and achieve the same effect with loose, cozy sweaters. It is all very individual, which is why the best approach is to dress up mindfully. Being conscious of how your body and soul react to an outfit or a style is the key to using fashion to your advantage.
Of course, it would be a stretch to claim that all of our problems stem from or can be cured by what we wear, but the psychological effect of fashion is undeniable.
For example, tailored and structured garments with broad shoulders will make you look and feel healthy and sturdy. Wearing a men’s suit might lend you an air of strictness and bring forward your masculine energy. Tasteful embellishments like pearls, embroidery or appliques will increase your perceived status. Flowing fabrics will make you feel feminine and seductive, boxy cuts and oversize silhouettes will give you the feeling of protection and isolation. There is an outfit for any mood and mental health issue that can make you feel better about yourself; the choice is endless. You need to dig deep inside your mind to find the pieces that will work for you – and the best way to do that is by experimenting with different styles, fabrics and colours.