The pandemic has affected so many of us in unprecedented ways. One of the most pervasive being its negative effect on our mental health. For the past year, we’ve been oscillating between various coping mechanisms, whether it’s baking, gardening, cleaning, or taking ketamine therapy for depression. But did you know that lifting your mood and mental wellness could also be as simple as digging through your closet? Our favorite clothes can act as a sort of armor and can help boost our confidence. Here’s how fashion can help us cope during these tense, uncertain times.
Color psychology stipulates that we have psychological reactions to different colors. Marketing is one field that makes use of color psychology. Fast-food chains such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s, for instance, use red with abundance because it is said to trigger hunger amongst its viewers. Interior designers also use color psychology in their work. They use bright, warm colors to bring positive energy to one room, and use cool, muted colors to help homeowners relax in another room.
This same logic is used widely in fashion and our choice of attire. A yellow outfit is likely to make you feel light and happy. A black outfit makes you feel cool, mysterious, and sophisticated.
Clothes and memories
Sometimes, it’s not the clothes themselves that carry a positive influence on our mental wellbeing, but the memories and feelings that we’ve associated with them. Some of your favorite items in your wardrobe might be the dress you wore on a first date, the sweater you wear when you cozy up to a good book at home, or the scarf that a loved one gave you.
For her “something blue”, Meghan Markle sewed a piece of the blue dress she wore to her first date with Prince Harry to the inside of her wedding dress. This is a remarkable detail as it highlights that sometimes, it doesn’t matter what other people see or don’t see about your outfit, but how your outfit makes you feel.
Apart from the emotional associations we have to certain pieces of clothing, we also all have clothes that we feel more productive in.
Because of the pandemic, many of us have been working remotely. The great thing about this is that there’s been no need to dress up – at least from the waist down for Zoom calls. Working has perhaps never been so comfortable – but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Studies show that if you want a better chance of checking off the things on your to-do list, you should make more of an effort with your attire.
Working from your bed or sofa isn’t productive. This is because we associate these spaces with rest and sleep. Working in bed may fail you. The sleepiness and relaxation that you associate with your bed might creep on you while you’re working and hinder your productivity. In the long run, it might also ruin your sleep hygiene. When your brain gets accustomed to you working in bed, it will no longer associate it with sleeping. As a result, you’ll have difficulty sleeping in your bed.
The same logic applies to what you wear to work – even if it’s just at home. Pajamas have a time and place and it’s not your home office.
Fashion as self-expression
What we wear can also reflect our values. In the 1980s, British designer Katharine Hamnett immortalized statement shirts. In 1984, Hamnett was pictured with then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Hamnett was wearing a T-shirt of her own design with the words “58% DON’T WANT PERSHING”, an anti-war response to the basing of Pershing Missiles in the United Kingdom. Her other famous political slogans include “CHOOSE LIFE”, and “STOP WAR, BLAIR OUT”. Her recent collections tackle Brexit and her desire to cancel it.
Statement shirts are a way of branding yourself – what do you stand for? And it’s extended towards other kinds of merchandise as well – bumper stickers, statement pins, caps, even laptop decals. In other cases, statement shirts are a way to show solidarity. Sports fanatics, for example, proudly don their favorite teams and players’ jerseys. Fans of TV shows and movies such as Friends, Star Wars, and Harry Potter wear shirts branded with these cult favorites. It’s a way to (literally) wear your heart on your sleeve. Often, these media sources also carry political and inspirational messages that their fans believe in.
You shouldn’t let your fashion sense take a back seat just because you haven’t been leaving the house. Clothes can make us feel confident and determined. There are even some garments we hold dear not because of how they make us look when we wear them, but because of the memories we’ve associated with them. The next time you’re in need of a mood boost, raid your closet for something nice to wear, even if you’ll only be at home the whole day.