Could having more colour in our wardrobes actually help us to feel happier?
Words by Amy De Klerk
As lockdown starts to ease and we emerge from a very difficult year, there seems to be a feeling of hope in the air as we dare to dream of better days to come. This mood is something which has certainly been reflected in designer collections for the past two seasons, with retailers banking on bright colour and joyful dressing as key trends to watch out for once we are on the other side of the pandemic. This association between brightly coloured clothing and happiness is not new; in fact, the idea of instilling joy through what we wear has a name – ‘dopamine dressing’ – and has long been the subject of psychological research. But, can the colours we wear actually have an impact on our mood? And, is this something we should be thinking about when we get dressed every morning?
To understand this concept, it is first important to grasp the basics of dopamine, which is a type of neurotransmitter.
“Our bodies produce dopamine and our nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells,” Maria Costantino, a lecturer in cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion, explains. “It has many functions: it is involved in reward, motivation, memory, and attention. When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward which motivates us to repeat a specific behaviour.”
In theory, this specific behaviour could include the feelings we have when we buy or wear new clothes, Costantino explains. This concept of wearing certain clothes to make us happier is something which Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire decided to investigate in 2012. Pine undertook a study into this idea of ‘dopamine dressing’ and found that when participants wore clothes of symbolic value to them, their perceived confidence increased.
Although this study wasn’t linked specifically to clothing colour, the idea of certain hues having therapeutic qualities is something which has been talked about and investigated for centuries.