Dopamine Dressing: How to Dress For Your Happiness in 2022

drawing of woman wearing green dress looking in the mirror

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

Key Takeaways

  • Dopamine dressing is predicted as the trend of 2022 and involves dressing with the intention of boosting your mood.
  • Color, style, and texture can all have psychological associations and are often tied to memories.
  • Getting out of your comfort zone when it comes to clothes can also trigger dopamine release.

With the pandemic came a loss of control, and many of the things that brought us joy each day were inaccessible or put on hold. Thankfully, though, we have control over at least one thing that's connected to happiness for many people: our clothing.

The connection between our outfits and our state of mind is receiving renewed attention as style publications predict that the trend of 2022 is "dopamine dressing," which involves dressing in a way that brings you joy and boosts your mood.

It's long been understood that we can have psychological connections to certain colors. And while that's part of this trend, there's more to it than just bright patterns and fabrics. Texture and style can boost mood and more, as well. "What we wear affects how we feel so much that it can distort and determine our thoughts and judgments." says psychologist Karen Pine in her book, Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion.

Researchers refer to it as "enclothed cognition" and have indeed found that our clothes can have symbolic meaning that affects psychology and performance. So, whether you're going for a colorful, sexy or simply comfortable look, it's all about wearing what makes you feel good.

Colors and Moods

For many people, the colors they surround themselves with can have a major impact on the psyche, and historically, colors have been used to heal. Ancient civilizations used chromotherapy, or colorology, which is still used as a holistic or alternative treatment today.

Psychologist and Reiki master Ellen Albertson, PhD, RDN, author of Rock Your Midlife, points out that in the context of Reiki, each color has a different energetic vibration and is associated with a certain energy center in the body, or chakra. For example, red is associated with feeling grounded and safe, orange with emotion and creativity and indigo with intuition, she says.

Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD

It is not about the color per se, but rather what you associate with that color.

— Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD

Outside of Reiki, psychological connections to color are totally subjective. But there are some associations that are more widely experienced, and people that channel energy through their clothing often have those associations in mind.

"Green tends to be soothing so wearing green may make you feel more relaxed and less anxious," Albertson says. "Blue tends to be peaceful so wearing it might help you feel less stressed. In contrast, red is stimulating. Yellow can boost energy."

While this may be true in a general sense, it's also important to consider cultural context when it comes to colors and clothing. What red "means" in one culture can be completely different in another. But it can be even more personal than that. People often place strong ties between certain colors and memories or people in their lives.

"It is not about the color per se, but rather what you associate with that color," says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD.

So, while some style forecasters stay focused on bright colors as the basis of the dopamine dressing trend, it's really all about personal preference. An outfit that's "electrifying" to one person, Lombardo says, could fall flat for another. Whether you have a rough idea of your personal style or fully fledged arsenal of cohesive clothing, pinpointing the specific aspects that make you feel good can require a bit more attention.

"To begin with dopamine dressing, you should become more self-aware of your mood and dressing style," Lombardo says. "Maintaining a clothing diary is similar to keeping a food diary in that you should note which clothes make you feel the most comfortable and which outfits you like more in theory but never quite feel like yourself in."

Dressing For a Virtual World

It's true that we've never had less reason to put effort into an outfit than during the pandemic. Not only have there been less opportunities to dress up, the chronic stress of the past two years has made simple decision-making, like outfit planning, feel impossible at times.

"When people are stressed, they tend to wear the same thing over and over again," Lombardo says. "Couple that with being quarantined, when few if anyone other than you saw what you were wearing, and most people wore the same few outfits for months at a time."

Jennifer Pfeuffer, PsyD

If we're able to see ourselves in a way that creates a positive emotion, perhaps we will engage less in negative thinking about ourselves and feel less need to compare ourselves to others.

— Jennifer Pfeuffer, PsyD

But self-perception is powerful. And psychology professor Jennifer Pfeuffer, PsyD, notes that the prevalence of Zoom and virtual meetings or social events in our daily lives has changed the way we see ourselves. We're more likely now to compare and self-critique when we can see ourselves on a screen, rather than socializing in person.

Dopamine dressing is all about self-perception, after all, and putting some thought into the clothes we wear at home during virtual calls can still provide that boost to your mood. Choosing an outfit that you'll enjoy looking at and feel good wearing, rather than focusing on how your co-workers or friends might perceive it, can reinforce beneficial mental pathways.

"There could be a connection between us feeling good in our clothes and how we see ourselves on the Zoom screen," Pfeuffer says. "If we're able to see ourselves in a way that creates a positive emotion, perhaps we will engage less in negative thinking about ourselves and feel less need to compare ourselves to others."

At the same time, for many people, outward appearance isn't what's going to get the dopamine flowing at home. Rather, it could be the level of comfort the clothes provide. Because the camera is focused almost exclusively on your upper body and face, the lower body is fair game for the styles and textures that make you happy. That's not to say staying in your pajamas all day, every day is good for your mental health, but slipping into your favorite sweats and comfy socks might be the perfect middle ground.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

It's probably no coincidence that the trend of dopamine dressing is on the rise after a period in which we've been mostly cooped up for yet another Covid winter. The freedom that comes with dressing for you, the way you really want to, is a dopamine trigger in itself. You may realize that it's time to leave your comfort zone.

Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD

Step outside your usual gear. The novelty can enhance mood, lower stress and help you see things in a different light.

— Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD

"Step outside your usual gear," Lombardo says. "The novelty can enhance mood, lower stress and help you see things in a different light."

Research shows that trying new things can benefit mental health. But in taking fashion risks and wearing wilder outfits is your version of dopamine dressing, you may also require a new level of self-confidence and -assuredness. The silver lining to pandemic life is that you can test it all out from the comfort of your own home.

"The Zoom platform can offer an opportunity for us to explore and test those vibrant colors, unique styles and comforting textures that reinforce our happiness and self-love," Pfeuffer says.

What This Means For You

Your opinion is what matters most in dopamine dressing, not how you want to be perceived by other people. Wearing colors that make you feel happy or calm, seeking new styles you've always wanted to try and avoiding outfits that have never felt like "you" are all ways to incorporate this trend.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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