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How Does Fashion Impact Mental Health? 

How Does Fashion Impact Mental Health?

Picture this —you are getting ready to go out for a Girls Night. It is late and part of you would rather skulk into a giant t-shirt and cuddle up to Netflix. But you promised your friends. Rummaging through your closet, you start to get frustrated. “How do I have so many options and still dislike them all right now?”.

You pick up a pair of your favorite jeans that were hiding somewhere in the mess. They’re the ones that hug your curves just right and make you stand a bit taller. You pair it with a cute new blouse, block heels, some gold hoops, and cherry lipstick. You give yourself one good look in your full-body mirror before heading out and can’t help but wink at yourself because of how good you look. 

That is the power of a good outfit. It has the ability to change your mood and influence how you spend your day, or night. 

Fashion And It’s Impact On Mental Health

In comedian Amanda Seales’s 2019 special “I Be Knowin‘,’” she jokes about how she often has to transform herself when getting ready to go out, just to believe her outfit compliments the occasion. Fashion can impact mental health. What we wear has the ability to impact how we feel, think, and act. Our clothing choices can reflect our disposition that day, health, or even our general personality type. Researchers Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky of Northwestern University call this “enclothed cognition.” 

There is a lot to the psychology of how we curate our individual styles. Style need not reflect price or brands, but rather our ability to put the pieces together that make us unique. Our clothing choices communicate something about us and sometimes even tradition. At weddings, for example, it is often said that no one other than the bride should wear white because it is her day.

How Does Fashion Impact Mental Health?
Photo by nappy on

Fashion As Conscious Choice

Clothing can also function as a suit of armor and protection. When removing the burdensome aspect of capitalism on style, how we dress is multipurpose. Our style can be used to pay homage to our ancestors, visually disrupt oppressive spaces, or even announce that you have indeed arrived! Noticing the trends in how you select outfits also has the power to mirror your emotional wellness.

I, for example, always wear yellow on my most important days. Yellow is not even my favorite color. However, wearing yellow has been an unconscious choice I only realized scrolling through my photos. What we wear and how we wear it can be one of the simplest ways to lighten your mood. It makes you stand taller or gives you the necessary motivation you need throughout the day.

Thriving In Your Own Skin

On a recent episode of Good Morning Britain, comedian Judi Love declared that people should be able to wear their “batty riders” and “pumpum shorts”, given the summer heat.  Her opinion perplexed talk show hosts, for obvious reasons, but her statement reigns true for clothing and “socially acceptability.” For women of color, especially, style and dress can be an arduous task given society’s white gaze.

For instance, Afro-Creole women in eighteenth-century Louisiana were legally made to wear turban-like head wraps. This was in an effort to maintain the racial hierarchy and undercut their “exotic” features as interracial relationships grew popular. In turn, the women used style to protest by decorating their wraps with jewels and feathers. Eventually, the headwrap became a symbol of resistance. 

Stereotypes Of Existence

When women of color feel emboldened to show some skin, they are often met with demoralizing depictions and stereotypes. The Jezebel, for instance, is a lewd, promiscuous Black woman with no self-respect. Black women have been historically exoticized for our curves. Most notably Saartje Baartman, who was forcibly exhibited at freak shows in Europe during the nineteenth century.

What we wear is further complicated by the one-dimensional politics of body size. Being healthy does not equate to being skinny. Nike was subjected to major critiques after adding plus-size and para-sport mannequins to London stores in June. This proved how size-, body-, and ability-exclusive the sportswear industry is.

How we choose to dress our skin is ultimately our choice. Whether we are in ankle-length dresses or batty riders, neither option is representative of our moral character or self-worth. 

Style, as with a woman’s body in general, is personal. Fashion is power and expression. If it makes you feel good, wear it because fashion is art and no one can take that from you. Your fashion can positively impact your mental health.

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