The positive impact of fashion on mental health

Mental health has become such a buzz word in the last few years, even more so recently, in fact we are suffering a mental health pandemic.  Many of us are experiencing anxiety, depression and other issues, all heightened due to the current global state. 

In fact, mental health is now known as the “new pandemic” with 1 in 3 adults suffering from anxiety and depression, or languishing (known as the neglected child of mental health).

When it comes to the impact of fashion on mental health, the industry has its own story linked to this ongoing health issue and there are many problems related to mental health in every part of it. From designers with massive pressures to perform and create, the fashion models with eating disorders, supply chain workers who suffer from stress and anxiety due to unsafe working conditions and low pay to the end consumers who are seduced into buying things they don’t need and get into debt and experience shame and guilt, not to mention the effects of fast fashion on the planet. 

Unfortunately, the fashion world tends to thrive on subliminally telling people they are not enough and playing into insecurities, which then encourages more demand and consumerism. Many brands only portray one type of person and are not inclusive to a variety of different bodies, ages, genders and skin tones. 

Fashion is a double edged sword, it has it’s positive and negative side, it can either empower us or knock us down.  Apart from the negative effects of the industry I want to take a look at how fashion and personal style both have many positive effects on our mental health.

Many people have no idea that their clothes play such a significant role in their mental health. Consciously or unconsciously, the clothes we put on everyday tell a story about who we are and how we feel about ourselves.

Clothes are the closest things to our body, they are our second skin, and choosing different clothes to wear can have a major impact on our emotions.

Here are 5 ways that fashion can positively impact our mental health

#1 – Using clothes as a confidence builder 

When your own personal style starts coming together it can really boost your self-esteem and confidence. Sometimes just changing the fit, structure or texture of what we normally wear can make us feel more confident. By trying new ways of wearing clothes you can start to see yourself in a different light, but you don’t know until you try. Exploring is part of the fun in figuring out which clothes and accessories will bring you out of your shell.  Even the process of doing so will stimulate your brain, and make you feel good.

2# – Fashion as a canvas for self expression 

Fashion is an art form that enhances our life, not only does it allow you to dress up, play and have fun, but gives you the opportunity to tap into your own creativity and be free and independent in the way you express yourself.  Having your own unique personal style helps you to maintain a positive self-image, and serves as a form of entertainment, personal development and above all a lot of fun. 

3# – Change your mood around

Most people dress according to their mood. This means that if you are in a low mood or feeling small, you might pick out clothes that look drab or lifeless. With intentional dressing, you can reverse this. Getting dressed and ready for the day plays an important part in how you feel all day long.

Studies have proven that clothes and colours have a huge impact on improving your mood and the way you feel about yourself. Experts named the term Enclothed Cognition:  the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes and abilities. 

The most important thing I tell my clients to ask themselves before they get dressed  is “How do I want to feel today” and then dress accordingly. It’s powerful and can completely turn our day and mood around. 

#4 – The uplifting effects of colour 

Harnessing the power of colour can have a strong positive effect on your emotions. The colours we wear can make a huge impact on our appearance but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut or play it safe with neutrals. Just by putting some thought into the colours you wear could change the way you see yourself in a big way and improve your mental wellbeing.

Depending on how you want to feel or what you want to portray you can use colour. For example; wearing purple symbolises loyalty and trust, it uplifts you, inspires wisdom, and evokes compassion. 

Why not also try combining different colours to change your mindset and elevate your vibe, instead of always mixing with neutrals? Take inspiration from the colour combinations you see around you.

Dress in something colourful today and see how it elevates your spirits! 

#5 – Playing (and stepping out of your comfort zone)

When you feel down you tend to dress comfortably and minimally, when you feel more happy and confident, you tend to experiment, take more risks and play more with style. Unleashing your creativity works wonders for your mental health.

Allowing yourself to have fun and play with different fits, combinations, textures and structures, really stretching out of your comfort zone, is empowering and inspiring. It’s incredible how play can lift your spirits, changing your whole day around. 

Fashion is far from frivolous when you consider the positive effects it can have. You don’t need to have loads of clothes, destroy the planet with fast fashion or spend money on having an ‘up to date’ wardrobe. 

But by taking pride in how we care for ourselves and putting thought and creativity into our ‘second skin’, we can use fashion as a way to improve our mental health. 

Lou Stokes

Lou Stokes
Verified Coach
Verified for professional standards and commitment to clients. Read more Close

Lou Stokes is a style consultant from London based in Madrid. With online coaching, she helps women around the world cultivate confidence by developing their own, empowering style. Email lou@loustokes.com or visit loustokes.com to find out more or book a call with Lou right now.

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