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Choose happy clothes

Mental-health blogger Martha Roberts invites you to road-test research around feeling good – how clothes and mood affect each other

by Psychologies

wear your happy clothes!

THE PROJECT

The clothes we wear not only reflect our mood but can shape it, too.

THE AIM

Choosing and using our clothes more mindfully can increase our levels of happiness.

THE THEORY

Clothes can lift our emotions and make us feel happier but it can work the other way, too - our mood can also influence what we pick out of our wardrobe to put on each day.

Professor Karen Pine of the University of Hertfordshire found that what we choose to wear is heavily dependent upon our emotional state. And in her 2013 study of 100 women, she found that when they were feeling depressed, women made very different clothing choices compared to when they were happy. For example, when study respondents were asked what they wore when depressed, more than half of them said jeans (only a third would wear them when feeling happy).

In a low mood the women were also more likely to wear a baggy top (57 per cent compared to two per cent when feeling happy).

And they revealed they’d be ten times more likely to put on a favourite dress when happy (62 per cent) than when depressed (six per cent).

TRY IT OUT

  • Wear clothes you associate with happiness. Pine suggests doing this even if you’re feeling low because of the strong link between clothing and mood state. Maybe choose a top you wore on a significant birthday.
  • Accessorise! The University of Hertfordshire study found that twice as many women said they would wear a hat when happy than when depressed. Not a hat person? Shoes will do! Five times as many women said they would wear their favourite shoes when happy (31 per cent) than when depressed (six per cent).
  • Go for cut and colour. When it comes to clothing choices, Pine’s study found that ‘happy’ clothes that make us feel good are well-cut, figure-enhancing and made from bright and beautiful fabrics. A 2014 study of 2,000 women carried out by Tu at Sainsbury's found that women tend to wear black on Monday (possibly reflecting that ‘back to work’ feeling) but by the end of the week have brightened up their choices. Buck the trend and choose colour to kick-start the week.
  • Wear jeans ‘mindfully’... Jeans are often an easy choice but Pine says they’re often poorly cut or ill-fitting and that by choosing them a person may be giving out a signal that they’re not bothered with their appearance and may even be depressed. She suggests ‘ditching the jeans’ for happiness. We say, why not turn them into ‘happy’ clothes by opting for good tailoring along with a brightly-coloured ‘happy’ top.

MARTHA ROBERTS is an award-winning UK health writer and mental health blogger at mentalhealthwise.com

Photograph: Tim Robbins/Mint Images/Corbis

More inspiration:

Read Get happy from the outside in on Lifelabs