Alex Lloyd, 40, a married journalist from York and mother of two sons, shifted her gloomy mindset by dressing up for joy, and charity. She discovered how clothes can positively affect your mood, while also helping a good cause…
No matter how positive you are as a person, there will be times when you succumb to pessimism. Mine came in January last year, as I endured another Groundhog Day of freezing walks through muddy parks with my two sons, Ralph and Max, then aged four and 18 months.
Pandemic fatigue had set in and we were all miserable. The mental load of lockdown, homeschooling, running my own business and a cancelled Christmas reunion with my family meant the miserable January weather was a challenge too far.
Instead of my usual can-do attitude, my mood was defeatist and low. This state was reflected in my joyless daily uniform of thermals, jumpers and snow boots. I’d become trapped in a cycle of negativity.
Realising how clothes can affect your mood
As I scrolled through Instagram one evening, I saw a picture of a friend’s toddler in a party outfit. Her mother said that she was dressing Isobel in her fancy clothes because she hadn’t had a chance to wear them due to lockdown. If she didn’t enjoy them now, she said, she would outgrow them and they’d go to waste.
Seeing that little girl in her finery made me smile. It made me realise how clothes can positively affect your mood. The pandemic had demonstrated clearly that life was unpredictable and you had to seize chances for enjoyment when they came – why save favourite clothes for best when you could take pleasure from them every day?
I didn’t have party dresses to put on my boys – but I had my own. They had been hanging unloved in the wardrobe for too long. This was mostly thanks to pregnancies, maternity leave and a lack of special events. So, that Saturday, I swapped my usual jeans for a zebra-print dress I had yet to wear.
Inspiring others to find joy in their clothes
My mood changed with my clothes. As I put on make-up and blow-dried my hair, I felt attractive and hopeful. I’m not one for selfies, but I shared a picture of the outfit on social media and explained why I was wearing it. Friends confessed that they were feeling down and dowdy too.
It gave me an idea: ‘We should have a dedicated day to dress up,’ I suggested. It was a small thing but it seemed to capture imaginations, as people became curious to discover how their clothes could affect their mood. So, I set out to make it happen.
Having a positive project to attack was transformational. I could feel my mojo returning as I hastily set up social media accounts for the event. I also took promotional pictures and spread the word in between teaching phonics and making the kids’ tea. Less than a week later, on 6 February 2021, I put on a yellow frock and we celebrated the very first Party Dress Day.
I kept it simple. Anyone who wanted to join in could be part of this socially distanced celebration. They just had to wear a fun, feel-good outfit on the designated day, whether they were cleaning the bathroom, walking the dog or having a kitchen disco. Participants could share photos using our hashtag #partydressday.
Using mood-boosting clothes for a good cause
Alongside encouraging self-care and togetherness, I used Party Dress Day as an opportunity to help those who had been bereaved during the pandemic. We’d just passed the awful milestone of 100,000 lives lost to Covid. Families were grieving in the cruellest circumstances, unable to have hugs or proper funerals.
So, I asked for donations to The Good Grief Trust. This charity is dedicated to making sure people who are bereaved are not alone. Given that it was organised so quickly, I set a fundraising target of £100 to start with. At first, I expected it would just be me and a few loved ones taking part. But positivity breeds positivity, and my enthusiasm spread. In the end, we had neighbours, friends of friends, Instagram influencers and complete strangers –from Edinburgh to Dorset – involved.
I made a Spotify playlist to soundtrack the day, wore three different outfits and celebrated with champagne when we raised £1,710. It was exhausting, hectic and the most fun I’d had in ages. Knowing that everyone was united in a shared cause and enjoying themselves was uplifting. We couldn’t be together physically, but we could be in spirit.
Reflecting on how clothes can affect your mood
Within days, more people were realising how clothes can positively affect your mood. They were quickly asking if we could do it again, so on Easter Saturday I donned a different dress, put my lads in new shirts and bow ties, and held a second one. The success of the first event gave me the confidence to promote it far and wide.
I was interviewed on BBC Radio York and BBC Look North and chosen to select my Desert Island Disco tracks for Lauren Laverne’s breakfast show on Radio 6. I even pledged to put on my wedding dress for the first time in 10 years if we raised another £1,000 – which we did!
It was a fantastic feeling when The Good Grief Trust said our fundraising would mean 100 hospital trusts would be supplied with condolence and signposting cards to ensure bereaved families knew where to find support.
Taking a chance on starting Party Dress Day and regaining my positive mindset was a valuable reminder that giving ideas a chance is good for the soul. It’s also infectious to those around you. If you can overcome negativity and give things a shot, who knows what you might achieve.
Party Dress Day 2022, in aid of The Good Grief Trust, takes place on Friday, 28 January. Find out more at justgiving.com/fundraising/partydressday and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @partydressday.