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Shakaila Forbes-Bell

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All dressed up with nowhere to go. That’s been me at least once per week since lockdown started. On this blog, we’ve gone on and on about the power of comfort dressing. One of the (very) few good things this pandemic has given us is the ability to be comfortable daily. However, and I can’t stress this enough, giving up the glam life is not recommended. 

Read more: Can loungewear make you better at your job?

Your clothes can help you experience different realities

Although we are limited by things like cultural norms and money, your clothes are still a powerful tool of self-expression. They can help you enhance certain aspects of your identity and even embrace traits you never knew existed in you. You should think of your clothes as a roadmap that helps you navigate these different realities but what you may not know is that your clothes can also help you escape your current reality. 

We’re currently living through one of the most trying times of our lives. Around the globe, people have lost their jobs, their loved ones and any sense of normalcy due to COVID-19. You may be trying to simply get on with it but it’s important to develop strategies, no matter how small, to help you take your mind away from the doom, gloom and uncertainty and one way to do that is by playing dress-up. 

Femme Luxe Black Tie Front Organza Mesh Sleeve Crop Top - Dash
Top (gifted): Femme Luxe Black Tie Front Organza Mesh Sleeve Crop Top, Jeans: River Island wide leg jeans in light blue

Playing dress-up is a form of escapism

Playing dress-up is not just for kids. Doing a full face of make-up, styling your hair and wearing a sultry dress are all acts of playing dress-up because right now, the places we would normally showcase these looks are restricted. Engaging in these acts when you’re stuck at home can seem ridiculous but it can also constitute a powerful force that can positively affect your mental wellbeing.  

Recently, a friend of mine remarked that she felt silly for wanting to buy a new pair of heels that caught her eye. I’ll tell you what I told her – there’s no need to completely suppress your shopping habits even though right now they may seem out of the ordinary. Studies have shown that “extraordinary” shopping experiences can be cathartic and can act as a break from daily habits that too often leave us feeling stressed and underwhelmed. We’ve all become increasingly aware of sustainability and the damaging effects of overconsumption. So, rather than regularly whipping out your credit card, you can mix in a few new pieces with those that haven’t seen the light of day since lockdown. The most important thing is that you make playing dress-up your new weekly ritual. 

Fashion psychology
Top: John Zack velvet cowl front top in lime

Certain clothing styles can release tensions

Wearing clothes that are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of everyday life act as a symbol for you leaving that life behind, even for a few hours. Studies have shown that people have fun by simply engaging in the act of wearing outlandish, sexy or even excentric outfits which contributes to a feeling of escapism because “clothes in themselves carry this tensions release dimension”. 

Femme Luxe Emerald Bardot Cowl Neck Ruched Midi Dress - Malia
Dress (gifted) Femme Luxe Emerald Bardot Cowl Neck Ruched Midi Dress - Malia

We’re living in highly politicized times when even wearing a mask (please wear a mask) is seen as a form of social commentary and frankly, it’s tiring. Ultimately, your clothes should be an area of your life that brings joy. While comfort is important, you should attempt to get ‘all dressed up’ at least once in a while to embrace the power of your wardrobe to help you escape the bleaknesses of your day-to-day life; even if you have nowhere to go and even if it’s just for a little while. 

In the comments, let me know what pieces you’ve missed wearing this year.

If you asked anyone to describe what loungewear is their first remark would be “it’s comfortable”. Professor Lubos Hes defines clothing comfort as “a state of satisfaction indicating physiological, psychological, and physical balance among the person.” Doesn’t that sound lovely? Loungewear often features stretchy and soft fabric that induces a state of comfort, one that is typically absent when we wear day to day clothes like suits and jeans but what impact does this have on our ability to do our jobs?

How leggings became the new jeans

Since COVID-19 shook the world upside down many have us will be working from home for the foreseeable future. In the absence of a restrictive work environment, every day is casual Friday. In the UK, loungewear sales have jumped a whopping 49% since lockdown. In the states, 56% of adults have admitted to incorporating more loungewear into their daily styles but some people have taken their affinity for loungewear one step further. A survey found that 1 in 8 Americans would rather have a casual office dress code than being paid an extra $5K annually! On the surface that sounds pretty insane but when you think about the psychological impact of comfort dressing, it makes sense.

Femme Luxe Stone Rib Two Piece Loungewear Set - Aloranna
Outfit (gifted): Femme Luxe Stone Rib Two Piece Loungewear Set

If you feel good, you’ll think good...

Loungewear may be the key to you killing it at work. One study revealed that comfortable clothing can enhance cognitive performance. Psychologists Bell, Cardello and Schutz investigated the relationship between clothing comfort and exam performance in students. The results revealed that students who wore more formal clothing had a lower comfort level and ultimately, a lower test score. Think about an outfit you love that’s completely uncomfortable. Although it might make you feel amazing and powerful, the physical discomfort is a distractor causing a cognitive overload that prevents you from giving your all to any task at hand. The extra cognitive boost you get from comfort dressing could be the missing key to that commendation or even that promotion. 

But if you feel good AND look good, you’ll be unstoppable

Feeling comfortable is one thing but looking good at the same time can have a major positive impact. Fashion Psychology research has shown that positive feelings about your clothes change the way you think about yourself in numerous ways. Most importantly, it can change your perception about how good you are at your job while negative feelings about your clothes can make you feel incompetent.

Femme Luxe Grey Marl Off The Shoulder Loungewear Set - Imana
Outfit (gifted): Femme Luxe Grey Marl Off The Shoulder Loungewear Set - Imana

No matter how comfortable you are, if you think negatively about an outfit, chances are you will act in accordance with your negative assumptions. With that being said, you shouldn’t spend your workday in holey leggings and stained hoodies. Invest in a core set of loungewear essentials that both feel good and look good. Not only will these pieces make you feel positive about your capabilities it will help you to crush any curve balls that come your way. 

Have you witnessed your productivity levels change by wearing more loungewear pieces? Let us know in the comments below. 

I’m delighted to host Fashion is Psychology’s very first Live Q&A on Friday 21st August 2020 via Zoom at 7 pm GMT. 

I’ll be discussing my journey in Fashion Psychology, what I’ve learnt along the way, the challenges I’ve faced and what I envision for the future of the field.

Fill out the form below to reserve your spot and send in any questions you’d like me to answer.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Sign-up to join Fashion Psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell’s Zoom Q&A on 21st August at 7 pm (GMT)/3 pm (EST)/ 2 pm(CT)

Update: With COVID-19 ravaging global communities, a lot of us may be experiencing grief. Sadly, grief is not something that is talked about enough and yet its something we will all experience at some point in our lives. Fashion Psychology teaches us that our clothes and accessories are more than things that make us look good. They can elevate our mood states, cause us to act differently and they can even help us get through traumatic experiences. Through my collaboration with Heart in Diamond, I have explored my personal experience with grief and have investigated the impact that cremation jewellery can have on the healing process. If you would like to learn more about “wear-apy” let me know if the comments. 

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When I started working on this piece I would have never, not in my wildest dreams, expected the subject to hit so close to home. Several weeks later whilst I meander from day to day I remain stuck in shock at the sudden loss of my big sister. At this point in time I can only describe my grief as contradictory. I haven’t hit the stages of bereavement that traditional Psychology teaches in a neat and predictable fashion. Rather, I float between misery and acceptance, anger and denial. I have made countless bargains with the universe in a desperate effort to turn back time while I hinge on the pendulum that is my life, where everything now exists either before or after that tragic day. 

One thing I know for sure is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with loss. Whilst my mother has relied on her faith to see her through each day, I have noticed a shift in my ability to cope when I’m in the presence of my sister’s belongings. A love of fashion was one of the countless subjects we bonded over. As with most sibling relationships, when it came to our clothes and accessories, the concept of ‘ownership’ changed daily. Her old jumpsuit slowly became our jumpsuit, my new top instantly became hers upon the joint conclusion that she looked better in it. On the flip side, there were many fights involving some variation of “what’s mine is mine and don’t even think about asking to borrow it!”. From a cognitive standpoint, studies have shown that brain areas such as the medial prefrontal cortex (MPC) which are active when we’re thinking about ourselves are also active when ‘we create associations between external things and ourselves through ownership’ (Kim & Johnson, 2010). That is to suggest that our belongings are an extension of ourselves that conjure up countless narratives of both our singular and shared identities. 

Some researchers argue that the extent to which we see our possessions as an extension of ourselves or others depends on our confidence levels. In a study where participants were given false feedback on a personality questionnaire which made it seem that they were not particularly self-aware, they responded by rating their belongings as particularly self-expressive – as saying something about who they are (Jarrett, 2013). It is fair to say that in this moment in time my confidence has been significantly reduced. My belief system and understanding of my place in the world has been shaken and only in clinging to tangible items, specifically those that she has left behind, reminds me that she is still a very huge part of who I am and that she will always be with me. 

When it comes to a lost loved one’s possessions, the importance of ornamentation and jewellery in the grieving process spans across all human cultures over many decades. For example, in the Victorian era, so-called ‘mourning jewellery’ was a popular trend of the time, whereby accessories were fashioned out of the tresses of the deceased. In Buddhism, the ashes of accomplished Buddhist teachers are mixed with clay are made into devotional images that link the living and the dead (Goss and Klass, 1997). Whilst trinkets featuring coils and curls can still be found today, a fashionable take on the Buddhist tradition has recently grown in popularity in the form of memorial jewellery. 

 

One company that is paving the way in memorial jewellery is Heart In Diamond. Serving many countries worldwide including the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, China and more, the diamond specialists serve to propel the healing power of jewellery one step further by creating beautiful bespoke diamonds in over 500 styles featuring the ashes of your deceased loved one.  

Volkan (1981) suggests that ‘linking objects’ (actual material objects of the dead) function to maintain a bridge with the lost person. Unsurprisingly, Heart In Diamond’s testimonials reveal a deep sense of comfort clients feel about possessing a very physical and tangible reminder of their loved ones that they can carry with them at all times. 

To sympathize with someone is to agree with a feeling or a sentiment but to empathize with someone is to understand and be in tune with their feelings. Having been through this process as well as supported friends that have too I hope that I can share that experience with other families in an empathetic way. My diamond symbolizes the loss of my father. The combination of his ashes and my hair has now unified us forever and was a poignant journey for me to take. The Orange-Yellow Princess cut diamond is a representation of Japan and its reputation as the land of the rising sun and this is where he saw his final sunset. – Claire, USA, Heart In Diamond Client”

Linking objects like memorial jewellery can provide a way to maintain contact with the dead and ‘allow the mourner to externalize elements of the self and internalize elements of the other’ (Volkan, 1981). They serve a bridging function as symbolic representations of the person’s experiences with the loved one’s soothing and comfort.

“We were never big supporters of the highly regulated diamond industry that gives the general public the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable. We believe that what gives an item value is the history and what that item means to us personally. Purchasing a diamond from the store neither has a meaningful history nor does it have any personal attachment to us. Heart In Diamond has changed the diamond industry and has made diamonds really worth something valuable. – Kenneth, Nikki and our furry son, Orchid, USA, Heart In Diamond Client” 

When we lose a loved one the financial burden is often one of the most psychological draining and unexpected parts of the bereavement process. When speaking to David Miller, Heart In Diamond’s content director I found out that the mounting costs of burials is one of many reasons people are seeking their services. “Cremation is cheaper than a burial, sometimes up to 70% less (we actually wrote an article on this). Cremation enables you to make memorialization objects such as cremation diamonds. If you don’t burry the cremated ashes, cremation also saves land.”

The environmental benefits of cremation jewellery doesn’t stop there. “The diamonds are absolutely conflict free because they are directly sent to us, no mines are involved”

“Step 1: After we have received the sample, it undergoes the process of analysis. The purpose of the analysis is to define the chemical composition and extract the perfect amount of carbon out of the material. Our laboratory specialists need about 3.5 oz of ashes or 0.07 oz of hair.

Step 2: the carbon is added to the diamond growing foundation, out of which a unique crystalline matrix will grow creating a personal diamond.

Step 3: The mixture is placed in the core of the HPHT where diamond-growing conditions from the earth’s crust are simulated with temperatures of over 2000

Step 4: Raw diamond will be polished and cut according to client’s specifications

About our personal service: if you live in one of the regions we have a representative in, we can come to your house to take your order and help decide. We hand deliver the memorial diamonds to you”

For those who feel ready, memorial jewellery can be a wonderful way to feel close to a loved one again. At such a difficult time anything at all that brings a measure of comfort is highly valuable.

Clothes and accessories have many powers beyond their aesthetic appeal. They can make a statement, reveal something about your identity and as we’ve seen with memorial jewellery, they can also provide comfort and a sense of peace, some shelter from the powerful negative emotions that can surround the death of someone we were close to.

To find out more about memorial jewellery and Heart In Diamond visit their website here.

For bereavement support contact Cruse Bereavement Care here. 

This post forms part of a sponsored collaboration between Fashion Psychology and Heart in Diamond

On 25th May 2020, George Floyd was added to the heartbreakingly long list of names of Black people who have been murdered due to the colour of their skin. You can see these names emblazoned on the news and across social media hashtags and yet, for  many Black people like me, these names read like the stories we were told growing up – the story of our unending suffering. To say that Black people live in fear is not hyperbole. When the people whose job it is to protect you, murder you enmass – how can you not be afraid?

In an effort to minimize the impact of institutional racism on global police forces, I’ve seen a few people cite one of psychology’s most controversial studies – the Stanford prison experiment. In the study led by Philip George Zimbardo, participants were placed in a prison-like setting and given uniforms that gave them the role of either a prisoner or guard. In just 6 days, these seemingly normal men abused their power as guards and the study turned into a lesson that, if given the chance and if placed in the right situation, anyone can be corrupted. If only it were that simple. 

Analyzing [police corruption] as a product of race-blind situational forces erases its deep roots in racial oppression. – Ben Blum

Replications of the study instead proved that our behaviours  largely conform to our preconceived notions. Sadly, these notions have been shaped by: school systems that jump to expel black students, white-washed media, news stories that frame Black people as thugs, jobs that fail to give Black people wage parity, fashion houses that use racist designs as marketing ploys – all of which facilitate corruption by painting the picture that in every sense, Black lives don’t matter. 

Racism and prejudice seep into every area of life and is even one of the reasons why I created this website. ‘Fashion is Psychology’ was born out of my undergraduate thesis which explored how the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin was treated in February 2012. As the news stories and hot-takes came flooding in, I couldn’t shake a comment from American Talk Show Host Geraldo RiveraI think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as much as George Zimmerman was”. While it’s true that clothing style and race are integral to impression formation, as we’ve learnt from Zimbardo’s study, awful acts are neither situational or clothing dependent. 

56 Black Men Campaign by Cephas Williams

Trayvon’s hoodie became the symbol of #BlackLivesMatter and sparked movements from the Million Hoodie March in New York in 2012 and the 56 Black Men campaign in the UK by entrepreneur Cephas Williams just last year. Both movements shed light on how clothing styles are used as a weapon against Black people, an excuse for White fear, when in reality, racism is so deeply entrenched in the fabric of society it supersedes choice of dress.

Ironically, hoodies are an integral part of the streetwear market which as of 2017 was valued at $309B. Streetwear and the wider Fashion industry at large consistently draw from Black culture, but rarely uplifts Black talent. As BOF highlighted, Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing are the only Black creative directors at major brands, and “there are almost no Black CEOs”. Even Abloh himself has recently come under fire, firstly for an initial donation of only $50 to the Black Lives Matter movement (Abloh is currently worth an estimated $4M) and then for his largely White staff – proving that the success of a few Black people is not enough to eradicate Fashion’s race problem. The situation in front of the camera is getting slightly better with some studies showing that the number of BAME people featured in marketing campaigns has increased in recent years. However, as my own research has pointed out, considering the strength of the Brown Pound and the fact that Black consumers are willing to pay more for products advertised by Black models, it’s shocking that representation is still a topic of discussion. 

So where do we go from here?

Illustration by Sacrée Frangine

Fashion has a duty to support Black people

A value of a brand is no longer dictated by the clothes they design. Consumers need to know where a brand stands on various socio-political issues. They not only need to show support they need to embody the ideals they’re espousing in their Instagram posts. The recent actions of fast-fashion brand Pretty Little Thing is a great example of how the tides of change are dissolving Fashion’s old “thoughts and prayers” approach to activism. In the wake of Floyd’s death, influencer Jackie Aina called out Pretty Little Thing (among others) for capitalising on Black culture via their aesthetic but staying silent in the face of Black suffering. Their initial response of posting an illustration of a black (literally black) hand holding a White one was met with a wave of criticism. The brand have since teamed up with recording artist Saweetie to create a line where all of the proceeds go to the Black Lives Matter organisation. 

Donating is one thing but more needs to be done. The industry has a duty to use its privilege to hire more Black talent, to place more Black people in senior positions, to amplify Black voices and to invest in more Black businesses.

Psychology has a duty to support Black people

As highlighted by researchers Henrich, Heine and Norenzayan (2010), “individuals from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD societies) make up the bulk of samples in psychological research. This is problematic because it skews generalizations about human behavior overall since although 80 percent of research participants are from WEIRD societies, people from these societies represent just 12 percent of the world’s population.” 

Education has been hailed as the first line of defence against racism but if the literature is already skewed and Black voices are silenced, how much can we really learn? Studies investigating racism in particular can fall short when it doesn’t include Black researchers to provide the nuance needed to produce the robust results demanded of the field. The Psychology workforce is also overwhelmingly White. From Black academics to Black therapists, more targeted support is required to even the playing fields.

I wish I could say that fear of the police and institutionalised racism was the only fear Black people have. There’s also the fear that you’ll have to always work 10 times harder than your White counterparts to achieve an equal level of success. The fear that the way you act will be a reflection of your entire race when you find yourself (yet again) being the only Black person at school or work. Then there’s the fear of having to continually explain your existence and why your life matters. It’s troubling to know that it took so many lives to be lost for us to see real change but change is coming and it’s time for everyone to get on board. 

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Visit our ‘Culture’ section for more readings on Fashion, Psychology and Race.

Header image: Sébastien Thibault

Mental illness has long been a dark cloud hanging over the creative industries. Several decades of psychological research has found creative individuals to be overrepresented in mental illness diagnoses and fashion is no exception. The fast-paced nature of the fashion industry can often mythicize the idea of having a work-life balance and the onset of COVID-19 has only heightened these pressures. Amidst store closures, closed factories and cancelled shows, the fashion industry has turned into the survival of the fittest. 

Despite certain areas of the industry slowing down or even coming to a complete stand-still, others have switched to lightening speed with brands going into webinar and curated-content overdrive. When all of your energy is going into adapting and surviving there is often little room to attend to the all important task of maintaining your mental well-being. The figures have yet to come in but it’s clear that the collective mental health of the fashion industry is headed for swan dive so, how can we tackle this issue head-on and secure a safer landing?

To give you some ideas, this mental health awareness week, I spoke to 6 fashion industry professionals and creatives and asked them to provide the tips they’re using to manage their mental health in the current period.

fashion mental health covid-19

Tip #1 Get into a routine

“I experience acute anxiety on occasions, so for me keeping my mind occupied to avoid it from wondering, has been the biggest challenge. I’ve found that it’s important for me to have quite a ridged routine; I set my alarm for 6.30am, do a yoga workout, have a shower, eat breakfast, set my agenda and start work at 9. After work my boyfriend and I will make dinner and play cards or a board game to avoid too much screen time, then I’ll usually watch something on Netflix and get ready for bed. I try not to look at my phone or have the TV on for at least an hour before bed, so I really wind down. My routine initially felt quite mundane but I’ve found it’s a great way to break up the week.”

Tip #2 Practice Self Care

“A classic, but a sure way to help me re-centre is to have a self care session. I’ve recently transitioned into natural hair care, so I tend to incorporate other beauty treatments on my weekly wash day. I like to do a manicure and pedicure (I caved in a bought an LED set off Amazon – shellac is life!) and a face mask. I also like to read for a few hours – I recently joined a book club which is great motivation to get my head into a good book. “

Tip #3 Set Boundaries

“I think initially when we started lockdown it was fun to have constant zoom quizzes with friends and colleagues, daily FaceTime with family but I noticed after a few weeks that I was exhausted and a bit overwhelmed with the constant virtual contact.  Before lockdown I wouldn’t FaceTime my friends everyday – sending a text would usually suffice (and I didn’t feel guilty for doing so). When I realised that with working and constant communication from home, my living space didn’t really feel private anymore. 

I wanted to ensure that whilst my flat is temporarily my office, barista and gym, it’s my home first and foremost. I spoke to my friends and family who were really understanding (some of them even expressed the same feelings!), we now have a weekly catch up on Zoom and keep in touch daily with WhatsApp. If we feel like having a call we will but it’s just nice to not feel the pressure to always be available.  This Pandemic is tough enough, I think the most important thing is to be kind to ourselves and take this time to truly put ourselves first for once.”

Tip #1 Take a closer look at your Mental Health 

I am about to release a fashion film which is solely focused on my experience battling my mental health issues. It forced me to learn a lot about  my personal mental health and it’s been a journey I am glad I took. Once your state of mind is too depressed, you are dependent on it and become a victim of your thoughts. Therefore, its important to first discover how your mind works and be open to new ways to improve by considering it a growth process.

Tip #2 Meditation

It may seem cliche, but meditation is the key. I attended a course by Emily Fletcher and it was a game changer for me. I truly understood the importance of meditation and I consider this technique to be like a shower for your mind. I have also become very interested in spirituality and Neuro-linguistic programming. 

Tip #3 Get a life coach

I wouldn’t have been able to battle my depression without the help of life coaches. Talking to a friend or family member can help, but only for a short time and also you can drag them down. You need to get out of your surroundings to get a clear perspective. It’s an investment, but truly the best you can do as it helps you be more productive, more aligned and understand yourself better from a non objective wa

Tip #1 Praying

My faith is everything to me so it’s Important that I pray in the morning and at night but also during the day. I also listen to podcasts and watch sermons. 

Tip #2 Take breaks 

It is so important for me to take breaks and this isn’t just about using the time to read a fashion magazine. I try to intentionally remove myself from fashion focused things. During this time I have pamper sessions, watch TV series, one of my favourite things to do during a break is to watch hair and skin care tutorials on Youtube. 

Tip #3 Talk to your family and friends 

Talking to friends and family daily no matter how busy things are It’s a must. To vent, laugh, discuss, seek advice and much more.  This is a very crucial step as having a strong support network is everything. If you allow yourself to isolate yourself this will cause you to overthink which can lead you into a negative space.

fashion mental health covid-19

Tip #1 Make sure you have a health-focused routine

I’m doing my best to combat future-related anxiety with consistent routines – it’s my way of making sure I feel accomplished at the end of the day. Now, after two months at home, It’s incredibly satisfying to see the results. For me, getting enough sleep, eating regularly (I’m transitioning to a plant-based diet right now) and exercise makes all the difference. I was never the person that maintained any kind of routine, so I find these habits very restorative.

Tip #2 Have social media breaks

To maintain balance and prevent falling into the rabbit hole of FOMO, I take social media free weekends and I “dose” my screen time daily. It helps me to mange how reactive I am to my surroundings. In addition, that’s one of the ways to take a break from the implicit expectations on platforms such as Instagram.

Tip #3 Get ready even if you have no place to go

Getting ready helps me to stay motivated. Putting on make up is what I do before I leave for work or school, so this is the exact thing I do to boost my mood and prepare for the day. I’ve created home office “uniforms” and I make sure the clothes I’m wearing create a comforting, tactile sensation so that I feel good in my second skin.

fashion mental health covid-19

Tip #1 Have strict working hours

Even though I run a company with employees I make sure that I have a strict cut off time that I stop working every day. 

Tip #2 Exercise daily 

Exercise doesn’t have to be a solo activity. My wife, daughter and I do exercise with Jo Wicks on YouTube every morning. 

Tip #3 Indulge your hobbies

Make sure you don’t forget your hobbies while on lockdown. I make music in my 

spare time and I play PlayStation to help take my mind off the current situation as it helps me to escape while still being creative outside of fashion. 

Tip #1 Don’t give up on makeup

I find putting mascara on to be a simple yet helpful process when dealing with life stressors! It helped me get through my 10 months of maternity leave with smile and a sense of femininity! When I feel down, my mascara really helps!

Tip #2 Family is everything

I make sure to not get too caught up in my work and put time aside to be with my family and play wth my now 5 year old twins!

 

Tip #3 Make other people smile

It’s important to not be too self-focused during this difficult period. Step out of yourself once in a while and try to bring light to people around you. I find bringing other people happiness to be the key to my wellbeing.

Do you have any mental wellbeing tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

What is the baby-face stereotype and how does it give bloggers an advantage?

We all know someone who looks ridiculously (often suspiciously) good for their age. Grown men and women who look like they’ve found the map to the fountain of youth and proceeded to dive into it. Psychologists, quite simply refers to this youthful disposition as baby-facedness. Baby-faced people are those who have large, wide set eyes, high eyebrows, a large forehead and cheeks and a small chin. Research suggests that being blessed with a perpetual baby-face can benefit your life beyond saving money on expensive face creams with added youth-enhancing chemicals like Q10 (what even is that?).

What’s the first thing you think of when you see babies?

“Aww”, “how adorable” and “I want one!” are usually the spontaneous responses elicited from people when gushing over tiny toes and chubby cheeks. Even the baby-adverse among us are not exempt from our evolutionary disposition to nurture the infantile. But what happens when you come across a baby-faced adult? Whilst you’re unlikely to make silly faces and poke at their tummy’s you do make subconscious and positive inferences about them. Research has shown that baby-faced adults elicit stereotypically protective responses from those around them because people associate their youthful facial features with the naiveté, helplessness, honesty, and innocence of babies.

The effect of baby-facedness is so strong that it has even been proven to be a helpful defence tool in court. A study by Zebrowitz and McDonald found that as defendants increased in baby-facedness they were more likely to win their cases, even those involving deliberate and intentionally unlawful actions. The study also found that baby-faced plaintiffs were awarded higher monetary pay outs than those with more mature faces.

When it comes to fashion marketing, research suggests that baby-faced models, bloggers and brand ambassadors alike may have a slight advantage. Because of their innocent facial features, reviews conducted by baby-faced individuals are deemed to be more truthful suggesting that any positive reviews made by such people will be more successful. A report by Lidwell, Holden and Butler also argued that testimonial commercials in particular will benefit from featuring baby-faced models whose innocent, cherub-like faces make them appear more believable. The report also suggests that brands seeking influencers to create reviews on more serious products like medical procedures for example, should avoid those with high baby-facedness as they “have difficulty being taken seriously in situations where expertise or confrontation is required”. However, this seemingly negative judgement is not universal as a study by Zebrowitz and Franklin found that older adults believe baby-faced people to be more competent
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Do you think you have a baby face? Check out the slideshow below to discover some baby-faced celebrities and bloggers.

Celebrity Hairstylist and Educator Vernon François sheds light on the recent rise in  lockdown hair transformations.

I lost a bet to my colleague earlier this year. Fresh off my trip to Trinidad for carnival in February, I was positive that we wouldn’t have to work remotely because COVID-19 would go as quickly as it came. After I monzoed her the £5 and set up shop at the desk in my bedroom, the next thing I did was give myself super bright waist-length braids. I’ve never experimented with a colour so bright before but I felt compelled to make the change and it appears that I wasn’t alone in these feelings. According to Brand Advisory Platform Wearisma, in the UK, social media content related to hair transformations has grown by 57% between March and April this year. While many may assume this collective desire to change our hair is simply a side-effect of lockdown boredom, psychological research would suggest that there are deeper factors at play.

Me featuring lockdown blonde knotless braids

For many people, hair is inextricably linked to identity. Whether you’ve had the same style since childhood or are constantly reinventing your look, hair can go a long way to help you express the identity you have forged for yourself and the one you choose to express to the world. Having a good hair day is more important than you may think. A study commissioned by Procter & Gamble revealed that being dissatisfied with your hair can lead to increased levels of self-criticism, social insecurities and can even reduce your belief in your ability to achieve personal goals. When the psychological risks of having an unflattering style are so stark, why are we jumping at the chance to tamper with our tresses in the wake of COVID-19?

One significant reason is control. All over the world, people’s daily lives have been disrupted by restrictions put in place in an effort to quash the rampant spread of Coronavirus. While these efforts are without a doubt vital for our collective safety, they have amounted to a sense of a loss of control. One thing that you do have control of however, is your hair. The instant gratification that comes with making a drastic change to your hair can provide you with a much needed sense of control in a time where many of us feel helpless. To delve deeper into the significance of hair in our lives and how we can safely experiment with new styles during this period, I spoke to celebrity hairstylist and educator Vernon François who has worked with the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Solange Knowles, Serena Williams and many more.

What role do you think hair plays in people’s lives?

Hair is an important part of our identity, how we choose to wear it reflects how we want to be seen or perceived by the outside world. It can change according to the stage we’re at in our lives, our lifestyle, how we see ourselves, how we want others to see us. Hair can also have cultural, historical, social and geographical relevance. It has links with heritage as certain styles and methods of braiding are associated with different tribes in Africa, it can show which “tribe” you identify yourself with from a fashion or societal perspective. Historically certain types of braided styles were linked specifically to Greek, Egyptian or Roman communities, also the Vikings and Celts have trademark styles and ways of braiding hair. Different qualities are seen as desirable depending on where you are in the world, and the symbolism tied with how people wear and decorate their hair is a vast area to explore.

A good hairstylist will always talk with their client about the role that hair plays in their life, whether they do or don’t embrace their hair’s true texture and the reasons around that. Understanding the client, their needs, desires and expectations is crucial to achieving successful outcomes beyond the salon chair. There is always a bigger picture to be explored beyond the style itself, which is as personal and unique to each individual as their hair texture is.

Celebrity Hairstylist and Educator Vernon François
Have you had many clients come to get their hair done after a significant event?

It is not unusual for clients to have their hair done after a significant event in their life like having a baby, following a break-up, or starting a new job. People say the effect is often a sense of feeling reinvigorated, and that particularly going short after having longer hair feels liberating. A change of any kind, small or dramatic, with the hair’s cut, colour or style can be up-lifting. Many women have told me that having their hair cut short has made them feel more confident, expressive and feminine. I’ve always been a huge fan of short hair.

Psychological research has proven that as we get older, life altering events and changes in personal appearance go hand in hand. In 2013, researchers Megan Stitz and John Pierce found that “stressful life events may prompt body image dissatisfaction and underlie motivations for changes in body appearance to promote self-image. Successive or dramatic appearance changes may be an important signal of stressful experiences.” Alongside zoom quiz nights and the pillow challenge, hair transformations are a signifier of this extraordinary moment in history but as Vernon cautions, having a little patience is one of the best things we can do for our hair.


The most important piece of advice I’d give to people experimenting with their hair at home is don’t be tempted to cut or trim your own hair, even a small amount, please wait for your hairstylist to start back.  You might end up doing more harm than good which could be costly and time consuming to fix when the salons open again.  Also, it’s a skill that takes many years to learn and the scissors that you have at home will not be as sharp as those in salons, which can easily cause split ends and damage.
Another piece of advice is to take the time to prepare and style your hair for bedtime, which will help promote good condition and encourage the shape of your kinks, coils, curls or waves to form overnight.  Prepare hair by sectioning then spritzing from root to tip with the Overnight Repair Treatment Oils from my collection, which are fantastic for helping to keep hair moisturised and looking and feeling healthy.  Finger twist or two-strand twist a section of hair, then coil it around itself leaving the texture fluffy at the roots to encourage volume, and pin in place.  Repeat this all over the head, don’t worry about being neat.  Ideally sleep with hair covered in a silk cap so friction isn’t an issue as you move around in your sleep.  Unravel in the morning in an environment that’s not steamy or humid and let the hair be free.

Has your relationship with your hair changed during lockdown? Let us know in the comments!

A new feature this week in my favourite publication refinery29! I spoke to the lovely Georgia Murray about the irresistible appeal of the colour yellow and why every designer from Emilia Wickstead to Christopher Kane is having a love affair with the hue at the moment. 

In the natural world, too, colours which sit beside yellow on the spectrum mix with it to create putrid shades that bring to mind acid, pus, poison and toxic foods and flowers, causing revulsion and fear. Shakaila Forbes-Bell, fashion psychologist and founder of Fashion is Psychology, notes that it’s the colour most associated with urgency and alertness. “Having a greater effect on attention compared to cooler colours like blue and grey, yellow has been proven to induce feelings of high arousal which activates the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) in the brain, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, mobility and readiness to respond,” she explains. Think of the use of yellow in everything from road signs and horror films (Kill Bill, we’re looking at you) to graphic designer Harvey Ball’s 1963 smiley face, later adopted as the symbol of rave culture. What gets hearts beating faster than ecstasy and two-stepping?

Click here to read the piece in full and scroll down to see my favourite yellow outfit gifted from the lovely folks at Next. 

Fashion psychology shakaila forbes-bell
Fashion psychology shakaila forbes-bell
Fashion psychology shakaila forbes-bell