Shakaila Forbes-Bell


I was delighted to discuss my predictions for approaching fashion as we emerge from lockdown with IWCountyPress. I shared my insights into fashionable masks, loungewear sales and outlandish dressing.

“If people start thinking of [a mask] as an extension of their wardrobe I think it will definitely encourage people to wear it more. I think with anything if you make it fashionable, if you make it something that someone can use to express their identity or express themselves in a different way then it will of course be appealing. So I do think it’s a win-win situation.”

“I think 60% of people cannot wait to get dressed up again and get in heels and get in the glamour and then 40% of people obviously really relished the comfort and think ‘no, I’m going to take comfort over style’.”

“There are studies that show outlandish dressing and dressing out of the ordinary have been linked to escapism so I think people will really be wanting to tap into that and have some fun because we’ve been so restricted.”

Find the full article here!

When discussing female empowerment, the feminist movement and its success in improving women’s wellbeing within patriarchal societies, the impact of clothing and fashion might be pretty low on the list. However, as we have highlighted on this platform, clothing can play a pivotal role in driving political conversations, in forming group dynamics and just generally improving the confidence of women the world over. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have identified 4 garments that have all positively impacted the lives of women in one way or another.


Fashion Psychology
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The ones we hate to love, high-heeled boots. No one will deny that high-heels are a health hazard. ‘As early as 1881, a British physician reported an occupationally related backache caused by “the wearing of high-heeled boots, which necessitates the continuous action of the muscles of the lower part of the spine, in order to maintain the proper balance and erect position’ (Linder, 1997). Despite the associated pain, women continue to wear high heeled boots for one reason; they make us feel powerful, or if you’re Elle Writer Estelle Tang, they make you feel like a “Powerful Witch”. In a survey conducted by MIC respondents noted that heels helped them to “flip a switch” in their minds that took them from “girl” to “woman.”

Psychologically speaking, it can be the case that high-heeled boots evoke a sense of power in women simply due to the fact that it makes them appear taller. Indeed, in US presidential elections the taller candidate is always more likely to win because we simply process taller people as being more authoritative (McCann, 2001). Interestingly, studies have also found that powerful people overestimate their height. If by adorning those few inches you can be perceived as more powerful, feel more powerful and even be more likely to win an election then as the saying goes: no pain, no gain.

Slogan T-Shirts

Fashion Psychology
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For years, slogan T-shirts have allowed women to literally wear their hearts on their sleeves and take centre stage in many political spheres. As highlighted by Phyllis Martin in her 2004 book ‘Fashioning Africa: Power and politics of dress’, clothing has always had the capacity to “be threatening to observers and even dangerous for wearers. As sensibilities about gender, sexuality, age, and status converge, the dressed[…]body may be a site for contestation”. From ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Time’s up’ women have being utilising clothing in the form of Slogan T-shirts to ignite social change for several years.

British fashion designer Katharine Hamnett is often credited as one of the first to create a politically charged slogan T-shirt. When meeting the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 she unzipped her jacket to reveal a shirt with the anti-nuclear sentiment that read “58% don’t want Pershing”. Since then, several female fashion designers including Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney have all created slogan t-shirts that allow women to express their political viewpoints.

Sadly, a study by NatWest found that when voicing their opinions, a fifth of women have been negatively described as ‘opinionated’, while one in 10 has been called ‘feisty’ or ‘vocal’. These perceptions can often negatively impact a women’s confidence, forcing her into silence. Luckily, Slogan T-shirts can lift the burden of vocalisation by speaking for women in a way that cannot be misinterpreted or go unnoticed.


Fashion Psychology

A controversial entry on the list, bras has often been seen as an antithesis of female liberation; an instrument created to contort women’s bodies for the male gaze. When digging a little deeper though, you’ll find that bra-burning is less of a feminist staple and more so a trope pushed by anti-feminist media. According to author of Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism W. Joseph Campbell stated that the during the event in 1968 when the burning happened, bras certainly weren’t the only garment thrown into the fire.  “Invoking bra burning was a convenient means of brushing aside the issues and challenges raised by women’s liberation and discrediting the fledgling movement as shallow and without serious grievance,” Campbell wrote.

When looking at the history of bras you’ll find it has always been routed in providing women with increased comfort and support during times of increased activity. The first bra patent was granted to Mary Phelps Jacob in 1914 in New York who, upon fashioning a bra made up of handkerchiefs and ribbon celebrated the fact that she could “move more freely”. Whilst studies have shown that bras, particularly ill-fitting ones can cause back pain, not wearing a bra when exercising means that your back, neck muscles, and trapezius (a major muscle in the back) are also going to have to work a lot harder to balance out your weight. Similarly, Livestrong reported that ‘sports bra helps minimize the movement of your breasts, which can help to reduce pain and discomfort caused by stretched skin and ligaments caused by working out’. 

The number of women playing sports regularly are increasing and after Nike’s recent impassioned ad featuring Tennis Champion Serena Williams, we’re sure these numbers will continue to climb. There’s no denying that bra’s, particularly Sports Bras have played a significant role for women in this arena.

Shoulder Pads

Fashion Psychology
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During World War II the epaulettes that graced the shoulders of soldiers manoeuvred their way into the fashion industry as women donned shoulder pads as symbol of solidarity with the brave fighters abroad as they contributed to the war effort at home. In post-War times, psychological research has found that shoulder pads have a positive by-effect for working women. In the 80s-movie classic Working Girl, Melanie Griffith’s character dons larger than life shoulder pads to legitimise her new position as a respected business woman and thus the era of power dressing was born with designers such as Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana showcasing the style on the runway. In the 80s and during its revival in the early 21st century, shoulder pads were the clothing equivalent to the ideology of ‘leaning in’ – taking charge and embodying power in male dominated industries. But why do we associate shoulder pads with power?

Broad shoulders are typically associated with males, with studies showing that men with broad shoulders are not only perceived to be more masculine but they also possess higher testosterone levels (Kasperk et al, 1997). As shoulder pads broaden shoulders, when wearing them women can also be perceived as possessing more masculine traits. It’s certainly true that women should not have to ‘man-up’ their wardrobes in order to level the playing fields. Shoulder pads could lessen the impact of the negative stereotypes that some men hold of women when applying for roles in traditionally male-dominated workplaces.

Did we miss any wardrobe staples? Let us know in the comments

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I was so thrilled to speak with Allyson Payer for Who What Wear to discuss the emotional reactions to the current and upcoming trends. I shared my insights into the trends we are drawn to and repelled by from social distance dresses to oversized bags.

“Studies have shown that people have fun by merely engaging in the act of wearing out-of-the-ordinary clothing because it allows us to experience escapism. Outlandish dresses and voluminous silhouettes will allow you to escape the hustle and bustle now associated with loungewear basics.”

“For many of us, travel and commuting have been severely limited, making the need for oversized bags redundant. Shoulder ache and overstuffing is so 2019. We’re more invested in the ease and comfort of the tiny Y2K-esque shoulder bags which could fit a flip phone at the least and a tiny dog at the most.”

Read the full piece here and scroll down for my looks inspired by these trends!

Ugly Shoes
Fun Accessories
Elevated Basics

I was thrilled to share my insights into the return of specific trends and nostalgia cycles in conversation with Nicole Kliest for the Zoe Report.

“At Afterpay, we’re seeing the return of ’90s and Y2K fashion (think chunky footwear, shearling, butterfly print, and more. It’s very much in line with how Gen Z consumers like to shop, which is part of our core demographic.”

“What we’re noticing is that nostalgia cycles are shortening and people are keener to purchase ‘near vintage’ items, that being, styles which were present during their childhood rather than ones before they were born.”

“Afterpay data revealed that brands like Crocs, Ugg, and Old Navy, which all peaked in popularity two decades ago, were among the most popular brands during the holiday shopping season. As nostalgia cycles shorten it will be interesting to see which 2010 brands will be making a comeback.”

Click here and read the rest of the excellent piece. 

I really enjoyed speaking with Madeleine Cuff for i about the devotion young people have to slow fashion, as a commitment to bettering the environment and as an identity source. 

“Because of the pandemic, people are “thinking more about what they own, what they buy, and why they are buying it.”

“Millennials and Gen Z are incredibly socially conscious. They have been thinking a lot more about how they can personally make their own positive impact.”

“Young people use their clothes as a way to showcase their identity… Second-hand clothing is really a way to stamp your mark.”


Click here for the full article. 

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Join the conversation covering period dressing and Regencycore on TikTok with Refinery29. I discussed the role sustainability has to play in this trend. 

“Gen Z and millennials are two of the most socially conscious generations.”

“Survey data from the North London Waste Authority found that 50% of Gen Z and millennial Brits bought secondhand, swapped or borrowed more in 2020 than 2019.”

Read the very captivating piece here

I was thrilled to share my insights with the German publication Augsburg Allgemeine on how our relationship with style is impacted by COVID-19. Including the shift towards feel-good fashion, fashionable escapism and the role of sustainability. 

“The relationship we have with our clothing has changed the most as a result of the Corona crisis.” 

“Fashion escapism is making itself felt on social media platforms like the TikTok”, noted Shakaila Forbes-Bell. “Fashion can be used as a tool to escape daily routines that are constrained by Covid.”

Find the full article here

I was delighted by the monochromatic fashion choices and representation of Black designers at the inauguration. I discussed the significance of the bold hues with Amy de Klerk for Harpers Bazaar as Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President.

“The colour purple is not only emblematic of the suffragette movement, but it also has historical associations with nobility – making it the perfect choice for Harris, who has broken barriers and changed the face of history with her historic appointment.”

“Colour can be utilised as an implicit affective cue to elicit certain emotions and the bold colour choices of vice president Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden have done just that.”

Take the time to read the full piece here

Photo from Harpers Bazaar/ Getty Images. 

I spoke with Kim Jones for the Daily Express to discuss how our clothes can boost our energy levels in these uncertain times. 

“Your clothes can help you escape current reality. We’re living through one of the most trying times of our lives, so it’s important to develop strategies, no matter how small, to help take your mind away from the doom, gloom and uncertainty.”

“One way to do that is by playing dress-up – it is a form of escapism. Wearing clothes that are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of everyday life acts as a symbol for leaving that life behind, even for a few hours. Studies have shown people have fun by simply wearing outlandish, sexy or even eccentric outfits that contribute to a feeling of escapism. While comfort is important, you should attempt to get dressed up once in a while to help you escape day-to-day life, even if you have nowhere to go.”

Find the full article here.