Author

Shakaila Forbes-Bell

Browsing

I discussed the importance of having comfort in our wardrobes amidst a post-pandemic world for CBC News. 

Clothing allows us to imagine and reflect the person we want to be now, the person we want to be in the future and the person we fear we’ll be. 

To read the article in full, please click here.

‘Dopamine Dressing’ explains how our clothes can make us feel positive. ⁠It was born out of one of the core principles which explains our motivations behind why we dress a certain way and why we buy certain clothing to satisfy our emotional needs. 

People really do use clothing as a tool to help them alleviate certain negative emotions, to improve their wellbeing. When you wear an outfit that makes you feel happy, you get a rush and that rush is linked to the chemical dopamine, which is released in the pre-frontal cortex. 

Set: House of CB Photo: JKG Photography

Colour Psychology and Dopamine Dressing

When our bodies realise dopamine, we feel pleasure which makes us more likely to carry out the behaviour that caused this again (and again). This works when we wear any clothes old or new as long as it has symbolic value to us. Researcher Karen Pine found that items symbolic to the wearer left them feeling much more confident. 

The theory of ‘enclothed cognition’ teaches us that the attributes we associate with specific items of clothing are extremely powerful. When we wear these clothes, the associations have the power to alter the way we feel and even impact the way we act. So, for example, if you associate a yellow dress with joy, then you will embody that feeling of joy when you put it on. 

Researchers found that people wearing black clothing have a larger influence on a group as they come across as more authoritative. If your end goal is to feel confident when wearing black, then feelings of happiness will surely follow. However, it is important to stress that it is all about your personal associations and symbolic value. 

Dress: Kai Collective Photo: JKG Photography

The pandemic and Dopamine Dressing

The pandemic has caused a shift in the way we relate to our clothing, so it’s less about “how does this look” and more about “how does this make me feel”, both psychologically and physically. You might find yourself asking: how can I function in this? Or, how does this signal something specific about me?

In terms of trends when it comes to clothing we are seeing two groups emerging. The kind of people who are going bold vs those who are champions of comfort. The bold dressers are utilising outlandish creative styles as a means of escapism to free themselves of loungewear pieces (that can feel like a uniform). Afterpay’s Global Fashion and Beauty Trend Report found that Millennials purchased 47.8% more vibrant colors and patterns in 2021 than in 2020.

However, comfort has remained an important fixture in our wardrobe and that’s something alot will find hard to relinquish anytime soon, for example, elevated basics are taking centre stage. Therefore, many of us will lie somewhere in the middle of these two groups – wearing clothes that make us feel comfortable, that we can navigate our day in but that can also say something about ourselves and our creativity.

Set: Rouhi Photo: JKG Photography

Sustainability and Dopamine Dressing

Fast fashion and social media mirror each other in how they provide dopamine hits and instant gratification. More sustainable fashion practices like slow fashion, or buying less, almost runs in opposition with everything that social media really is, which is quick, fast, shiny and new.

Although, Afterpay found that Millennials and Gen Z actually purchased more of their items from Enterprise level retailers in 2021 than in 2020 suggesting that big fast fashion companies are progressing off the cards. 

Gen Z have become extra creative in order to remain sustainable whilst fuelling their desire for fresh outfits they are constantly exposed to on the gram. It’s all about making more for less: following TikTok trends to craft and customise their own clothes, hitting the charity shops or earning some cash by selling pieces they no longer love. 

Therefore, it is evident getting dressed in the morning is much more important than you may first think, it can be used as means to elevate positive emotions and bring us joy! 

I was delighted to be featured in Forbes again discussing my work with Afterpay in understanding how the pandemic has forever impacted workwear.

For many people, sky high heels and underwire bras are relics of a long forgotten, less enlightened time. Casualisation of dress codes has been occurring for some time and now that we’ve all had a taste of what it’s like to look good and feel great while working, we simply can’t let that go. 

The pandemic has sped up the casualisation of office dress codes that has been occurring for the last few years. After more than a year of working from home, what we wear day-to-day for work has made a more significant shift with many people foregoing traditional workwear and opting for loungewear and a waist-up approach to dressing. 
We all have a dynamic relationship with clothing that impacts the three different ways we view ourselves; the person we want to be, the person we hope to be and the person we fear to be. 
Studies have also shown that comfortable clothing aids cognition making it easier for people to concentrate and focus on their work. So, it’s understandable why people will be slow to let go of their new comfortable workwear pieces. 

Click here to find the full article.

I spoke to the Guardian on how clothes have become another way to psychologically transport ourselves on holiday. 

“Many people are craving their pre-pandemic lifestyles. As such, they have begun utilising their wardrobes as a tool not only to experience escapism but also to regain a sense of normalcy. You may not be able to hop on a plane and unwind on a beach … but you can … [dress] the part to amplify the experience of your staycation.”
“Studies have shown that outlandish dressing or simply dressing in a way that is outside of your day-to-day can carry a tension-release dimension.”

Take a read of the piece in full here

I delighted to speak to Frances Solá-Santiago for Refienery29 to discuss the psychology behind matching couple style. 

“If you think about a brand or a company, they have a way they dress to match their mission, for people who want to monetise their relationship, it makes sense.” 
“One of the main motivations behind dressing a certain way is to fulfil that human desire to belong and to be aligned with a group. When couples come together and form a unit, unconsciously they start to dress alike because it’s an easy way to form that social bond.”
“When you are in a couple, it’s something that you can’t avoid because, as social creatures, we want to establish that bond.”

Go ahead and read the full piece here.

In light of the new ‘BBL clothing’ trend I spoke to The Zoe Report about how “sexy clothing” truly makes us feel.

“Sharp shifts in trends enable people to feel like they are dressing outside of the norm. When people wear novel or outlandish styles it can act as a form of escapism enabling them to step out of the confinement and boredom induced by the pandemic and step into a space of creativity and fun.”
“For me, ‘sexy’ is a feeling and I always revert to the theory of enclothed cognition when it comes to dressing to feel a certain way. For example, studies have shown that people feel stronger when they wear superman T-shirts because they associated that character and symbol with strength and embodied those traits when they wore the T-shirt. So, the same logic can be applied to sexy dressing, it has less to do with skin and more to do with your personal associations with sexiness.”

Click here to take a read of the full article. 

I spoke with RTE to discuss the shift in what we are wearing post pandemic, most of us are finally able to take a more creative approach by dressing up!

“Over a year spent in loungewear can cause some to experience ‘loungewear fatigue’ due to the way we’re hardwired to be attracted to novelty hence the embracing of bold styles.”
“Similarly, studies have shown that outlandish dressing has a type of tension release dimension because it can act as a form of escapism which will appeal to many after the tumultuous nature of the last 18 months.”

You can find the article here.

Super grateful to be profiled in The Independent in a brilliant write up by Andy Martin on how our relationship with clothing has evolved over time.

“I hate the idea of having a signature style,” says Forbes-Bell. “One day I can be a Caribbean carnival queen – another day I can be a scholar or a business woman – or boho chic.” The two photographs included here (above) make the point vividly. Pre-pandemic, she went every year to the Trinidad carnival. “Clothes are a tool. You should use them to celebrate the body. Rather than hiding it.”

Take a read of the full piece here.

I was delighted to speak to Mail+ about the way people relate to their clothing, ‘Dopamine Dressing’ and escapism in a post pandemic era.

The pandemic ‘has caused a shift in the way people relate to their clothing, so it’s less about “how does this look” and more about “how does this make me feel”, both psychologically and physically.’

‘People really use clothing as a tool to help them alleviate certain negative emotions, to improve their wellbeing. When you wear an outfit that makes you feel happy, you get a rush and that rush is linked to the chemical dopamine, which is released in the pre-frontal cortex.’
It may not be time to relegate loungewear to the back of the wardrobe just yet, though Shakaila Forbes-Bell admits that while ‘you have the bold dressers that are utilising outlandish creative styles as a means of escapism… to free themselves of loungewear pieces that can feel like a uniform,’ she also admits that most of us ‘will operate somewhere in the middle – wearing clothes that make us feel comfortable, but that say something about ourselves and our creativity’.

Watch the interview here and check out the fascinating insights from Nicole Ocran, Vicki Kalb and myself.