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Either before you read this article or afterwards, at some point today you are going to think about your body image and whether you like it or not. Let’s be honest, I do it, you do it, we all do it. You are going to look at yourself in the mirror, and unfortunately, chances are you are looking at your body through the lens the fashion industry has forcefully embedded. So let me ask you this, how many times have you dieted to fit into those pants? Better yet, how many times have you exercised to have that ‘perfect beach body’? But have you ever wondered how the media can affect the way you perceive your body or your eating behaviour? Or how the models portrayed in the media can affect your body dissatisfaction?

It is without a doubt that sustainability is currently one of the focal points in the fashion industry. However, the (lack of) inclusivity of diverse body types and advertisements has also been a growing concern in the fashion industry with little to no effective intervention. Diversity and inclusivity are monumental aspects but they do not solely revolve around racism, sexism, cultural appropriateness, or sexual orientation in the workplace, despite their importance. The inclusivity of diverse body types and advertisements has been consequently insufficient whereby skinny models have been the predominant choice for major fashion brands’ advertisements. This has been psychologically proven to lead women to further internalize the thin ideal portrayed by the media and magazines, which adversely affects eating behaviours and body dissatisfaction.

THE SNOWBALL EFFECT OF THIN-IDEAL INTERNALIZATION AND MEDIA PRESSURE

Image Source: Research paper - Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies from mentalhealth.org.uk

The fashion industry alone reinforces a certain thin beauty ideal that most of us tend to internalize. If it is coupled, paired, or even combined with exposure to the media, this will influence the way we perceive our bodies on a subconscious level. When we think of the models portrayed in the media and fashion industry, the first thing that comes to our minds is the ‘polished’ and skinny model. With the media portraying mostly skinny models, it is quite difficult to think that other body types are also considered normal, let alone attractive. When the majority of all the advertisements you see for your favourite fashion brands exhibit skinny models, it comes as no surprise that girls are constantly trying to reach this ideal that is being reinforced by the fashion industry. Why is that? It is because the fashion industry teaches us that ‘skinny sells’. 

Unfortunately, we live in a ‘media-focused world’, where the media is a potent transmitter that has a powerful impact on us. As countries become more Westernized, women are exposed to a beauty ideal, where this ideal portrays that being ‘skinny is beautiful’, therefore, an ideal that is unrealistic and unachievable. The idea that women have to live up to the beauty ideal that is set by cultural standards is something that is truly concerning and could potentially affect women’s psychological well-being. Whether we are reading a magazine or simply taking a walk, we are constantly bombarded by thin ideals on an everyday basis. For instance, in 2008 researchers Harper and Tiggerman found that magazines portray unrealistic thin ideals because they lack inclusivity, by portraying specific body types that are hard to attain. The portrayal of such an unrealistic beauty ideal leaves us thinking that this beauty ideal has become the ‘norm’ and everything outside of it is automatically categorized as unattractive. This may not only lead to body dissatisfaction but also allows individuals to engage in abnormal eating behaviours to help them achieve this ‘beauty-ideal’, such as self-induced vomiting or skipping meals. For instance, Stice’s 2002 research regarding body image has shown that the media’s influential portrayal of a ‘thin-ideal’ has led individuals who internalize it to be dissatisfied with their bodies and develop eating disorders.

 

Including more realistic body types could potentially have positive effects on individuals. In fact, Peck and Loken’s 2004 research shows that women feel more satisfied with their bodies after viewing pictures of plus-sized models. All in all, the influence of the fashion industry’s advertisements serves to show its desperate need to inclusively advertise body types of all kinds that are realistic and representative. This inclusiveness towards the advertisement of the many types of bodies may potentially lead to body satisfaction and healthy eating habits.

IT IS NOT A BARBIE WORLD, AFTERALL

Image source: Rehabs.com

Take a moment and look back at your childhood, back when younger girls used to play with a Barbie doll. Have you ever thought about how Barbie dolls can affect young girls’ body image? Indeed, we are living life in plastic, but it is not fantastic. Before a young girl’s body even fully develops, the world is showing her what it should look like through Barbie Dolls. According to the psychologist Jean Piaget, we rely on schemas as a framework used to organize our information mentally. For example, if a person sees a skinny model, the schema of a model and all the information related to it will be activated, such as ‘skinny’ and ‘beautiful’.

young people tend to consume less food when playing with a skinny doll.

How is this related to body image? One thing we know about children is that they learn through observation. Most girls played with a Barbie doll when they were young and chances are, they compared themselves to it. We have been culturally wired to not even think twice about the impact a Barbie Doll might have on younger girls. Some of us might think giving a young girl a Barbie doll to play with is normal; it’s actually quite the opposite, as Barbie dolls portray an unrealistic beauty ideal standard for women. This could allow young girls to internalize this ‘beauty ideal’ portrayed by the Barbie doll, making them feel like they are in a constant attempt to achieve it. In fact, Barbie dolls have received much criticism regarding the unrealistic thinness that the doll portrays. This affects young people’s body dissatisfaction and eating behaviour, as research by Anschutz and Engels (2010) shows that young people tend to consume less food when playing with a skinny doll. This is very concerning as Barbie dolls, being the primary toys given to young girls, are affecting their health and eating behaviour. This further contributes to advertising diverse body types that are realistic and representative because younger girls will first internalize Barbie Dolls’ body types and then move on and grow up to internalize that of models.  

Thankfully we are beginning to see positive changes in the fashion industry. Recently, Matell Inc., the creator of Barbie Dolls, has made a fundamental change in history. After selling the skinny beautiful Barbie Doll for almost fifty-seven years, a curvy Barbie doll was finally created; a Barbie doll with a tummy and thick thighs, which is quite a shocking change indeed. So, how did young girls perceive the new curvy Barbie doll? Interestingly, young females perceived the original skinny Barbie as ‘pretty, intelligent, helpful, and popular’. However, according to Harrigers et al., (2019) study, young girls perceived the curvy Barbie Doll negatively, by associating it with adjectives such as ‘chubby, fat, and big’. Sadly, this shows how some young girls internalize the ‘thin-ideal’ at a very early stage. 

BODY IMAGE IN THE ARAB WORLD

As the Arab region places high importance on Appearance (Behrens-Abouseif, 1999), it is with no surprise that body image concerns exist, which is exactly what I found in my research study regarding body image in the Lebanese population. Although several research studies have been conducted on body image in the Arab world, research regarding this topic in Lebanon is scarce. Research about body image is undeniably vital but this remains understudied in Lebanon, especially when it comes to how the media and internalizing a thin ideal influences women’s body dissatisfaction and eating attitudes. For this reason, my study extended on previous research and aimed to further the understanding of body image, by exploring the relationship between eating attitudes, body dissatisfaction and socio-cultural attitudes towards appearance (such as media pressures and thin-ideal internalization) in Lebanese women. The findings of my research study concluded that:

  • The more Lebanese women are dissatisfied with their bodies, the more likely they are to engage in abnormal eating behaviour.
  • The more Lebanese women feel pressured by the media, the more likely they are to be dissatisfied with their bodies.
  • The more Lebanese women feel pressured by the media, the more likely they are to engage in abnormal eating behaviour.
  • The more Lebanese women internalize the ‘thin-ideal’ portrayed by the media and magazines, the more likely they are to be dissatisfied with their bodies. 

This study illustrates the link between thin-ideal internalization, which is consistently reinforced by the fashion industry, and an increase in abnormal eating behaviours, excessive body dissatisfaction, and higher susceptibility to media pressure. Now more than ever, we are realizing the powerful impact we have on upcoming generations, so the question is, do we want them to look in the mirror and love what they see or not? 

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!

It’s that time of year when designers, models and industry experts are preparing to showcase six-months worth of work to the world. Although exciting and insightful, Fashion Week can be one of the busiest weeks of the year for many. Working days often exceed twelve-hours with tight deadlines, unforgiving schedules and inner-city traffic to contend with. For many, this leaves little time for self-care, rest and recovery which inevitably leads to burnout.

To help navigate the chaos of Fashion Week, here is a compilation of easy ways to manage stress and engage in some all-important ‘me time’.

1. Plan your outfits

Fashion Psychology

This may sound obvious but ensuring you days are planned as much as possible will give you structure and peace of mind that you know exactly what you are doing, where and at what time. 

 Similarly, try to plan outfits. What shows are you attending?  How much time do you have to change – and where? How long are you going to be out for; can you transition any outfits from day-to-night? Asking yourself these questions can help to narrow down options and ensure you are dressed appropriately and comfortably. 

But most importantly, pick clothes you feel great in! With cameras around what seems like every corner, it can be overwhelming. Putting the time in to prepare what you are going to wear, can help reduce stress and anxiety and even boost self-esteem. Wearing items of clothing you like and feel good in can improve psychological wellbeing, through the positive associations generated to the outfits (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). It may also help to improve sleep by ensuring you’re not lying awake until early hours of the morning, ruminating over potential outfit combinations.

2. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness exercises are often discounted, with the common perception that they’re a waste of time or require deep thought and attention – cognitive resources which seem in short supply during busy periods. Admittedly some exercises are more demanding than others, but giving yourself time in the day to ground your thoughts can be hugely beneficial (Bowlin & Baer, 2012). Something as small as listening to a podcast while commuting in-between shows (Headspace is a good one to try), practising deep breathing exercises or burning a calming candle at night can help to disengage from stressful thoughts and provide greater clarity of mind.

3. It is ok to say no

With hundreds of designers exhibiting collections throughout the week, there can be a subliminal pressure to schedule in as many shows as possible. Going against the instinct to say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, can actually be quite empowering (Patrick & Hagtvedt, 2012) and can improve productivity and mental health (Pourjari & Zarnaghash, 2010).

 It is important to recognise your limits and be selective in the shows you choose to see. When thinking about which to attend, also try to schedule in breaks and consider (the likely longer) commuting times. There may be some changes throughout the week but limiting the number of events you attend will give you greater flexibility to adapt – and crucially, remain calm. A number of shows are now made available online too, so it is easier than ever to catch up on those you couldn’t make it to.

4. Stay fuelled

With lots of things to do, people to see and places to be, it can be easy for attention to be directed away sufficiently fuelling our bodies. One simple way to combat this is to ensure snacks are to hand at all times. Nuts, energy bars and smoothies can help to provide your body with the healthy fats, protein and vitamins it needs to keep going throughout long days. Meal-prepping in your spare time can also be an easy way to stock up on nutritious meals that simply need reheating in the evening. 

 In addition, it may be worth incorporating more specific foods into your diet, which research has found to have stress and anxiety-combatting abilities. Some examples include walnuts, bananas and chocolate which have been thought to possess antidepressant, mood-lifting and pleasure-inducing properties, respectively (Trivedi, Patel, Prajapati & Pinto, 2015). Furthermore, while a strong coffee can make early mornings a little more bearable, excess caffeine consumption can heighten anxiety (Brice & Smith, 2002), so perhaps opt for a bottle of water over a large cappuccino post-midday.  

5. Schedule in sleep

Finally, ensure you are allowing yourself enough sleep. Functioning on a sleep-deprived body and brain is not easy on an average day, so during the long, demanding days of Fashion Week, getting eight hours sleep is even more important. Sleep helps our bodies to repair and restore, preventing us from catching illness, irritability and being unable to concentrate. Getting a good night’s sleep can increase stamina and prevent burnout, post- Fashion Week.

Although it is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, anticipated weeks of the year in the industry, it is no secret that Fashion Week can be one of the most overwhelming too. However, by following just a few of these tips, or simply taking the time to implement small acts of self-care, the mayhem can become a little more manageable.

We often see style as a projection of ourselves; a way to emphasise personal uniqueness or seek group similarity. But whatever the purpose of our fashion ‘identity’, the acute awareness societies have accumulated across places and time could actually be a method of self-affirmation and consequently, protection from potential mental disorders.

Cultural dressing and mental health

What we wear is a reflection of who we are and knowing who we are as individuals can help improve mental wellbeing by giving us a sense of direction, purpose and security. For example, clothing preferences can influence mental wellbeing and reduce the general risk of mental health issues – so long as it is synonymous with an individual’s social groups (Bhui, et al, 2008). For some, making culturally traditional clothing choices can lead to a lower risk of mental health problems, but for others making ‘integrated’ clothing choices (ones which are trend-led) can reduce this risk.

Wearing traditional clothing can feel protective; it reflects a sheltered upbringing and adherence to religion, whilst wearing trend-led pieces can give others a sense of social status and confidence. Therefore, perhaps it’s not literally what one wears that enhances wellbeing, but rather what it stands for in our social circles. Adopting another culture’s traditional clothing style can not only be interpreted as cultural appropriation, it can also create intrafamilial conflict as it differs to the identity of your peers. Therefore, style potentially has the power to mediate relationships with others, affecting our mental health.

Dress yourself happy

Having a sense of personal style may also be influential at a cognitive level. Having positive self-evaluations, and an exaggerated perception of control and optimism can promote a positive mental state (Taylor et al, 1988). This may seem self-explanatory but what you may not know is that fashion can be a mechanism by which we can enhance our self-perceptions. By giving ourselves the power and freedom to dress as we please, we can enhance our preferred features and mask our insecurities, contributing to an increasingly positive, optimistic view of oneself.

Having a positive illusion of our bodies and capabilities has been reported to aid us in dealing with negative feedback more constructively. Therefore, the next time you have an important event, make sure to wear those special heels, your favourite tie or even your lucky underwear – it could be your secret weapon to happiness.

Take Pride in your Appearance 

With all of this in mind, much of our mental well-being arguably pins on our levels of self-esteem. Having high self-esteem can help to reduce the livelihood of suffering a mental disorder to displaying antisocial behaviours (Mann et al, 2004). Therefore, encouraging young children and adolescents to take pride and care in their appearance could stretch further than vanity, rather it could be used as a preventative measure from troubled behaviours and poor health later in life. Focussing on boosting self-esteem via fashion may in fact be beneficial in healthcare and education programmes – it will give individuals more confidence and security in who they are. This can also have the additional benefit of boosting job prospects; by knowing how to dress well improves first impressions and chances of succeeding in an interview. The additional income and ability to maintain busy can also keep people out of trouble – also giving wider societal benefits.

Fashion clearly has a role to play in promoting a positive self-image and reducing mental health issues in individuals. Although it may not be the sole cure to mental disorders, feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin can boost your sense of identity and self-esteem, which consequently improves mental wellbeing. Treating yourself to a new t-shirt or tie may not necessarily be something to feel guilty about – it could be contributing to a positive self-image and protecting you from a predisposed mental health issue.

Another Fashion Month has arrived! With conversations around mental wellbeing taking hold in the fashion industry, many have began to wonder whether the seemingly never ending cycle of fashion shows are necessary in our modern climate. While there are many reasons why the industry can slow down and produce less, we’ve revealed the Psychological reason why that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“Fashions fade, style is eternal” any fashion lover worth their salt is aware of that famous Yves Saint Laurent quote. But if style is to be coveted over seasonal and seemily temporary fashion collections then why do we salivate at the thought of more collections and more shows in more cities around the world? Aside from the big 4, buyers, editors, bloggers and stylists are heading to increasingly well attended events in cities such as Copehagen, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Florence. Aside from Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, in the article ‘What the Hell Are Resort and Cruise Collections and Why Are They So Lucrative?’ Kam Dhillon illustrates how designers are having to hastily create lines throughout the year for Pre-Fall, Pre-Spring and Resort all to suit consumer demand. Oftentimes however, consumer demand and creativity do not go hand in hand. You may remember when Riccardo Tisci cited exhaustion as one of the reasons behind his shocking departure from Givenchy in 2017. Two years prior, when WWD asked ‘Is Fashion Heading for a Burnout?’, fresh off the heels of his departure from Balenciaga, Alexander Wang brought up the intensity that comes with having to churn out an increasing number of collections.

Specifically speaking about the show system, I think that’s something everyone is challenged with — the immediacy of things, and the idea of how to deliver in this system, where the attention span has become nonexistent.

If the mental wellbeing of designers isn’t enough to stop the seemingly unending fashion show cycle then many argue that social media would surely slow it down. When discussing whether Fashion Shows still matter Jenna Igneri, associate fashion and beauty editor for NYLON had this to say:

I think fashion shows are becoming more and more irrelevant as time goes on. Thanks to technology, anyone can view a fashion show or presentation from anywhere in the world—sometimes even live—so that glamorous feeling of exclusivity has long been lost.

Originally the concept of a fashion week presented as a clear solution for industry professionals to either report on or order from designers across the globe in a  convenient and timely manner. Now, as social media has afforded consumers the ability to live stream fashion shows around the globe from the comfort of their own homes many, like Igneri have come to wonder, are these large scale productions required every 4-6 months? While the true answer may be no, as fashion shows become increasingly consumer focused, psychological research indicates that they’re unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Every time a fashion show launches consumers are offered something new and that in itself is something simply too rewarding to pass up. Studies have found that we are hardwired to be attracted to novelty. In a study published in Neuron, researchers showed participants a series of images. After participants had become familiar with those images, researchers added a new “oddball” image. Measurements of participants brain activity revealed that the brain’s pleasure centres lit up when this new “oddball” image was introduced resulted in a flood of dopamine, the same chemical that is released when we eat good food and have great sex. In another study conducted at the University College London, participants were shown 4 cards one of which had a monetary reward. When the participant chose this card their brain’s pleasure processors lit up. After a time, researchers introduced new cards to participants. The result? Participants tended to choose novelty cards over the known money-making card. While this appears to be incredibly counter-intuitive, it clearly demonstrates the power that novelty has over us.

Shiny new things are not just for babies. If fashion consumers and industry professionals are no longer presented with the rush of dopamine that occurs every time they’re presented with a new show or collection then they will likely give up on the brand and look for pleasure elsewhere. Research into brain health also shows that regular experience of novelty is essential to a long and happy life. The next challenge that the industry faces is mitigating this need for novelty alongside the need for designers to maintain their mental wellbeing.

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In order to fully discover the impact that fashion and clothing has on our wellbeing, we took one quote from psychiatry professor, Raphael Bonelli and we asked two established figures within the Mental Health Community three questions to delve deeper into the link between choice of dress and mental health.

What were your initial thoughts after reading this quote?

I found this quote insightful as it merges the worlds of the psychology of fashion with the psychology around mental health and wellbeing. I believe that the quote is powerful because it highlights those subtle changes that can be present for someone who may be experiencing difficult times and whose mental health is not at its best. It’s relatable. 

I think we all can think about times when we wanted to stay put in our pyjamas, not want to wear makeup or even drag on the nearest thing we can find when we aren’t feeling great. In contrast, we can think about when we make an extra special effort to dress well to impress, celebrate occasions or look great on 

holiday. Whether we like it or not, particular types of clothing does communicate many things about the person we are or the person we would like to be and it is all a part of our identity and how we feel about ourselves.

As a mental health advocate, would you say that the appearance of others, is always deemed as a cry for help?

Not always. It also depends on how well you know the person. For example, I have a friend that absolutely loves fashion and always dresses to impress and if suddenly one day I saw her dressed less than how she usually presents – I may ask questions because that would be so unlike her, but for another friend who isn’t too concerned about appearance, I may not ask that question.

I have also worked in mental health settings and hygiene and appearance can become one of the clear signs that someone is experiencing something. With some things like depression a sense of helplessness and loss of interest in activities can present itself in our appearance.

One may feel like there is no point in making an effort to present well as they may believe for example that they won’t be going out anyway or they don’t have any loved ones to impress or enjoy activities with anyway. The loss of motivation can impact on our appearance and how we value ourselves, but this isn’t always 100% true for everyone.

How do you think style of dress impacts people within the mental health field?

Working in the world of Psychology, I can say that from people I have come to know, some are very intentional in how they present themselves. Some choose to be simplistic and some have a set wardrobe of clothing – almost like a uniform. Myself, I choose to be 100% expressive in what I wear when working with clients and young people especially. I am aware that I represent something and I communicate something.

For me, it is important that people can relate to me and don’t feel closed off. I love to wear bright colours as I find it creates a warm atmosphere with people I work with. I find often people are suddenly relieved when they see me because they often have felt they were going to be met with someone who presents as very “authoritative” which can be a scary experience if it is your first time accessing mental health services. I think Psychology is such a person-centred profession and so professionals should just dress in a way that is suitable but also presents who they are as a person too.

 

❝Many people have no idea that their clothes can play such a significant role in their mood 

Astin Wangel-Brown is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles. She has received specialized training as a Certified Couples and Family Therapist. She uses her expertise in relational therapy and evidence-based solution focused treatment in supporting clients to clarify, create and act on goals for desired change.

As a therapist, how much does the appearance of others impact your assessment of them?

There are so many social factors that impact appearance and how appearance is perceived that judging one’s mental health on appearance should only be one part of a much more involved assessment. With this being said, yes I might at least become curious about possible symptoms such as depression if a person is disheveled and maybe even anxiety if the person is impeccably groomed.

What is your opinion on the first sentence of Bonelli’s quote?

So it’s actually the first sentence that I struggled with most. On one hand, yes, absolutely, withdrawal and disinterest are primary symptoms of depression and this commonly manifests with us not showering or getting dressed for the day or not being

invested in our appearance at all. Some symptoms of psychosis can manifest in us layering clothes and using objects and materials that are not meant to be worn to dress ourselves. So yes, there is truth to this statement!

How do you think style of dress impacts people within the mental health field

Again, because I think appearance and dress should be looked at psychologically and socially at once, it feels difficult to answer this simply. I think therapists also practice mental health and wellness daily for themselves and their dress can be affected by how they are feeling just like anyone else. 

I believe dress and wardrobe education is necessary for empowering people to choose the clothing items that make them look and feel like their best self. Without this information, many people have no idea that their clothes can play such a significant role in their mood or that their wardrobe telling a story about their mood.

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week we are bringing back one of our favourite pieces highlighting the positive impact of meditation on Mental Wellbeing. 

Meditation is one of the most ancient and effective practices of combating stress, but how can we incorporate such an old practice into our technology driven lives? Nicola Mouskis explores the importance of meditation and the latest app that helps us weave it into our daily routine. 

With fashion designers adopting dual roles and the industry at its fastest pace ever, there has never been a more important time to step back and ‘take ten.’ 

Last year Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz gave a speech at the FGI (Fashion Group International) Night of Stars awards which embodied the daily pressures imposed on the industry following the rise of social media and other technological developments. “We are living in a smart world. It’s all about smart design, smart product and technology.” Whilst these developments are offering designers creative possibilities beyond their imagination, they are producing 24-hour work schedules that are leaving designers “exhausted.” 

Thus, these pressures are producing fatigue and stress levels that are ultimately hindering the innate creative talent that designers depend on. In his book Creativity is Forever, Gary A. Davis pin points the factors that block creative thought such as: high stress levels, fear of criticism and various social anxieties.  And so the question arises – what is being done to beat these factors and reduce the effects of stress? 

Amongst many of our hippie in heels fads, meditation has been adopted as a practice amongst many within the fashion industry from fashion designers to supermodels; everyone is giving the ancient practice a try. But with a busy 24-hour schedule run by technology it must be hard to incorporate such an ancient practice into our lifestyles – wrong. In a new wave of apps, meditation has become as easy as sending a text message. 

It is fundamental that we adopt practices such as meditation

In 2010, former monk Andy Puddicombe co-founded the meditation app Headspace in an effort to make meditation more accessible to the world. Since its launch, more than 150 countries have downloaded the app worldwide. In a brief welcome animation of the app Puddicombe describes Headspace as a ‘gym membership for the mind that can train the mind for a healthier, happier more enjoyable life.’ Expectedly so with evidence published over the years that suggests meditation helps reduce the harmful effects of stressful lifestyles.

Before subscription, the app offers a ‘Take Ten’ program, which consists of ten, ten-minute sessions for ten days. Guiltily, I was slightly sceptical before downloading the app, as I was keen to step away from my phone and any devices that bound me to my work and daily routine. However once I watched the welcome animations and set out with my first ten-minute session I saw the app as an easy introduction to meditation.

I continued the ten days consecutively, finding it difficult at first to remain loyal to taking time out of my day, however by the seventh day I found it easier to incorporate it into my morning routine and sooner or later it became second nature. Whilst the effects were minor and almost unnoticeable, I found that by the end of the ten days my patience for things around me had grown and conversations became easier, I took the time out to listen more. In a recent video blog for Vogue, Puddicombe describes this as the ‘ripple effects’ of meditation and that the positive energies we gain from it are eventually reflected onto others through our calmer state of mind.

By the tenth day I caved and subscribed to the app, looking forward to all the other meditation sessions on offer such as a series on sleep, health and even relationships. One of the most prominent differences I came to identify since using the app was my revived desire to sketch. It seems after introducing myself to meditation I had began to knock down the factors that Davis stated blocked creative thought and in a more recent publication by Preston Bentley, Meditation Made Easy we are told of the benefits meditation has on creativity. He describes the meditative process as one that “strengthens the architectures of your brain allowing you to think faster and visualize better.”

Ultimately with the foundations of our future being built around technology and an ever-growing pace of demands, it is fundamental that we adopt practices such as meditation that enable us to exercise our mind and breaking down boundaries that hinder our creativity and create more of a mindful experience. 

Fashion psychologists suggest that the link between style and mood is stronger than we think

The subjective complexion of human emotions has made distinct sensations, like “happiness”, difficult to quantify. Happiness is generally contingent upon a person’s unique perspective, perception, or preference. The way we dress can flamboyantly express our preferences, but it can also attract superfluous perceptions. When we wake up in the morning, we have a divine power that no other species on this planet has. That power is called Choice. Unless you have an occupation that issues standard uniforms, when you begin your day, you have a choice of what you can (and should) drape over your body. If you’re happy, you’ll more than likely wear something that expresses your happiness. If you’re sad, you’ll more than likely wear something that expresses the feeling of sadness. The correlation between how we dress and how we feel have raised questions in the psychology community that researchers are in the midst of passionately pursuing. If how we dress commences the feeling of happiness, is it possible that being consistently happy can affect what we choose to wear?

While fashion experts continue to capitalize on the effects of clothing, psychology experts are examining the influence that clothing has on moods. Professor Karen Pine, a leading expert in fashion psychology, confirms that the more we know about enclothed cognition and how it can lift a person’s mood, the less we will need anti-depressant medication. In a current news release published by Goodtherapy.org, several Applied Psychology professionals conducted research on the link between clothing choices and emotional states.
 
A group of one hundred women, ranging from the ages 21 to 64 years old, participated in this informative study. The results of this study found that clothing choices such as jeans, sweatshirts, and baggier apparel, could all be associated with depressed or sad moods. Interestingly, 51% of the women in the study wore jeans when they felt sad or depressed, while only 33% of the women wore jeans when they felt happy or positive. Donna Stellhorn, a Feng Shui expert who contributed her professional thoughts on how we interact with our environment, agreed with these results.

“When we reach for jeans we want something familiar because things around us are stressful”

​​She believes that lazy attire, such as jeans or t-shirts, indicate where a person’s mental energy is focused. “When we reach for jeans we want something familiar because things around us are stressful”, Stellhorn explained. Other results of the study found that accessories, such as hats and jewelry, can also affect women’s moods. Hats in particular, on men and women, usually pinpoint a person of power. Hats warrant attention, and in some cases, it helps a person cover up an insecurity so that the person can feel confident enough to interact with other individuals. Interacting with the opposite sex has been another major point of emphasis for clothing choices as well, but limited studies have yet to secure concrete results in this area.
 
Although men weren’t included in this study, some results could be similar for them as well. “A separate study on men should be considered. Men are much more focused on functionality in their wardrobe than women, regardless of emotional state. So, I do think there may be some general similarities, but overall women’s results would probably be more dramatic”, explained Shauna Mackenzie Heathman, owner of Mackenzie Image Consulting.
 
Overall, the emphasis of the study explained fashion’s powerful ability to create a perception of happiness.  When we’re feeling happy, we generally wear clothes that have good quality, good fit, and bright colors. When we are feeling unhappy, we take the focus off of our appearance and put our mental energy on whatever is making us unhappy. While women tend to be more in tuned with their emotions, they’re more likely to express their moods through visual stimulations—a theory that adheres to how women attract men. Men’s emotional adherence to clothing tends to be associated with colors—colors make a person standout more. Dressing happy when we’re happy isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just predictable!

Being predictable, based on your mood, isn’t what fashion is about. Fashion isn’t about making the effort to “look the part”. Fashion is about being the part. Fashion is about expressing who you are, no matter what mood you’re in. Daniel Gilbert’s concept of Synthetic Happiness suggests that we have the power to manipulate what makes us happy. In other words, we can either give clothes the power to make us happy, or we can use clothing as a tool to express how we’re feeling at any given time.