Could Fashion Have An Impact On Mental Health?

Could you feel more confident depending on the outfit you wear? More powerful, optimistic, fearless? How about the opposite? Have you ever wondered if your choice of clothes has a relation with your inner thoughts?

In a previous post, we’ve popped the question of whether buying clothes could make us happier or it’s just marketing pushing us to compulsive shopping.

And while it’s true that it does have an impact, there is a difference between the psychology of fashion and reaching our lowest emotions to impulse us to buy more to relieve the stress we’re dealing with (which was the main point of our post Is buying new clothes really making us happy?).


But let’s focus now on the psychology of fashion, because yes, psychology does play a role when it comes to the choices of our clothing.

If you ever watched “The devil wears Prada” you might remember when Miranda told Andy that you don’t just choose a colour out of nowhere, the trend forecast does it for you, and while that is often true, it also involves other facts.

Very regularly you don’t choose an outfit or colour randomly.

Emotions play a big role in Fashion.

How you dress affects your mood, and how you feel like affects your choices of outfits, it works both ways.

In her short kindle book “Mind what you wear the psychology of fashion” by Professor Karen Pine, she combines her knowledge of fashion with psychological theories studied to understand why people wear what they wear. She describes how your personality affects and is affected by your wardrobe; choosing the right outfit might lead you to life-changing decisions or how when you’re dressed down it can make you feel like hiding and being transparent.

According to the psychology of fashion, clothes speak to people.

And it works like attraction, when you have positive thoughts, you attract positive, but when you have negative thoughts, well guess what you attract.

“Dress to kill” exists for a reason, so when you feel powerful, you wear something that matches that state of mind and with that your confidence gets higher.


On the other hand, when you’re feeling down, it’s normal that all you want to do is wear comfy clothes such as sweatpants and while that is completely ok, it’s also ok to try to cheer yourself up by wearing something that you completely love to try to put you in a better mood.

It’s not about changing who we are and acting like a different person (or at least it shouldn’t), it’s about giving ourselves a boost, like a pep talk, we’re trying to embrace ourselves, to cheers us up, to be inspired, and clothing can have that exact effect.

Enclothed cognition

“It has long been known that clothing affects how other people perceive us, as well as how we think about ourselves”. - Adam Galinsky


Enclothed cognition is a term introduced by Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky that illustrates that clothing impacts human cognition based on two primary concepts, the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them.

To get answers to this term, they made a few experiments that involved a group of people being assigned to certain activities while wearing a doctor’s coat, a painter’s coat and wearing  no coat but seeing a doctor’s coat in front of them while performing the activity. The results were that the participants had a higher level of attention and performed better while wearing a doctor’s coat; this was also affected when the participants learned they were wearing a doctor’s coat, proving that not only by the physical experience of wearing a piece of clothing can psychologically affect you but also by knowing the importance of such clothing.

"Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions" – Pablo Picasso

It has been known that colour can also affect our moods; if you ever felt certain types of emotions or moods depending on the colours of the rooms you were in, that could be the reason.

It has also been known that colour can help with both psychical and mental health improvement. Chromotherapy is an ancient alternative medicine that has been used to improve and cure different types of illnesses by using light in form of colours to balance the energy of a person’s body.

The meanings that one can give to colours can be subjective, based on personal experiences and cultures. But in general research colours had been associated to different types of meanings such as:

  • White: Innocence, purity, goodness.

  • Yellow: happiness, hope, joy, optimism, vitality.

  • Orange: Energy, ambition, extroversion.

  • Pink: Love, romance, inspiration.

  • Red: Confidence, stimulation, power, passion.

  • Brown: Natural, stability, reliable.

  • Purple: Creativity, luxury, royalty.

  • Green: Balance, prosperity, growth.

  • Blue: Serenity, intelligence, trust.

  • Black: Strength, elegance, protection.

Depending on our mood or even the kind of activity we would realize, we chose the colours we think might work for that precise moment, and that can either affect how we feel or what we want to project to others.

Natural fibers are healthier and more comfortable to wear.

Just as we take care our what we eat for physical health and we look after what types of cosmetics we women should use for skin care, we should also take consideration of what kind of materials we are using for our skins in terms of clothing.


Polyester, rayon, nylon, acrylic, and acetate, are common materials used for it. They are highly popular and often cheap, but there’s a reason for that, just as veggies and fruits are known to be treated with pesticides, these materials are treated with chemicals, and while it’s not only dangerous to the people working in their manufacturing, it could also mean that it is somehow damaging for the people wearing them.


The choice of using natural fibers in our clothing can both affect our bodies and minds. The touch of something natural makes us feel good on its own, it’s soft, it’s comfortable, it’s nature. Mixing that with the fact that using natural resources in our wardrobe improves our level of sustainability, and that can even change our inner energy.


When it comes to natural choices, we are actually excluding all clothing that contains or is involved in any use of animal products, first of all, because they can’t be considered as natural when they are being treated with chemicals, and let’s not forget about animal abuse.

Wearing something that we know can do good to other people, to the planet, and to the animals, by respecting them and not using them for our own purposes, can make us feel better and improve our mental health, and with that our physical one. 


It is no magic, and if someone is suffering from any kind of serious illness, either physical or mental, you should still look for professional guidance, no disease it’s going to go on its own, it needs to be properly treated, but as far as we can do on our own to try to help either our own personal treatments or just those low key moments that we might sometimes have, we can always recure to our wardrobes to boost ourselves up and shine!

Georgina Servin
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