Style and Mental Health: The Link Between Fashion and Your Mood


For many people, their unique sense of style isn’t just a reflection of their personalities or an extension of themselves. What we wear also is, interestingly enough, a candid peek into our psyche. While dressing in a certain way can indicate to others hints about our hobbies and interests, it can also afford an intimate glance at a person’s mental wellbeing. Even more curious, not only can it reveal how you feel inside, but it can also directly impact your moods, too.

According to recent research out of the University of Hertfordshire, the clothes we wear are a mirror into our minds. Similarly, the research found that the outfit we put on in the morning can also dramatically influence how we feel for the rest of the day. While this study may not be too surprising in and of itself, it is a fairly novel revelation. After all, it’s the first of its kind that addresses the link between what we reach for in our closets and our mental health.

What is “Depression” Clothing?

We’ve all been there: we woke up feeling blah, and we lack the desire to do much more than reach for our most cozy pair of sweats when we get out of bed that morning. While not all of us have the luxury of being able to lounge around the house in our pajamas all day, we all have that outfit in the back of our closets. You know the one… it’s probably black, oversized, and feels like a hug wrapped around you. According to Professor Karen Pine, it’s our “depression outfit.”

When she polled 100 women, she asked them what they wore when they were feeling depressed. Over half of the respondents admitted to wearing jeans and a baggy shirt on days that they were feeling down in the dumps. In fact, only 2% of the people polled said they would wear baggy clothes if they were in a good mood. From this, Professor Pine hypothesized that when we’re feeling depressed — and, as women, greater than 1 in 10 of us will experience it in our lifetimes — we want to be anonymous.

The Modern Power Suit

If jeans and a baggy tee-shirt are our depression outfit, then what exactly is our “happy outfit”? According to the same study, it’s the very opposite. Happy clothes tend to look exactly how you might expect them to look, with bold, bright, and vibrant colors. They may also be form-fitting or have a particular shape to them, and unlike depression clothes, they are the antithesis of anonymity. Instead, they say, “Look at me!” In a way, they’re not unlike a bird’s plumage, drawing the eye to the wearer.

Furthermore, clothes don’t only show how we’re feeling. They can also impact our emotions, too. In a way, it makes sense. Take, for instance, getting dressed before a big date. You’re going to reach for your cutest or sexiest outfit, and in turn, you’ll also feel cute and sexy. The same thing goes for a job interview. You’re going to wear your power suit, and when you wear it, you’ll stride into the interview feeling like you can take on the world. In many ways, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Can Fashion Replace Therapy?

From dressing in a slinky, leopard-print number on your anniversary, to grabbing your most favorite tattered sweatshirt when you’re feeling blue, our clothes are an extension of ourselves. They inspire us, they comfort us, and they make us feel our very best — even when we’re feeling our very worst. No matter what you wear, however, it’s important to remember that your attire is not a replacement for mental health treatment. With so many men and women struggling with mental health issues, seeking out help may be the best solution.

While wearing a certain outfit can offer a temporary pick-me-up, it’s no replacement for proper mental healthcare. Fortunately, there are many options out there that can help, especially if your feelings of sadness are lingering for longer than usual. Talk therapy, for instance, can help you sort through these negative feelings. TMS therapy has also been shown to be beneficial, as well. If you’re wondering what is TMS for depression, it’s a novel treatment that has been demonstrated as being helping those who may have treatment-resistant depression.

No matter what you wear, however, you deserve to be happy. If it’s your most comfortable pair of yoga pants, or it’s a pair of skinny jeans with mile-high stilettos, there’s no wrong way to embrace your unique sense of style. Even if you feel your happiest in a comfortable shirt and jeans, there’s no wrong way to get dressed in the morning. And by combining a little bit of fashion therapy with treatment from a trained healthcare provider, you can help make sure you’re living your very best life, free from depression.