Dopamine Fashion: Dress to boost your mood with this season’s most cheering styles
Designers have fully embraced dopamine fashion this season. The SS22 runways were bursting with acid brights and sunset shades spanning the rainbow, revealing looks that are guaranteed to brighten up your wardrobe and your mood. Here, contributing fashion editor Flora Macdonald Johnston explores the trend and picks her favourite uplifting pieces to take you through to autumn.
If there is one thing that united the Spring / Summer 22 shows, it was sheer, colourful joy. Fashion is finally veering away from the fail-safe ensembles of head-to-toe black in favour of sunset to sunrise colours, bright citrus shades and neon hues. And I am here for it.
Miuccia Prada translated neon yellow onto silk dresses with exaggerated waistlines, Proenza Schouler showcased head-to-toe blood orange tailored suits and there were megawatt mini-skirt suits at Moschino (do I spy my new office wear?!). At Valentino, delicately pleated dresses were given a hard edge with neon green, while Versace popped with fluoro tones. Cult London-based designer Richard Quinn created a jaw-dropping showstopper. A gigantic yellow taffeta gown that puffed out at the model’s bust and waist distorting her body, swathes of fabric rustled and trailed behind her as she walked. It was as if the model was transformed into a high-fashion sunbeam.
Flora MacDonald Johnston
Even Nensi Dojaka – whose layered, deconstructed party and swim wear with its slashes, cut-outs and flesh reveals typically comes in her signature black, burgundy and nude – has turned up the colour. A new collaboration by the 2021 LVMH Prize-winning designer and MyTheresa has resulted in a capsule collection in Opal Fruit shades of pink, orange and yellow.
This fervent output of dopamine dressing makes perfect sense. Dopamine is the most common neurotransmitter in our brain, explains behavioural psychologist Dr Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion. Its main role is to motivate us to reach a reward. “If that reward is to get a positive outcome from our appearance, then our dopamine is going to kick in and it’s going to give us that boost.” And while wearing punchy, vibrant hues to improve our psyche isn’t a new phenomenon, in our current world of uncertainty and crisis, we’ve never needed a mood-boosting wardrobe more.
It was the same after both World Wars. Just look at the feathers and flamboyance of the Roaring Twenties or Dior’s New Look in the late 1940s – both knee-jerk reactions to the austerity and misery that preceded them. The pandemic has also meant that fashion has been primarily translated through screens and our devices, in other words, lacklustre. Zoom fatigue became the droll buzzword. Now, as we rejoin the world, we want to show that we’re back.
“Over our lifespan we come to associate particular colours with particular objects, occasions and emotions as a result of our experiences and socialisation (upbringing) … The reason a colour can boost our mood is that it reminds us of something positive, like summer for example,” continues Mair. “Red might remind us of romance as a result of its association with the heart and more recently, Valentine’s Day.
The more we hear paired associations – such as, yellow is a happy colour – the more they become beliefs. When perceptions become beliefs, they influence our behaviour and therefore, the outcomes of our behaviour. We tend to associate orange with joy, for example, but individuals have their own preferences.”
Indeed, Jessica Payne, head of fashion at sharing platform Pinterest, says that ‘dopamine dressing’ is the heavy hitting trend this year – especially amongst Gen Z. In fact, it’s the most popular fashion search of 2022 so far, higher even than ‘Regency Fashion’ with this spring’s Bridgerton craze. Searches for ‘electric blue outfit’ have increased 140 per cent, so, too, phrases such as ‘vibrant outfits’ and ‘rainbow dress’. Hence this season’s hyper-bright collections.
“There were bursts of colour and sparkles everywhere [at the spring/summer shows]; a mark of a season where we can embrace going out-out again,” says Ida Petersson, buying director at Browns Fashion when asked why dopamine colours have hit the runway so heavily. On the increase of sunny shades, Petersson believes it’s because yellow is “the perfect accent throughout collections… the right shade against certain skin-tones can be one of the most powerful style statements you can make. It can literally illuminate the lucky wearer.” (Incidentally, for those craving the happy hit, she tells me there will be plenty of Valentino and Versace stocked at Browns this summer.)
Petersson is not wrong, according to the colour masters at the Pantone Colour Institute, who have collated responses and reactions to yellow for the past 30 years, the most common phrases given in reply have been ‘warmth’, ‘cheer’, and ‘playfulness’. It’s our big dopamine-inducing-life-giving star. This sense of playfulness resonates with me. When I am tired (too many close deadlines and late nights) the more kaleidoscopic I become. A favourite uplifting look of mine is Stella McCartney’s Happy jumper paired with my Gucci green trousers.
But there is one look and one designer who must be mentioned – Jacquemus. Arguably Instagram and TikTok’s most fodderable and viral designer. For his SS22 show he transported guests to the sun-soaked shores of Oahu, Hawaii where models walked down an idyllic beach, dressed in popping shades of electric blue, neon green – and yes – head-to-toe yellow from lemon to sunset. One particular ensemble caught my eye, a slim-fit tailored orange hued trouser and short-sleeved shirt styled with matching gloves. The environment, the weather, that look. The smile on my face as I write simply confirms the matter. Consider me fully dopamine dosed.
Show Your Stripes
Nautical stripes and Breton tops need to get to the back of the line – bold colours are the new modern way to go linear. Jil Sander and Keneth Ize embraced stripes from head-to-toe with bright shirting, wide-leg trousers and wrap skirts. Brandon Maxwell sent green and orange horizontal stripes down the runway, Duro Olowu went vertical, and Daniel Roseberry, Creative Director of Schiaparelli, used thick red-and-white markings across suit sets and kaftan dresses for his Surrealist’s Holiday collection in a playful twist on the beach umbrella.
In Fine Feather
What better way for designers to herald a joyous new season than with feathers? Not only were colourful tops, mini-skirts and dresses embellished entirely with Ostrich feathers at Valentino, Creative Director Piccioli Pierpaolo even translated them onto accessories, shoes and bags too. At Giambattista Valli, feathers featured on pink 1950s style dresses and Alesandro Michele of Gucci made Cousin ‘IT’ cool, showcasing a huge cocoon-shaped red feathered coat with contrasting green ruff that tucked just below the chin. It was both whimsical and witty in equal measure.
We’re used to seeing fringe on the runway, adorning a jacket here, embellishing a hem there, but designers ripped up the fringe rule book for summer and these ribbon-like details became bolder – and much much bigger. At Chloe, dresses featured plaited and twisted multicoloured cords that ran the length of the garments from collarbone to shin, and tops featured chunky oversized fringing at the shoulders and hems. Proenza Schouler, too, had hefty and thick fringing translated onto block colour evening dresses in fire-engine red and yellow for the full swish effect.