Post-pandemic Dressing for Success

Post-pandemic Dressing for Success

What we wear does matter, even though #dopaminedressing isn’t actually a thing.

Emily in Paris is a mostly vapid show that relies on lazy stereotypes—pretty, young With grit and innovative thinking, an American persuades snobbish French sophisticates to buy into a clichéd tale of a fish out of water. But isn’t that the reason no one is watching, really? Emily’s real appeal is in its luscious locations, and, of course, its protagonist’s gloriously over-the-top work wardrobe. Emily has nailed “dopamine dressing” in the office, which is supposedly the defining trend of post-pandemic fashion.

Dopamine dressing is a hashtag-ready pop-neuro-psych concept that sparked headlines in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other publications throughout 2022. You may be familiar with the power pose, but what about the power wardrobe? According to the theory, certain clothing or color combinations can increase our feelings of happiness, optimism, and power. This may have measurable positive effects on performance. Tying this feeling of empowerment to the alleged release of dopamine, the neurochemical implicated in generating feelings of satisfaction or reward, both fulfill a cultural need to locate complex emotional experiences “in the brain” and is a satisfying alliteration. But, as Carolyn Mair, behavioral psychologist, business consultant, and author of The Psychology of Fashion, put it, “If you understand dopamine, dopamine dressing doesn’t really make sense.”

Simply put, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the idea that dressing up makes us feel that excited. If anything is going to trigger a release of dopamine, it’s more likely to be buying the clothes than wearing them. But anyone who has put on clothing that immediately makes them feel good can attest to how intuitively sensible the concept is.

That is due to the fact that what we put on our bodies has an effect on how we act, think, and natural feel. “What we wear can make us feel bad, insecure, awful, anxious, afraid of social embarrassment,” said Mair. “The difference between the two is feeling at ease, both physically and psychologically, in what you’re wearing. Alternatively, it can make us feel amazing.”


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