We live in the darkest timeline. With increasingly worrying political and social news, it's easy to feel a little down.
So when I heard about "dopamine dressing" — which supposedly boosts your mood with the colors you wear — I was curious. The idea is that swathing yourself in head-to-toe color, prints, and all-around fun fashion acts as an antidote to dark days.
But these days are QUITE dark, and how on God's green earth does throwing on some polka dots and canary yellow act as the fashion equivalent of an antidepressant? I decided to go on a week-long dopamine dressing mission to find out.
Here's how I typically dress on a normal day, for reference. I'm usually very quick at piecing my simple, everyday outfits together — but dopamine dressing required extra care.
On a normal day, I typically take a quick glance through my closet, armoire, and dresser to piece together an outfit — about a 10-minute process.
However, choosing "dopamine dressing" outfits that were bright or fun enough to turn heads was time-consuming. I spent about 20 to 30 minutes assembling an outfit every day of the week! As a full-time writer, time is not something I have much of.
I had barely begun my experiment and I was already annoyed — not a great start.
But I bravely persevered.
However, I also felt much more self-conscious and definitely overdressed for the coffee shop I worked at that day. It's not exactly a "sit and sip coffee in a corner" kind of outfit, but I definitely rocked it.
Charles Henry Sleeveless Fit n' Flare Dress in Royal Blue (sadly sold out)
Auliné Collection Casual Work Solid Color Knit Blazer ($24, Amazon)
Plaid Platform Boots in Yellow (also sold out, sadly, but these UNIF ones are very similar)
For work on day two, I headed to the public library — partially because I needed to use their internet connection, and partially because I wanted to see how people reacted to my outfit.
Most reactions were just confused, blank stares, but I was also met with a few compliments. Maybe it was because I practically radiated sunshine on an otherwise dreary day.
Hot Kiss Tribal Flares (sold out, but here's a similar pair from Fashion Nova, $20)
Tie-Front Crop Tee (Papaya, $7)
Sheer Floral Zip-Up (Thrifted)
Blue Calcite Wire-Wrapped Crystal Necklace (Handmade!)
Day 3: Gingham and Rainbow
As I was putting together and outfit for my third day of dopamine dressing, I decided to do a little more research on the topic. The Guardian noted that it's more about how you feel in specific clothing rather than finding the brightest items in your closet. So, with that, I chose an ensemble that consisted of a few of my favorite things: gingham, rainbow, a fanny pack, and a bandana.
Naturally, I felt more like myself in this outfit, which definitely helped me project a more positive attitude. I strutted the streets of D.C. like I owned the place. Maybe this dopamine dressing thing had some merit!
Day 4: Festival-Ish
By day four, I was getting pretty sick of this experiment — but dopamine dressing is about nothing if not pushing forward. For day 4, I chose an outfit that felt comfortable, yet oozed positivity. It ended up looking like something you'd wear to a festival, which I guess is sort of my brand anyways. The fanny pack returned, because it's just too fun and colorful to leave out of this experiment. It definitely earned me some strange stares.
Despite this isolated photo, It rained on and off the entire day I wore this. So, despite my attempts at upping my dopamine levels via clothing, the world had other plans. My outfit ended up feeling impractical for the weather. I went home and retired to my couch in sweatpants.
Day 5: Swimsuits and High Tops
It rained all day again on day five, so I took it upon myself to BRING THE SUN — and that meant wearing the most obnoxiously bright-colored footwear I own. I paired my alarmingly vibrant high tops with an orange swimsuit worn as a top, and jeans. I grabbed a can of Truly to make it through the truly awful weather. It helped.
While I thought wearing a swimsuit as a top would be a fun experiment — apparently this is a major trend for the summer — it was not. It was uncomfortably sweaty and made it incredibly awkward to use the bathroom. While the outfit was casual and cute, it ended up killing any positive vibes with its impracticality.
Day 6: Mixed Prints
Dopamine dressing got easier by the end of the week. My favorite outfit and, perhaps, the one that fit the theme best of all, came together on day six. In all honesty, I just picked three random items from my closet that spoke to me, put them on, and loved the result. I'm pretty sure it was divine intervention.
In this outfit, I finally *got* the effects of dopamine dressing. I felt the positive vibes flowing through me with this outfit, and I felt like the best version of myself. I was comfortable and confident, and it definitely showed.
So after a week of dressing for dopamine, what did I learn? Well, while dopamine dressing certainly isn't a cure-all, it does have its perks.
Draping myself in head-to-toe sunshine boosted my confidence, made me feel powerful and positive, and helped me step out of my comfort zone. I can't pin all of these things on a specific dress or shirt, but as a whole, intentionally choosing outfits that bring joy can truly brighten bits of the darkness.
The trick? Choose things you like that also radiate positivity. Rather than choosing the brightest or boldest outfit just because — choose one that makes you smile, one that procures happy memories, or one that makes you feel like you can take on the world.
To me, dopamine dressing is selecting your daily wardrobe based on what makes your dopamine levels rise. Or, in simpler terms, it's dressing for yourself. So, if wearing polka dots with florals or leopard print and lime green makes you feel good, go for it. And if dressing in clothes that make you feel good is considered a trend, consider me all in.