christina buff tries dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

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.

First, I scoured the web for high-fashion takes on dopamine dressing. I hit the jackpot when I browsed through New York Fashion Week's Fall 2018 runway. 

Bold colors, bright patterns, and cheerful shapes abounded from Prabal Gurung to Marc Jacobs.

I'm not exactly attending Fashion Week, and my closet isn't what you'd call "colorful." My clothing isn't dull, but it's also not especially vibrant.

christina buff closet photo
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

I generally wear a fair share of black, white, and neutrals most days.

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.

how to dress
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

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.

Day 1: Canary and Cobalt

yellow and blue outfits
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

For the first day, I went all out with the primary colors. It actually did make me feel a bit more cheery than usual, if I'm being honest.

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.

dopamine dressing revelist
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

I'm wearing:

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)

Day 2: Funky Flares

dopamine dressing revelist
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

I am the proud owner of a LOT of flares — from denim to solid velvet to funky prints — and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to put them on display. I paired them with an equally-bright, lemon-colored top and a sheer cerulean jacket.

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.

revelist dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

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. 

I'm wearing:

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

revelist dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

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!

dopamine dressing revelist
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

I'm wearing:

SweatyRocks Spaghetti Strap Lace-Up Back Gingham Dress (Amazon, $15

Bayer Woven Multi-Color Platform Sandal (Rocket Dog, $40)

Levi's Printed Bandana (Amazon, $10 set of three)

Funky Fanny Pack (similar style on Etsy, $10)

Day 4: Festival-Ish

revelist dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

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.

revelist dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

I'm wearing:

YMI Mid-Rise Cuffed Shorts (YMI, $30)

Ribbed Knit High Neck Tank Top (Rainbow Shops, $4)

Jarvis Olive Slingback Platform (Rocket Dog, $40)

Sheer Duster (similar style on Amazon, $17)

Day 5: Swimsuits and High Tops

dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

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.

dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

I'm wearing:

Aerie Super Scoop One Piece Swimsuit (American Eagle, $23)

Universal Thread High-Rise Jeggings (Target, $35)

Women's Reebok Freestyle Hi Casual Shoes (similar style at Finish Line, $60)

Day 6: Mixed Prints

dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

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.

dopamine dressing
photo: Christina Buff / Revelist

I'm wearing:

Longline Swim Cover-Up Kimono (Forever 21, $20)

Striped Flare-Leg Pants (Forever 21, $15)

Messic Direct Polka Dot Tank Top (Amazon, $15 - $25)

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.