Fashion + Mental Health 2020

How Fashion Can Cultivate Positive Mental Health

What we wear can say a lot about who we are as people; the styles, patterns and colours we choose represent part of our personality. Whether this is done consciously or subconsciously, we are projecting ourselves to those around us through the clothes we wear every day. If someone favour’s clothing that connotes a specific style or trend, they are reflecting interest in that subject/culture to the outside world. The same applies for merchandise from media and pop culture we enjoy.

Fashion is a form of self – expression and can be used to increase self – confidence. Clothing can also have symbolic meaning. Certain pieces may represent a positive or negative time in our lives, invoking feelings we then forever associate with that piece of clothing. 

‘Fashion can be used to cultivate positivity in different ways for different people.’

Fashion is integrated with our physical health in the way we choose to dress depending on how we feel. When we feel good, we may choose to dress up more than usual. Reflecting an elevated mood by elevating our outfit choices.

However, if we feel unwell, we seek comfort and are more likely to dress comfortably rather than stylish. With mental health, fashion can be used to cultivate positivity in different ways for different people. People who suffer from depression or anxiety may have items of clothing they prefer to wear during difficult times, providing them with a sense of comfort. Or, they may use fashion as potential armour on bad days. Aiming to look better than they feel in order to improve their mood. 

“Those who consider clothes frivolous should consider that we live our lives in clothes.”

Thomas Carlyle 

Body image is also an important factor in how we view ourselves. In 2019, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that ‘34% [of adults] felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image.’ Negative feelings about body image are likely to damage our overall mental health. However, despite unrealistic expectations promoted in aspects of the fashion industry, ‘perfect’ standards are being disregarded as society continues to accept the fact that all bodies are good bodies. This acceptance can positively influence the way we feel about fashion. If we look good in an outfit, we are more likely to feel good, too.

‘It is important to remember that validation from others does not equal self-worth.’

Our fashion choices can not only influence how we are perceived by others, but also how we are treated. Which in turn can positively or negatively affect our mental health. A person who wears trendy clothing is more likely to be accepted by society. Especially on social media where we strive to keep up with current trends. This shows a direct link between the importance of self – image, fashion, and mental health. Fear of judgement may also affect how you choose to dress and whilst it is difficult to unlearn negative emotions, it is important to remember that validation from others does not equal self-worth. 

Although social media can have a detrimental effect on how we feel about ourselves, leading to feelings of negativity and envy, it can also have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. When we post a photo in an outfit we feel good in and receive compliments, this can increase our self-confidence. 

‘You’re never too old for fashion’!

Fashion can also have a positive impact on mental health for the older generation via social media. This is through virtual communities created on platforms like Facebook. Where people can share fashion and beauty tips, helping to empower those who lack self – confidence, resulting in them becoming more confident in their fashion choices.

Often, older people may worry that the clothing they wear is too ‘young’ for them. This can lead to self-doubt and negative feelings towards fashion. One woman breaking the stereotype of what is ‘age appropriate’ is BaddieWinkle (@baddiewinkle) aka Helen Elam. Elam is a 92-year-old American internet personality. The embodiment of a cool grandma, she does not let society dictate what she can wear. Despite being 92, she wears clothing we would typically associate with a younger generation. Elam is proof that you’re never too old for fashion. She is an inspiration to us all. By dressing how she prefers, she is making herself happy and inspiring self-confidence in others. 

Ultimately, everyone should be able to wear what they want and feel good in. As when we feel good, this can improve our self-image, self-acceptance and confidence, positively impacting our overall mental wellbeing.  

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