My mum visited me this week from the wilds of Hertfordshire. Uncharacteristically, she was sporting lipstick, mascara and eye shadow upon her face because she has recently discovered this makes her feel better. She is not alone it seems; research suggests that rather than wear makeup to attract attention, women do it to manipulate the image of themselves they present, ie a positive image of greater self confidence, self esteem, emotional stability and health.  This is because cosmetic use boosts the wearer’s view of their own attractiveness, confidence, status, femininity and sexiness, earning potential and professional class.

hatThe clothes we wear and how we feel are also linked. In Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion, Prof Karen Pine (also, as it happens from Hertfordshire – the University) explores the concept of ‘enclothed cognition’, the power of clothes to alter the psychological state of the wearer.

Pine argues that the clothes we choose to wear generally reflect our mental state (depressed women, for example are more likely to wear ‘baggy’ tops), and discusses whether mood could be improved by dressing differently.  ‘We don’t know’ yet, she says, but what we wear can help maintain positive mental states – there are clear links to dressing up and feeling confident, for example. She suggests using clothes as a good way of getting out of a rut (which is part of her wider Do Something Different Programme):

  1. Dress to impress Dress as if you’re off to a ‘big’ event. Smarten up and glam it up, whatever you’re doing.
  2. Wear the oldest item in your wardrobe You loved it once , why not wear it again? Dig deep and resurrect an old favourite.
  3. Try a new colour combo Put your most colourful items together in a unique, clashy, zingy combination: go forth and brighten up the world.
  4. Stand out Experiment with wearing a quirky hat, odd shoes, a big bow tie, a veil or a temporary tattoo . One small change could change your day.

sillyI feel mostly silly and uneasy dressing up when I am not in the mood (and I am rarely in the mood), so am sceptical about trying any of the above but I will, in the interests of Depression Lab research.  Unless any kind volunteers out there would like to have a go instead?

Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion  Karen J. Pine (2014) Kindle Edition
slap and tackle: can makeup and clothes help depression?

5 thoughts on “slap and tackle: can makeup and clothes help depression?

  • Hi Libby,
    I even wear all my make-up to hot yoga!
    I am a big believer in dressing to feel better.
    It never fails me, that when i leave the house looking good, it helps my whole day.
    I even make sure all my winter clothes look “cute”!

  • when I was diagnosed with postnatal depression my husband took me out and bought me a few new trendy outfits shoes etc.. It boosted me for weeks! I know I’m not doing well when I stop putting make up on and brushing my hair

    1. That’s v interesting Claire. I thought it might be one of things that you do when you feel good (and don’t when you are not doing well – as you say). But the fact the new outfits gave you a boost when you were low is good to know, and definitely something to try. Could your husband buy me some stuff? 🙂

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