Dopamine Dressing: lingerie as a mood booster

After a  global pandemic and constant political and economic distress, the current cultural zeitgeist has led us to take refuge in elements and rituals that make us feel comfortable and help us feel relieved; that’s when fashion comes in. 

Fashion is scientifically proven to be an effective way to combat depression, that’s why using certain garments can be a mood booster, for example undergarments have been present in women’s lives and domestic settings, where women, in past times, spent most of their time.

In these private spaces, upper-class women primarily enjoyed manual activities such as embroidery, painting, music, and gardening. In past centuries, it was socially unacceptable for a woman to hang out in public spaces, so women were obliged to deploy their creativity through fashion and decoration.

The ‘stay at home’ era

In the 21st century, our priorities have shifted towards our homes and personal well-being. During and even after the pandemic, our homes turned into spaces for recreation and physical activity.

Being secluded in our homes for a significant period of time, without the possibility of going to the "outside world", leads people to dream about different styles and aesthetics to express themselves. In fact, fashion allows us to express our personality and make existence more enjoyable. Fashion helps us feel good as it allows us to express ourselves through creativity, which helps us release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes pleasant sensations.

When doing activities that provide pleasure (like fashion) our bodies release dopamine and we feel happy, which motivates us to keep repeating this behavior. This especially works when we wear specific garments that carry a personal or symbolic value. For example, a garment inherited from our grandmother, a souvenir that we bought on a trip or a garment that makes us feel secure or empowered.

What is dopamine dressing? 

We have heard the term dopamine dressing a lot in the last season, that’s because a lot of designers -such as Valentino with his PP Pink- have included in their collections bright colored clothes, funny accessories and even trends from the past that gives us a special feeling of nostalgia, that’s why all of the Y2K trends are making a comeback.

And that’s what dopamine dressing is about: using colors, textures and trends that makes us feel empowered. Enclothed cognition theory teaches us that the qualities we associate with specific garments are very powerful, in the sense that when we wear those garments, the associations have the power to change the way we feel and act. After almost three years of wearing sweatshirts and loose garments of the loungewear trend, a longing for nostalgia emerged, where restricted clothing and elegant accessories such as corsets have become relevant again.

As underwear is so attached to our bodies, it becomes a second skin that frames our identity. Scientists have even recommended the use of garments that slightly tighten the body (clearly without taking it to the extreme) since this sensation has therapeutic effects when we are in low spirits. And opting for oversized clothes, when we feel sad, can be counterproductive, making us feel even sadder. This is why evoking eras like the Regency era (think Bridgerton, Pride & Prejudice, and Emma) or aesthetics such as Cottage Core, makes perfect sense for our current cultural climate. 

The relationship that lingerie has with femininity makes it an ideal sphere for experimentation. Several women feel comfortable around underwear and wearing it may help creativity flourish. The ritual of putting on lingerie can help us get out of our comfort zone, escape the routine and have pleasurable experiences.

Despite all garments can be thought of as therapeutic, lingerie has the quality of closeness to the body and sexuality. According to the British blog, Fashion is Psychology, the grommets and eye-catching qualities of lingerie are meant to reveal the body beneath, opening a door for imagination and desire.

Underwear or lingerie, in other words, works as an extension of oneself. Through it, we can feel comfortable, invincible and/or sexy and resort to wearapy to improve our mood.