Yasmin looks to the left as she stands in profile to the camera wearing a vivid pink dress and holding a beaded bag.

Can wearing bright colors make you happier? – ABC every day

The late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld once said that “trendy is the last stage for tacky”.

I may have tried to internalize this as an impressionable, fashion-obsessed teen, but I never quite succeeded.

At 27 years old, I am still bound by the trends.

And that’s why over the past ten years my wardrobe has gone from all my black, black, and more black clothes to essentially nothing but brightly colored garments.

As Miranda Priestly said in her torrid and cerulean jumper-prompted Devil Wears Prada monologue, it’s practically impossible to make fashion choices uninformed by the fashion industry.


While I didn’t realize I was unknowingly joining the dopamine dressing trend before describing it that way on social media, I had completely fallen for it afterwards.

Attention-seeking, vibrant colors and loud, clashing prints reign supreme on shoppable platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where fashion labels and their influencers use the idea that our mood is boosted by simply wearing bright clothes to sell clothes.

A branded post that recently appeared in my feed urged followers: “Always dress with the intention of boosting your mood! Enjoy extra fun with our new and fabulous [bright item of clothing]† It’s sure to keep you buzzing all week.”

TL;DR, vibrant colors are in and the idea that they are good for us has trickled down to the masses. (I’m part of the crowd).


But brighter colors are not necessarily = more happiness

The idea that vibrant colors make us all happier is a bit too simplistic, according to James Collett, a psychology professor in RMIT University’s School of Health and Biomedical Sciences.

“While there are important cross-cultural differences, there are many universalities in color perception and the link between color and emotion,” he explains.

“If you think in general, bright colors are generally associated with happiness and positivity.

†[But] research into the relationship between fashion and our mental, emotional and motivational states suggests that the effect of bright clothing is not so automatic that we can simply put on a brighter shade than usual and immediately feel better about our day.”

dr. Collett says this is because there are other important considerations to consider here — the way we perceive color still differs on an individual level, and we need more from clothing than aesthetics.

Ailsa Weaver, an academic and doctoral researcher at the UTS School of Design, agrees.

Bright colors are generally associated with happiness and positivity… but that doesn’t mean they make us happier per se.ABC Everyday: Yasmin Jeffery

Mrs. Weaver says we should feel comfortable and confident in the clothes we wear, as well as good about the way they look.

This is why the question of what “dopamine dressing” is looks different to each of us — and why she suggests thinking about the trend differently than the way it’s presented on social media.

“’Dopamine dressing’ is a buzz term coined in popular discussions around the turn of the 2010s, but it’s really just about feel-good dressing,” she explains.

“To me, it fits into the phenomenological concept of fashion — thus how fashion makes us feel as individuals.”

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