Why Dopamine-Infused Trends Are The Refreshing Pickup We Need

We may be in the midst of a quiet luxury boom, but there's nothing understated about the counter-trend almost guaranteed to get you feeling like you're walking on sunshine. Enter, dopamine dressing: the refreshingly playful vibe we're loving for summer 2023 and beyond. 

It's no secret that our clothing can play a big role in our moods. Wanting to feel nonchalant yet powerful? Hello, uniform style essentials. Pining for your childhood? Look no further than '90s and Y2K fashion trends. It only makes sense, then, that speaking to Byrdie, fashion psychologist Dr. Dawnn Karen prescribed all things light and fun for those wanting a happy boost: "What about wearing something crazy, whimsical stuff that doesn't match, polka dot or leopard print, tutus, or bright colors?" she suggested. 

Granted, as noted by The Wardrobe Consultant, dopamine release doesn't always need to come from the wildest color combos at our disposal. The crux is to find the things that make us happiest, whatever that may be. However, bright colors and prints seem to be a pretty universal upper — and luckily for anyone hoping to try it out for themselves, most of the defining colors of 2023 are bolder hues. Case in point: color authority, Pantone has named Viva Magenta as the color of the year. The truly great thing about dopamine dressing, though, is that even without being trendy, its effect remains. So, how can we make the most of it?

It's all about what makes you feel the happiest

We've all heard that "the blues" means sadness, and that vibrant red is a color of passion, but the truth is, color means whatever we want it to mean. It's for exactly that reason that the key to creating your very own dopamine-dressing wardrobe lies in picking out the colors you love most. 

Speaking to Well+Good about the way we feel about different hues, Alice Skelton, Ph.D., research fellow in developmental color science at the University of Sussex explained, "There's a personal element that's really driven by your experience with certain colors throughout your life." Dr. Skelton further explained that the color of our favorite things growing up is likely to take us back to happy memories. For that very reason, reaching for clothing items in those hues will give us a boost, regardless of the mood we've been taught they convey. By the same logic, picking a color we don't love, no matter how bright and cheery it may seem to others, or how on-trend it is in the moment, is a recipe for . . . well, not a pick-me-up. As pointed out by The Wardrobe Consultant, "If you're not a pink person, don't wear pink." The bottom line: your dopamine boost, your choice of colors. Pick what makes you happiest. 

It can be customized for both bold and subtle iterations

In keeping with the idea of highly individualized color choices, it's worth noting that color blocking is far from compulsory when it comes to dopamine dressing. On the contrary, part of what makes the trend so exciting is that truly anyone can make it their own.

Look, color blocking is a vibe, and if pairing fire-engine red, Barbie pink, and bold blue gives you all the happy feels, there's never been a better time to try it out. However, if all that feels a bit too much for you, there are still ways to keep things within your comfort zone. Per The Wardrobe Consultant, combining daring, brighter colors with more pared-back shades is a great way to ease into it all. Another alternative? Go for the best of both worlds with prints in neutrals. Prime example: Kate Middleton. While the Princess of Wales doesn't shy away from color, as color psychologist, Tash Bradley told Hello Magazine, she is also known to use polka dots in more formal, neutral outfits for a balance of modesty and fun. We've said it before, and we'll say it again: dopamine dressing is all about making yourself smile, regardless of whether you gravitate towards color or monochrome.

... plus, it's a feel-good trend (literally!)

Colors, neutrals, prints, and everything in between all fall squarely under the dopamine dressing umbrella. However, there's also another way to get that happy fix, sans any of the above. We're talking texture. 

As Daniel Benkendorf, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the department of social sciences at the Fashion Institute of Technology pointed out to Self, uncomfortable fabrics will always be the opposite of dopamine dressing. After all, who can be expected to feel their best, emotionally, when they're wearing something that feels scratchy, rough, or too constricting? However, the argument for the right textures goes beyond comfort. As noted by the outlet, we tend to associate different materials with different moods. Want to feel easy and breezy on a summer vacay? Look no further than linen for an effortless look. Attending a black tie soiree? Reach for fabrics like satin, silk, or taffeta to help you feel refined and elegant. 

At the end of the day, dopamine dressing is about what makes you feel like you can take on the world, and only you can define what exactly that entails, whether it means a monochromatic look, mixing prints, or bold color blocking. So, go forth, and curate your dopamine-infused wardrobe around you and you alone. Individuality outlasts any trend cycle.