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The relationship between fashion and mental health awareness

By Kristopher Fraser


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Image: Outfront

This month, Madhappy rolled out several initiatives for Mental Health Awareness Month, including capsule collections, along with their latest Out of Home campaign billboards in Los Angeles and New York. In late April, the company launched positive-message billboards across New York and Los Angeles with statements including “Peace of Mind”, “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Love,” and “Let Go To Grow.”

America has long struggled addressing conversations around properly addressing conversations about mental health. Now that fashion is starting to enter the conversation, some small implications could happen. Fashion is one of the most universal things people consume. While it might seem superficial, fashion is a powerful medium for addressing mental health issues.

“The potential is there for fashion to address specific mental health issues,” said Michael R. Solomon, professor and chair of Haub School of Business at St. Joseph's University department of marketing, to FashionUnited. “People can use clothing to express their unique themselves and affiliate with other tastes. I once read many years ago that clothing with stripes can help schizophrenic people maintain a sense of identity, but that was very speculative and there has been an absolute lack of research on this. There is certainly a relationship, in my opinion, between expressive cues, like fashion, and the way we feel about ourselves.”

Fashion does influence our mental state. Cuts, colors, and patterns are proven to enhance our mood. One of the reasons is clothes are connected to specific roles. Studies have also shown that routine dressing rituals can also help people ward off thoughts that lead to anxiety and depression.

At the end of the day, the end goal of fashion is to sell clothing. Whether or not fashion is genuine in its approach to addressing mental health issues is questionable. However, it’s possible to both sell clothes and address sensitive issues.

“It’s possible to say all this marketing on things like body positivity and self-expression is just another way to selling clothing,” Solomon said to FashionUnited. “There is something to that conversation, but the fashion industry is starting to recognize there are more needs to be satisfied out there than using fashion as a status symbol.”

The term “retail therapy” has often sounded like people making an excuse to go shopping, but, rather, it is quite real. Decisions on correct purchases are seen as confidence boosters, which is a boost to mental health. Frivolous spending should be reined in, as that can be an escape from addressing mental health problems.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to claim you are what you wear,” Solomon said to FashionUnited. “Clothing does impact how you feel and your mood.”

Research shows that fashion can actually impact how we think. One example of this is professional dressing, which is proven to increase abstract thinking. Certain colors have been proven to aid in mental health issues as well. Blue is antidepressant color, and green is proven to reduce anxiety.

While there are various ways to address mental, fashion is one powerful universal art forms to do so. The world could use a little more optimism and improvements in addressing mental health, and style can be one way to get there.

Mental Health