You can dress for success, but you can also dress for your mood. Deirdre McQuillantalks to four people about the clothes that make them happy.
‘Clothes are powerful things. Dressed in a tramp’s clothes, it is very difficult not to feel genuinely degraded,” wrote George Orwell in his 1933 memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London. Orwell knew the extraordinary power that clothes have to communicate, transform and to express identity and emotion. We inhabit our clothes and are often assessed by the style they project.
If we really can wear our hearts on our sleeves, what clothes make us happy? A recent study in the UK found that what women choose to wear is heavily dependent on their emotional state. A sample of 100 women were asked what they wore when feeling down and more than half said jeans and a baggy top.
“Happy clothes” that made women feel good, were well-cut, figure-enhancing and made from beautiful fabrics. Accessories such as hats and shoes could also make a difference. “People who are depressed often lose interest in how they look and don’t wish to stand out.
This research suggests that we can dress for happiness but that might mean ditching the jeans,” concluded Prof Karen Pine, a psychologist and author, who conducted the study.
A friend who recently received upsetting news said that she went out that morning feeling miserable and dressed in clothes that looked awful.
“You have a relationship with your clothes and they can reflect a feeling that you are unloved. I just couldn’t look good that day,” she said. What makes her happy is a little blue cardigan with tiny buttons she picked up at a market for €6. “Every time I put it on, it has a kind of magic energy that makes me feel great.”
Another friend defines happy clothes as “something special that you have longed for and now, finally, is yours”. Looking at a dress made for her daughter gave one woman real joy and happiness.
We asked four very different people to give us their views on the clothes they wear that make them feel happy. Here’s what they had to say.
22, Dubliner, photographer, founder of clothes site fucknfilthy.com
I am really passionate about clothes and what makes me happy are those that have a story. This quilted jacket belonged to my mother 40 years ago, which I really like. I love the hat because I am very forgetful and lose things, but I have managed to hold on to this, which makes it special. The green jacket is a vintage find I bought for €12, and the jeans are Levi’s, from a short stint working for them in Manchester.
I am fan of Clarks’ shoes because they are so durable, and I like shoes that are worn and messy and last a long time. I love trying on new outfits and photographing people in their own style. Boring, ill-fitting clothes make me unhappy. Weather rather than mood affects what I wear, and I would still wear happy clothes in a bad mood.
I put a lot of effort into what I wear and would never just throw something on – even going down to the shops. I enjoy putting outfits together and I remember other people’s clothes. If I met a girl that I really liked, three years later I would remember what she was wearing when I first met her.
60, businesswoman, originally from Co Armagh, working part-time in Roy Fox’s food shop, Donnybrook, Dublin
Clothes that make me happy have to be warm and comfortable because where I am working is without heat – we can’t have heating in a food shop. Flexibility and freedom of movement are also important because my work is physical and if you’re meeting people all day, as I am, your happiness must come across to each person you welcome.
I like clothes that I can layer: natural fabrics, fine wools, cotton and wool/silk mixes. In winter I put on four layers on top and on the bottom, thermals. I like long T-shirts that can be tucked into high-waisted trousers. I am a very physical person and love walking, so when it comes to shoes it’s Camper and boots.
I am much more relaxed now about fashion and clothes. I used to make all my own clothes as a teenager. I remember at 18 going to my first formal dance in Newry in a full-length black dress with a scoop neck and silver details at the waist. It was very simple and plain, but I felt great in it and was taken to the dance by a gorgeous 6ft 2in blonde, blue-eyed rugby player.
Colours that make me happy are pink, orange, yellow and bright red. I rarely wear black. If you made me wear maroon, mustard, or muddy dark green, I would find it hard to be upbeat. We should all tune in more to what brings us down and what makes us feel good.
12, pupil at Lios na nÓg Gaelscoil in Dublin 6
I have a collection of hats – there’s always a hat for everybody.
Hats make me happy and my top hat makes me really happy. It’s a classic style. My friend Yasmin, who knows me really well, got it for me for my birthday.
When I went to London with my mother I saw a man in a bowler hat and I wanted one. I had £20 to spend. We looked everywhere and finally we found one on a hat stall.
The spotted tights are from a load that my mother bought that were 80 per cent off and I took this pair because they are my favourites. I’d always wanted a pair of Docs so when it was my birthday two years ago I got them. I decided on the red because they are bright and fun.
The knit hoodie was my mum’s but it shrunk in the wash, so now it’s mine. Clothes make me happy, especially this outfit and I feel confident in it. I agree with Audrey Hepburn who said that happy girls are the prettiest girls.
Temper -Mental MissElayneous
25, rapper, poet, from Finglas, Dublin aka Elayne Harrington. Big Words her new EP is out now
I wear different clothes every day. I’m sometimes very androgynous and I enjoy comments such as, “Is that a boy or a girl?” When I was 20 I had a blonde Mohawk with a leopard print on either side and at nine I started a revolution in school wearing striped stockings when everyone else was wearing white. I express myself in different ways with clothes and sometimes I change clothes twice in one day.
I like to wear black and white, which represent simplicity, and yellow, because it represents intelligence and it’s been my favourite colour since I was a child. With certain things, I am a creature of habit. I always have tangerine stiletto-tipped nails with a nude base.
Tattoos are very sacred and special and are part of my attire – I have one on my arm and another around my torso. Clothes definitely affect people’s moods and the only time I was not happy with my clothes was when I had to wear a supermarket uniform. It did fit perfectly and it gave me a sense of belonging, but I put paper clips in my ears to feel more myself.
Everything I wear is symbolic and everything I wear makes me happy, because it is me who is in the clothes. Adornment is important. I want to stimulate people when they look at me and back it up with substance.