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Your clothes might be making you sad. 'Dopamine dressing' could help you feel happier.

Amanda Krause   

Your clothes might be making you sad. 'Dopamine dressing' could help you feel happier.
  • Dopamine dressing is a hack that some fashion fans use to feel better via clothes.
  • Hannah Barnthouse, a business owner known for dopamine dressing, told Business Insider how to do it.

In a world of unfulfilling fast-fashion hauls and minimalistic office wear, getting dressed can feel depressing.

But it's not just in your head.

Researchers and fashion psychologists have long linked fashion and mental health, with studies indicating that our clothes can help us feel a wide range of emotions, including confidence and discontent.

So, naturally, you're probably wondering how to avoid the latter and style yourself to happiness. That's where Hannah Barnthouse comes in.

The 31-year-old business owner from Oklahoma, who runs the jewelry business Feed Me Gems, has made a name for herself online as a fashion influencer who wears vibrant, sparkle-infused outfits everywhere she goes — even just to the grocery store.

Speaking with Business Insider, she shared how anyone can find the same confidence in their style and happiness in their wardrobe.

The key to happiness: dopamine dressing

Barnthouse didn't create the concept of dopamine dressing, but she lives by it.

"Every day when I get ready, I'm really excited for my coffee, and I'm really excited to get dopamine dressed," she told BI. "Those are the two things that really bring me to life."

Put simply, the mom of two says dopamine dressing ultimately means you "dress better to feel better."

"Essentially, when you pick out pieces that you love that bring your soul joy, it tricks your brain into releasing dopamine," she said. "When you're wearing the pieces you love, it genuinely makes you a happier human."

Carolyn Mair, a chartered psychologist, fashion-business consultant, and the author of "The Psychology of Fashion," describes dopamine as a "motivating agent" that helps find "positive outcomes."

"When we have achieved a desired outcome (the reward), dopamine levels drop to baseline," Mair told BI. "And after a short time, we are motivated to seek another reward."

So, in terms of dopamine dressing, Mair said you might seek another "reward" each morning in the form of an outfit that makes you feel good.

What styles make you happy?

In Barnthouse's case, dopamine dressing looks like tulle tops, platform heels, sparkling skirts, and countless jewel-toned gems across her hands, ears, and neck.

"I asked my husband what he would call my sense of style, and he said an Elton John sneeze," she told BI with a laugh. "My closet looks like a crayon box exploded — like the rainbow sprinkled down. I mean, it is a party in here."

@feedmegems DOPAMINE DRESSING #dopaminedressing #dopaminesdressing #dopamine #dressing #dopaminedressingoutfit ♬ Beautiful Things - Benson Boone

But as Barnthouse explained, not all dopamine dressing looks the same.

"A lot of people say, 'My closet is all black. I don't think I could ever dopamine dress.' But I'm like, 'No, that is your form of dopamine!'" she said. "It does not have to look how it looks for me."

If you love matching sweatsuits, for example, Barnthouse says to embrace that. Or if you have a T-shirt you love, build from there.

"Pick one item in your closet that you feel is your favorite. That's how you start," Barnthouse said.

"You wear that one piece, and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, I felt different today.' The next day, you wear two pieces you love," she added. "Then someday, you turn out like me where you're walking around like a loofah down the street and you're just as happy as can be."

Mair agrees.

"Dopamine dressing is really about dressing in a way that makes you feel good. If that's comfort first, then that is dopamine dressing for you," she said. "Comfort relates to both physical and psychological experience. When we feel comfortable, we are more relaxed, at ease with ourselves and others, and this makes conversation and interactions more fluid and engaged. This boosts our confidence and comfort further."

Throw trends out the window

Because dopamine dressing is about personal style, Barnthouse suggests ignoring most fashion trends unless they really speak to you.

"Trends can be true to what the world wants to see you wearing, but the only way to dopamine dress is by reaching inside yourself," she said. "For you, that might not be a slicked-back bun like Hailey Bieber or the biker shorts and heels. It may not be heels at all."

@feedmegems dopamine dressing #dopaminedressing #dopaminesdressing #dopamine #dressing ♬ original sound - Feed Me Gems

Change your fashion mindset and over-accessorize

Barnthouse discovered her love for bold accessories while working a corporate job.

"When I worked a 9-to-5, I always wore my biggest gems and got compliments. It was building confidence. Even though I was in my dress pants and solid shirts, I was still able to express myself through my jewelry."

So, if a job is limiting your fashion creativity, she suggests turning to more accessories.

"I like to tell people that it's like decorating a cupcake," Barnthouse said. "You're the cupcake, your accessories are the sprinkles, and your clothing is the icing."

Of course, dopamine dressing can still be intimidating. Expressing yourself through style takes vulnerability, and other people might have opinions.

"I get questions every day," Barnthouse said. "If I go to the grocery store or the coffee shop, people want to know where I'm going, what I'm doing, and why I'm dressed like this."

But she has a trick for staying confident, even when outsiders don't understand her clothes.

"I've found that it's about how you describe your style to people," she said. "People are feeders of energy. They treat you the way you treat you. So if I cower away and am embarrassed, they'll heap that on. But if I'm excited and express it with passion, it immediately changes the tone of the conversation."

She added: "I've found that if I'm excited and feel really good about my outfit, it leaves no room for comments other than 'slay!'"