Fashion trends often involve a particular silhouette or “it” color for the season. But social media is telling me that one of the newest fashion trends this season is much more involved.
If you’ve seen celebrities and models all over your feed dressed in neon colors, chances are you’ve stumbled up on this trend, too. It’s called “dopamine dressing,” and it’s giving us nostalgic vibes, taking us back to the colors and patterns of the ’80s and early ’90s.
What Is Dopamine Dressing?
Dopamine dressing is a TikTok trend that doesn’t hinge on a certain style of clothing or any particular color. It’s all about enhancing your mood by wearing bright, patterned clothing, which is an idea that has some actual science behind it.
Dr. Dawnn Karenfa, fashion psychologist and author of the book Dress Your Best Life, coined the term “dopamine dressing.” The concept is rooted in her theory that wearing a specific combination of styles, colors, and patterns can actually trigger increased levels of dopamine—a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure, motivation, and learning.
Dopamine is extremely important in our everyday lives because it sends messages between nerve cells, and it plays a role in how we feel pleasure. Dopamine is spread along four major pathways in the brain, helping us focus, strive, and find things interesting. It also has an influence on thinking and planning.
Some people exercise or eat a decadent dessert to get their dopamine fix. But in her Ted Talk, Dr. Karen argued that all you need to get that chemically-induced sense of pleasure and mood enhancement is to wear the right clothing.
Originally, Dr. Karen imagined that her idea would take hold in rehab spaces because dopamine dressing can be used as a therapeutic technique for trauma and addiction healing. She also expected it to become popular in the world of streetwear and hip hop.
But the trend has spread much wider than she ever dreamed and has been adopted by broader populations. Forget boosting confidence and self-esteem with designer labels or a dress that fits like a glove—it’s all about choosing clothes that will make your brain happy.
Examples Of Dopamine Dressing
We’ve seen Gen Z and millennials wearing bright pastels and neon colors, which definitely gives us some serious nostalgia (show of hands—who remembers Hypercolor and Cross Colours?). TikTok also shows that Gen Xers like myself are getting on board.
The most common examples of dopamine dressing involve the use of bright colors and fun accessories. User @thedressfiend said her bright A-line skirt reminded her of a Dr. Seuss book, and tapping into positive childhood memories certainly fits the bill of this style trend.
User @digthosecurves also relied on childhood nostalgia when choosing a Care Bears dress to pair with her new bright pink harness. Other accessories such as a rainbow chocker and Care Bear earrings rounded out the look.
The trend doesn’t have to be that dramatic, though. If you’re used to wearing all neutrals, try adding a pop or color or looking for added details like a fun print or interesting neckline like user @room.334 demonstrates.
A simple monochrome outfit, which is very popular with many celebrities (including Kate Middleton), is another simple way to address this trend. User @mercadolivre demonstrates this well, with a bright lip gloss adding the perfect finishing touch to the look.
How To Make Dopamine Dressing Work For You
Part of dopamine dressing is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to try something new, and that can mean different things for different people. Personal aesthetics, cultural background, and life circumstances all contribute to someone’s style.
You don’t have to buy a whole new neon wardrobe or dress head to toe in rainbows if that’s too far of a leap for you. Dip your toe in by layering one bright item from your closet, or experiment with colorful accessories. If you find you don’t have much color in your wardrobe, hitting thrift and vintage shops is a great place to find inexpensive bright pieces.
Playing around with textures, prints, and clothing styles is another way to experiment with this trend as well. If you usually opt for fitted pants, try on a pair of palazzo pants instead. If you normally wear cotton or polyester, give velvet or corduroy a go. Love solid colors? Maybe a floral top is just the thing to try.
Science shows that novelty can enhance mood, lower stress, and help you see things in a different light. Turns out retail therapy has more benefits than we realized.