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"That Outfit's Dope": Tapping Into Dopamine Dressing

Updated: May 14, 2022

"That Outfit's Dope": Tapping Into Dopamine Dressing

Kat’s Seven Laws of Style, Law #2:

The fastest way to change how you perceive yourself is to change your outfit.

When I am feeling self-conscious, uncertain, and a bit like a slouchy 11-year-old tween, there’s nothing that helps mama get her mojo back like a tailored blazer and a pair of distressed jeans. In the quick change of an outfit, the world suddenly feels ripe with opportunity and dare I say it - I feel like the queen of Multnomah county!

Getting your outfit right is a hit – a hit of dopamine, actually. If you’ve followed the recent trend of “Dopamine Dressing”, the theory is that colors and textures all have psychological associations and are deeply rooted in our individual memories. Wearing the right combination of these factors (individualized for each person) stimulates our brains in such a way that digs up these good memories and lets the dopamine flow.

And as I thought about it more, it made me wonder if my love of blazers came from watching my own mother run out the door in her St. John suits to meet clients before she closed in on epic real estate transactions. My mama was a closer who changed the socio-economic trajectory of our family. She manifested her dreams, and as I look at my closet that is riddled with colorful blazers I suspect that somewhere in there is a belief that these blazers might help me tap into a bit of her magic.

When you Dress for the Dopamine, picking the right color and texture for you can dramatically alter your mood. It turns getting dressed in the morning into an intentional act that moves you towards joy. While everyone’s “dope-est” outfit is personal to their own story, this month I’m going straight for the colors and silhouettes that bring me the most dopamine – and joy!

Kat wearing colorful 80's skirt

Dope Look 1: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

I was raised on Hot Pockets and reruns of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. While the color palettes that Will sported in the early 90’s made me gag and curious simultaneously, The Fresh Prince first exposed me to maximalist style and color blocking. If you can’t choose between neon green and construction worker orange, wear them both and wear them brazenly!

My love for excessive patterns comes from this show. Paisley, reflective, rainbow blazer? Yes please. Neon sprinkles with a backdrop of stripes? No problem. Since dopamine dressing is tied into our individual memories, it only makes sense to think about one of your favorite memories as a wee little one. What was one of the most joyful or carefree times you can remember as kid? Was it a trip you took? A TV show you watched with reckless abandon that brought giggles to the soul?

Whatever that memory is, there is an article of clothing in the world that exists that will help conjure this memory. For me, it’s this almost graffiti-like pleated skirt. With it’s rainbow themed sensibilities on the backdrop of some intense pleating, I feel like the Fresh Prince himself would have given me the slap – I mean nod - of approval. To finish this look, I’ve paired it with a black cropped top and a pair of sling back heels.

Kat wearing pink jumpsuit

Dope Look 2: The Hot Pink Jumpsuit

I originally put one of my recent clients in a hot pink jumpsuit and watched as she “ooo’d” and “ahh’d” herself in the mirror. She looked marvelous, and the hot pink jumpsuit made her feel like a hybrid between a reigning (but benevolent) prom queen and a high-powered executive on a holiday. I needed these vibrations in my life!

When dressing for dopamine, the key is to identify colors that both bring you calm and bring a sense of giddiness to your soul. You want to pick colors that illicit a strong emotion. For me, bright unapologetic pink epitomizes life and playfulness. With this jumpsuit’s bow-tie straps and whimsical pockets, how could I not feel like a child skipping down the block in my new onesie?

Another key component to dopamine dressing is the element of risk: push the envelope and experiment with something new. This outfit is one I would reach for when exploring a new city - it feels like an explorer’s outfit, filled with wonder, curiosity and discovery. A. While I have at most dipped my toe in the world of pink with a top or tank, I’ve never gone all out from head to toe. There’s something freeing about embracing the extremes. So as you dress for that hit of dopamine, push yourself - don’t just dabble, but dive headfirst into a new color.

Kat wearing yellow pants and white shirt

Dope Look 3: Hello Yellow

When I was but a wee little one, I had a bald baby I toted around with me through all my childhood misadventures. Her name was Sammie - she looked like a miniature Professor X with her knowing scowl and impressive hairline. But most importantly, she was dressed in the softest yellow onesie my stubby fingers had ever touched. She was my ride or die. The OG of best friends. And whenever I see the color yellow, I think of her and the feeling of being safe in my own little world with my very bald and very wonderful, plastic baby. All good things.

It’s no wonder that my experiment in joy would lead me to these sunny yellow harem pants. To offset these baggy trousers that come in at the ankles, I’ve paired this outfit with a bright white fitted crop to bring a bit of balance to the volume below. And if that were not joyful enough, I finish the look with a pair of rainbow platform heels.

Dress For The Dope

For me, dopamine dressing is all about revisiting the joys of my origin story. Whatever brought genuine joy to me as a child, whether it be the Fresh Prince and his maximalist patterns or my plastic bald baby and her bright yellow onesie, I have found that colors and patterns can connect us back to those feelings and special times. So next time you look in your closet, close your eyes and imagine your favorite childhood memory – and then reach for the item that connects you to it. The smile will be automatic :)

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