With the pandemic and many of us working from home, fashion has become much more relaxed over the past year or so.
We welcomed this shift towards stretchy waistbands and trainers: a lot of solace can be found in your most well-worn and comfortable clothes. However, as many parts of the world start to tentatively open up again, many of us don’t want to stay in sweatpants forever.
Even if you’re struggling to prise yourself out of the athleisure you’ve become accustomed to, switching up your wardrobe and embracing dressing up again might do you the world of good. Shakaila Forbes-Bell, fashion psychologist and founder of Fashion Is Psychology, calls dressing up "self-care".
She says: "Whilst it’s been great to not be bound by workplace dress codes and actually dress in a way that is comfortable for you, which can be conducive to a productive day, it can start to feel limiting – almost a bit like a uniform."
Stepping out of this sartorial rut can "actually be really cathartic", she says, because it’s a break from the daily habits that often leave us feeling stressed. "Being able to step outside of your traditional comfort zone and dress in a different way that is not the norm, can almost act like a tool of escapism." For Forbes-Bell, it can "help you step into a different aspect of yourself, help you embrace creativity, and help you have a bit of fun – so in that way, it can certainly be a mood booster".
Of course, dressing up means different things to everyone: it depends on your personality, culture, background and more. Find what your version is – maybe it’s putting on a fancy dress, donning your favourite colour, or anything that’s a bit more outlandish than the norm.
Forbes-Bell’s mantra is: "Don’t save that special occasion dress for a special occasion, you have to make a day a special occasion by wearing those dresses" – particularly after the past year, when anything could be cancelled at a moment’s notice. The psychologist already knows what dress she’s going to wear next time she’s out: a slinky orange number by black-owned brand TSHKA (and she’s already taken it for a test drive at home).
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Wearing these special outfits – even if it’s not for anything specific – can lift your mood, she says, and make you feel like celebrating the small things, instead of waiting for something big to happen – which might not even come.
Fashion should be all about expressing yourself and feeling comfortable, so when it comes to dressing up: take things at your own pace. Maybe you’re the type of person who finds joy in dressing like a glamorous femme fatale on holiday in the south of France, or maybe a chunky necklace is your version of stepping things up a notch – whatever it is, just do you.
Looking for a bit of inspiration in the dressing up department? We’ve got you sorted…
Anything big, bold and fabulous is the name of the game with dresses – think puffy sleeves, loud patterns and slinky styles. When we talk about ‘dressing up’ we don’t mean you have to don a full tuxedo – instead, even something as simple as a colourful dress can make you feel like a new person.
H&M Linen-Blend Dress in Light Yellow/Floral, €22.99
For us, wearing a suit is a total life hack. Putting one on – particularly in an on-trend pastel shade – makes you look effortlessly chic and put together. Many of the new styles are just as comfortable your favourite joggers; what better way to ease yourself back into dressing up?
Tops and trousers
The sky really is the limit – this season, we’ve particularly got our eyes on silky shirts, Nineties-inspired crop tops and loud patterned trousers. If you’re feeling particularly fancy, combine tops and bottoms into one magical co-ord.
Zara gingham linen blend top, €25.95
Next wide leg trousers, €22.50
Yes, the rumours are true: heels are back. They’re a true antidote to the sensible, flat shoes you’ve been wearing for your daily trudges around the park throughout winter.
We’re not going to sugarcoat it: heels are by no means as comfortable as trainers. However, a bright pair of shoes – even with a low heel, if you still want to be able to walk – can bring a bit of sunshine to your outfit and boost your mood. Just make sure you plan your activity accordingly – these are the kinds of shoes to cab to the pub in, rather than for anything more active.
Office Master Plan Padded Mules in Lemon Leather, £30 (reduced from £59)