The psychology of fashion: Sonya Lennon launches dress up Mondays at home

The psychology of fashion: Sonya Lennon launches dress up Mondays at home

Getting out of your pyjamas or leisurewear will leave you more confident in yourself even when you are working from home, writes Annmarie O’Connor.

Look good, feel good; we know it as a stylish self-help entreaty. Thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic, we now know it as a call to arms. Forced to interpret the language of social distancing with neologisms like self-isolation, quarantine and remote access (#WFH), the temptation is to cocoon oneself in sweatpants or jim-jams if only for the proxy hug provided by a fleece robe.

The psychology of fashion: Sonya Lennon launches dress up Mondays at home

A few days deep and duvet day dressing becomes the new normal with no differentiation between day and night or even weekend. The lack of ritual and routine across work, social and self-care strata may be meme-worthy at first, but sooner or later these blurred lines begin to impact our mental health.

Although, there is no best practice for dealing with existential fear while in sequester; most of us do have a closet full of clothes, time and the Internet.

It may sound frivolous to extol of the virtues of fashion during such testing times but the clothing we wear is more than external dressing; it can act as an inner salve to calm our minds, focus our thoughts and mollify our moods. What’s more, it can be proven.

In 2012, psychologists Haio Adams and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University coined the term ‘enclothed cognition’ when exploring the theory that certain clothing when worn can influence the mental state of the wearer. The takeaway? If you feel confident in what you wear, you’re likely to try harder, and perform better at a specific task, especially when that garment holds symbolic meaning.

Think about it. When you want to look sexy on a date, chances are you’ll wear a killer dress. Keen to slay that boardroom presentation? A sharply cut suit ought to look the business. In short, we become what we wear. Translate this to staying indoors while doing your COVID-19 civic duty and, Houston, we have a problem. Uncertain of whether 14 days may proliferate into 40 or 140 or whether lockdown measures will get tighter, it’s not enough to simply make an effort; we’ve got to get creative.

In a bid to distract, encourage and entertain, Sonya Lennon, one half of eponymous fashion brand Lennon Courtney has thrown down the social media gauntlet with uplifting daily Instagram outfit posts.

For 30 years I’ve known the power of getting dressed and putting - together and how that makes you feel more capable and stronger. Everything that I have done in business has grown out of that. So, I saw that there was a risk that people could just take to the pyjamas and that be it.

From a gold 1930s gown to a Tim Ryan feather and tassel-clad dress and colourful cameos from her Dunnes Stores collection, each #DressUp post – hashtagged with its respective day of the week – creates space for joy by focusing on the ritual of dressing rather than the routine. In bestowing the ordinary with an air of extraordinary, we not only sanctify the mundane but we also demonstrate our potential to affect change.

“Whenever I work with anyone to help them feel better about how they look through clothes, I always take them further than I know they are going to land,” explains Lennon, “so they can drop into a space that is a little bit higher than where they began. That’s why I’ve been wearing full-length gowns, just to sort of say, let’s take it to the absolute max and land somewhere below that.” Similarly, Fermoy’s Vanilla boutique has been leveraging social media to boost collective morale and provide a light respite from reality.

A recent Instagram competition saw sibling owners Kate and Joy gift a €100 voucher to the funniest post of a customer wearing a Vanilla purchase (old or new) while sitting on the sofa; while RTÉ 2fm used the power of influencers to spread the #CreateDontContaminate message and encourage others to share selfies of dressing up with nowhere to go.

Fashion influencers like Kate Hiscox of Wears My Money (@wearsmymoney) and Kat Farmer of Does My Bum Look 40 (@doesmybumlook40) have also shared what to wear when staying in or on socially-distanced walks with UK style and beauty platform Who What Wear touting ‘fancy loungewear looks that will instantly boost your mood’. Brands known for luxe contemporary separates such as Winser London and ME+EM have shifted focus to at-home chic, prioritising pieces that marry professionalism with comfort like knit co-ordinates, chunky cashmere roll necks and cotton drawstring trousers.

Stylist and personal shopper, Natasha Crowley takes a similar albeit more measured approach to life in lockdown. “It’s hard to know what day of the week it is; it’s like Christmas but without the presents,” she jokes, “so I’m trying to use my clothes as a way of breaking it up; having Monday to Friday as a working week and wearing something that I would normally wear going to work and keeping my comfy, casual stuff for the evenings or weekend.”

Good call. Not only does this practice allow for a modicum of personal control over unprecedented circumstances; it keeps us looking and feeling professional. After all, the top knot, barefaced, loungewear troika doesn’t hustle the same career muscle when summed to the tablet of terror by an ad hoc video conference call. Enclothed cognition in action.

I’m personally advocating colour therapy in a bid to keep my serotonin flowing. Research suggests that when our eyes connect with a particular colour, the brain releases a cocktail of feel-good chemicals that have the potential to impact our bodies and minds. Although I’m typically clad in black until the mercury rises to that of a mid-teenager, I decided to follow #DressUp suit and document my COVID-19 containment in my brightest outfits. The results?

Red makes me feel motivated and self-actualised, yellow increases my power of positivity (have you ever looked at a daffodil and felt indifferent?); and juicy orange gives me energy. When I want to alleviate anxiety and keep calm, it’s got to be pale pink. Factoid: ‘Drunk-Tank Pink’ is a bubble-gum shade claimed to reduce hostile and aggressive behaviour of prison inmates. When the walls are closing in, you’ll know what to wear.

Granted, it can be argued that the feelings associated with colours are merely symbolic – a cultural inheritance of epithets like ‘earthy brown’ and ‘regal purple’. Be that as it may, might they also prove equally efficacious in helping us keep it together, even if things are falling apart? Bolder, brighter, better – let that be our wardrobe wellness mantra.

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