Fashion and Mental Health

I'm a fashion addict. Ever since I was a little girl I thought that fashion was one of the greatest things in the entire world. It was the art that we got to wear every day; a way to express ourselves. Playing dress up and dressing up my dolls were some of my favourite things because I could pretend to create outfits just like women in magazines.

Getting older, I’ve also realized that fashion can have a profound impact on our mental health. This type of influence on mental health can be affected in a variety of positive and negative ways. However, much of this impact is not talked about. The most common type that is talked about is the desire, or the pressure felt, to look like a model or member of the fashion industry. While the industry is improving its representation by involving a larger variety of models, in gender, size and ethnicity, this is still not the norm. Ads such as H&M’s recent campaign and Aerie’s ‘Aerie Real’ campaign stand out because they don’t conform to the traditional models that we’re accustomed to seeing. Growing up, seeing the traditional fashion models can be very difficult on one's mental health; feeling like you need to look like a model can have various effects on different people.

Another large concern related to fashion and mental health, that is rarely considered, is dealing with fast fashion and consumption. We are constantly shown what’s fashionable, what’s in style. Every day we see what our peers, our coworkers, and strangers are wearing. Clothing that they choose to express themselves. There can be a lot of pressure to keep up to the demands of fast fashion, especially for women. Although it’s always our choice to dress how we want, we can often feel a demand to conform to current styles and trends. Since the industry relies on fast fashion to create a demand it can be stressful to try and keep up with this demand. Feeling like you’re out of style can be another concern that people have, which can cause anxiety or depression.

  What we don’t always remember is that fashion can also have wonderful effects on mental health. For example, wearing an outfit that you love can help make you feel very confident or happy. Many people have an outfit or even one article of clothing that they feel confident or comfortable in. Clothing can also have a nostalgic quality that can be uplifting.

Clothing is also an art that should be appreciated. Designers, photographers, makeup artists, models and bloggers all work passionately in this industry making their art. There needs to be an appreciation and an acknowledgment for this side of the fashion industry which brings many people joy.

While the fashion industry amazes me, inspires me, and drives me in different ways, it’s also important to see both the positive and negative sides of the industry. We can’t ignore all it stands for and all that it does. It’s easy to see something like fashion as disconnected from something like mental health, but these two things work together for many people.