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Style > Fashion

Dopamine Dressing Is The Mood-Booster We Need In 2022

Trends come and go, so you should wear what makes you happy — no, literally. With Sad Girl Fall past us as we enter into the new year, Pinterest has predicted that wearing vibrant colors will be a way to look and feel good in 2022 with a fashion strategy they dubbed “dopamine dressing.”

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows our brains to perceive pleasure. The trend name implies that wearing bold colors will help induce dopamine release and make us feel better by looking better.

According to the Pinterest 2022 Trend Report, “People are headed somewhere over the rainbow this year with vibrant outfits and colorful palettes. From rainbow dresses to electric blue outfits, 2022 fashion will be all about feel-good fits with an electric kick. All genders and age groups are driving this trend.” Dopamine dressing joins pearlcore as one of the style trends to watch this year.

Dopamine dressing signals a shift in fashion trends, with many people ditching their sweatpants and hoodies, a Zoom meeting staple, for more eclectic outfits. This color wave grew momentum last year with colorful trends like the summer’s coconut girl aesthetic and autumn’s vogue for red hair.

The dopamine dressing trend is most alive on social media. As Euphoria Season 2 tweets flood our Twitter timelines, dissections of the costume design and symbolism of each character’s colors reoccupy Gen Z’s collective headspace. On other platforms, influencers like Bretman Rock and Caroline Ricke often wear head-to-toe colorful looks. All the eyes on fashion TikTokers pushes creators to challenge their creativity and incorporate more color into their wardrobes. The trend is also reminiscent of the kindergartencore aesthetic with its bright colors, so maybe you can dress to heal your inner child.

Wearing bright colors is pushing boundaries; it’s not your classic neutral staple. Dopamine dressing allows (and even encourages) the wearer to subvert expectations and reject tradition, especially because this trend is gaining traction during the winter, AKA the season where everyone wears black and almost nothing else.

When styled to your liking, bright outfits are versatile enough to wear to any party or outing imaginable. Here’s everything you need to know about dopamine dressing, and how to try out this new trend for yourself.

So, does it actually produce dopamine?

Dopamine is the principal neurotransmitter involved in feelings of reinforcement and reward, according to Dr. James Giordano, a Neurology and Biochemistry professor at Georgetown University Medical Center. When dopamine is released, it helps produce pleasurable emotions.

Dr. Giordano tells Her Campus, “There is some evidence to suggest that certain colors, such as green and blue, can elevate brain dopamine. It seems that bright shades in a variety of colors can elicit elevations of dopamine in the reward networks of the brain. [However,] this effect is marginal.” 

So, the colors can produce dopamine, but not a lot, and it’s relative to what your eye considers a bright color. That doesn’t mean you should throw the idea of dopamine dressing out the window — it just means to keep your expectations in check. You can still have fun creating new fashionable looks.

What colors should I wear?

If you’re itching to add some color to your closet but aren’t sure where to start, blue and green seem promising. A 2009 study by the University of British Columbia’s Business School found even in replicated situations (with 69, 208, and 118 participants) that seeing the colors green and blue can lead to better performance, compared to the color red. Does that mean we should all be wearing green and blue?

Not necessarily. Dr. Giordano tells Her Campus, “It has been shown that the association of almost any color(s) with prior and current experiences seems to produce the most robust rise in brain dopamine.” In other words, wear whatever colors are significant to you. He elaborates that “colors that are a personal favorite — for a variety of reasons — are most likely to elevate a particular person’s dopamine levels in their reward network, to produce feelings of pleasure.” 

But there’s a reason why dopamine dressing hones in on bright colors. In Cyprus International’s Department of Architecture research on the effects of color on college students’ mood, responses showed that bright colors elicited mainly positive emotional associations. As Alexander Burgemeester, a licensed psychologist that specialises in how the brain works, explains to Her Campus, “When we actually look at specific colors, a neurological response will be triggered in the brain, and this causes a release of hormones from the hypothalamus gland. Just looking at brighter colors can release dopamine, which is what we all know as the hormone that makes us feel good. This reaction can improve your mood and even make you more attentive.”  

Colors carry different meanings in various cultures, so it’s important to determine which colors are significant to you, whether that’s a color important to your heritage, or a color you associate with your childhood. Let your favorite bright colors bring you more joy and allow you to outwardly express yourself!

How to try dopamine dressing 

Dopamine dressing has a timeless quality, according to Jaize Francis, 19, a professional stylist who sees this trend lasting in the mainstream for the first half of 2022. Jaize, who styled Victoria Paris for HC’s Influence Issue, tells Her Campus, “Bright articles of clothing, monochromatic outfits, and unique textures offer a refreshing way to display your personal style and add excitement to a social landscape that can seem so bleak at times.”

Bright colors can be incorporated into any outfit. Jaize explains, “People can integrate this trend into their lives by adding anything from subtle pops of color to their wardrobe, to sporting entire monochromatic outfits.” You can also be bold enough to do any color combination, mix opposites, or try out complementary colors.  

Give in to the boldness

If you’re ready to go all in on this trend, Jaize advocates for starting with singular pieces. She says, “For those aiming for a more flamboyant look, colorful jackets, bags, and head covering such as hats, scarves, or balaclavas are the move.” Take advantage of any cold days in your area. “Layering offers an exciting way for people to experiment with contrasting textures and multiple color palettes while staying warm,” she adds.

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Add an eye-catching fuschia blazer, like this one from REVOLVE, to an otherwise neutral outfit to inspire some joie de vivre. 

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Take inspiration from our Campus Trendsetters and try out a bright accessory. This orange crocodile skin purse from Nordstrom is a great way to mix colors in with different textiles.

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Keep your whole head warm and happy with a balaclava, like this wool green one from Etsy. Bonus: It helps hide bad hair days, too.

Or take it slow

For those of us who aren’t used to wearing such bold looks, these strong vibrant colors can still bring you joy and stand out in small doses. Jaize tells Her Campus, “For people that might not enjoy the attention a highlighter pink outfit attracts, the addition of colorful accessories like jewelry, makeup, tights, and nail art can be a subtle way to elevate their closet.”

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Gen Z style icon Emma Chamberlain wears mon cher moi rings, but here’s a tip: You can get a whole set of colorful chunky rings for way cheaper on Amazon.

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Makeup is a fun way to play and experiment with color. If you didn’t like how one look turned out, you can always clean it off and try again. This lip color from Fenty Beauty is one bold way to test out adding red to your repertoire.

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Adding colorful tights, like these from Urban Outfitters, will instantly transform your outfit to something fresh and playful (and keep you warm while it’s still cold out).

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This is your sign to get your nails done at your local beauty salon. You can paint on colorful designs, like Victoria Paris’s smiley nails in her HC cover shoot. Alternatively, try out some reusable press-ons.

Above all, Jaize advocates for experimentation. She says, “Although it can be easy to follow style guides and tips from celebrities, I strongly encourage everyone to experiment with various silhouettes, color combinations, and aesthetics in order to perfect their own personal style.” 

Wear clothes you love in colors you love. Because, of course, you’re ahead of the trends when you follow your unique standards.

You are what you love. In my case, it's riot grrrl music, healing reads, and bell hooks quotes. I am a national HC writer and a chapter editor at UC Irvine, where I study political science and social ecology.