Katie Piper has opened up about the incredibly important role that fashion and clothing played in her recovery, explaining that it helped her to “create an identity” when her sense of self had been stripped away.
“I have kind of relied on it as a way to reinvent myself, create an identity, that whole fake it until you make it,” she revealed on ITV’s Lorraine.
“For me clothes are a huge part of who I am, the message I put out to the world as to how I want to be treated.”
Piper had sulphuric acid thrown into her face in 2008, leaving her partially blind and with horrific burns and lifelong scarring, all of which required more than 300 surgical procedures.
The philanthropist, campaigner, and TV star went on to set up a charitable organisation, the Katie Piper Foundation, to help burns victims and people suffering from disfiguring injuries. And, in 2015, she married Richard Sutton, the father of her three-year-old daughter, Belle.
Now the 33-year-old is launching her own fashion range – and she has spoken at length about how the way she dresses can help to boost her emotional wellbeing.
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“I definitely think [that clothes helped me through those darker periods],” said Piper.
“They’ve been a bit of light relief, a way to recognise I still exist underneath after all the trauma.”
Piper was attacked by Stefan Sylvestre in 2008. He had been hired by Piper’s ex-boyfriend, Daniel Lynch, who is currently serving two life sentences in prison. Sylvestre, who was also jailed, is serving a minimum 12-year sentence.
The attack left Piper feeling as if she had lost a huge part of who she was: her eyelids burned away, as did most of her nose and part of an ear.
Surgeons used pioneering technology in a bid to rebuild her face – but this meant that Piper was forced to wear solid plastic pressure mask for months, as the constant pressure helped to improve the texture and shape of her new skin.
“When I was in the mask I couldn’t wear make-up,” she said, “so clothes were important [in helping me to feel myself again].”
Karen Pine, who is the co-author of Flex: Do Something Different and a professor in the School of Psychology at University of Hertfordshire, has said that dressing up in your favourite clothes has been proven to help you to feel better.
“The strong link between clothing and mood state suggests we should put on clothes that we associate with happiness, even when feeling low,” she said.
Pine – who interviewed 100 women about their moods and dressing habits for the study – continued: “We should give more thought to what we wear and even dress for happiness, irrespective of how we are feeling.”
Shauna Mackenzie Heathman, a certified image consultant and owner of Mackenzie Image Consulting in South Carolina, added: “When we are depressed or sad, we’re not focused on how we look. We stop caring.
“We turn to what’s easy and comfortable. Prolonged long enough, you then fall in ‘the rut.’ Often, altering one’s mood by enhancing wardrobe can be done.”
She added: “However, it generally only has short-term results if working on one’s emotional and mental state is not at play as well.”
Using fashion as a way of boosting mental wellbeing is not a new concept: Mind, the mental health charity, has long cited the positive effects that personal care can have on our day-to-day lives.
“When you're experiencing a mental health problem, it's easy for personal care to not feel like a priority,” it explains. “But small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed, whether or not you're going out of the house, can make a big difference to how you feel.”
You can find more of Mind’s self-care tips – including relaxation methods and mood-boosting dietary advice – on their website.
Images: Rex Features