We may still be enduring social restrictions and heading towards the depths of winter, but our wardrobes could hold the key to lifting our spirits. Christobel Hastings explores the transformational power of clothes, and how our sartorial choices can help us navigate the coming months…
If you’re reading this right now, there’s a good chance that you’re feeling uninspired by your wardrobe.
After the best part of a year spent living in our favourite loungewear (and more than the odd day reclining in our pyjamas), even the most committed fashion lovers among us will have surrendered to all-things soft and comfortable.
After all, it’s wet, grey and getting darker by the day – and there’s only a slim chance that we’ll get to glam up for any Christmas parties this side of 2020 *sob*.
Well, time for a public service announcement: we may be living in strange times, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise your style.
In fact, there’s all the more reason to embrace the transformative power of clothes.
So how can you go about harnessing it this winter? Read on for our four key tips…
1. Inject some colour
Every autumn, as soon as the leaves start to fall from the trees, a similar sartorial phenomenon occurs as the colour drains from our wardrobes.
We begin to bundle ourselves in monochromatic layers, mimicking the grey, damp weather outside our windows.
While sociological influences play a part in how colours make us feel, research has shown that certain colour groups can have a powerful effect on our psyche.
Brighter colours like reds, oranges and yellows, for instance, evoke feelings of warmth, comfort and happiness, while cooler shades like blues, greens and purples are linked to calmness and tranquillity.
“Wearing brighter colours during this pandemic and more so, this winter, could encourage us to feel more positive and peaceful in our minds,” explains psychologist Dr Juliet Anton.
“For example, yellow can encourage our endorphins. It’s associated with feeling enlightened and joyful and wearing this colour may be helpful when we feel down and/or isolated.”
So donning something like this red chevron knit jumper from Tu Clothing could be the first step to a more brighter outlook on the day.
If you’re having visions of resembling a highlighter pen, worry not: you needn’t go top-to-toe to embrace bright colours.
According to personal stylist and founder of Styled By Susie, Susie Hasler, colour can be introduced into the wardrobe in a myriad of thoughtful, subtle ways that even those of a firm non-colour persuasion can get on board with.
“Bright colours can feel daunting, but they’re incredibly easy to apply to your wardrobe,” she explains. “If you don’t feel confident wearing, say, a bright red, try incorporating the hue with a nail varnish, lipstick or headband – even if the rest of your outfit is black.
“You don’t have to dress from head to toe in bright colours, but a pop, or a splash of it can change your outlook.”
2. Pay attention to materials
It’s a universally acknowledged truth that one of the few redeeming aspects of winter is the chance to wrap up in the snuggest, softest garments in our wardrobe: chunky knitwear like this chunky cable detail cardigan, finely spun turtlenecks and cosy coats that feel like a warm hug from your best friend.
Naturally, you can wear warm clothes without compromising your personal style.
But if we’re going to leave the sanctuary of our bed when all we want to do is hibernate, wearing the right fibres is paramount – especially if you’re working from home and don’t want to turn on the central heating every five minutes.
“For winter clothing, materials that strike a balance between using tight weaves and still allowing for the skin to breathe are ideal in keeping us insulated and in preventing any skin irritation,” explains Dr Anton.
Chances are, you’ve probably already got a good idea of the hero fabrics to wear in winter.
“Cotton is a natural fibre that’s breathable, but at the same time, it keeps you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. It’s also moisture-wicking, which helps to avoid the build-up of sweat and bacteria on the skin and in turn reduce the risk of breakouts and acne.”
When it comes to warmer materials, though, there’s nothing better than toasty-warm woollen knitwear, especially when we want to maximise our lockdown walks during the cold snap.
“Wool is good for keeping you warm because it moves moisture away from your skin faster and more effectively than other fabrics. It’s also effective at trapping warm, dry air next to you, thereby preventing the breeze from moving across your skin and keeping you warm when it is cold outside,” she continues.
If you prefer finer weaves to chunky, oversized knits, however, Dr Tailor advises you opt for more luxurious fibres like merino and cashmere.
“Superfine merino wool is ideal for keeping skin warm in winter and nourishing it too,” she explains. “Garments made from this type of wool are incredibly breathable, because of its ability to absorb and release twice as much moisture vapour as cotton, and 30 times as much as polyester.”
“It also helps to stabilise the humidity levels and temperature of the micro-climate between the fabric and the skin. In other words, it acts like a protective layer for people whose skin is dry.”
“Together this makes it an ideal choice to be worn next to the skin when outside in the cold over the winter.”
3. Consider your wellbeing
According to business mentor Charlotte Balbier, establishing a good routine with our clothes can make a big difference to our state of mind during lockdown.
“While in isolation it’s easy to feel lonely and disillusioned, questioning what the point of making an effort is, but there is a point – we are doing it for ourselves.
“I encourage my clients to dress as they would for the office and see how much it affects their positivity and productivity – it never fails to have an impact.
“Showing up as the very best version of ourselves each and every day can sometimes be tricky, but what we choose to wear can massively boost us on those not-so-positive days.”
Given the unpredictability of the times, making considered choices with our clothes can also form part of our comforting rhythms and rituals during lockdown.
You’ll feel infinitely more motivated to go for a stroll through the park, for instance, when you can wrap up in a beautiful mint green crombie coat from Tu clothing.
“The poet John Keats supposedly used to put on his smartest clothes before he wrote to help him focus and create a sense of occasion,” says Kelly.
“In a similar way, dressing with care and focus can be a comforting ritual that gives us a sense of control. Right now we can’t control the big stuff, but we can control what we wear.
“Taking pleasure in dressing is a small act which we can all enjoy – a good distraction from all the stuff which is making us anxious right now,” she continues.
“Why not choose something which you would normally keep for best? It could become a talking point on a walk or picking up a coffee – and make you feel less isolated too.”
4. Be intentional
Given the power of clothes to enhance our psychological state, it’s somewhat paradoxical that we often pay more attention to how others might perceive our wardrobe choices. During this time though, we have a chance to be more conscious about what clothes really make us feel good.
“Our inner selves are reflected in our outward appearance and vice versa,” says Rachel Kelly, a mental health advocate and author of Singing in the Rain: 52 Practical Steps to Happiness.
“If you make an effort with your clothes, to look clean, tidy and stylish, it can affect our inner mood. It sends a signal that we care about ourselves, and others in turn feel we are worth making an effort for.”
Just as the pandemic helped catalyse a change in mindset around home working, so should we reorient our thinking around the clothes we deem suitable for wearing at our WFH desks.
Even if our colleagues can’t admire a statement piece in the office, like this pearl embellishment crew neck jumper from Tu clothing, it doesn’t mean it can’t bring us sartorial joy – just look at the success of the lockdown Instagram sensation Working From Home Fits for proof of that.
Getting creative with our fashion choices in the midst of a winter lockdown might seem like a trivial distraction, but Hasler believes that the practice could hold long-term benefits for the way we’re perceived us in a post-pandemic world, especially those of us would want to grow more confident with our aesthetic.
“Dress for how you want to feel, how you want the world to see you,” she continues.
“That way, when life eventually returns to ‘normal’, you won’t think twice about wearing sequins during the day – instead, you’ll be in the mindset that you need to dress every day as though it’s your ‘best’ day.”
Dress well, feel good with Tu clothing. No matter your shape, size, style or budget, you’ll find an outfit to boost your mood and leave you feeling good in the clothes you wear. Shop the collection here.