January Blues to Spring Hues: How to Dress for Joy


Dhuha Usman (she/her) writes on shaking off New Year blues through your wardrobe this Spring time

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Image by Josh Hild

By Dhuha Usman

I am sure I am not the only one who was hit by the January blues this year. With my final semester approaching and being bed bound thanks to my chronic illness, it is certain to say that I have not been thriving, and neither has my wardrobe. An abundance of time spent in my very stylish highland cow pyjamas and the occasional jersey midi skirt to make myself acceptable to the outside world, has left me determined to dress with joy to shake off those new year blues and finally merge into 2024.

With the colder weather still here, it is easy to dress in the usual blacks and greys, maybe a navy blue if you are feeling bold. It is without a doubt that the colours we choose to dress in always have an effect on our moods. In this same way, listening to ‘Motion Sickness’ by Phoebe Bridgers every morning is probably not the best choice to be pouring your cup of ambition to (this is your sign to add some Dolly Parton to your playlists, she always sparks SO much joy). According to the London Image Institute, “colour can play an important role in conveying information nonverbally, creating certain moods, and even influencing the decisions people make". Back to Dolly, her incredible wardrobe is curated with the utmost joy. From the highest heels to the wigs and tons of pink glitter in between, she has created an iconic signature wardrobe. Her joyous energy on stage and in interviews reflects the clothes she wears and is celebrated in the way her fans have adored her for over 50 years. This is exactly what the London Image Institute explains: could you imagine Dolly on stage in all black and flat hair? That would be a firm no.

Taking a leaf out of Dolly’s book, I have been reminiscing on the ‘Dopamine Dress-ing’ saga of 2022. Essentially, this was a strive towards dressing for joy in order to boost our dopamine levels, the happy hormone. My main question is why was this a fad and why did this ever end? With trends like the ‘clean girl’ aes-thetic or Tik Tok’s new favourite, ‘mob wife’ craze, it can be difficult to actually know what clothes make you feel good rather than what you feel you should be wearing. To start, I like to think back to my childhood and what brought me joy then. Children don’t really have that need to care what other people think, they show up as their authentic selves without trying. Whilst my mother arguably gave me way too much creative freedom with my wardrobe, I dressed however I wanted and changed multiple times a day. Influenced by the likes of Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place, my style was a mix of country, city diva and aspiring fashion designer. Written down, that sounds horrific and it probably was for anyone looking at me but my freedom in wearing whatever I wanted kept me happy, boosted my confidence and my love for fashion.

Thinking back, I wore lots of colour and accessorised to the heavens. Whilst I will steer away from the plastic jewellery from GirlTalk, I will be making a conscious effort to change my jewellery. I know lots of us are guilty of wearing the same emotional support pieces every day but perhaps changing one piece will invigorate a feeling of something new and get one out of a rut. This being said, if wearing signature pieces brings you joy then stick with that! After all, we are dressing for joy not to please other people, although I do think it’s worth a try to switch up your style. Similarly, I used to wear lots of pink and if that doesn’t scream happiness, I’m not sure what does. Recently, I was searching for a wool trench coat seeking a black or tan colour. I came across a burnt red colour and I honestly cannot describe how much I enjoy wearing my new coat. It’s not a hugely bright colour, it is simply a new colour to my wardrobe and infil-trates a classic style with modernity. Try adding a new colour into your wardrobe, it is so easy to fall into the trap of wearing one palette but it is possible to add complimentary colours outside of your comfort zone. This could be via clothing,  bags, jewellery or even a new nail colour. Sometimes re-introducing or increasing joy means trying something new, whether that is a huge change or the most subtle shift it can calm that monotonous feeling that January often brings to many of us.

So, what does dressing for joy really mean? It varies person to person but ultimately, it en-courages happiness in our clothing choices. Wear what really makes you happy; that may be all black or a new pop of red in your wardrobe. For me, dressing for joy is merely wearing what-ever makes me feel comfortable and wearing pieces I feel excited to put on. Simple things like this are pockets of joy in everyday life and can often pick up our mood, particularly after such a cold January.