I realised that, for years I’d been dressing with the sole objective of hiding the parts of me I didn’t like (Picture: Christopher Andreou)
It’s a cold, dreary winter night and while many are heading home from a hard day’s work, I’m about to start my journey into work.
I love my job as a broadcaster, but it takes a special effort to get me out of the house when it’s dark. So, I’ve started to prescribe myself a dose of daily dopamine dressing – wearing bright colours and prints that lift my mood and make the commute to work a little more bearable.
And it would appear I’m not alone.
British law firm, Vardags, has made the headlines by telling its staff to dress like they’re heading to a club rather than sticking to traditional office attire.
Not the sort of club that has sticky floors and a 2-for-1 deal on Jägerbombs, though, but the exclusive, members-only Mayfair club, Annabel’s.
‘Bring your personality to work,’ read the company-wide email – adding: ‘Be as wildly fabulous as you feel’.
‘If you fancy an electric-blue sequinned jacket and gold leather trousers, if you want pink hair or scarlet DMs, if you want a purple velvet jacket, that’s all good’.
I rejoiced at the news of this revamped dress-code, because it’s a policy that I recently took on myself – albeit without a memorandum from an employer.
I realised that, for years I’d been dressing with the sole objective of hiding the parts of me I didn’t like. That often meant monochrome tones and baggy jumpers, batwing tops and leisurewear to mask my insecurities.
While I’ll never part from the grey tracksuit that served me so loyally throughout the pandemic, when I was allowed back into the world again, I decided to embrace colour and opt for some dopamine dressing for the first time. And what a world of good it did.
I ditched my monochrome workwear for tangerine orange pant-suits, fuchsia pink jackets and emerald green ensembles (Picture: Christopher Andreou)
Dopamine dressing is a trend that sees people donning items that make them feel happy. For many people, bright colours make them feel cheerful, and choosing to wear them at work could spread a bit of much-needed joy to others, too.
When I ditched my monochrome workwear for tangerine orange pant-suits, fuchsia pink jackets and emerald green ensembles (my other half calls it my ‘highlighter wardrobe’) I received so many positive comments from both colleagues and strangers alike because they said it had made them smile. And getting a compliment in the office lift is lovely on so many levels.
In a nightclub (when I used to frequent them – the sticky floor kind) there was no better feeling than to have a drunk girl compliment your outfit in the loos. But having a sober woman tell you she’d never felt brave enough to wear clashing colours, and ask where you got your coat from, is a dopamine boost like no other.
There’s a man who lives down the road from me who wears a three piece canary-yellow suit with matching trilby. He brightens up my day whenever I walk past him. Through a sea of black and navy jackets and coats, he exudes confidence and joy without even saying a word. I wanted to be more like him.
Confidence and joy are two emotions that we could all do with a little more of in the workplace, after all.
Dopamine dressing has made getting ready for the day that bit easier, too. If I don’t feel like making an effort, I just grab some bright trousers and a clashing top and the work is done. It makes you look like you’ve made an effort – even when you haven’t.
Vardags’ dress code is a policy that encourages staff to cut ties with ties and call time on cufflinks, reimagining what business-professional could look like.
For men, office attire has always been a damn sight easier to nail than for women.
As someone who has campaigned for women to be able to ditch their heels in the workplace in favour of comfortable shoes, I believe that personal expression and comfort are key to feeling happy at work.
When I worked as a temp receptionist at legal and accountancy firms across the city, pencil skirts and tights were my nemesis. I refuse to believe that any woman in the history of hosiery has ever managed to put her tights on the right way round first time, or without creating a ladder so large you wanted to climb back into bed and call in sick.
Pencil skirts are instruments of restraint, while white shirts are a nightmare for bra-pairing and high-heels are the most impractical item of footwear known to women.
I do feel somewhat sorry for men, though (it’s rare, I know), for whom finding expressive, colourful clothing is far more difficult.
While it’s easy for them to look smart when they don a navy suit and tie, and it’s far more difficult for women to strike the right balance, the availability of brightly coloured suits for men is limited. If only men’s fashion brands broke through gender stereotypes and offered up more vibrant options for their customers.
I hope that Vardags will be the first of many businesses that acknowledge how an individual’s sartorial expression is important to their identity.
Looking smart does not necessarily need to mean looking dull.
We’re living in an increasingly gender-fluid world, and it’s reassuring to see some employers embrace a more relaxed attitude to workplace attire.
I hope that such policies will breathe life into stuffy offices across the UK, and in turn I hope to see the slow, painful, death of the grey suit – along with mandatory high heels.
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