In this article, positive psychology expert Hazal Aktan explores the relationship between self-expression, sustainability, and positive emotions through fashion.

Whether it’s using a fashion-forward accessory or shopping the latest look from the runway, joy can be found in both clothes and accessories. Happiness can come from both clothes and sunshine – after all, that is what July is all about. The representation of the authentic self and brand identity are the two essentials for fashion items to serve as positive reinforcement.

Famous philosopher/psychologist William James placed a remarkable emphasis on clothing. For him, clothes have a self-expressive aspect on your spiritual and social selves. As James puts it: “The old saying that the human person is composed of three parts soul, body, clothes – is more than a joke. We so appropriate our clothes and identify ourselves with them”.

Each season there are new opportunities to find representative clothes and brands that make your authentic self thrive. Summer is a time that calls out for joyful fashion moments. It is a chance to explore and experiment both with fashion and with your identity.

Fashion, self- expression, and joy

Patricia Field, the hero behind all of Carrie Bradshaw’s iconic looks on Sex and the City, draws attention to the relationship between clothes and one’s identity with her words of wisdom: “Style has become very important, the whole idea of style, what your style is. It’s your identity.”

Highlighting the relationship between emotions and clothes, Field states that the Versace gown Carrie wore for the final episode of the TV series amplified the emotions of the scene.
The joy of summer warmth can come in tropical prints as seen on the Versace Spring/Summer 2020 runway as well as at Valentino, Dries

Van Noten, and Marni. When it comes to more simple occasions like daily grocery shopping, a colourful tote bag can brighten up your day. One of the wardrobe essentials of this season is undoubtedly blazers! They have magic power, serving as a confidence booster for every occasion and fitting every dress code. Whether you are attending an evening event with a blazer and a cocktail dress, or a more casual look with a cool denim and blazer combination, it’s the perfect way to cover up on warm days. If you want to express yourself through sexiness, you can show a bit of a neckline with an elegant bra under the blazer.

If you want to express your feminine side, why not reveal some skin with a sheer lace dress? After all, this is the era of body confidence. The creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, presented dramatic sexy looks on the Spring/Summer 2020 Gucci runway. The collection is based on the idea of the liberation of provocative details, and is called ‘Gucci Orgasmique’. The brand presents the collection as “fashion as a way to allow people to walk through fields of possibilities,… and celebrate the self in expression and identity”.

Big brands are encouraging self expression and authenticity, which can be so empowering. If you see a way to express yourself with sheer lace dresses as seen on the runway, go on and be bold.
From a positive psychology perspective, the science of happiness and well-being states that when you are able to reflect your authentic self you will naturally flourish. Authenticity is the new cool! Take Jameela Jamil, on the red carpet for the Critics’ Choice awards with her chunky boots under a dramatic Oscar de la Renta gown. Jamil was confident and blooming on that red carpet because she was being real and feeling comfortable.

Sometimes authenticity might mean wearing boots with a gown on the red carpet.
As Taylor Swift puts it on her Netflix document Miss Americana: “You can wear pink and talk about politics”. The point is acting out your authentic self in the ways that feel right to you.

Happiness through caring

For the modern-day fashionista, the dream dress by itself might not be enough to create positive emotions. The fashion industry is changing its attitude and the brands who can keep up with these changes are on demand. In 2018, research by Common Objective reported that, for the past 5 years, Google searches for “ethical fashion” have increased by 25% and searches for “sustainable fashion” by 46%. Many brands are relying on positive branding strategies now more than ever.

Though these concepts are becoming the new cool, their popularity is not limited to being trendy. Individuals seek brands that are more representative and have eco-friendly strategies since it makes them feel heard and cared about. Identifying with the brands that are sensitive to the climate crisis will make people experience more positive emotions too.
One of the greenest shows was presented by Stella McCartney, a pioneer for sustainability in fashion. More than 75% of the pieces were eco-friendly on the Spring/Summer 2020 Stella McCartney runway.

Following their announcement about going carbon neutral for its production, Gucci created a sustainable catwalk for the Spring/Summer 2020 show. 70% of the set was made from recycled and reused materials; showing care to mother earth, thus, showing care to people who live on earth.

Additionally, Vivienne Westwood made a statement for sustainability by using unsold fabrics for half of the collection on her Spring/Summer 2020 runway.

Actress Jane Fonda, famously known for her activism, knows how to make a powerful fashion statement. For the 92nd Academy Awards, she made an environmentally conscious choice by wearing a red gown by Ellie Saab again, after wearing the same dress 6 years ago at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. She was also conscious in her choice of jewellery as she picked ethically harvested gold and sustainable diamonds by Pomellato for her red carpet look.
Once again, she looked stunning with her dress on the red carpet, showing us that it is possible to put a fashion item on, look good, and make your soul feel good about it too. Clothes can be empowering when we let them reflect our identity properly. Everyone has their fashion moments, so this season, be bold, go for it, and create your own fashion moment. Put your favourite summer clothes on, find the brands you resonate with and keep on flourishing, thriving as the sun shines during July – even if you’re just at home.

You can read more of Hazal’s work via her instagram @artoflifeco_ and on

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