Fashion Therapy is a worldwide phenomenon that has deep roots in retail therapy, wearapy and art therapy. Retail therapy is a confession of almost every human being. Often we splurge on at least one item that we use to make us feel better by increasing self esteem and confidence. Do you give the gift of fashion? Do you love to help others through your profession or personal accord of styling, make up art , designing, shopping ? Do you practice those “do it yourself” tutorials revolutionizing your old sandals, accessories, creating turbans, head wraps from scarfs and scraps of cloth? Do you do this with your “besties” ? Well consider yourself part of the movement. What movement?! I’m sorry I meant the lifestyle. Yes, the lifestyle to incorporate healthy stress relieving activities into your monotonous and hectic schedule.
Multi millionaire divorcee Mouna Ayoub spent more than 500,000 pounds a year on designer clothing. She was married to billionaire Nasser Al Rashid in 1979. Then she used clothes as a form of retail and fashion therapy during her years in the isolated environment of the Saudi Arabian marriage. She is even quoted as saying, “Fashion became my medicine- my only way out of a very restricted life,” (Rose and Allen, Teenagers Get Fashion Therapy). Another concept, wearapy is a term coined by television personality and style expert Jeannie Mai. She is quoted explaining wearapy as her psychology of style, “colours, textures and the way we reveal our body shape can enhance, reflect and effect our every mood and thought. Fashion has the power to fuel our souls and create a specific audience of energy in our lives,” (Style Bistro, Jeannie Mai Dissects 10 Celebrity Styles).
There is further proof that fashion therapy is functional. The Arthur Centre at the University Hospital of Marseilles offers patients the opportunity to dress up in designer wear to raise self esteem and treat adolescent problems like anorexia and depression. It was noted that after the adolescents try on the designer clothes they are proud of their bodies again. There is reinforcement of positive behavior and extinction of negative behavior by trying to wean the teenagers off the behavior that is associated with their condition. Research at this unit has discovered that clothes are symptomatic to certain diseases. Bulimics prefer darker clothes and anorexics choose larger sizes. Hence bulimics are weaned to wear brighter colours. Soon the therapists notice progress when the teenagers start trying on clothes and progressing towards positive behavior. Then they leave the center. The center’s annual report of the first year has already indicated significant success (Rose and Allen, Teenagers Get Fashion Therapy).
But wait there is more… fashion is a form of creative art and design so it is also a form of art therapy (Oh yes it is!!). The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical , mental and emotional well being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior , reduce stress, increase self esteem and self awareness, and achieve insight,”(Cherry, What is Art Therapy). Basically thoughts, images, perceptions, feelings and imagination from the inner self are coerced to emerge from inhibition through art sessions of sculpting, painting, drawing and collage making.
In Trinidad there is music therapy (Jamal Glynn), play therapy (Healing with Horses) and art therapy (Sian MacLean) but there is certainly a prevalence of fashion therapy although it is not formalized. We love to dress up and change up our look to events, home gatherings, school, work, church, other religious associations and jaunts to the supermarket or Sunday market. There are local fashion markets (RackedTT), creative markets( Upmarket, ThingsTT), local designer boutiques (Woodbrook is becoming the local fashion district) and enough resources to acquire textiles (Jimmy Aboud The Textile King), accessories, embellishments (beadcafe) to create your own outfits and start designing your own look or enhancing it. There are local beauty and hair care brands such as Sacha Cosmetics, Immortelle Beauty, Cher Mere. Infinite independent make up artists with easy access tutorials online help you change up your look (allyuh know I not joking when I say infinite almost everyone of you reading this knows at least one local make up artist).
So in addition to your extra glass of Cabernet Sauvignon try some fashion therapy. The shopping for clothes, shoes, accessories, their inherent textures, colours, cuts, styles, the act of creating and reinventing your old outfits, personal appearance through make up, hair and nail art are just as therapeutic. Whether you do this alone, in groups or as a couple (yes this is not just for you ladies!) you have given yourself the freedom of expression of identity and the release of your pent up stress and anxiety.
So now that you know this is serious business and “pinky swear” with me not to take fashion therapy for granted (lol okay you don’t have to do it…it was just a figure of speech). But in future try not to bail on the next shopping spree, make over or reconsider going out because you take hours styling your OOTD (Outfit of the Day) or OOTN (Outfit of the Night). You might want to think about that favor you would be doing yourself. Oh and guys give the ladies a break and don’t hassle them when they take their time. It is merely because women are more emotional beings. They are trying to express themselves through their clothes and sense of style. The process of choosing an outfit is a detailed process that requires revisiting how certain colours and textures make them feel about themselves. This is unpredictable and can take from ten minutes to about an hour or more. So either learn a lesson from them, join them in this stress relieving venture or give them their time. Trust me it is definitely going to be worth your while in the long run.
Let’s Go Trinidad and Tobago