Dopamine dressing: Australian fashion insiders on the clothes that make them happiest

Feelgood fashion from a ‘pro-science, pro-Dolly’ T-shirt to a ‘surprisingly powerful’ necktie

The idea of ‘dopamine dressing’ – wearing clothes that make you feel happier, has been around for several years, but it has reached new heights of relevance in 2021 as we continue to go out less, and feel rotten more often.

Feelgood clothes are often reduced to aesthetics – pieces that are bright, poppy or overtly joyful. But an outfit doesn’t have to scream happiness in order to provoke it.

We asked seven speakers at the Australian Fashion Summit – part of Melbourne Fashion festival – to share the one piece of clothing that makes them feel most hopeful.

Yatu Widders Hunt, founder and curator of @AusIndigenousFashion

Yatu Widders-Hunt in her Ngali dress.
Yatu Widders Hunt in her Ngali dress. Photograph: Jimmy Widders Hunt

This dress is from First Nations fashion label Ngali and features the work of Gija artist Lindsay Malay. Growing up in Sydney as a young Aboriginal person, I was always looking for pieces that reflected my contemporary identity, but in a way that was grounded in our cultural traditions.

As an adult, I feel like I found that in this dress. It gives me the opportunity to continue our traditions by showcasing the stories and values we hold. It’s also a great conversation starter and a gentle and beautiful way to share who we are as a people. I wore this dress at a fashion event where we were sharing our favourite First Nations fashion pieces and what they represented for us. It was a day of connection and celebration. I feel nothing but joy in my Ngali.

Audrey Khaing-Jones, CEO of GlamCorner

Audrey Khaing-Jones in a colourful printed dress from C/Meo Collective
Audrey Khaing-Jones in a colourful printed dress from C/Meo Collective. Photograph: Selena McLaren

I love this dress because it reminds me of the first time I wore it at the Australian Fashion Laureate awards in 2019, presenting the Sustainable Innovation awards. It was a “pinch me” moment on how far we’ve come in helping reduce fashion waste through rental.

I chose to wear the C/Meo Collective dress at the time because it was part of our GlamCorner rental offering, and the shape and print made me feel sophisticated yet fun. I loved the dress so much I bought it at the end of its rental life cycle and it always manages to lift my mood when I wear it.

Nathan McGuire, model and creative

Nathan McGuire in his rust orange Handsom shirt.
Nathan McGuire in his rust orange Handsom shirt. Photograph: Nathan McGuire

This rust orange shirt by Melbourne based label Handsom is one of my favourite pieces of clothing. I was shopping in their store, spotted the shirt in the sale section of the rack and my eyes lit up. I love a bargain.

This piece makes me happy because at the time I had a sharp focus on developing my wardrobe and wanting to buy key pieces that fit my personal style. The colour was perfect and the shirt was made so well. I can dress it up for a night out with mates or make it casual to go out for a coffee. I’ve been able to wear it to many friends’ events and it’s travelled the world with me. This shirt makes me feel confident and comfortable. Our fashion reflects the way we move through the world and this shirt gives me those feelings.

Graeme Lewsey, CEO of Melbourne Fashion festival

Graeme Lewsey, wearing his powerful but vulnerable neck scarf and “pearly white” Common Project sneakers.
Graeme Lewsey wearing his powerful but vulnerable neck scarf and ‘pearly white’ Common Project sneakers. Photograph: Graeme Lewsey

Love the concept of empowerment dressing. Nothing like an overwhelming boost of confidence when you know you’ve got your outfit right. This picture is very recent, taken at the launch of Melbourne Fashion festival at Victoria’s Government House.

This wasn’t going to be my immediate choice, and I’m being a little courageous with this choice, but it’s heartfelt. I was recently diagnosed with neck cancer and while I’m grateful to be in remission, like many cancer warriors I’ve taken an ego hit and have some scares to prove it. Wearing this neck scarf was surprisingly powerful. It actually highlighted my vulnerability and gave me some bravado too. Oh, and there’s always a dopamine rush when you’ve got pearly white Common Projects to go with any outfit.

Camilla Freeman-Topper, creative director of Camilla and Marc

Camilla Freeman Topper in a trench coat of her own design.
Camilla Freeman Topper in a trenchcoat of her own design. Photograph: Camilla Freeman Topper

This Camilla and Marc trenchcoat makes me feel incredibly sentimental. It’s been a core piece in my wardrobe, and reminds me of the time I spent studying at the Accademia Italiana Arte Moda in Florence, Italy.

It was such an inspiring time in my life; the art, architecture and food, not to mention the education in tailoring. This piece makes me feel incredibly optimistic and grateful for that wonderful experience.

Andie Halas, founding director of Thread Together

Andie Halas, wearing a dress from The Art Club.
Andie Halas, wearing a dress from The Art Club. Photograph: Chloe Paul

This dress from The Art Club by Heidi Middleton ticks so many boxes for me. I have always admired Heidi – her business sense, her positive attitude and now at this career stage her investment in slow fashion with a focus on sustainability. This dress is a great mix of feminine and masculine – which is my style. A classic dress that is based on the traditional men’s shirting, though with the femininity of fabric and the softness of the ruffle at the waist.

This dress makes me feel strong and at ease and I know it will be worn throughout the warmer months and for years to come. It is important to me to buy designs that last the test of time, that become like reliable friends.

Karen Andrews, minister for industry, science and technology

Karen Andrews wearing her pro-science, pro-Dolly long sleeved t-shirt.
Karen Andrews wearing her pro-science, pro-Dolly long sleeved T-shirt. Photograph: Minister Karen Andrews

This jumper was given to me by my former chief of staff who’s gone off to study medicine. It’s not particularly fashionable but I love the message to remain true to who you are.

I think it’s a powerful thing, as a woman in Stem and in politics, to remember that I’m not defined by my blonde hair or love of fashion – just like my favourite singer, Dolly Parton.


Alyx Gorman

The GuardianTramp

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