Experts have given this experience a name. They call the phenomenon “dopamine dressing”. Carolyn Mair, PhD, author of The Psychology of Fashion, first encountered the phrase in relation to Emma Stone’s memorable yellow dress in the movie La La Land.
After the movie came out, “yellow dresses were flooding the stores, with the idea that if we bought a yellow dress, we would instantly be happy,” says Mair. “The reason we feel good about particular items of clothing or aspects of certain outfits—things like color, silhouette, fabric, fit, etc.—comes through the associations we have with that feature. When we think of yellow, we think of summer and flowers.
We’ve heard over and over again, and our experiences have taught us, that yellow is associated with happiness. The socio-cultural associations we have with a color are set in our brains, so we make a connection: a yellow dress means happiness.”
Mair is quick to point out that happiness comes from within: “It’s our power. Not the yellow power, not the dress power; it comes from the person.”