How fashion helps with my mental illness

Photo by Johnny Holden

Living with a mental illness for two decades has not dampened ERICA CROMPTON’S desire to dress well. Here she explains how fashion helps her with managing her psychotic illness and staying comfy…

Fashion boosts my self-esteem, helps me create an identity outside my diagnosis and I take great solace in my wardrobe staples: George’s leopard-print lounge pants; a loose, Majestic Filatures cashmere vest and my standard, white trainers.

Low-mood is the bread and butter of my mental health and getting dressed can sometimes feel like a daunting task but easy-to-wear staples, that are fuss-free, and a splash of bright colour helps improve my mood, and my confidence.

It extends to accessories, and nightwear for ‘duvet-days’ when I really can’t fathom the energy to get dressed at all. I’m never without my 9ct gold necklace, engraved with my initials. It sparkles whenever it comes under the light. It was a 40th birthday gift from my father and his partner and every time I see it glinting in the light it reminds me that I’m loved. I keep it on all the time so even through the daily elations and deflections of mental illness, that can sometimes feel a bit David Lynch, I never lose my golden sparkle. My floral silk kimono is also a wardrobe staple, again a gift from a loved one to ensure I feel not just loved but also better, ensconced in a swathe of soothing, deep sea-blue, on the days I can’t get out of bed.

Behavioural Psychologist and author of The Psychology of Fashion, Prof Carolyn Mair, says that research in science journal PloS one points to the colours of our clothes impacting on our mood and that what we wear can have psychological effects that change how we, and others, think, feel and act.

Mair tells me: “In my book I speak about how the power of belief enables us to choose to wear clothes that work for us by boosting confidence. Confidence is associated with many positive outcomes such as being perceived as more attractive, building resilience, success at work and at home, in relationships. That confidence is considered an attractive characteristic and our interactions are likely to be more positive than if we are lacking confidence.”

My personal wardrobe is teaming with easy-to-throw on staples that always combine comfort with classic lounge-luxe or smart Parision chic: Breton-style dresses with slip-on loafers or plimsoles. This autumn and winter I’ll live in my emerld-green cable knit sweater dress, a Christmas gift from my partner last year, from M&co. It keeps me very warm and adds a dash of colour to my look.

Liz Ritchie, a psychotherapist from St Andrew’s hospital in Northampton is employed to help patients with the most severe and enduring mental illnesses reflect on their body image and self-care routines. She tells Hopezine: “I think comfort is really important, especially at home when we really get back to ourselves. Sometimes in the day or at work we can feel like we have to create a persona or impression with how we dress. It’s so important to be able to relax in our clothes, especially while at home, and say this is me, and I’m stripped back from the mask and daily pressures we all face.”

“We all have an identity, and comfortable clothes are symbolic, they help patients shut the world out and return to their selves. We can give ourselves permission to say we’re off the stage and this can have a major impact on our emotions and mood. With loungewear we invest in a time where we’re not caught up in the cycle of life – we can be who we want to be, and accept ourselves as we are – which is very positive for us.”

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