What you wear doesn’t define you, but it can define your mood and influence the way you think, feel and act.

We’ve all got a pair of comfy pants, a favorite fancy dress, and even a preferred set of underwear. We might not realize it, but when we wear these favored items, it elicits a positive emotional response and as a result, we get that feel-good buzz.

The same is true for all the items in our wardrobe, except the psychological changes differ depending on the symbolic meaning of clothes. Studies have indicated that up to 96% of us experience emotional state changes depending on the style of clothing we wear. So, if we wear clothes that symbolize happiness, we feel brighter. If we wear clothes that symbolize intelligence, we feel smarter. Researchers put this to the test with a lab coat, finding that when people wore a lab coat (which is generally associated with attentiveness and carefulness) they increased performance on attention-related tasks. Another study explored how simply wearing activewear can help you feel more motivated and active.

There is even a concept called ‘dopamine dressing’. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that sends messages between nerve cells and is linked to reward, motivation, memory, and attention. When dopamine is released in large amounts (ie when we’re wearing clothes that make us feel really good), the feelings of pleasure and reward motivate us to continually seek out that response. This is what prompts us to search the laundry pile hunting out those specific items that lift our spirits.

Social psychologists have coined this 'enclothed cognition', where we associate certain types of clothing with emotional responses that are so powerful they can change the way we feel and act.

So what should you wear if you want to feel your best?

We spoke to a team of fitness professionals to find out what they wear when they want to enhance their mood.

Danni Lally

Les Mills Presenter Dannielle Lally loves expressing herself through what she wears and says in most cases, how she presents herself on the outside reflects how she wants to be feeling on the inside. Style, materials, and texture all play a part, and help fuel her motivation.

The best clothes for feeling strong: “When I want to feel strong, it’s an oversized Men’s T for the win and cool sneakers (if it’s not leg day). A baggy T makes me feel stronger because it humbles where my strength comes from – from within. I really feel you don’t always have to have, or showcase, the most defined muscles to be strong. It’s strength from the inside that matters.”

What to wear for a quick mood boost: “If I’m having a bad day, I’ll put on a killer outfit to perk my mood. Big pops of vibrant color make me feel invincible, joyful and present in the world. When it comes to working out, it’s easy to gravitate to black athletic wear, but I find having a beautiful mixture of colors, tones and materials really spices up your training. From deep maroons to vibrant lime, you can choose a color to elevate your personality.

If I need to change my mood, I try on something new, whether it’s something I just bought, or a new combination of clothes. Better yet, I go for a new color combo I’ve never experimented with before. And I always find my mood boost is multiplied by 1,000% if I can color coordinate my outfit with my shoes!”

Clothes to avoid: “I avoid uncomfortable clothing. If it doesn’t feel nice on my body or restricts my movement then ‘see ya’! Gone are the days when beauty is pain and you have to squeeze yourself into something that doesn’t fit, or feels uncomfortable on your body. You need to feel good.”

For Les Mills Trainer Khiran Huston, what she wears when she works out enhances her training mindset. She explains, "I choose clothing that reflects and moves with me at the intensity I want to train. If I'm boxing, I'm in a black bra and shorts combo that makes me feel light, fast and free to move around the bag. If I'm cycling, I'll wear high-waisted tights that stay in place so I can fully immerse myself into the ride."

The best clothes for feeling strong: “I don't want to be thinking about how my outfit looks, I want to be focused on my training, but I know that when I look strong, I feel strong. I go for a bra top that supports my chest and doesn't pinch under the armpits. I like thick waistbands and full-length tights that don't restrict my range of movement – the only resistance I want to feel is in my muscles.”

What to wear for a quick mood boost: “I’m all about wearing gear that makes you happy, clothes you wear because you feel good in them, not just because they’re trending. I choose items that help enhance what I love about my body. For example, I love the way brighter colors enhance my complexion, and I like how thin strap bras make my shoulders pop.”

Les Mills Presenter, Meno Thomas chooses different styles for expression. “Everything from the shape, color, textures and layers expresses my internal mood and the different sides of me.”

The best clothes for feeling strong: “When I’m strength training I gravitate towards a semi-tight light shirt and light shorts. This fit allows me to see more movement when it comes to growth, technique, and how my body functions. It helps me find acceptance with what results are great and what could be worked on. Sometimes it can be confronting but also a sign of willing to grow – and that’s strength to me.”

What to wear for a quick mood boost: “I choose color and comfort when I need motivation. My ideal fit is a bright colored jacket, black or white cargo pants and shirt. And within the same colour family, I add a pair of high-quality sneakers and hat. This always allows my confidence to sit in a healthy place.”

Color plays a huge part in mood and training prowess. Find out how to leverage color psychology for enhanced training and learn what colors to wear and when.