The resurgence of loungewear in 2020 is undeniable, which is why we’ve enlisted the help of Shakaila Forbes-Bell, M.A., a fashion psychologist, consultant, writer and founder of ‘Fashion is Psychology’, to understand the why behind this shift in the way we dress.

How would you describe fashion psychology to someone who’s never heard the term before?

Fashion psychology is the application of psychological theories and practices to every layer of the fashion and beauty industry. Many people think of fashion and beauty purely in terms of aesthetics but when you take a moment to think about why people dress the way they do, why they buy what they buy and why they create what they create, you’ll understand that there are multiple conscious and unconscious motivations at play. The goal of fashion psychology is to use scientific research to bring these motivations to light.

Clothes can be used as a tool to shape the way you think, feel and even act

How did you get into the field, and why are you so passionate about it?

I found myself to be completely engrossed in social psychology during my undergraduate degree. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder (a 17-year-old boy who was murdered for simply being black and wearing a hoodie in an affluent area), the subsequent “Million Hoodie March” and the rise of the streetwear market, I was astounded by the way a piece of clothing, the hoodie, could be weaponised, could make a political statement and could also simply be part of a trendy outfit. I wanted to study more so, I completed a Master’s degree in the field and went on to create my platform ‘Fashion is Psychology’ as well as start my consultancy service where I have worked with international fashion brands.

2020 has seemingly turned our lives upside down, which has had such a strong impact on the way we dress. How has your own wardrobe changed over lockdown?

The extra time we have been given due to the lockdown has caused me to re-evaluate some of the clothes that I own. I engaged in a process called wardrobe ethnography which is a way to better understand yourself by taking stock of your wardrobe. I discovered that I had been holding on to a lot of ‘going-out’ outfits that either don’t fit my current fashion style, my current lifestyle and even my current weight! You do your present self a disservice by holding on to such clothes especially if they have no sentimental value so I put some stuff on eBay, gave some stuff away and purchased some more comfortable everyday pieces.

Not only does comfort dressing help you to focus, it’s also been shown to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing

Things like leggings, sweatshirts and joggers have become more prominent in our wardrobes than ever before. What is it about loungewear that has struck a chord for so many of us in 2020?

The popularity of loungewear in 2020 follows a growing trend for people demanding more relaxed dress codes at work. Studies show that uncomfortable clothing is a distractor and can cause a cognitive overload that prevents you from giving your all to any task at hand. Not only does comfort dressing help you to focus, it’s also been shown to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing which explains why people would be clamouring to delve into their soft leggings while they navigate their new work-from-home realities.

So much of the conversation has also shifted towards clothes you feel good in (as opposed to just looking good) – is finding the balance between comfort and style the key to dressing for the new norm?

Recent surveys indicated that people are now less likely to buy uncomfortable clothing simply because it looks good which I’m delighted to hear. You always look better when you feel good so the two go hand in hand. People are now realising that your clothes can be used as a tool to shape the way you think, feel and even act! Finding the balance between how your clothes make you feel – in every sense of the word, and how they help you express your unique style will certainly be the new norm.

What is your go-to ‘feel good’ outfit?

Clothes can be used as a tool to evoke nostalgia so my go-to feel-good outfit is any outfit that includes pieces handed down from my mum and from my late sister. These clothes remind me of my loved ones and transport me to happier times and as of late, this has included a tracksuit courtesy of my late sister and a vintage button-up coat from my mum which I wear when I go out for my daily walk.