Fashion Therapy: The Positive Psychology Design Challenge

Project Description | Adapting to Other Subjects |Teacher Reflection | Student Reflections

fashion-therapyAs a part of the Festival of the Creative Spirit, students explored aspects of positive psychology through a series of Project-Runway inspired clothing design challenges. In this project, students experienced how constraints can actually boost creativity, how good posture can affect confidence, and how a positive mindset can lead to success. The student’s final product was a line of clothing that was inspired by their experiments and learnings about confidence and positive psychology.

The Red Carpet Walk of Confidence: Students read through a series of experiments in positive psychology (from the book The Happiness Advantage) and created confidence hashtags and accompanying posters for use during their public ‘red carpet event’. In Sydney’s CBD, students rolled out a red carpet and invited the public to strut their stuff in order to gain confidence and spread positivity. The two-hour event became a social media sensation as people were reposting and sharing their experiences – everyone left the event feeling more confident and the positive buzz was infectious.


Project Description

Context: Whole school project

Time: 1 week

Learning objectives: To explore aspects positive psychology through a series of clothing design challenges; to experience how constraints boost creativity; to experiment with posture and see how it affects confidence.

Product: in small groups students explore experiments in positive psychology and create a line of clothing (3 ‘confident’ garments) inspired by one of the experiments.

Hurdle Tasks:

  1. The Walk of Confidence: students read through a series of experiments in positive psychology (from the book The Happiness Advantage), and create a poster with a hashtag summarising the findings of one of the experiments. Students take their posters to the the Red Carpet excursion in the city. Once in the city (outside Wynard Station), students invite members of the public to take “the Walk of Confidence” down the red carpet runway, and then encourage them to select a hashtag poster and take a photo to post on social media to spread their messages of positive psychology.
  2. Recycled clothes challenge: based on the premise that with a positive attitude constraints boost creativity, students design 2 garments using only 10 old items of clothing. They have 2 periods to complete the challenge and in the first 30 minutes they get interrupted three times with particular constraints: 1. Each item has to be modified or transformed (eg. Sleeve cut , jumper cut and turned into jacket); 2. You have to swap 3 items with another group; 3. All 10 items must appear in some form in your 2 designs.

Exhibition: Fashion show on red-carpet. Three members of each group walk with confidence down the runway, while the fourth member explains the inspiration and ideas for the line. Parents in the audience and fashion blogger Jade as guest judge.

Co-constructed Success Criteria


Do you have any questions about the project description? Click here  to add them to the comments section.


Adapting to other subjects and contexts

All the suggestions, as well as the original project, can be multi-disciplinary. For example, Design & Technology could focus on the dress making, and Personal Development, Health & Physical Education can focus on the psychology of confidence and happiness.

History: Students choose a historical period and create a clothes line based on the needs of people in that era

STEM: Students need to construct clothes for a particular profession based on the specific job requirements (eg. astronaut, swimmer, athlete, soldier)

Maths: Students need to design fabric patterns (graphing shapes – Yr 10; using tessellations – Yr 9) and construct clothes using basic shapes and must work out surface area to figure out how much material to purchase.

Do you have any other ideas teachers could find helpful? Click here  to add them to the comments section.


Teacher Reflection

For the Festival of the Creative Spirit we were encouraged to design projects based on our passions, rather than on our KLAs. I decided to combine my passion for fashion with my interest in psychology to create a unit about confidence, positive mindsets and creativity, taking inspiration from one of my favourite reality TV shows, Project Runway. I’ve always been fascinated to see how the best designs come from the crazy constraints placed on the designers, and thus I wanted the notion of “constraints boost creativity” to be the main theme for the project. Every life and work situation has constraints. We complain about them all the time and this can prevent us from finding solutions and moving forward. If we start to look at constraints as creativity boosters, we can open our minds to finding creative and innovative solutions. I wanted students to experience this as it is a very important skill and mindset to have for the future.

Because Design and Technology is not my area of expertise, I ran into a few challenges with resources (organising the purchase of fabric and getting access to sewing machines). I experienced both these issues because of my tendency to follow rules too closely and to shy away from asking for special requests (such as permission to take students on a second excursion to buy their fabric, and permission to use the sewing machines).

Also, I wish I had been more organised for the Red Carpet excursion. There was no music (our speakers, a last minute purchase, did not work), and we hadn’t communicated our expectations clearly enough to the students, so we were unable to post on social media (though many of the participants did).

Nonetheless, the excursion was a great success. The students who participated actively got so much out of it and were buzzing with excitement, as was I, for having spread so much happiness and confidence to strangers in the city.

Do you find yourself or your students whinging about constraints ? How can you teach your students to view “restrictions” as “parameters” and prove to them that constraints fuel creativity?  Click here  to add your idea and thoughts to the comments section.


Student Reflections

“I learnt that the more people I saw happy the happier I felt. I think that the red carpet was a great way to express confidence. We saw that the people who did
not walk the red carpet did not feel as confident as the people that did but they
still walked away with a smile on their face.”

Imogen, Yr 8

“At first I thought no one would walk down but as I got into it I got very confident and loud. I ended up getting a lot out of it… I was so happy that we put smiles on so many faces and that people were happy because of us. #SmileEveryday”

Melita, Yr 9

Click here for more Student Reflections on the Project

Click here for more Student Reflections on the Red Carpet Excursion




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