First ‘fashion psychologist’ helps your outside match your inside


How do our clothes influence how we feel about ourselves? The EU’s first fashion psychologist, Marleen Beevers of Antwerp, has the answer

Fashion forward

Two years ago, researchers at an American university carried out a somewhat curious experiment. They gave one group of participants a plain lab coat but told them it was a doctor’s coat. A second group of participants was given identical lab coats but informed they were the kind used by housepainters.

The researchers then tested both groups’ performance on a number of attention-related tasks. The first – those who had been told they were wearing doctor’s coats – performed much better than the second.

The results of this study didn’t come as a surprise to Marleen Beevers. Mainland Europe’s first and until now only fashion psychologist says we continue to underestimate the impact of our clothes on our perception of ourselves.

“We all know that clothing is a very important tool to express yourself,” she says. “And we all know that it affects how others perceive you.” But how it influences what we think about ourselves – “that is a part that is not so well known”.

A fashion what?

In the last two years, the Antwerp local has helped hundreds of women and men dress more intentionally, so that their outward appearance better matches what’s going on on the inside.

But what exactly is a fashion psychologist? The aim, explains Beevers (pictured above), is to better connect people to their interior selves and to others by way of their clothes. This differs from the work of a traditional stylist.

“Most stylists, they keep in mind how others perceive you at a certain moment. And in my approach, the essence is: What do you want to send out?”

This is the perfect psychological tool to get people sustainable, timeless and personal buying habits

- Marleen Beevers

It’s why, before doing anything else, Beevers has all her clients fill out a questionnaire she developed to determine what she describes as their basic energetic archetype. There are five – the thinker, doer, connector, caregiver and improver – and they all correspond to particular colours, shapes and textures.

In a second phase, Beevers invites her clients to reflect on what they want to send out, to communicate to the world, whether in the short or long-term. Then, it’s time to go into the client’s wardrobe and make some changes.

“There is the complete story of the things they bought and who they in fact are, and we recompose it in a way that is a better expression of themselves.”

She gives the example of someone who wears a lot of black. “Those people are often very introverted, thinkers, they have a creative mind,” she explains. “If this is their essence, but they have the intention of, say, being more outgoing, more extraverted … then I would recommend they incorporate more red and orange colours” in their wardrobe.

For Beevers, her work addresses a critical challenge facing society – the considerable impact of fast-fashion consumption on the environment. “This is the perfect psychological tool to get people into sustainable, timeless and personal buying habits,” she says. “Because people will buy in another way. They will only buy stuff because it’s them or because it’s what they want to express about themselves, not because it’s a new season, a new trend.”

Fashion psychologists do not have psychology degrees and so are not licensed therapists. Beevers has studied both psychology and philosophy as an autodidact, however, and in 2018 she obtained a certificate from the online Fashion Psychology Institute, based in New York.

Trademarked term

She draws on philosophies from both the East and West, and it’s this approach – together with a former career in modelling and a degree in matchmaking – that she says sets her apart from fashion psychologists working in the UK and the US.

She’s also trademarked the term, meaning no-one else can use this label in the EU to promote their fashion consulting activities. She declined to disclose her rates, but most of the clients who have used her services in the last two years were in the mid- to high-end segment of the market.

Buoyed by her success with clients, Beevers recently decided to move into the business market and start assisting companies with her fashion psychology approach. “I’ve got to put this framework into a broader spectrum and get it into the market from top to bottom,” she says.

And after the business market, she hopes to spread her approach even further. “My goal is to work together with people to create an academy and to spread this system further with the talents of other stylists.”

Photo top courtesy Marleen Beevers, above ©PeopleImages/Getty Images