News Column

Fashion Therapy: Style Psychologist Helps Find the Real You

Jan 28, 2013

Britta Guerke

Opinions may differ but there is no denying that clothes play an important part in making an impression on others.

In the classic Hollywood movie Gone With the Wind, heroine Scarlett O'Hara manages to sew together a spectacular dress from old curtains. The search for the right look has spawned the creation of the style advisor industry that is generating millions in income.

But now a new aspect to the stylist industry has established itself in London.

Style psychologist Kate Nightingale sees herself as a pioneer and pays no regard to particular styles. Her aim is to exploit the impact clothes can have in order to encourage her clients to find their true selves.

"It's not just about looking nicely. The way you dress influences your emotions, your confidence and even your cognitive thinking," says Nightingale who has studied the affects of non-verbal communication.

She readily admits that most stylists are already aware of that. "I use scientific proof, not generic knowledge," she says. Nightingale has made quite an impact on the British media, where several articles have been written about her.

Most of her clients come to her with the aim of improving the impression they make on others with their style. Female clients are often seeking a new job while men are looking for a new partner.

"It shouldn't be that people are judged on that, but it's scientifically proven," says Nightingale. "I am sorry, but that is how the brain works." It takes just three seconds for a person to establish their first impressions.

Nightingale is concerned with the effects this mechanism has on her clients' inner life.

How would I like to look, what colours and style suit me best? And what does my look say about who I am, what psychological problems I may have, where I need to work on myself and where is my potential? Nightingale's starting points are not eye colour, body shape or skin type.

Clients are asked to bring photographs of clothing that they like, but which they would normally not dare to wear, to the first sitting.

Step by step over the following months Nightingale works with her clients so they can dress as they would like and to develop more self-confidence, more creativity, be more feminine or more individual.

According to Nightingale's theory a client's inner life changes with more focus on personal strengths.

"I read the signs beyond what people are telling me. What problems are there? Do they want to hide something on purpose? What is their comfort zone?" The advice Nightingale provides is based on the information she gathers about her clients.

As soon as she establishes that there are more serious underlying psychological issues such as an eating disorder, Nightingale recommends seeking therapeutic help.

Not surprisingly Nightingale's services can be expensive. A complete one-day "makeover" including hair and make-up costs about 700 pounds. But not everyone needs a total change over. Sometimes a small kick is all it takes.

One female client said she saw her wardrobe with new eyes after visiting Nightingale. "I dress better with the clothes I already had."

Author Harriet Walker from The Independent newspaper said she thought she knew what type of person she was, namely laidback and funny. But after visiting Nightingale her eyes were opened. "Whenever I wear just black, I'm sending out the wrong message."

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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