A partner in a large East Coast firm just missed out on a chance to wow her audience. She was speaking to a high-powered group of successful business people, and she looked like a dated hippy, stuck in the past. Unfortunately, she was co-presenting that day with another woman who was dressed very stylishly and powerfully. The contrast couldn’t be ignored.
The way you look and dress announces the outcome other people can expect from you. If you don’t make the effort to update your image, you’re playing Wardrobe Roulette® with your image. You may invest time and money enhancing your credentials but forget to update your image. However, if your resume and your image aren’t on a par, it sheds doubt about your credentials. A dated appearance, unfortunately, suggests dated products or services.
As an image consultant, I’ve noticed that very few people can be objective about themselves. Most people aren’t aware that they need an image consultant. “I’ve got on a suit, so I must be okay,” they say to themselves. However, there are suits and there are suits.
Clients are skeptical when I tell them that they don’t choose colors or styles from the results in the mirror; that they choose everything from the “heart and soul” – usually referred to as instincts, or as good taste. Sadly, instincts won’t help you if you don’t know a few things about color or “line” in clothing.
Habit is the other place that guides our garment choices. We wear what we’ve always worn and feel comfortable. Unfortunately, we may come across as stuck in a rut. We’ve all seen the woman in the office with the same hairdo she had in high school, or the man who still wears the baggy and rumpled sport jacket that he’s had for years. Unfortunately, research has shown that employers perceive unfashionable and aging employees as having less energy and being less effective. It today’s economy, you can’t afford to have a dated appearance. You will have less chance of a promotion and may even weaken your job security.
The best way to ensure that your appearance is up to date is to get a new and fashionable hairdo, and that includes men as well as women. Women should also consider updating their makeup, because what you wore at university may look hopelessly dated. The way you look and dress announces the outcome other people can expect from you, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a dated image.
I learned early that the way you look and dress also announces how you feel about yourself, and that you’re treated accordingly. As a teen, I was a painfully-shy, frumpily-dressed grey mouse that no one ever noticed. At 16, I walked across the stage of my high school in a dress my mother made; it was a dreary color and horrible style. I sat down to play and blanked out. I hated the way I looked and wanted to crawl in a black hole and disappear.
One year later it was birthday and graduation time, so I headed to a big department store for a dress. My “guardian angel image consultant” must have been with me. I said No to my usual drab colors and tried on “the red dress.” I looked in the mirror and had an epiphany. In that exquisite moment I found the real me. My new red dress changed the way I felt about myself. I scoured magazines and taught myself how to do makeup; I went to a hairdresser and used my hard-earned babysitting money to get a decent haircut. And, of course, I wore red a lot. Then the most astonishing thing happened – for the first time in my life, people told me I was pretty. They saw me.
That dress and my new-found self image gave me the courage to enroll in a top-notch fashion school in Washington, DC. I quickly became one of the top fashion models in town. My life changed dramatically, and it all began with a red dress that gave me hope and inspiration.
I learned that when you change the way you look on the outside, people treat you differently. Then you change on the inside. Numerous clients who came to me for a makeover told me they were “hopeless cases,” but they soon discovered what I learned when I was seventeen. There are no unattractive people; only those who have not yet learned how to look attractive.
The way you dress defines who you are not only to others, but to the person in the mirror when you leave the house each morning. Make sure that person looks like a state-of-the-art polished professional and you’ll never miss out on a chance to wow others.
Sandy Dumont is an image consultant and internationally-recognized speaker on the subject of image. For a limited time, get a free copy of her acclaimed book, “Seven Days to a Brand New You” on her website www.theimagearchitect.com