What you wear is part of your message and you have seven seconds to make a first impression. Don’t let your appearance contradict or get in the way of your message. Here, image consultant and stylist Loren E North offers tips to dress for flattery and what to pay attention to as a business owner.
“Your appearance talks to you but it also talks to others. Your appearance is the first basis for evaluation other people have. And first impressions last, out of all proportion to the time it takes to form them. The better you are packaged the more public acceptance you will receive.” – David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big
You may be surprised to learn that this quote is from a book that was originally published in 1959. Regardless of the age of the message, its relevance continues and has just as much importance today as it did over 50 years ago.
If you are a business owner (and especially if you have made the shift from a corporate job to a new business), what you wear is an important part of your brand and your message. What you wear matters not just for in-person networking events or meetings, but for your online presence. This is including websites and social media. If you have changed careers to go from a corporate or other jobs to a business owner, you may want to reevaluate your attire to ensure it aligns with the new “you”. Your brand and your message.
If you have had your own business for years, ask yourself if you are attracting the type of clients you want. Or do you want to increase your number of ideal clients? The missing link may be how you “package” yourself.
Tips on how to get started…
Consider your new business.
Are you a business coach? Do you work with other’s money? Are you in the health and wellness industry?
All of these “titles” or professions conjure up different images in people’s minds. For example, if you are a financial adviser, it’s important that you look professional and pulled together. Your clothes need to fit, be clean and wrinkle free. Your attire should not be distracting and should convey the message that you are approachable and successful. These messages are conveyed through silhouette, color, and style.
If you are a health coach it’s important to show a whimsical or softer silhouette versus the crisp silhouette of an investment adviser. If you want to be approachable, think about integrating color and patterns into your wardrobe. Evaluate how others dress in your industry and if you are aligned with the images related to what you do.
This is particularly important if you have a brand color or theme for your website or other business branding. Utilize those colors in what you wear and your accessories (shoes, bags, ties, etc.). This creates a cohesive message and helps for people to remember YOU!.
If you don’t have specific brand colors, think about your favorite colors and review how they look on you. If you tend look better in warmer colors but your brand color is royal blue, look for warmer versions of blue such as teal or turquoise. Alternatively, consider using the royal blue in accessories only rather than in garments next to your skin. If you are unsure of how to proceed, this is where a stylist can help.
Consider your daily activities.
Are you in a storefront? Are you working in people’s homes? Do you have an office and primarily meet with clients in meetings? I tend to dress in a uniform that is usually a dress with flats when working with my clients so I do not distract from them and their clothes. However, when I dress for networking events, I tend to dress creatively and more in my style with layers, unique pieces and accessories (to align with the fact that I am a stylist).
If you are on your feet for much of the day, consider comfort because you do not want to be distracted from your business by a painful back and feet. If you work from home but meet with clients in your office or at their homes, set aside some professional garments that portray the image you want to convey when meeting with your clients. Have these ready so you don’t have to put too much thought into getting ready.
Pay attention to fit, silhouette, and proportion.
These are all the elements of flattery (according to Tim Gunn) and I have found he is spot-on. A flattering fit means there should be no excessive pulling or bagginess. For tips on creating a flattering shape, check out this video.
Silhouette is the outline of your body beneath the clothes, which should be seen! This means do not hide in a baggy, oversized garment. Silhouette also takes into consideration the garment itself, like a drapy, flowy silhouette versus a crisp tailored silhouette. Think back to Item #1 and consider what silhouette speaks to your business.
Lastly is proportions. This is the balance between your torso and your lower body. If you are imbalanced, achieve balance with adjusting waistlines, add elements of visual distraction to adjust the length of your torso, take into consideration the stance of a jacket (the length of the “V”) and hemlines on skirts. Again, if this is difficult for you, consider working with a stylist.
Going back to the original inspiration for this post, I would like to discuss one more item. Mr. Schwartz addresses his audience’s concern about the cost to create a pulled-together appearance. What Mr. Schwartz says is also relevant today just as much or more as it was then: “Pay twice as much and buy half as many.”
Consider this next time you are shopping and are tempted by an item in a store where you know the quality does not exist. You will keep the higher quality items longer and this approach is much more sustainable than buying clothes and treating them as trash. I also want to offer this guidance. To buy the best quality you can afford, consider shopping secondhand.
Loren North is a personal stylist, shopper, and owner at Loren E North. She specializes in restyling her clients’ clothes and accessories and shops from ethical, sustainable, and secondhand stores for her clients. She worked previously as an environmental consultant and brings sustainability and style together for her clients. For more information, please email her or follow her on Instagram and Facebook.