People make unconscious split-second impressions based on how a person looks, sounds or moves almost instantaneously upon first meeting. This is why image management is a growing industry.
Your reputation depends on those crucial first seconds when you introduce yourself to a client or business associate. You might create an impression of confidence, competence and openness, or you might create a negative impression that reeks of ambiguity, bigotry and mediocre skills. A large part of image management hinges on how you are dressed.
Modern Day Feminine
Females dressing for success in the 21st century is different than it was in the 1980s, where women tried to replicate the styles their male counterparts were wearing. While tailored suits and modest hemlines are still appropriate, donning the narrow black tie and bulky shoulder pads are out. Today, clothing that radiates ability, authenticity and credibility are desirable.
Create a stellar first impression to deliver your message without compromising your feminine side.
Authority is best demonstrated in the form of a suit, either slacks or skirt with a jacket. Lightweight fabrics and dark neutral colors with minimal prints are appropriate for most business settings. For inspiration, check out designer suits with a classic line. Even if you can’t afford a $1400 St. John Collection blazer, exploring various styles is helpful. Invest in the services of a tailor. Fit is as important as fabric.
Creating a first impression of authority does not mean you have to come across like a Marine drill sergeant. It is perfectly acceptable to wear your sexy panties from Yumdrop or a Victoria’s Secret lacy camisole underneath your button-down shirt with a split collar. Feeling comfortable in your suit is essential to expressing an authentic attitude. Keep in mind bra and camisole choices should be light or neutral shades. When it comes to legwear, skip the hose in the summer and use a self tanner if pasty white. In the winter, wear leggings or a non-patterned neutral shade tights.
Do you like to wear bracelets, bangles and necklaces? Keep it traditional and limited. Jewelry selections that are worn in moderation and have simple designs are best to keep your business image in line. Part of creating a great first image is a firm handshake, and you don’t want half a dozen bangles clanging around during this opportunity to create a competent impression.
As long as you follow guidelines for a more traditional approach, you can decide on the bag. Stay away from over-sized bags that resemble a weekend carry-all and tiny clutch styles that don’t hold essentials. No spiky heels or hot pink wedges, but a modest heel in almost any style will work, as long as it compliments your suit.
Creating an air of respect and credibility means no dramatic hairstyles or shocking makeup techniques. Those are best reserved for after hours and time at the club with the girls. Choose mani and pedi colors that are toned down, and wear conservative-leaning hairstyles. You can let your hair down after work.
Managing your image by creating a dynamic first impression is not difficult. Just remember: classic, conservative, authentic and comfortable.
Flickr photo: Victor1558
What image tips do you have for female entrepreneurs? Share them in the comments.