Wear an outfit that does not match you and your skin looks drained, your double-chin appears larger and your face fades into the background.
Just ask Betsy Barbieux, owner of Leesburg-based Image Inside and Out, an image consultant who has helped thousands of professionals dress sharper and feel more confident and driven in the workplace.
“Magazines sell fashion,” she said. “I sell image. I’m not selling clothes; I’m selling you.”
Here, Betsy provides helpful tips so you can look and feel your best.
Why is clothing important?
The eyes have it
In our culture, we communicate with our eyes.
“To make a good first impression — whether you’re in a job interview, selling a product or conducting a business transaction — our eyes should walk into a room first before our hair, makeup, clothes or body parts,” Betsy said. “If you dress to match yourself, then your eyes will be dominant and that’s what others will focus on.”
But what happens when we do not dress properly?
“If the CEO notices something out of whack — like a woman’s hemline or wrinkled pants on a man — then his eyes get stuck there,” she said. “You begin to wonder what the interviewer is looking at, and then suddenly the interviewer realizes he has upset you. We now have three conversations going on. The interviewer is thinking, ‘Why would he wear pants with wrinkles?’ And the person being interviewed is thinking, ‘Why does he keep staring at my pants?’ When you are dressed appropriately, there is constant eye contact and communication and no distractions.”
Ultimately, fashion fail can keep you from becoming hired or closing a transaction.
“Let’s suppose a financial adviser meets a potential client for the first time and is dressed sloppy. The client is going to think, ‘Wow, if he cannot pay attention to details about himself, how is he going to pay attention to details of my finances?’”
Color me perfect
It’s not enough to wear clothes that fit and are neatly ironed. Betsy uses the Julie Cunningham color analysis to categorize the color of hair, skin and eyes to determine which clothing colors look best on an individual.
She measures three factors to determine which seasonal colors best fit an individual:
The hue should match the undertones of the skin on your face, which will be varying degrees of warm (golden) or cool (blue and pink).
The value (lightness or darkness) of the overall outfit should match the value of your hair and eyes. For instance, blonde hair and blue eyes are light and your overall outfit should be in light to medium colors. A black-haired person with dark brown eyes should wear medium to dark colors.
The fabric of clothes should match the chroma of your hair, skin and eyes. If it is shiny, the fabric should be smooth and shiny, and patterns should be crisp and clear. If it is muted, the fabric should be textured and a little rough, and patterns should be soft and edges should bleed.
If the color pattern of your hair, skin and eyes most closely resembles autumn, then your combination of colors is considered a “Thanksgiving floral arrangement.” Your hue is warm, your value is dark and your chroma is muted. Your color palette is: Moss, Olive green, Teal, Burnt orange, Brown, Khaki, Terra cotta, Rust and Gold
If the color pattern of your hair, skin and eyes most closely resembles winter, then your combination of colors is considered “a winter frozen pond deep in the forest.” Your hue is cool, your value is darker and your chroma is shiny. Your color palette is: Pure white, Pine green, Pure black, Royal blue, Cherry red, Fuchsia, Silver, Charcoal and Dark navy
If the color pattern of your hair, skin and eyes most closely resembles spring, then your combination of colors is considered “an Easter floral bouquet in a tan wicker basket.” Your hue is warm, your value is lighter and your chroma is shiny. Your color palette is: Peach, Yellow, Coral pink, Poppy red, Violet, Turquoise, Green, Tan and Light brown
If the color pattern of your hair, skin and eyes most closely resemble summer, then your combination of colors is considered “a hazy, lazy day at the beach.” Your hue is cool, your value is lighter and your chroma is muted. Your color palette is: Blue/green, Aqua, Sky blue, Lavender, Pink, Rose, Raspberry, Grey and Light navy
A professional image consultant can determine which color palette is appropriate for you.
Suited for hire
What we wear to a job interview is every bit as important as what we say and how we verbally sell ourselves. When we feel good about the way we look, we project a positive image. Keep these important tips in mind:
a) Wear a navy or dark gray suit with a white or light-colored shirt and classic tie. Don’t dress down for an interview because a company’s dress policy is lenient.
b) Make sure your dress shoes and socks match.
a) Wear a dark navy or charcoal gray skirt suit with a white shirt. Skirts should be knee-length.
b) Avoid wearing too much jewelry or hair accessories.
Other general interview tips:
1) Plan your outfit the night before and don’t forget to iron. If your clothes are wrinkled or dirty, the interviewer automatically will wonder how you’ll handle your job duties when you cannot even take care of yourself.
2) Women should not show cleavage.
3) Avoid clothes that are either too tight or too loose. When you go from a sitting position to a standing position your clothes should fall into place. If you stand up and have to pull your pants down, they’re too tight. If you stand up and have to pull your pants up, they’re too loose.
4) Avoid clothing with loud colors and large, flashy prints. They will distract from you and your message.
5) Your belt color should match your shoes.
6) Don’t wear ragged belts or shoes with scuffed-up heels. Also, women should have a leather purse that matches their shoes.
7) Don’t wear tinted glasses because your eyes will not be very visible.
8) Never wear shorts, blue jeans, tank tops, flip flops, sandals or tennis shoes.
People gravitate toward black for numerous reasons (they may feel it makes them look thinner or assume black clothing helps them radiate power), but it’s the worst color you could possibly wear around your face, unless black is on your color palette.
“If you don’t have the right complexion, then wearing black around your face makes you look tired and old,” Betsy said. “Your eyes and hair will look unattractive and dull.”
She also says black clothing only makes a person appear slimmer “if he or she is standing against a black wall.”
“If you wear the style of pants and shirt that are right for your body, then you’re not going to see bumps, blemishes and bulges anyway,” she said.
Red, white and ewww!
Betsy also advises against wearing a combination of red, black and white.
“Red and black are both power colors, so you may come off as domineering. Only 10 percent of the population can wear those colors,” she said. “You’d have to have the complexion of Snow White — cool skin and dark hair.”
Avoid fashion fail
Driving to the local mall and shopping for the most expensive brand-name clothes will instantly enhance our image, right? Wrong. “It’s not about vanity or being fashionable,” Betsy said. “I couldn’t tell you a designer’s name if you asked me. The clothes need to match you. The price of a shirt does not enhance your image. If a shirt doesn’t match you, then it doesn’t matter how much you pay.”
7 wardrobe staples to step up your style!
Black pants: You can wear them with just about everything.
French-cuff dress shirt: The cuffs add elegance to an ordinary shirt and enhance trousers and skirts.
Black pumps: They add polish to any outfit and are great for both dressy occasions.
Day dress: It takes little effort to zip into a dress, and it’s wonderful for luncheons, recitals or afternoon bridal showers.
Classic skirts: They can be mixed and matched with sandals, heels or even boots to achieve a look that is uniquely yours.
High heels: There’s no better way to make your legs look longer, leaner and sexier.
White blouse: Goes well with anything you can wear from the waist down. Perfect for providing a blank canvas to accessorize so you can show off your favorite necklaces or scarfs.
Blue blazer: Can be paired with almost anything and lends itself to various styles — preppy, modern or traditional.
Handsome watch: Find one that looks sleek and stylish on you. Unless you are over 50, avoid gold watches.
Gray suit: More versatile and elegant than black suits.
Slim dress shoes: Get rid of the square-toed shoes and become more stylish by choosing a slim pair with a rounded or pointed toe.
Khaki pants: Versatile as blue jeans and help you stand out in a sea of denim.
Gray V-neck sweater: It’s an excellent layering piece, and very few things clash with it.
Brown leather loafers: They’re dressier than sneakers, but also look good with casual wear such as jeans.
Turn a new page
If you’re looking for an outstanding book to help you dress for success, personal branding and image expert Wendy Lyn Phillips has you covered.
Her book, Naked to Knockout, provides necessary knowledge to enhance both their personal style and professional image and make outstanding first impressions. You’ll learn how to dress appropriately for your figure, what colors best suit you and what you should wear on an important appointment.
“The book is the perfect answer to helping women blend and harmonize their inner beauty with looking and feeling beautiful on the outside too,” said the owner of Eustis-based Wendy Lyn Unlimited, Inc.
Wendy says organizing your closet is an important component of dressing for success. She provided several important tips.
Use uniform hangers throughout the closet. “The visual effect of clothes hanging the same length and same way helps you stay organized. When you open your closet door and look inside, your closet will be much more visually appealing.”
Use all wall space. “There’s normally wasted space above the top shelf. Install additional shelving for personal items.”
Use bins and baskets. “Seasonal clothing, hats, coats, purses, belts and shoes all should go in clear bins so you can easily find what you need in one quick glance. Make sure the bins and baskets are all uniform.”
Keep a basket in your closet for items you would like to donate, sell or throw away. “If we eliminate clothing item we never wear anymore, our closet would instantly become more organized and cleaner.”