Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Personal Appearance - the visual impact of first impressions

Do you struggle getting dressed each morning and often leave the house not feeling confident about your personal appearance? Firstly if you answered yes, then let me tell you, you are not alone. I meet people daily in my job as a personal stylist who feel like this. There are many reasons it can be a struggle, but I want to assure people, no matter what size, shape, age or profession, you CAN look great, and do the very best with what you have.

As soon as you step outside of your house into public, you represent yourself with what you wear. Understand that people’s first impression is non-verbal and comes down to your personal presentation. That’s the cold hard facts. People like to say they don’t care about what they wear to the supermarket, but when I ask who they tend to meet there, they often say ‘everyone I know’.

How much more important does this now become when you are not only representing yourself but also your company or employer? I can’t tell you how often I am approached by companies who have wonderful, talented amazing people doing an excellent job who they would love to fast track with their career but feel that their presentation skills are a piece of the puzzle that is going to hold them back.

This isn’t just about people who go out and meet clients. Or even the ultimate time to make the best first impression, a job interview. It’s all workers. Unless you are wearing a corporate uniform, how you dress portrays important signals to those around you. Whether it’s during meetings with your team members and bosses, or standing getting coffee in the cafeteria.

The hardest struggle has come with ‘casual dressy’. Ten years ago we had a corporate wardrobe (suit) blouse for women, shirt and tie for men. Sorted. Then we had casual Friday. Then many work places began to see ‘casual Friday’ was becoming ‘casual daily’. For many work places this was a welcome move as people felt corporate attire didn’t fit well with the type of business or job they were doing.

Then came the calls to me about coming into the company to explain to people what ‘Casual Dressy’ is. It’s clear that for many, this term is confusing. Casual says ‘jeans and T’ dressy says ‘Suit or corporate’. So enough with the reasons WHY this is so important and onwards with some practical guidelines.


Smart trousers. Similar fabrics to ‘suit’ trousers are popular and easy. Cotton or lightweight materials in summer. Full length or at the shortest 7/8ths. They need to fit well and not be too tight. Sometimes finding trousers to fit is a struggle for many women. If this is the case, move on having more of the other options in your wardrobe.

Straight or gradual A-line skirts that come to either just above (depending on your age) or more fittingly for work, just below the knee. Great in winter with thick tights and boots or summer with heels or sandals.

Shirts are fine, and do hark back to the ‘corporate look’ but can also be tricky with fits. Fitting shoulders, waists and busts in all the right places is hard. So therefore another style of top that is better is one which has an appropriate neckline (no cleavage on show) that fits you well, skimming your body without clinging or bagging out. Make sure it sits at a length which doesn’t have you pulling at it all day to try and make it longer.

Work dresses are ideal. No need to worry about top and bottom combinations. Keep that neckline right (see above) & a dress that has shape is always flattering. Good neckline, shape at the waist, appropriate length and an excellent fit. Fabrics with some stretch or elastin are popular for work dresses as they are comfortable and when cut correctly fit well but don’t cling. Wear your work dress with boots in winter and wedge sandals or small heels in summer.

Fitted jackets and blazers ALWAYS look better than an ill-fitting sloppy cardigan. They give you shape and make a simple outfit smarter. Blazers will go with all the above pieces. Always single breasted and a classic open lapel suits everyone.


Work trousers (similar to suit trousers). Casual dressy trousers are also acceptable in certain firms. These are often ‘jean styles’ so have a button and zip with pockets that look like jeans, but are made of a dressier fabric so they fit in the ‘casual dressy’ dress code perfectly. Often those in corporate situations keep the work trousers for Mon-Thurs and this casual dressy option for Friday.

Shirts that fit well. This is very important and the main issue with many men’s shirts. Too big and tucked in and they bag out, are unflattering and unprofessional looking. Get shirts that fit your shoulders, arm length is right, then aim with side fit (classic, slim, taper, super taper) that suits you best. There should be no straining buttons down the front.

Blazers and suit jackets are ideal as your top layer. Make sure they fit well. Again, there is a tendency to buy suit jackets too large. Within an office during winter, a fine merino vest or V-necked jersey over a shirt with dress trousers is also usually acceptable for casual dressy.

The usual NO’S for casual dressy – Men & Women

• Ripped denim or jeans with extreme washes (fading, tiger-wash) • Excessive slogans or logos on tops • Super tight clothes or oversized clothes • Jandals • Low cut tops on women that don’t have a singlet covering their cleavage • Scuffed and tattered shoes • Dirty, ripped or threadbare clothing

Lastly, don’t forget the finishing touches. What about your haircut? It’s something you wear EVERY DAY. If it’s dated, cut badly, not been cut in a long time or doesn’t suit you, change it. It’s important. Eyewear, is expensive and necessary, so again take the time to make sure your glasses suit your face shape. Accessories. Someone who wears accessories with an outfit looks well put together, confident and it’s a nice way to inject some of your personality into your work clothes.

Think about these guidelines when you are dressing each morning. Apply the right outfit knowing what you will be doing for the day. Decide what you will wear the night before always helps and remember, being overdressed is always preferable to being undressed.

Trudi Bennett set up her personal style consultancy www.wardrobeflair.com in 2005 after discovering a huge market of men and women unhappy with their personal and professional wardrobe and image. Her focus was to give people the tools to make wise, logical styling and shopping decisions, based on their body, budget and lifestyle.

Trudi is a motivational speaker at workshops, seminars & conferences all around NZ sharing her personal styling hints and tips in a humorous and engaging way. She dabbles in TV, is COAST FM’S Fashion & Styling contributor, and is also a fashion blogger for numerous online sites.

Trudi has offices in both Auckland and Wellington and her main passion is to help people feel as confident as possible. She is most proud of her work when she knows her clients’ realise anyone of any shape, size or profession can look and feel fantastic.

Regards Trudi


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