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So you go shopping or maybe the sales are starting and it’s an opportune time to add or replace a piece of your business wardrobe. You find what looks like a great style that will fit your body shape. And then you discover it only comes in black.

I get it, black is a safe color. Black is a neutral color. Black is a practical color. It can also be perceived as somber, unfriendly intimidating, and unapproachable.

So is it helping us stand out and differentiate ourselves in our business world?

If you get as frustrated at this as I do when you start to shop, I wanted to offer a little background and advice to help you.

First, about 47% of product designed for women’s retail is black, and in business wear it’s definitely a higher percentage. I’m speaking of mass-market women’s apparel.

Why? Well, certain very conservative careers like legal, finance, banking, and consulting often command the severe black color to make the wearer look conservative and serious.

And then there’s the “black makes you look slimmer” thing. It’s true, but all dark colors absorb light making you look slimmer, like navy, charcoal gray, forest green, burgundy.

And finally, it’s easy for the fashion business.

“Who’s the target market on this?”

  • Business women– check, black is good, and in all sizes

  • Women who want to look slimmer – check, black is good, in all sizes too.

Yes, black is practical and often required, but if you would like to break out of this single-color palette, how can we have more visual interest in our wardrobes while still working around this?

First, black is easy to combine WITH another color – best over another bold color. Your plain black blazer can be work over any color for an instant uplift. For instance, a red dress, red skirt, red pants.

And you can add any top or dress in a print as long as the print has a little black in the pattern – that tiny amount of black in the pattern connects to the black making the outfit look coordinated and polished.

Or to any black outfit, add red shoes or red purse, or red scarf, even red lip color. I’m using red as the example, but any color (that’s business-tasteful) will work. And, depending on your business culture, black pairs well with most of the animal prints as long as they have some black in them to connect the two. Add the animal print sparingly; don’t look like you just got back from safari.

Plus, there ARE independent designers on the internet who ARE producing business wear in more colors. Sometimes it’s as simple as Googling “red business dress”. And if you’re going to order it, I’d recommend reading the customer reviews to see how the sizing is running. And it’s more likely to fit if there’s some stretch to it – a ponte knit is much more likely to fit. Check the fabric content – sometimes the fabric has some stretch, but if the lining doesn’t, well….

I hope this helps open your eyes to other possibilities in your closet. If you need help putting together coordinating outfits from what you have, call me, I’ll help you get going so you feel great everyday! 832.707.9339

#personalbranding #executive #leadership #image #coaching #womeninbusiness #success

Recently a law office in a small town contacted me to help them write a dress code. I was surprised! Actually, what the lawyer said was, “I have a dress code problem and I need to get it fixed, NOW.” Because he just expected his female staff to know how to dress professionally, he wasn’t really paying any attention to their overly-casual dress. Or their penchant for tattoos or piercings. And casual Friday turned into casual Thursday when one of them wanted to wear jeans to work on Thursday because her child had a game after work. And then fashion’s cavalcade of too sheer, too low-cut, too-many-slashes and cut-outs, etc. exacerbated the issue. You can see the downward spiral.

When clients started calling him and his wife to comment on this, he finally realized it was time to do something.

In conservative professions like law where you are handling the most personal aspects of peoples’ lives, it’s critical to look like the trusted advisor. And your staff generally makes that first impression. They pick up the phone, they welcome them into the office. They ARE your brand image. If you don’t have a formal dress code written to guide them, they may be affecting your business. If you don’t have a clearly-written guideline, it’s difficult to have a conversation with a staff member because you have nothing to enforce.

“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.” Zig Ziglar

As far as I can tell, there are no classes to teach young people how to dress. We can’t even go so far as to say to “dress like you’re going to church” – that’s not even a valid visual anymore.

Either they go to the mall or the internet and shop for “fashion”. Or they throw themselves at the mercy of a sales clerk whose job it is to sell her something. If they are on a budget, they are going to a ‘fast-fashion’ store where inexpensive garments are often designed poorly. They don’t know what to look FOR, what to dismiss as unacceptable, and what designs are not adequate for their body shape OR the office culture. Confusion creates chaos.

Taking the time to write a clear dress code makes it easier to give staff guidelines to shop and a MUCH better chance of a consistent brand image for your company or office. If you would like my help writing one, please contact me, I’d love to help! 832.707.9339

#dresscode #officedress #careeradvice #career #personaldevelopment #leadership #womeninbusiness #summerintern

Your photo!

The human eye is attracted to other humans. So LONG before anyone reads a WORD on your profile, your photo must attract them in. Your image IS the original instant messaging system – and that image helps the mind predict future behavior.

It’s the Halo Effect in action – the bias of the first impression influencing other opinions. “She looks attractive, therefore she’s probably smart and trustworthy.” “He looks sharp therefore he’s probably a go-getter.”

Now look at your current profile photo. Is yours screaming this? If not, time to update that photo into one that works FOR you.

So let’s go over the basics of how to plan and create this photo.

Your profile photo is known in the industry as a ‘headshot’ (actors and models use these for auditions). It’s a photo of you that includes just the top of your shoulders to top of head (we just need to see your face). It’s clean and focused so we can see your face and not be distracted by clothing or jewelry. You’re looking straight into the camera and smiling. Your hair needs to look styled and under control and should frame your face.

It needs to say “Hello, I’m _____, and I’m ready to contribute my expertise to help you with _________”. And in the case of social media “Let’s connect”.

The background is important too. Currently, a white background or an outdoor background in natural light with the background blurred are the two choices that look most modern and clean. Any background that’s got ANY weird distraction is NOT good, it distracts from your face. Look at Linkedin photos and you’ll see what I mean. Dark backgrounds don’t pop onscreen and dark hair can blend in creating a weird look.

SO, the photo is one of your head and shoulders with a blank or blurred background. If you’re going to shoot this photo yourself, outdoor lighting that is soft, like on a cloudy day or early morning, is often best.

Now, how do you do this?

First, what business culture are you appealing to? That’s how you’re going to dress for the shot. Mirror what they’re wearing in that industry. This is especially important if you’re searching for a job. Even if it’s casual culture, dressing UP a little, is better.

Put together several outfits (suits) in camera-friendly colors. For men, if you’re wearing a suit, shoot two shots – one with jacket and tie, one with the tie off and shirt collar open for a casual look. Now you’ve got two options that will appeal to many business cultures.

For men, navy blue (not black), royal blue, charcoal gray suits. Medium blue shirts (not WHITE), tie with texture and tiny print that complements the shirt (find a men’s store to help you). OR, a shirt with a tiny check or print, again, in cool tones. The neck should look sharp, not saggy.

For women, all we see is the collar/neckline so find outfits that have interesting ones. A jacket or cardigan over a blouse or a dress or suit with interesting collars or necklines you can layer together will give you interest. Adding visual interest with different textures of jacket to under blouse will make it more interesting. Do not wear a busy print, it distracts from your face and will date the photo. Do not wear large earrings or statement necklaces, they will distract from your face and also date the photo. Do not wear pearls unless pearls are part of your personal brand. It looks forced, not authentic. Wear glasses if they’re part of your daily wear.

What colors? Do not wear black or white, neither add anything to you. Cool colors work best – they invite the viewer in; hot colors are so bright they often push people away and invite negative feelings (ask a psychologist.) Ladies, choose off-white or ecru for an under blouse. Optic white contrasts too much with your skin, calling attention to itself.

All skin tones look good on camera in:

Tones of blue: medium blue, aqua or turquoise, teal, royal blue

Purple or amethyst: not dark purple that will appear black.

Greens: if you bought it, it probably looks good against your skin tone. Avocado, olive, not leaf green or neon

If you notice, these are all the cool tones on the color wheel. The hot colors of orange, red, and yellow should only be used in tiny amounts if they are muted and as a contrasting shade or tone in an accessory like a scarf or peeking out from a jacket in a pocket square. These bright colors are generally viewed as too playful for business.

You need to wear some make-up to look polished. If possible, get your make-up done by a professional make-up artist. One that has experience with photography - not at the make-up department of your favorite store unless they have photography experience. Photography is an artificial medium using lots of light. We’re being professional here, and the make-up makes a huge difference. We want your eyes to pop, your brows to frame your face, your skin to look alive and your lips need some color.

If you’re a guy with a shaved head, powder it down for the photo to take away that shiny bowling ball look. Most photographers keep powder – ask if you don’t want to have to buy some. And if you have facial hair, groom it.

Make sure your hair has been cut and colored or whatever you do about two weeks ahead of time. Do not take a photo if you haven’t taken care of your hair and you’re thinking of getting a new hair style. Every time you change your hair style or color you need a new headshot (men and women). Your headshot should look like you, today. Anything less makes you look out-of-date and worse, unrecognizable and out-of-touch.

And now, I shall rant. Please don’t make me look at another selfie taken in the car with the seatbelt as your accessory. Or the selfie taken in your cubicle. Don’t make me look at a photo from the office party (cropped with other bodies in the background) or your vacation, or a photo from 10 or 20 years ago. And it’s not a Glamour Shot either, put that photo on personal social media. And photos taken against a wall look exactly like that, you didn’t know or care that it looks like an afterthought.

A professional headshot is an investment in your future. It’s a business tool just like all those others you’ve bought. Please don’t lose them at the photo.

And if you need help, call me, 832.707.9339. I’m happy to consult!

#career #image #personalbranding #speaker #leadership #careeradvice #professionaldevelopment

 

832-707-9339

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©2018 BY MARILYNN BARBER.