As a photographer and image consultant, I see it all the time. I see women enter a room, intending to convey one message or characteristic and be surprised to hear that what people see is something entirely different. I’ve seen professional organizers who dress sloppy, financial advisers who dress sexy, interior designers who look bland and not at all creative, and CEOs that look frumpy. You name it, I’ve seen it. People have real reasons for the way they dress. Some are stuck due to negative experiences from their past, some have just never been taught and some believe it doesn’t matter. But people judge us first based on how we look and research shows that it typically takes six months to change a first impression. That matters!
So, how do you want people to perceive you? Do you want people to see you as casual, friendly, creative, confident, powerful, edgy, smart? No matter what adjectives you choose to describe yourself, when you dress in a way that communicates who you are and shows you at your best, it can change your life. Can you remember that time you bought a new outfit, couldn’t wait to put it on, went into the world and received compliments all day. Didn’t it make you feel like a million bucks? Didn’t it give you the confidence to stand up taller, voice your opinion more freely, approach new people and ideas? Wouldn’t it be great if you could feel like that every day?
But my appearance isn’t everything, right? True. You can shake hands, smile, lean in, introduce yourself, and speak clearly, all actions that add to a positive impression (definitely do them!), but the truth is that when you walk through that door, people first look at your appearance. They make assumptions about your entire life based on the information gathered in those first few seconds. It sounds overwhelming. And a bit unfair, actually. After all, we can’t be expected to be “on” all the time, right? Of course not. But once you define your style, you become really good at knowing what works for you on any occasion—what colors to wear, what necklaces to buy, whether that print looks good on you. Just imagine it. You can stop browsing through everything, no more buying tops that you’ll never really wear, no more overflowing closets with clothes that deliver mixed messages.
It all starts with creating that personal brand.