Do You Know How to Dress the Part, Dress for Your Company, Your Products and Services, Meet Your Customer Expectations, Internally and Externally?
All Without Using Your Own Sense of Personal Identity?
Do you know the formula for building a professional image in the workplace? It is…
Science + Art = Style™
Is your image increasing your success potential, or is it a distinct liablity in helping you reach your carrer aspirations?
“Excuse me. I have this conference room reserved for a 9:00.” The man sitting in the room looked at me quizzically, laughed, and said, “Sue, I think I’m part of your meeting. Didn’t you invite me to be here? I was stunned. The man I had known for more than a decade had been transformed beyond my recognition!”
Susan L. Baumgartel, was our client who was Head of Global Sales & Marketing at Assurant Solutions. This was from part of her Foreword in our book called, “Don’t Go to Work Naked!
Sue went on to say, “During my 10 plus years as a creator and director of a corporate in-house sales school, I have seen many such transformations, some more dramatic than others, but always with tremendous results. One might say that anyone can receive an image facelift with a new set of clothes – the right colors, proper fit – but when the transformation comes from the inside and is manifested in renewed confidence, and a true brand image that represents your corporate environment, you have a winning program!
Applying the principles from CHUVA’s image programs are designed with the goal of growing people – NOT fixing them – but helping them create and refine their own brand image that will enrich you and your organization and lead to a return on investment that goes beyond dollars: trust is built, influence is stronger, deals are closed, people are promoted, confidence grows, and loyalty increases.”
When it comes down to it, your professional image impacts all these that Sue mentioned. And I must say, I couldn’t have said it better. Your image represents your brand. It’s how you package yourself. You have your unique coloring, body type, and personality, and all these combined creates a professional image that is only reflective of you!
Sue is now happily retired! Thank you, Sue, for 10 great years of respect and value. We appreciate you!
Before I dive into the blog, let me first explain the difference between a professional image and a professional presence. These are oftentimes misunderstood, and it is not just semantics. There is a difference and it’s important for you to understand both as they are interrelated.
Your professional presence is how you show up. Your behavior, your dress, your body language, how you communicate, it’s everything that you are about. Think about it as your total package.
Your Professional Image is about how you look; your dress and personal grooming attributes. Your image constitutes 30% of reaching your success potential; however, at first glance, it’s everything! Your professional image should not only represent your position, your personal brand, your organization’s brand, as well as exceed your customer’s expectations, both internally and externally, but do so without losing your own sense of personal identity! This is the key!
Perception VS Reality!
You never get a second change to make a first impression. True. Why? Because when one sees you for the first time, he or she forms a perception about you. It may not be at all about who you are, but to the onlooker it is; therefore, it is their reality. So, it is important for you to develop and maintain a professional image. (I really don’t like that statement because it insinuates that you can’t correct a wrong. But that is for a future blog!)
Whether you are identified as an up and coming leader or are already highly visible in the organization, your image should ensure that your personal brand is packaged in a way that others take notice. So how do you do that? I will give you a bird’s eye-view of what “creates” a professional image.
Science + Art = Style
At CHUVA, we have analyzed and worked with thousands of professionals on developing his or her professional image. What we have noticed through these years is that there are extreme image consultants/stylists that swing from one spectrum to the other.
On one side, there are those that go strictly by the science. If you “have” this, then you are “this”. For example, if you belong to “this” color palette, then you can only wear “these” colors from that palette. God forbid you wear black when it’s not in your palette.
Then you have the other extreme. It doesn’t matter what the “rules” are, break them all. It’s all about art and nonconformity. I often refer to this group as stylist. Not all, but most, go with what’s in fashion. So, my response is, if it’s in fashion and it doesn’t look good on should you still wear it? To that I say, no!
I am not insinuating that you should not incorporate fashion into your wardrobe, you should. It’s just how you do it. Let yourself dictate the look, not fashion; however, if you are wearing things that are outdated and out of fashion, then your personal brand will be perceived as outdated as well, so select wisely.
The key to building your professional image is to create a balance of the two. The science approach provides you the direction in where to begin building your image. The art aspect teaches you ways to “bend-the-rules” so to speak to create an image that is perfect just for you and only you.
To make this an easy process, we created the “Science + Art = Style Wheel™”. It is important to know that these elements that make-up this equation can be broken down into both a science and an art. Let’s look at each aspect of this formula and how you can apply it to yourself. You will begin to see that by combining each aspect from both perspectives (science and art), you will be able to make conscious, intelligent choices when it comes to building your wardrobe and being dressed appropriately at all times.
PLEASE NOTE: We are not suggesting wearing anything you want, whenever you want; this is not realistic; however, what we are suggesting is to take an inclusive approach to building your professional image that is representative of your personal brand.
Your Professional Image is built around 5-Primary Image Disciplines:
The first aspect refers to your Personal Coloring. Color is the foundation for building any wardrobe and should not be taken lightly. Depending upon your personal coloring, specific colors can help you look fresh, component and powerful, while other colors can make you look tired and washed out.
To make this easy for you, our company, CHUVA, created the 4-Elemental Color Palettes©: Fire, Air, Earth and Water. These four palettes help determine which “colors” best harmonize with your skin, hair, and eye colors, therefore, making it easier to determine which colors are best for your clothing, hair, makeup and accessories. If you follow the “Color Concept” for each palette, then you will enhance your professional image tremendously!
The Fire palette consists of warm, clear, bright colors. This does not meant that it does not have dark colors, but even those colors have lightness to them. A Fire’s coloring is typically clear and transparent, like that of a flame.
Their personality is often bubbly and outgoing, the life of the party. They have a sparkle in their eye. The more “golden” Fire will wear the warmer colors better, such as salmon, gold, and peach. A less “golden” Fire will wear the “cooler” colors of the palette, such as the aqua, periwinkle and coral.
The Earth palette is unique, as it consists of bright and muted colors. There are some Earth’s that can wear the brighter colors, like the Fall time of year when the leaves begin to change. Think of pumpkins, reds, and bright yellows. As these colors begin to tone down, they become richer in nature; eventually becoming muted. There are some Earths that look best in the muted colors of the palette. And there are those who look great in both the bright and muted colors.
They are grounded and sensible in their personality. Many Earths enjoy the outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, or gardening. They typically like casual clothing that’s textured and comfortable.
The AIR palette consists of soft, cool, muted tones. The colors are “heathered” in nature, as the AIR’s personal coloring is as well. This soft contrast between the skin, hair and eyes is typically accompanied by a soft, amiable personality. Mostly they are quiet and aesthetic by nature. The Air person grays softly and slowly. They tend to become more attractive as they get older. They have some “color” in their palette but it’s important not to get “too” bright for the total look. It can be overwhelming of their inner essence.
The personality of this palette is that they are approachable. They have a very aesthetic nature about them. Sophistication often comes to mind.
This Water palette is made of dark, vivid colors and is typically best worn in sharp contrast. There is typically hi-contrast between the skin, hair and eyes, which is why the colors from this palette work so well when worn. They should avoid earth tones around the face completely. Particularly the “olive” complexion. Be careful not to mistake this complexion type as warm, because it has a blue (cool) undertone as all Waters do. It’s called olive because the skin has a green cast. Although technically, olive is a warm-green color. An olive complexion sounds better than a green complexion.
The personality of this palette is aloof. Not rude, but they appear to “process information” as they listen. Typically, this person looks best in solids. May wear some stripes but not a great deal of pattern.
These palettes were created as a new generation of color analysis, which was made most popular by Carole Jackson, who created the Color Me Beautiful system, where she categorized your coloring as a Spring, Summer, Winter or Autumn. Working with Carole and her team earlier in my career, and as their national trainer, I learned a great deal. I am where I am today because of Carole’s creations. Thank you, Carole!
As I moved into corporate America with this new-found journey, I began to see how adjustments needed to be made to make the information more marketable for men as well. Male CEOs didn’t like being called a “Spring”, so I adjusted the names to universal elements. That is how it became Fire, Air, Earth and Water. You can click here to learn more about the 4-Season system by Color Me Beautiful.
We also added new colors and changed names to accommodate the current market. In addition, we created the Numerical Charting System™ so that professionals could learn how make the most of their budget wardrobe dollars. In short, out system reduces your shopping time by 50% and your mistakes by a 100%.
These palettes are designed by a scientific approach; however, how you apply them it is as much about science as it is art!
Suffice to say, it’s great to know that you fit into one of these categories. It provides you direction on where to being to make conscious color choices for your wardrobe, accessories, makeup and hair; however, there is the aspect of personal taste.
Just because a color is great for you does not mean that you like it. If you don’t like a color, regardless of how great it looks on you, you will not project confidence, therefore it does not really “work” for you.
There are some colors that you might also like that are not in your palette. In this case, wear the color but also mix it with a color from your palette that dominates the two. For example, if black is not in your palette, then wear it, just mix it with an ivory as opposed to a stark white color.
Conclusion? Do not allow image consultants or sales reps push color on you. You can; however, try new colors that you are not sure of by wearing tee-shirts in a specific color to see how you feel while wearing the color, as well as see what type of feedback you get from others.
Psychology of Color
The second aspect of building a personal brand takes into consideration is the Psychology of Color. You should understood what color communicates so that you can reinforce your message. For example, darker colors help you project more of an authoritative presence, while lighter colors help you project more of an approachable presence. Or if you wanted to project a powerful presence, you would opt for a red color, versus a blue color.
Color affects the autonomic nervous system of the body creating physiological changes in people. Color evokes emotions. When you wear red, for example, others heart rate and blood pressure rise. When you wear dark gray, there is a more neutral response. Yellow might get other’s attention quicker than red, but the heart rate and blood pressure are not as constant as red.
Psychology of Color
The artistic side of the Psychology of Color is like that of colors from your color palette, wearing colors that look good on you, but you don’t like them. The Psychology of Color, from this perspective can help you create a look using different color options.
For example, you might not like red, yet you still want a more authoritative look. You have other options. For example, you can wear hi-contrast colors that help make you stand out. For example, a “Water” might opt to wear hi-contrast colors such as black and white; however, an “earth’s” hi-contrast colors would be a brown-black with ivory. Each palette impacts the colors that are to be worn.
Personal Clothing Style Profile™
There are four Personal Clothing Style Profiles™
Classic – Natural – Dramatic – Romantic
Many people are the personification of one of these Personal Clothing Style Profiles™; however, most of us are a combination of these styles.
Your style is determined by your physical characteristics and personality traits. We have defined each style to help you gain an idea of which one (or two) may be right for you.
motto: keep it simple!
Classics love structure and can relate very well to conservative environments. They like to wear solids and stripes, and more neutral colors. Anything else is “too much”. Classics love a tailored look. Sloppy is not in their vocabulary. They typically are structured even down to knowing what they are going to wear to work the next day. Classics typically stay on schedule and do not like their environment to be disrupted.
Physically they are symmetrical. They have tapered shoulder and soft-straight lines which make up their body type. Personality wise, they are balanced and controlled, often can be perceived as aloof.
Naturals love the outdoors. Whether it is being in the mountains, on the beach or lake, they are most comfortable in natural surroundings, casual style clothing, and natural fibers.
Physically, they have more angles with blunt edges, are moderate to tall and have a subtle contrast between the skin, hair and eyes. Freckles gives this style a more “textured” feel. Personality wise, they are free-spirited, radiate warmth, friendliness and good will.
Fabrics with texture works best. Patterns that are created from the weave of a garment works better than actual prints. Also, naturals prefer a sportscoat, versus a suit.
motto: more is less!
Dramatics live to break the rules when it comes to dress. Tell a dramatic they cannot do something, and they will most likely turn around and do it. Dramatics think of themselves as up-to-date on the most fashion trends and they love their independence; however, they need to be sure not to overwhelm others with their self-assurance!
Physically their body type is more angular with hi-square shoulders, along with a prominent nose, jaw line and defined cheek bones. Personality wise they are bold and charismatic. They can also be direct. What you see is what you get.
Bold colored patterns, combinations and prints, represent this style. Dramatics may tend to “over dress” for the office due to their sense of style, so one may have to tone-it-down a bit for the office.
motto: sophistication and elegance!
Romantics love the finer things of life. Presentation is everything. They don’t really care how the food tastes, but how it is presented is of up-most importance. Romantics are very esthetic. They like to “experience” things before they purchase them, such as touching and feeling the fabric of a garment.
Physically they possess combination to curved body type with rounded or sloped shoulders. There is subtle contrast between the nose, jaw line and cheekbones.
Personality wise, they are very gracious, charming and diplomatic. This style does not settle for mediocracy.
To reflect their inner essence in the office, Romantic’s should wear finer fabrics, and keep accessories, such as a briefcase in an elegant style.
Your body type helps define your clothing style. From a science perspective, this means that if your personality traits and physical traits align, then you are a pure style. You can see the descriptions above.
Your body type alone helps defines, cuts, patterns contrast and scale, to the fabric type and finish. And as you can tell from the descriptors above, how they impact your Personal Clothing Style Profile™. Below you will find the description for each body type.
Suits, blazers and sportcoats with straight collar lines such as a notched lapel work best.
Angular body types utilize fabrics that are of a tighter weave and/or heavier weight. Patterns in shirt or ties or weaves, such as the following shapes: square, rectangle, triangle or diamond.
- straight and angular lines of the body
- square shoulders
- angular facial features
- sharp or prominent nose, jaw line, and cheekbones
- shoulders wider than the waistline
This shape is more rounded with sloped shoulders. They avoid sharp lines such as a peaked lapel in jackets. Fabrics that are soft to the touch, loosely woven and/or lighter in weight work well with this body type.
Avoid patterns and prints in sharp, geometrical shapes such as squares and rectangles.
- soft-curved lines of the body
- rounded or sloped shoulders
- soft-curved facial features: facial bones are small and delicate
- softer-curved lines for the nose, jaw line, and cheekbones
- hips equal or wider than the shoulders
This shape includes a combination of angles and curves. You will lean toward the angle or curved body type. This body type has shoulders that are somewhat tapered. If your face has more angles, keep straight lines around the face area. If your face has more curves, keep softer lines around the face area.
Select fabrics that are moderate to tightly woven and/or of a softer texture. Avoid extremely angular and curved patterns in your patterns or prints. Think oval, oblong and heart shapes.
- soft-straight lines of the body
- tapered shoulders
- soft-straight facial features
- defined, but not too sharp line for the nose, jaw line, and cheekbones
- shoulders slightly wider than the waistline
You will be empowered when you make framing choices. The more you know, the better you are!
Your Face and You
Knowing your face shape is critical. It helps determine how to select the best “framing component” options that work best with your face shape: haircut/style, eyewear, collar lines and accessories for women.
For example, if your face shape is similar to that of a diamond, it simply means your forehead and jaw line are narrower than your cheekbones. This also means that your facial features (hairline, jaw line, nose, chin) which make up the silhouette of your face shape, are more angular. This face shape is often referred to as having high cheekbones.
Scientifically, this means that your “framing components” should primarily help to widen the forehead and the jaw line areas, accentuate the angles, while adding some length to your face.
The “oval” face shape is considered the “ideal” face shape because it can accomodate most framing compoenents, because the oval shape is “already” balanced. Do not think of the word “ideal” in terms of perfection or being better. Just scientifically it’s “balanced” in terms of symmetry.
Don’t strive for “oval” strive for balance; scientifically and artistically!
Artistically, it’s about personal choice, likes and dislikes, as well as the message you wish to convey. For example, if you have a square face shape, these straight lines are considered authoritative; however, if you wanted to reinforce a more authoritative presence, then you might opt to accentuate the straight lines as opposed to “scientifically” softening them.
The fifth Professional Image Discipline consists of those Image Design-Elements™ which consist of fabric types, patterns, details, accessories, and fit.
Scientifically, specific elements should complement your physical characteristics. For example, if you are medium to smaller in scale, then you would do best with patterns that are medium to smaller in scale. If you are smaller in scale and you wear larger patterns, they will overwhelm you.
Or, you may have an angular body type, you would then, scientifically, wear cuts that are made of straight line, versus curved lines.
Here is how the “art” approach might work.
Let’s say, for example you are a smaller scale body structure, yet you have a “Dramatic” personality, the two conflict. In this case, the “Dramatic” would win out as it’s the most obvious overtime. Therefore, you can wear larger patterns because it works. The patterns support the vibrant personality.
Are you beginning to see how building your professional image from a “Science” and “Art” perspective is important? If you don’t, begin asking yourself why you feel good in some things and not in others. There is always an explanation!
To read more blogs on the topics of Professional Image, click here. We will make specific recommendations for each face shape for men and women. Keep in mind that we are constantly adding new blogs so be sure to check back!
You can also submit any question concerning this topic or other personal branding topics by submitting your questions here. Our “ASK! the image guru” will try to answer your question(s) in a blog!