Looking the Part

This is a guest post by Susan Mowder.  She is the owner of The STYLE Principle, a wardrobe-styling firm based in Chicago, IL. You can find and follow her on her The Style Principle website. 

Do You Look Successful?
Like it or not, you are judged by how you look.  It may not seem fair or right, but it’s true. Everyday we speak volumes to others before we even utter a word.  Have you considered recently what you are actually “saying”?  


Looking the Part
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Life happens – we graduate from school, go back to school, get married, get divorced, are promoted, are down-sized, etc. You have changed over the years – but have your look, your style, or your image?  Every so often, you need to take a long look in the mirror and really see what is being reflected.  Is your current look reinforcing the message you wish to be sending, or distracting from it?
Three seconds is all we have to make that indelible impression when we encounter another person. Since words are often not spoken, your style is the voice of that impression.  Just as you are judged, so too you judge – it’s human nature.  As others are making assumptions about you, you are making assumptions about them.  From those first assumptions, you make other assumptions. Within those initial seconds, you’ve determine if someone is successful, intelligent, and competent, as well as what kind of car they drive, where they went to school, and what they had for lunch. And yes, they are doing the same about you!
In any interaction, especially business, you are subconsciously asking yourself if the person “looks the part”. If to you they do, in whatever follows you are seeking signs that reinforce your initial assumptions.  If to you they don’t, you are only seeing what reinforces that assumption, and much effort is required on their part to reverse it.  
Have you asked yourself recently -- “What assumptions are others making about me?”  “Do I look the part?”  “How do I wish to be perceived?”   “What does intelligent, smart, competent, successful, and current look like?”    
Status Makers
Various factors can effect assumptions and expectations.  The more years of experience you have, the more expectation for you to look the part.  Often levels of success are associated with key “status makers”—brands of clothing, fabrics, watches, handbags, shoes, etc.—as well as knowing the how-to’s—appropriate styling, proper fit, etc.  Even in more relaxed work environments, the status makers are present.
There is no clear-cut answer to how to dress to be perceived a certain way.  However, a number of interpretations can yield a similar outcome.  The key is to define how you wish to be perceived via your personal definition of style.  Then, incorporating elements of other styles, if need be, to achieve your desired image.
For example, if you’ve always been confident exuding a classic style, but wish to appear more current – consider adding a few trends-of the-season pieces to you wardrobe.  This can be as easy as a new belt, handbag, and/or shoe in the season’s “it” color.  Also, next time at the hair salon, give the new version of your “classic bob” a try.  If you’ve tended to be more comfortable with a natural look, but wish to add an element of refinement – add some quality, structured pieces to your wardrobe mix. Replacing a cardigan sweater with a fitted blazer instantly gives you an air of authority and competence.  Also, always finish your outfit by adding a third piece – jacket, belt, and/or necklace – to make your look intentional.     
Since you have to put something on in the morning, you might as well make it work to your advantage.  So go ahead; take a long look in the mirror.
Question:  What suggestions do you have to look the part?

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