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Posts Tagged business outfits

Looks count, on reflection

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Sydney Morning Herald
Samantha Selinger-Morris, March 29 2012

It’s a fact that appearances can influence our chances of success; enter the presentation pros.

Cicero, the Roman philosopher, might have thought the eyes were the window to the soul but then he never met Ashleigh Sharman.

Had he, he might have weighed up the value of our peepers versus the truth-telling properties of a baggy pair of trousers or an ill-fitting vest.

“It’s almost like you’re a shrink,” says Sharman, a freelance personal shopper and style consultant, about her work helping clients – primarily women “in their late 20s to late 40s” – cull unflattering items from their wardrobe and buy clothing that makes them feel more confident.

“A lot of people who come to you for this service have a lot of body issues, a lot of anxiety,” she says. “They may have some self-esteem issues and [the service] is about working through those, too.”

Women who’ve been out of the workforce to raise their children and want to stop feeling “frumpy”? Newly single women who want change but feel confused about what to buy? A transgender client who’s finally completed his gender reassignment and wants to look more feminine?

Sharman’s helped them all.

And they’re not the only ones now paying for advice we used to seek from our mothers.

Chris Rewell, of Chris Rewell Image Consultants, has provided “image training” – teaching people what colours and clothing styles suit them, advising them on their body shape and taking them on shopping tours – for everyone from government commissioners wanting a bit of extra polish, to a deep-sea diver who felt clueless about how to dress femininely while not at work and ordinary professionals wanting to dress for career advancement.

It’s a far cry from when she started her company in 1982.

“People would say, ‘You’re a what?’” Rewell says. “I’d say, ‘I’m an image consultant’, [and get the response] ‘What do you do, people’s houses? Businesses?’”

Part of the reason for the growth in her business, she says, is that there is now a wider cultural appreciation for how our appearance can influence important areas of our life, such as career success and our ability to find a romantic partner.

“We know it’s real,” says Rewell of the impact that our “non-verbal communication” has on people. “We are a package. If you went to Tiffany’s and bought a beautiful bracelet and they gave it to you in a brown paper bag and string, would you think it was as valuable?”

Confronting? Maybe. But more and more people are willing to face up to this reality now that highbrow writers such as Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point, have begun tackling the topic. (Gladwell has written about how having an afro hairdo has prompted him to be stopped more frequently by police than when he wore his hair short.)

Indeed, Rewell is even being sought out by a growing number of female workers who have employers who would “like to put them through to management, but [who are] dressing unbelievably inappropriately”.

One woman who worked at an engineering firm, for instance, was up for a $40,000 pay rise and a promotion that would involve her working more closely with the company’s clients – primarily suit-wearing men. But when Rewell arrived at her home to do a clothing audit, all she found were lots of “little strappy tops, very very short skirts and very high heels. The minute I walked in, it looked like a wardrobe of fantastic clothing for raging and nightclubbing.”

Why, one wonders, are some people still so clueless about social mores that would seem to be obvious?

We all have ”second agendas” with how we dress, Rewell says. The short-skirted woman, she says, “was looking for a partner and felt she had a much higher probability if she dressed provocatively. She really wasn’t valuing the other parts for herself.”

Many others who seek out personal shoppers, though, are simply sick and tired of fossicking through closets that are packed with clothing – just none they particularly want to wear.

“I was a compulsive shopper, so I’d see something I liked, but I wouldn’t be too happy with the colour and then just buy it anyway,” says Gail Holmes, a manager of a nutritional company, of her habits before seeking out Rewell’s service.

“I wanted a professional and honest opinion regarding clothes that suited me. Because we know that family and friends don’t always … they aren’t always the best judge.”

Now she knows that “reddy browns” and pastel colours, which she used to buy, don’t flatter her colouring, and that, as a shorter person, she needs to have all her jackets tailored to have them fit well.

“People think, ‘Oh my god, personal stylists are so expensive,”’ – Rewell, for instance, charges $200 to teach people how to organise their wardrobes and about $2000 for a shopping tour and closet clean – ”but at the end of the day, you save so much money; money you’re spending on clothing that doesn’t suit you, on clothing you end up giving away to friends or St Vinnies,” Holmes says.

This is one of the reasons Westfield shopping centres across Australia began offering personal shoppers in 2005, says the director of marketing for the company, John Batistich.

“Many women want to make better choices, less mistakes,” says Batistich, who adds that this motivation is driving clothing sales. He gets reports from stylists that women are spending “anywhere from $400 to thousands of dollars” on clothing in the centres after a two-hour styling session.

It’s no wonder other shops have taken note, with Rundle Mall, a pedestrian shopping arcade in the heart of Adelaide, now offering the service, along with Sydney stores such as Gorman.

With any luck, the shoppers they serve will be as happy as Holmes now is.

“People will now say [to me], ‘Gee, you don’t look so pale. Are you well? You’re looking well.’”

 

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Should I remove extra buttons on my dress shirt’s cuff?

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Globe and Mail
Russell Smith, March 17

The question

My shirts come with two cuff buttons. I have sturdy wrists and so I only use the inside button, to create a roomier cuff. But this leaves the outer button visible. Is that cool or should I remove it?

The answer

I am always impressed when I hear from someone more obsessive than me. To be honest, I have never noticed a visible shirt-cuff button and felt one way or another about it. Then I went and looked at my shirts and I realized that the cuffs might indeed look a little sleeker without an extra useless visible button. (This is like the Peanuts cartoon in which Linus tells Lucy he’s aware of his tongue, to which Lucy scoffs; then we see her alone in the next frame looking worried – she’s become aware of her tongue.)

It started to seem rational: After all, we do, as a general principle, try to conceal all our other straps and stays (suspenders, zippers, the cheap metal sliders on bow ties). But if I do remove the buttons that have long been there (and doubtless long ironed-over), they will leave a visible outline on the shirt, which will be even more noticeable. So I don’t think it’s worth it. My solution: Avoid buttons altogether.

There is no cheaper luxury than heavy French cuffs; they make the dullest suit feel powerful.

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Men Are Spending More On Suits As The Recovery Ramps Up

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Business Insider
Naomi Mannino

If you weren’t part of the “mancession” yourself, you probably know a man who was or is still affected by the economic downturn of the past few years. Reportedly, the downturn hit men especially hard with unemployment.

A CNBC.com article yesterday, however, mentioned that menswear apparel sales were beginning to rebound because men were finally getting back to work and needing the clothes to go with it.

“The competitive landscape for employment is tough,” Durand Guion, the Macy’s men’s fashion director, said in the article. “People perceive that they are getting a leg up by being dressier.” He also explained that work styles are a little more formal now than last decade’s dressed-down “casual Fridays.”

Is it true? Do you have a better chance at nabbing a job and doing better once you get it depending on what you wear? Women have believed this for a long time, but I decided to get an expert opinion.

“It’s much better to be a little overdressed than underdressed,” says Judi Perkins, a Connecticut-based career coach and founder of Find the Perfect Job. ”A well-tailored suit is never out of place. It affects, often unconsciously, how people perceive you: your skills, your demeanor, your communication skills and your competence in general.”

She further explains that it changes how you feel about yourself also, especially if you’re feeling discouraged from being unemployed for a long time. ”You’ll feel more put-together, more accomplished in a well-tailored suit or new outfit,” Perkins says. ”Dressing up and spending a little on yourself  gives you back a feeling of self-respect, of feeling deserving.”

So the verdict is in: Make room in your budget for a new suit, shoes and maybe some accessories to go with it. “I do believe that a well-dressed man with an air of competence and confidence could nail a position over a guy wearing Dockers and a sports coat,” Perkins says, ”even if the guy with the suit isn’t quite as qualified. The suit makes a strong psychological impression in the wearer’s favor.”

Here are Perkins’ smart-spending shopping tips for the well-dressed man.

  • Take advantage of specialty menswear stores and department store promotions such as BOGOs (buy-one-get-one) and 2-for-1 deals, one-days sales and dollars-off coupons.
  • Take your wife or significant other with you, if you’re embarrassed about whipping out coupons.
  • Make use of the tailor so clothes fit impeccably.
  • Upgrade any scuffed shoes, outdated tie styles and stained or worn items.

Do you think clothes make the man? Have you upgraded your attire recently or landed a new job?

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What shoes should I pair with my tux?

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Globe and Mail
Russell Smith, March 4 2012

The question

I’ve just bought a new tuxedo. What are the appropriate shoes to wear with it? My father always wore shiny black-patent leather shoes with his, I recall.

The answer

So did mine. As a child, I used to take them out of his closet and study them for their sheer brilliant weirdness. I couldn’t imagine what circumstances could entice a man as conservative as my father to don something so artificial-looking, so circus-costumey. This outfit must have been, I thought, for some unimaginably serious foreign ritual, like an ecclesiastical investiture. They have seemed to me the epitome of dress-up ever since. And you still see them occasionally with black tie, but the current and respectable requirement is plain black lace-up Oxfords.

The less ornamental detailing there is on a shoe, the more formal it is, so that means black brogues, with their patterns of punched leather, are out. (I mean this: right out.) Your plain black shoes must also have a nice shine to them – as much like patent leather as you can get them. You will also read, particularly in U.S. style guides, about “court pumps” – those patent-leather slip-ons with a low vamp and a satin bow – for formal wear. And you may see them at awards ceremonies for magicians in Las Vegas, too. You will not see them on James Bond.

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Primary colors: How style affects the presidential candidates’ image

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Middletown Journal
Robin McMacken, March 3 2012

With Super Tuesday just two days away, all eyes are on the GOP presidential contenders’ every move, and on President Barack Obama’s as well.

The stakes are high for these men, and, in general, their personal and professional lives have been analyzed, inspected and criticized.

What has been enjoyable (really) for me to explore is how the politicians have dressed throughout the campaign.

I talked to three area image experts, and they agree Obama and the four Republican candidates — Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum — overall are picking winning colors ,such as navy blue and red in their ties, for instance, and dark charcoal or navy suits. These hues signify authority, success and intelligence.

There is nothing capricious in the candidates’ attire — whether they are facing off in debates, interviewing with the media or doing meet and greets along the campaign trail.

To be sure, the advisers note, the men probably have professional stylists planning every element of their wardrobes.

“The sartorial front we have all seen by the candidates indicates a clear purpose and well-thought-out decisions behind their entire ensembles,” says Sara Priest, a Dayton-based managing partner with J. Hilburn, a custom menswear company based in Dallas.

Certainly all the candidates have to walk that fine line between looking “too rich” and appearing pedestrian or, worse yet, sloppy.

There is immeasurable truth in the adage you don’t get a second chance in making a first impression. “The first look is what sums it up for a lot of folks,” explains Jennifer Howard of Dayton, who is certified through the Association of Image Consultants International and is also a small business coach.

Priest’s theory: “Don’t dress to impress; and don’t dress to offend.”

Adds Sandra Dilley, a Dayton-based image consultant: “All of these men are well-tailored and guided in their choices of wardrobe and color.”

Here is a glance at each of the presidential candidates, what they do right in the style arena, missteps to avoid, and how area men can emulate their style:

Barack Obama

The experts agree the president has all the right moves when it comes to fashion and posturing.

“He carries himself well,” says Howard. “And his grooming is impeccable … flawless, really.”

Women’s Wear Daily has written: “His fashion choices are radically chic yet subtle — the perfect balance of elegance and confidence.”

Dilley agrees with this assessment: “His confidence and attractiveness add to this even more and are key ingredients to what makes his style work.”

Also a plus for the president is he is fit and takes good care of himself, Howard says.

For men: Take Obama’s lead and find a tailor who can tweak off-the-rack suits. A carefully placed stitch here or there can turn an ordinary suit into a fabulous career ensemble, according to the women.

Newt Gingrich

For men with a build more like Gingrich, the image advisers stress the importance of properly fitting attire.

The women say of all the presidential candidates, he is most likely the most challenging to fit.

It’s vital he doesn’t wear suits too tight – or too loose.

His color choices are wonderful for his skin tone.

“Gingrich is conservative and tailored all the way,” observes Dilley. “We usually see him in a suit. His choices in color almost always fall in the red, white and blue, patriotic looks and themes to make him come across as All-American … a very strong message to the voters.”

And he does have good hair, the women point out.

For men: Priest recommends larger men opt for vertical stripes in their suiting to create a more slender look.

Ron Paul

The women note Paul projects a grandfatherly image; he appears trustworthy. Like Gingrich, Dilley says, he leans toward a highly patriotic palette (red, white and blue) in his fashion choices.

The women feel the Texas congressman mostly gets it “right” with his suits, but he sometimes can be seen in suits that are too simply too big.

For men: Don’t forget shoes are part of the total image package.

“Shoes need to coordinate well with the color of the suit,” says Dilley. “Moreover, they need to be polished and current.”

Mitt Romney

The former Massachusetts governor is “very dashing, he really is,” says Howard, and his professional look is exquisite. Although Romney most likely has custom-made suits, she surmises, he is careful to wear less expensive suits during the debates, for instance, to maintain a level of approachability.

“Romney leans toward Obama’s style of chic and suave,” Dilley says. “Moreover, he — like Obama — uses the less tailored look at times such as a button-down shirt, slacks and sleeves even rolled up while on the campaign trail.”

This look is “appealing more to the younger demographic of voters,” adds Dilley.

For men: For success, emulate Romney’s attention to sartorial detail. Jeans are OK — just be sure they are classic. Trendy jean treatments (think acid wash, for instance, or the ripped look) are not appropriate if you wish to command respect.

(Romney reportedly wears Gap jeans.)

“I absolutely agree with the open-collar shirt, however, I would not advise rolling the cuff back,” says Priest.

“These are presidential candidates, and they do not need to roll to imply that they are the same as the general public.”

Rick Santorum

No matter what the outcome of this year’s presidential race, Santorum most likely will be remembered as the man in the vest.

The former Pennsylvania senator sports a collegiate, All-American style, the consultants note, that makes him appear accessible and in touch with his constituents.

For men: Go casual, when appropriate, but keep in mind a neatly pressed shirt needs to be worn under a sweater vest, according to the consultants.

They give two thumbs up to the layered look.

 

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Modern Etiquette: The 10 Commandments of Business Behavior

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Reuters
Mary Mitchell, February 13 2012

Those of us dedicated to such matters have long recognized the truth in John D. Rockefeller’s comment: “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other skill under the sun.”

Lest this scion of another century be ignored, a report by Google concurred that its most effective managers are people first, geeks second. Google’s report brought Rockefeller’s words full circle. What, specifically, does it all mean?

To this columnist, it means following: the Ten Commandments of Business Behavior. They are, I believe, worthy guidelines for anyone’s career (even if I did write them myself, with apologies to the Bible). And I reserve the right not to deal with social media because it has been addressed so skillfully by my colleagues.

Here goes:

1. Thou shalt have a positive attitude. Everybody has bad days. Nobody has the right to take it out on others. Rudeness, impoliteness, surliness, ugly moods, unprovoked displays of anger, and general unpleasantness can be costly to your career – and your company’s bottom line.

2. Thou shalt be on time. Keeping others waiting is the ultimate power play – whether it’s a meeting, an email, a telephone call, or that charmingly Jurassic example of business behavior, a letter. In the end, it’s self-defeating. Everybody’s busy. Everybody’s time is valuable. Being late only makes you look like you don’t have your act together.

3. Thou shalt praise in public and criticize in private. If you intend to improve a situation or someone’s performance, public criticism is the worst approach. It serves no purpose except to humiliate the other person, and possibly lead to cutthroat retaliation. Remember that the office gossip looks far worse than those being gossiped about.

4. Thou shalt get names straight. We all forget people’s names. There is nothing wrong with saying: “Please tell me your name again. My brain just went on strike.” But there is something wrong with not checking on correct spelling whenever you write a name. That’s lazy. It can cost your career. And remember, it’s a big mistake to assume you can call somebody by his or her first name. We have four generations working in a truly global marketplace. Each generation feels differently about using first names.

5. Thou shalt speak slowly and clearly on the telephone. Texting makes us forget how we sound, or when we speed-talk. Again, remember those four generations in the work arena, as well as the diversity of cultures. A smile can be heard in your voice. So smile or you will sound irritated and put out. Not a good move when business is on the line.

6. Thou shalt not use foul language. KIND is the only four-letter word for the workplace. Don’t accept vulgarity, poor grammar and slang as your personal standards. They are three of the top reasons people don’t get hired. On the other hand, liberal use of “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” can be most helpful in one’s career ascent.

7. Thou shalt dress appropriately. Don’t enter your workplace without knowing its dress code. If you must, call the human resources department and ask. Good grooming is at least 10 times more important than making a fashion statement. Good taste and fashion are not always synonymous.

8. Thou shalt take clear messages. It pays to take time to be sure the messages you take are clear, correct and complete.

9. Thou shalt honor social courtesies at business functions. Etiquette is just a matter of common sense with a large dose of kindness. Make sure you respond to invitations promptly and never bring an uninvited guest without permission. Never be a no-show when you said you’d show. Good guests contribute as much to a party as good hosts.

10. Thou shalt be accountable. We all make mistakes. That does not give us license to blame someone else for them. There is no shame in admitting you don’t have all the answers. Yet there is shame in not being willing to look for them.

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Why do men’s overcoats have only one inside pocket?

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GlobeAndMail
Russell Smith, October 15 2011

 

The question

Why do men’s overcoats have only one inside pocket (on the left side since most of us are right-handed, I’m assuming)? Wouldn’t an extra one (or two, even) on the right balance things out?

The answer

What exactly do you need to be carrying in your pockets? I know your type: You want your electronics, all your keys (including the ones to your garden shed and snowmobile), a pocket knife, a flashlight (in case you’re stranded in the elevator) and a newspaper. And you refuse to carry a bag. Why? Will it turn you into a fashion designer?

If manufacturers put pockets all over their coats, men will fill them up with bulgy stuff. It throws out the line of the garment. Same goes for suits. When I am shopping with first-time suit-buyers, I plead with them to leave in the basting stitches that seal the outer jacket pockets, so that they are never tempted to actually use them. The second you stuff a bag of chips and an iPhone into such a pocket, you look like a chemistry professor.

What you need to do is man up and carry your stuff in a bag: a leather briefcase-like bag with a shoulder strap. No one will mistake you for a fashion designer, but they may well ask you if you’ve lost weight.

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How to pull off: three-piece suits

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GlobeAndMail
Tiyana Grulovic, January 15 2011

There’s a perceived stuffiness to the waistcoat these days, equating them more with cartoon tycoons than modern office types. This season, however, the classic three-piece suit – now slimmer, sharper and better co-ordinated – reads more Wall Street than Rich Uncle Pennybags. Rest assured that either way, though, you’ll look like a million bucks.

1) Make your look modern by matching your waistcoat to the rest of the suit, as was done at Dolce & Gabbana’s runway show (above left). In other words, wear a contrasting colour only if your workplace is the set of a historical drama.

2) Opt for a V-shaped neckline on the waistcoat for a more flattering effect. As a rule, remember that the lower the V, the slimmer the waist will appear.

3) Pinstripes are always classic, but if your corporate culture skews less formal, opt for softer fabrics such as tweed or wool. You’ll still look dapper – just more relaxed.

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Can a man get away with wearing a vest sans jacket?

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GlobeAndMail
Russel Smith, February 4 2012

 

The question

Vests and suspenders: Can a man wear these without a jacket without looking like a displaced casino employee?

The answer

Because Britain, for various historical reasons, has such a disproportionately large impact on masculine sartorial conventions, tailors usually refer to vests in the British manner as waistcoats. If you are really old-money, you will pronounce it as “weskit.” Lexical matters aside, a non-matching waistcoat without a jacket is now a popular and accepted part of casual wear. It’s a great way to dress up jeans. (I am particularly keen on tweed waistcoats: Nothing says “intellectual interests” like that one small garment.)

Such an outfit is appropriate for anywhere but those places where one would wear a business suit. The pieces of a suit, on the other hand, are meant to be worn all together. There are no public places in which a guy wearing a suit should remove his jacket ( especially in a restaurant. Keep it on; don’t hang it on the back of your chair). This goes for two-piece and three-piece suits. The waistcoat of a suit is not meant to be seen from behind: That’s why the back of it is usually made from satin. And walking around with your jacket off and your suspenders on display is like walking around in your underwear.

 

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Can a tailor adjust my too-big coat by a full size?

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GlobeAndMail
Russel Smith, January 20 2012

The question

I just bought a killer winter coat on sale, but it’s one size too big. (They were sold out of my exact size.) Can coats be adjusted a full size by a tailor?

The answer

No. There is too much to be done. The most difficult thing for a tailor to alter on any suit-like garment (that is, any garment that is considered “constructed” because it has some kind of stiffening inside it) is the shoulders. And the shoulders are the crux of the fit. If they don’t fit perfectly, nothing else matters. The waist can be nipped, the length can be taken up (although even that is a big job that most tailors will discourage because it affects where the pockets sit), but the shoulders can’t be changed without taking the whole thing apart, an exercise that might cost you more than your money-saving coat did.

I also recommend against wearing the large coat as is and hoping no one will notice: Overcoats are of medium length and fairly fitted in current fashion, so it’s the wrong time to try the romantic hobo look. (I did it myself for years with giant vintage-store overcoats, to avoid the horrifying investment of a new one, and I fear that they just made me look small.) Extreme sales are a dangerous thing: They can ruin your wardrobe. Next time, try to contain your excitement at the discount.

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