Dressing for success
1 October 1995
Fashion consultant Ruth Davis takes two lawyers in hand to help polish up their professional image
In today's business world, first impressions are vital. The first assessment of a person is made within the first 10 seconds of meeting and in communicating with others, 55 per cent of their opinion is based on visual impact.
Based on these facts, the Fashion Advisory Service has developed an informal approach to image consulting, speaking to groups or individuals about why image in the professions is so important.
Its service is aimed at men and women of all levels and when completed, image training can become as important as any other achievement. Men and women who are highly qualified in their chosen field do not always reflect that excellence in their personal appearance.
Many people have no interest in clothes, dislike shopping and are oblivious to how others, including themselves, dress. As one client said "I am not interested in my appearance and never look in the mirror more than once a day. What struck me after our talk was that even though I may not be looking at myself, others are."
Most people think they present themselves in an acceptable way - no one deliberately sets out not to look their best, they just have not been shown what is their best. Our aim is to pass specific and general guidelines on to clients for an appearance that will define and sharpen their image. Successful people are not only professionally confident but also project a good image.
An increasing number of legal practices offer group image seminars which can, if required, be followed up by individual consultations.
My first candidate was 26-year-old Rita Bakshi, a solicitor with Gouldens. Like most of my clients, her immediate response was bordering on the cynical but she was able to court both the photographer and myself with her wry sense of humour.
At 5'5" Rita is dark and attractive with long curly hair which she wore in a tortoiseshell clip. She was wearing a well-cut black and tan jacket and a short black skirt with a neat blouse. This led us to a discussion on her working war-drobe with which she seemed happy. I was able to make a few suggestions regarding colours and finishing off with scarves that she told me she had. While Gouldens does not restrict the wearing of trousers Rita felt it was not a look she would be comfortable in during her working day.
In her leisure time she tended to throw on leggings and baggy tops and had not found a weekend look she was happy with.
After visiting several shops we went into the Knightsbridge branch of Next and both Rita and I were delighted to find perfect weekend clothes - we settled on a well-cut and stylish three-piece Donegal Tweed trouser suit teamed with a soft cream roll-necked jumper complemented by an oversize fringed scarf in toning mixtures of oatmeal, cream and brown. To complete the outfit she wore brown suede brogues. Still slightly hesitant about her different appearance I suggested to Rita that she let her hair down for a more casual and softer look. Although her Monday to Friday image has to look professional, at weekends she should consider adopting a more relaxed approach.
Generally we prefer to have a more lengthy and private consultation with our clients when we have an in-depth look at their wardrobe, which can also include a make-up lesson and consultation with a hair-stylist. We are then in a position to create a total look.
In the final analysis both Rita and the photographer were extremely pleased with the result.
My next candidate was Simon Hall, a specialist litigation lawyer with City firm Brechers and we met in the luxurious Capital Hotel in Basil Street, Knightsbridge. As with most males the entire concept of image was new to him.
When we met he was wearing a grey single-breasted suit, white shirt and dark tie, all of which looked slightly the worse for wear. He has always been happy shopping in high street stores as he felt that this was the best value for money.
I explained that a well-cut suit would not only last longer, but would say much more about him than his present image, which seemed to be more like a school uniform than that of a professional lawyer - a case of needing a graduation.
Simon has always believed a suit is a suit, but the Fashion Advisory Service's role is to move clients away from a preconceived image in order to look more confident and positive within their profession. Flashy ties and bell-bottomed trousers would be equally as out of place as the crumpled suit.
I advised Simon what I felt he should look for when purchasing new clothes and where to find them and he was receptive to my suggestions. Clothes had never held any importance to him but he accepted that his image could be enhanced to make him look more professional and feel more confident.
Many people believe that to judge someone by what they are wearing is shallow. But when hours have been spent poring over briefs, checking facts, and rehearsing words, not to present a positive and confident image is a case half done.
Ruth Davis is runs the Fashion Advisory Service.