By Vivienne Aiyela
In the early to mid-summer here in London, we were truly blessed with long hours of glorious hot sunshine but it played havoc with our wardrobes. Normally London has been known to have all four seasons in one day, as we had in August.
Unlike in other cities, air conditioning in businesses is not standard, so we swelter in the heat, often fighting for the breeze of the office fan which is really circulating warm air. However with the lack of air conditioning, it causes women to wear less clothes. Many rushed out and spent a lot of money updating their summer clothes, often not paying attention to if it is really suitable for work or business professional environments.
Perhaps it’s because I am a stylist and also working in a corporate environment, that it makes me more conscious of how I dress and pay more attention of how other people dress. I will confess that I do enjoy watching people, as this gives me more of an understanding of their character and how they dress. Many women forget that their public image is very important to their personal brand and business.
What do your clothes say?
Have you ever thought about this? Is it true that clothes make the woman? Do people form an opinion about the way you dress? I attend many business functions including management board meetings, which are very male dominated and often being one of only a few women there. So I make sure that what I wear is appropriate for that environment and still keeping my femininity, but I need to ensure that that I am taken seriously.
Business Image is Important
What is the business image you want to send to your potential customers? If you are self-employed or an entrepreneur, your image is crucial to your success, and everything from the way you greet clients to your style of dress reflects directly on your company. If this seems unfair, consider for a moment how closely people identify themselves with life’s smallest details. Think about the car we drive. A few years ago the bigger and more expensive car said that we are successful. Now it’s the ‘green car’ with low emissions that everyone is driving now. It shows the world you care and people take you seriously.
Many entrepreneurs don’t have a ‘proper’ office space, some work from home or from the local coffee shop or even a mix of both. This is where appearance is not that important. Working from home, no one is going to see you in an old tracksuit or even pyjamas. Well, unless you need to make Skype and video conferencing calls. Now that’s when from waist upwards you must look professional.
Appearance is essential
Watch your appearance. Miniskirts, tight tops and high heels all send out the wrong impression if you want to be taken serious outside the party scene and in a business environment. Although it is a sad fact, it is true that as humans we always judge others by their appearance. That in turn helps us to form an impression of others and we judge people from what we see. Because of this it is vital to appear neatly and professionally dressed. The way you look will influence people’s impressions of you very strongly; so make sure you leave a good one.
Your appearance is not just about how you dress for meeting clients, it is also how you dress when you are interacting with potential clients. This can be anywhere from a training course or workshop to a free seminar. Here is an opportunity to sell your service/product to potential clients/customers, which is often over looked. I attended a business workshop and met a lovely woman who designed and made beautiful luxury handbags. Alas her appearance said something else – clothes not ironed, hair uncombed. If you are selling a product it is important that your appearance replicates the quality of the product. No need to wear designer clothing but be smartly dressed and presentable for people to take you seriously.
On another occasion I attended a business workshop and got talking to a guy who caught my eye. His outfit was casual but smart, nice polo shirt, jeans, blazer and shoes. Admittedly I love a pair of good shoes. He was just about to launch his business which is luxury leather accessories. He looked the part and would fit in with the high end clients who he was targeting to buy his product.
Entrepreneurs / business women. Did you know that a good image can increase your profits?
People will notice more the well-dressed business professional, which can lead to more sales. Nothing is better than your own PR. Always remember people buy from people. You may think it doesn’t really matter how you dress as you are only going to a training course/seminar, however you never know where you may meet a potential client or customer or even an investor. You are representing your company in a business environment.
Why appearance matters
Interviewing for a job, meeting at a potential client’s office, looking to close that business deal, maybe it’s unjust to judge a book by its cover, but we all do it. It’s human nature. While the person in jeans and t-shirt may be as competent and as intelligent as the one wearing the formal suit, or more so, we do assess these attributes based on appearance. That’s not to say you can forget about preparing for a presentation, wear nice business attire, and you will wow them. All the ingredients — knowledge, preparation, and appearance — are necessary to make a good impression, seal that deal or even get a pay rise.
Mismatched clothes, clothes that are not ironed and even clothes that are too small send out the wrong signal. Some people get up in the morning, grab the nearest item and then go off they go, without even looking in the mirror and saying “How do I look”.
Finally, something to think about when deciding what to wear…
Many people have asked me “does it really matter how we dress? People don’t really judge us by our clothes, or do they?” Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but people do judge you based on the clothes you wear. First impressions are lasting impressions.
Vivienne Aiyela is founder and CEO of Clothes 4 Real Women