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50 Fashion Forward

5 Ways to be "First Impression Ready"
By Karen Mathis

Fashion is our greatest tool for personal expression.  At first glance you may think, Really? Yes, fashion can be used as a tool in many ways. Fashion can be used as a personal tool for creating a positive first impression in many ways: 

  1. Fashion is non-verbal
  2. Fashion can create a positive response from others
  3. It uses colors that enhance your natural skin, hair and eye colors
  4. It comes in silhouettes that express intelligence, success
  5. It can command respect. 

Your fashion items may be made in fabrics that are easy to care for, silks that state quality standards, and more. It is for you to define, based on your work/life needs. No matter your definition, what you wear, and how you present yourself is your opportunity to communicate the lasting message you want received: Your first impression. 
The following five factors of first impressions, explain why and how they’re formed, and how fashion is one of your greatest tools to send messages that can effect how others perceive you.

#1: First Impressions are made in only a split second.

Yes, only a fraction of one second to make a lasting impression.  This is good reason to use that time wisely. Since that’s not exactly enough time to speak your truth, how do you communicate? That fraction of time is sufficient for a strong non-verbal lasting impression.  Its been discovered that forming accurate impressions during this short period, has a positive impact on relationship development among new acquaintances (L. J. Human).

However short the time span is for a first impression, it’s worth taking time to plan for this important event. It makes a good case for building a clothing wardrobe that enhances your best features, in colors and fabrics that express your personal standards.  Fashion becomes a very important tool for personal expression.

It occurred to me that one of my favorite fairytale’s, The Emperors New Clothes, may have been completely misunderstood by some folks. In asking a couple people recently what they thought of the fairytale, one commented, “I think it was about the clothing being fake similar to fashion.” After taking a few deep breaths, I realized there are many messages in that story for each of the characters. I won’t analyze them now, however, one of the biggest impressions in the story is the fact that clothing had such power on an impression. It was so important, that it was used to deceive a king in the first place. Obviously the King’s personal ambitions and weaknesses played a role as well. The main point is that fashion is a great way to enhance your best self with your appearance.


#2: A Picture is worth a thousand words.

How exactly does the brain capture so much in a fleeting moment? Psychologists say our brains take a first-impression Polaroid – an impression from a snap judgment of quick visual clues that equates to an impression larger than their sum (C. Flora: Psychology Today).

Therefore, before you go to your next job interview, boardroom meeting, lunch & learn with industry guests, or any important event, try learning from your teenagers. Yes, take a long look in a full size mirror, and see what picture others see of you. There may not be time to tell your story with words, or present those amazing credentials for which you sacrificed greatly, however, when you use fashion, you can present many positive messages at once.

#3: Attractiveness wins the day.

Human beings cannot help but judge books by their covers. It’s how we function. First impressions researched by social psychology including cross cultures showed a consensus that people seen as attractive are also given ratings as being more competent, sociable, intelligent and healthy (Social Psychology 9th Edition).

#4: Non-verbal behaviors help form first impressions.

In a glance, you can also communicate so much with social expressions. Be sure you use this time wisely.  One easy way to establish an emotional connection is with the warmth and friendliness of a smile.  Eye contact is also emphasized in the research as being important especially in professional settings (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology).

#5: Well-fitted clothing makes a big difference.

Research confirms that after just 3 seconds, 300 people judged more favorably for a man in a bespoke suit versus an off the rack suit. Even when they controlled for other differences like color and fabric, the man was rated as being more confident, successful, flexible, and a higher earner in the tailor-made suit (Ben C. Fletcher D. Phil., Oxon: Psychology Today).

This is good information that proves our clothes may say more about us than we imagined. It also makes a good case for alterations or tailor made items.

Manage Your First Impression

Ways to use clothing and accessories to present your best self and make a powerful impression:

CREDIBILITY – use classic and tailored silhouettes to communicate rank, based on spoken or unspoken dress codes of your industry or social group.

CONFIDENCE– use well fitted garments in silhouettes that match your body type and accentuate your best features.

  • Bespoke/tailored fashion is best, but if you cannot afford the time or financial commitment, take your garments bought “off the rack” and get them altered for the best possible fit. 
  • Being outfitted in the right fashion options will help you feel and express confidence.

QUALITY STANDARDS – express quality standards in the quality fabrics you wear such as silk. If not entire dresses, or outfits, add a silk scarf.

 CREATIVITY – express creativity with well-coordinated accessories that enhance your looks, and express your unique personality. Accessorizing is a great way to bring in color based on your industry or audience.  For example artistic areas have less limits, whereas legal and banking areas are limited to colors accepted mostly by menswear standard.

 SUCCESS – collect key fashion pieces, like a power jacket, that also matches your body type, in colors that go with most of your separates. When you know you look your absolute best, you are more comfortable and free to express yourself.

Fit Matters – The following tips will help you determine adjustments in the fit of your clothing:

  • Find a good tailor or seamstress to alter your clothing.
  • Find your shoulder seam at the very top of where your arm adjoins your body. This is where the shoulder seam should be on all blouses, jackets, and tees.
  • Getting rid of sloppy shoulders that land past your shoulder seam will add width to your overall appearance.  It’s should be an easy alteration.
  • Find your best waistline.  Locate the smallest measurement in your middle section: at the waist, above the waist, or just under the bust.  This indent is where your garment should be nipped in to trim your overall look. Let the fabric drape from there over the wider areas.
  • Sleeve hems are important. Find the smallest measurement on your arm below the elbow: ¾ sleeve, above the wrist, at the wrist or just past the wrist.
  • Skirt and cropped pant hems should be flattering. Find the indents (inside curves) on your leg: just above the knee, just below the knee, below the calf, above the ankle, or at the ankle. Everyone’s legs have different indents, which is why off the rack hems may need some adjusting to enhance your best features.

Get off to a fast start – First find the fashion items that express your personal best from what you own and in your shopping. This is what will be the most attractive for you. You are going to be looking for the right colors, matching silhouettes to your body type, and accessorizing.

For extra assistance the has a VLOG of youtube videos such as: See 7 Steps to Find Your BEST Colors VLOG will walk you through 7 easy steps to find your main colors, accent shades, and contrast colors. The result of finding your best colors is harmony of color for only you. The color wheel tool can be downloaded at

There was one other bit of research, which caught my attention, a study done with 300 people rating pictures of subjects, after only 3 seconds. They used the exact outfit of a woman in a skirt (just above the knee), and a blouse (with just one button undone) for two areas of research. The face was blanked out on the picture. They used the same but described two different positions. One was described as a high level female manager, and the other was described as a receptionist. The responses were a bit of a shock. The 300 random people were more critical of the female manager saying she was wearing a skirt too short and a blouse too revealing.  The same picture described as a receptionist got favorable ratings, even though it was the same outfit. The conclusion was that people are more critical of how women dress in high-level positions, and they give more leeway for women in jobs of lower status. (Psychology Today).

It’s springtime, the perfect season to purge the things you are not using that may be creating a false sense that your wardrobe is sufficient.  Give yourself a gift that could last a lifetime, get your key pieces altered to the perfect fit.  You may find that you already own most of what you need. With a few tweaks and a few updates you can begin to put your fashion plan together.  Just imagine the future possibilities. Who knows what doors may open when you get yourself “first impression-ready.”