Column: Impress with an updated clean look

CorrespondentApril 8, 2013 

Sheon WIlson, guest columnist

If you want an edge on the competition, improve your visual résumé.

Are you still wearing that ’90s power suit? That suggests you haven’t been powerful in 20 years. All black and boring neutrals telegraph that you’re trying to fade into the background.

Tight or baggy clothes indicate that you don’t know your size; so someone might wonder what else you don’t know.

This isn’t just advice for a fashionista. Small business owners should dress for success, too, even if the uniform calls for workout clothes and running shoes.

A lackluster appearance is a distraction. You want the client, loan officer, vendor or potential hire to see that you’re professional and put together. So don’t give anyone a reason to doubt what you’re saying.

People assess your competence and trustworthiness in a quarter of a second based solely on how you look, according to 2011 research by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

If the job requires a T-shirt and jeans, make sure both pieces fit and are clean and ironed. Tuck in the shirt. Put on a belt. These quick and easy steps will help anyone look put together and give off a positive first impression.

Don’t make it harder for people to see what you have to offer.

If the job calls for crawling under houses or digging in dirt, however, an ironed shirt and belt won’t help.

Here’s how to make your visual résumé an asset:

Watch your watch, guys: Accessories stand out in a sea of dark suits and khakis. An attractive watch, briefcase or laptop case will distinguish you from the competition. Quality, not cost, is the important factor here, so you don’t have to spend a fortune.

Show some flair: An attractive lapel pin, tailored shirt or fabric square for your breast pocket suggest a creative mind. A tasteful necklace or bracelet is a great conversation starter, even if worn with a casual outfit.

Exploit color: Color sends powerful nonverbal messages. Wear your eye color near your face to look more approachable. Black can wash you out if you have warm or light coloring. Deep red is powerful but still conservative. Green communicates wealth and growth.

Check your fit: Have a tailor take your measurements. Knowing your neck, waist, hip and chest size will help you buy clothes that fit well.

Look down: Banish boxy shoes because they look old and clunky. Boat shoes and driving loafers signal you’re more excited about quitting time. Sky-high stilettos or sandals say you’re ready for happy hour.

Tall looks confident: Pants that puddle at the ankle shorten your leg line. So do a droopy crotch and high-water pants. Wear clothes that give you a long line, like a fitted jacket.

Update your hairstyle: A 10-year-old photo shows you in the same hairstyle you wear now. Trust me, it looks dated.

Get a second opinion: It’s hard to see ourselves as we are. Get someone else to give you an honest assessment.

Sheon Wilson is a writer, wardrobe stylist and creator of The N&O’s Refresh Your Style. Follow Sheon on Twitter @sheonwilson.

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