Via New York Post: You really can dress for success
Fashion stylist Dijanna Mulhearn has a story she likes to tell which illustrates superbly the power of a perfectly-put-together outfit.
“I once went to a job interview and part way through I realized I was grossly underqualified for the role,” Mulhearn told news.com.au.
“I told them, ‘I don’t think I can deliver on this criteria,’ but the interviewer said ‘We’ll find a place for you, because I want my business to look like you,’” Mulhearn said.
“I wore what was expected but more stylish, rather than too conservative. That was my ‘Aha’ moment. It forced me to start looking at fashion in a way where there was more than just for aesthetic pleasure.”
Fashion is often dismissed as a frivolous hobby for the intellectually bereft.
“What I often see is that people are frightened of fashion. Because it scares them or makes them feel insecure, they just put it down,” American Vogue’s editor in chief Anna Wintour famously said in the 2009 documentary The September Issue.
“Just because you like to put on a beautiful Carolina Herrera dress or a pair of J Brand blue jeans, instead of something basic from Kmart, does not mean that you are a dumb person.”
Mulhearn, who consults with big fashion retailers and runs corporate fashion workshops at finance and legal firms, says those who refuse to pay attention to what they wear are shooting themselves in the foot.
“If you can’t see how image focused the world is, then you have no idea. I mean, we have a split second to form an impression before people judge us,” she said.
“I look at people who are being passed over for promotion … they’re going for the same job with the same qualifications.
“I don’t think that it’s fair that we’re judged by what we wear, but that’s life.”
Mulhearn has studied fashion semiotics — yes, it’s a thing — or as she puts it, the “subliminal messaging” we send to others through what we wear.
“When you know what you want to project to the world, I can teach you the language of fashion so that you’re projecting your message effectively. It’s completely up to you what that message is,” she said.
Now of course, there’s the obvious messaging. A tight dress and heels on a date, versus jeans and sneakers with your friends, make sense.
But according to Mulhearn, color is the easiest way to change how people perceive you, particularly in a corporate environment.
“Just knowing a little bit about color psychology can really help you,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s a color that you shouldn’t wear. Just colors that are not appropriate in certain situations.”
Here are her three best color tips:
“Blue is universally people’s favorite color, if you’re going to a job interview that requires you to be trustworthy and responsible, someone who can take charge, wear a dark blue. “That is why so many police uniforms are dark blue — it’s not an arbitrary choice. It helps them to be perceived as authoritative and reliable before they open their mouths.
“If you’re going for a more creative, ideas-based role, go for a light blue — think open sky, open sea — the possibilities are limitless. They automatically think you are more open-minded.”
“Red is always an aggressive color. It’s going to force attention — there are studies that show that the heart rate increases when looking at red. When I wear read, I make sure it’s in soft fabrics like chiffon or silk, so there’s a softness to it.
“There’s this famous study on the color red they did with a group of apes, who are very close in DNA to us. They wanted to see if there was an intrinsic, rather than a learned response to red. They put people in different colored T-shirts — green, yellow and red — and put them in front of the apes. The apes viewed with suspicion and avoided the people in red because it was too confronting, but they accepted food from the people in green and yellow shirts.”
“Black is interesting. If you wear head-to-toe black in the one fabric, it’s going to suggest that you are very safe, and perhaps lazy. Because you went to no effort in your appearance. Mix up the fabrics — leather and lace send one message, while wool or tweed send another.”