Hello and welcome to Dressed for My Day. I’m actually spending the day at our local Dress for Success annual fundraiser luncheon and fashion show. And guess what. I’m in the fashion show! This could be interesting. Who knows what this day holds, but one thing I do know. You and I will potentially encounter people today. And you might even meet someone for the very first time. I’m sure I will. Today we’re going to talk about how to dress to make a great first impression…something Dress for Success is really good at teaching.
First the Disclaimer
Before we begin, I need to clarify what we’re discussing. I’m not sharing how to dress to impress. If you’ve been around Dressed for My Day long, you know that I’m not into dressing to impress. However, I am a proponent of dressing and presenting yourself as an influencer. We are all influential, and how we dress and present ourselves becomes part of the message we share with others.
Second, I’m not inferring that first impressions are always trustworthy and accurate. Obviously they’re not. But that’s actually all the more reason to make sure we are dressing ourselves in a way that conveys who we are…accurately. There’s nothing wrong with desiring to make a great first impression, especially if we do our best to be genuine and authentic.
Finally, I’m not suggesting that we need to draw conclusions about other people based purely on their appearance, especially their clothing. In fact, the Bible teaches us that while people tend to judge others based on appearance, God looks at the heart. So obviously the heart of a person is much more worthy of examination than their clothing or hairstyle.
But Here’s What I Know
Regardless of all the above, it is human nature to make snap judgments of other people when we first encounter them. We all do it. Whether we choose to withhold our final conclusions about someone until we’ve gotten to know them or not, we all formulate at least a basic perception of others quickly.
In fact, it’s estimated that other people size us up within just 10 seconds of first glance. Usually, that means other people have determined some initial estimations of our character and personality before we’ve even had the opportunity to say, “Hello, I’m Susie Q.”
And that’s why first impressions are both important and unavoidable.
What specifically do people decide about us from first impressions?
Are you wondering what in the world people could decide about you without ever hearing a word come out of your mouth? It turns out that within 10 seconds new acquaintances determine (accurately or not) whether we are 1) successful and 2) trustworthy.
Those two elements may be especially important to you if you are someone who is trying to quickly earn trust. Say you’re a real estate agent, a health care provider, a school teacher or professor, a care taker or just a good neighbor welcoming the new family across the street into the neighborhood. We all want to be seen as trustworthy. And more trust is given to those who are deemed successful, so the two really go hand in hand.
And as we get older I think it’s important to convey to others that we are indeed successful. You don’t have to have been a standout at work, a leader in the community, or the highest paid executive to be successful, you know. You may have successfully raised children, stayed married to the same man, operated a small business, kept a beautiful home, taught hundreds of children how to read or shared biblical insights with a small group of women over the years. You have reason to look successful.
What First Impression Do You Want to Make?
Decide on 3 adjectives that you would like for others to use when describing you. You might choose words like…
or many others. Of course your words should truly and accurately describe the real you. We’re not trying to create a persona; we’re just trying to present the true essence of who we really are.
Also, no judgment call on the three words. Remember, we don’t just all want to appear nice. Some of us have careers or positions in which we need to be able to command a room, be the expert, sell a product or service, call the shots or build trust. So it’s quite okay to choose more power-packed words like smart, capable and professional.
In fact, my three words are approachable, graceful, and professional. As a pastor’s wife and minister to women, I want to appear approachable and safe to talk with. I’m explaining what I mean by graceful in the Blessed for My Day section. And I want people to believe that I can keep a confidence, treat them appropriately, handle difficult situations and be trusted in a crisis: professional. But professional is also how I want to be described as a style blogger – someone who does her research, keeps to a publication schedule, knows what she’s doing in this space.
Now consider how you think someone described by your three words would appear to you. Maybe think of other people who you would assign those very adjectives to. What is it about their appearance that strikes that chord with you? Thinking about this should help you formulate a picture of how you need to generally and consistently present yourself.
What They’re Looking At
So what exactly are people looking at when they make those snap judgments about us? Some are obvious, but you might be surprised at others. Here’s a list of things we need to put some thought, care and practice into. You’re an adult. I’m not going to tell you exactly what you need to do in these areas. I’m simply pointing out that, hey, they notice!
With each of these areas just think about how best to communicate your three adjectives.
- Your hair. Is it current, clean, trimmed, styled, shiny?
- Your feet. Shoes if you’re wearing them, feet if you’re not.
- Your hands. Are they clean and are your nails manicured? (You don’t have to polish your nails if that’s not your thing. But bitten, unshaped nails are a problem.)
- Your scent. Is it light, clean and appealing…or overwhelming?
- Body language. What does your posture and gait say about your personality or your current frame of mind?
- Your clothing. If it’s loud or colorful (which is fine, depending on your three adjectives), this might be the first thing they notice. If it’s more subdued your clothing may speak later. Does each piece of your clothing and the ensemble as a whole communicate your three adjectives?
- Your ornaments. Anything that’s hanging from your body counts. Your jewelry, belt, scarf or handbag, for instance. They count significantly. And they will either add to your message or detract. These ornaments are not neutral. We especially tend to read a lot into a man’s watch and a woman’s handbag and earrings.
- Your face. We tend to check out skin and makeup. Once again, does the way you’ve applied your makeup communicate your three words? More importantly, perhaps, does the way you’ve done (or not done) your makeup point to the final and most important factor of all…
- Your smile. Remember, one of the first things we’re sizing up is trustworthiness. When we see someone who is frowning, even if that’s their neutral expression, our brains automatically register them as a threat. And note that a smile isn’t just a mouth curved upward. Smiles first register on the eyes.
Well, this gives me plenty to think about. I hope it’s made you think a little, too. Most of us reading this, I’m assuming, are grown women. So I’m not trying to tell you what to do. But I’m hoping we are all simply reminded that first impressions, like it or not, matter. Let’s do all we can to make accurate ones.
By the way, today’s post is a rewrite of a post I originally published in February, 2019. I just thought these ideas might be worth revisiting again, especially since my readership is more than quadrupled since then. Thanks so much for stopping in today!
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Blessed for My Day
I mentioned in the post that the three words I’d like for others to recognize about me by my appearance are approachable, graceful and professional. What do I mean by graceful? I don’t just want to appear feminine. I want to appear full of grace, God’s grace. Really, I want to be a reflection of His gracious work in my life.
For me, that means I want to dress in a way that honors Him. That’s why I choose to wear clothing that is beautiful and becoming, but also modest and feminine. If you are a believer, how does your relationship with God affect your clothing choices? Researching for this post gave me an opportunity to reflect on those choices, and I thought you might want to contemplate that question, too. May we always represent our gracious God well.
Do not let your adorning be merely external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. ~ 1 Peter 3:3-4