When I was a child, there was a pool nearby and every year my parents bought us season tickets. My brother and I swam there everyday. One day we were swimming the length of the pool underwater. As I came up at the edge of the pool gasping for air, the lifeguard was there to meet me. He asked if my brother and I would join the swim team. We were so excited; we talked about it for days.
The next few weeks we prepared for competition. That day arrived and our first meet took us to a pool across town. We all piled out of the car and I still remember how our excitement was shattered. As I looked across the parking lot at the other team, each member was in a matching uniform. At that moment, I knew the thoughts of my teammates, "We were going to get creamed." Our coach saw our faces and quickly said, "Shake it off, they just look pretty." Yes, they did and we lost. After all, we looked like a bunch of kids from a watering hole. The other team even told us that. We all felt it. They were a real team with real uniforms.
That's how it is in the business game. You're judged by appearance. That's because when you first meet a person, visual appearance is the first item sent to the brain. It's the only data the brain has at that time. The minute I saw the other team in those splendid matching uniforms, my brain said, "They're better than you."
Hey ladies, get the Uniform! Since your image is the first piece of information the other person sees, that's when their mind forms an opinion of you. Your clothes are your uniform. If you wear the uniform of business, the suit, then you're considered one of the team. If you don't wear the uniform, then you are not taken seriously.
Women often tell me that they don't get respect from their male counterparts in the office. Their opinions are not taken into consideration. That's because they look like us kids from the pool. Each of us picked our swimsuits and they showed our personality. I wore a two-piece pink swimsuit with white ruffles. My brother wore a yellow and purple boxer type suit. We looked colorful, but not focused!
Think about it. You walk into a boardroom full of men and they all have on suits. Their business attire is very similar and each is in a power color, gray, navy, or black. All men's suits are alike. They have those splendid matching uniforms. How focused they look, just like that swim team. Now check out the business attire of the women in the office.
Oh, you see a pink dress with white ruffles and a yellow dress with tiny purple flowers. What about that beautiful peach colored dress with burgundy and peach shoes? Just look at that teal colored pantsuit with a floral jacket. How colorful they look. Oops, I just described your wardrobe. It's okay, I felt that way too. One of the guys who taught me how to play this game politely handed me a book about dressing for power in business. I went home and discovered every piece of clothing I owned was either peach, pink, baby blue or lavender. Heck, I thought those were power colors. After all, I felt powerful in them. The guys teased me about it. They told me in jest, "No Gina, we said POWER colors, not POWDER colors."
Wait, don't grab that credit card and run to the store yet. There are a few things you should know before you go shopping. If you're petite, you must have a black suit with a white blouse. This is pure power. If you're tall, skip the black suit because it could be too intimidating, and go with burgundy. If you do business with men, stick to the solids colors such as gray, navy, and beige. Stay away from stylish suits and colors unless you have the money to buy the new style and new color next year. The suit styles that are "in" today will scream "out of style" next year.
While you're at the mall, pick up a book about body types and how to dress them. You can usually find these books in the sewing or fashion section of a bookstore. Remember, a suit that looks great on that plastic model may not be advantageous to your figure. If you're still not sure about what to buy, watch TV newswomen and see how they are dressed. Professionals dress these women and you get this wisdom for free.