We see variations of the story often enough in the movies, in everything from My Fair Lady (1964) to The Princess Diaries (2001), but could such a thing REALLY happen to the average woman on the street?
I’ve seen it first hand several times, both before and after I became an image consultant. And like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the transformation never ceases to amaze me.
The first experience came on my first job out of college when I was working as a clerk in the sales department of a four-star luxury hotel in Houston, Texas. The sales department was responsible for booking blocks of rooms for conventions, major sporting events, wedding parties, and the like, and consisted of five sales managers and three clerks.
The episode started when one of our sales managers, Linda, turned 30. Her birthday was on a Saturday, and when she left work the Friday before, she looked like she always did. When she returned the following Monday, however, she looked like something out of a fashion magazine.
Gone was the “big” hair so popular at the time (mid-80’s); in its place was a sleek, chic bob. The “Dynasty”-inspired shoulders she liked had been chucked in favor of form-fitting tops and jackets. And the trendy skirts of varying hem lengths she always wore were replaced by knee-length styles that flattered her figure and legs. She went from fashion victim to trendsetter literally overnight, and left all of us wondering what she was up to.
It began evident very quickly.
Within a matter of weeks, her bookings skyrocketed. She was constantly on the phone, and it seemed like every client who came to the office was there for an appointment with Linda.
When one of the local television stations showed up unexpectedly to do a story, Linda was the one sent to be on camera. By the end of that first month after her birthday, she had become the top sales person — a title she held until she was wooed away to become Director of Sales at another hotel a few months later.
And this all came about because she upgraded her image?
Well, yes and no.
The untold story here is that on the eve of her 30th birthday, Linda took stock of her life and didn’t particularly like what she saw. She was single, earning around $30,000 a year, renting an apartment, and driving a 6-year old car.
What she wanted was to be married, make twice as much, own a house, and drive a new car.
So she sat down and tried to figure out the shortest path from Point A to Point B.
She started by writing down specific goals. For a husband, besides the usual criteria of good-looking, fun, and smart, she wanted a guy who was at least 35, making a six-figure income, and who had a good standing in the community. For her career, she wanted to be a top producer, with an eye on becoming Director of Sales. She also wanted a new car within six months, and to be a homeowner within two years.
So for her birthday, Linda’s mother gave her a session with an image consultant to get her pointed in the right direction. Like the push that sends a row of dominos falling one right after the other, the makeover became the first step in Linda’s journey to achieving her goals.
Her new polished look instantly caused people to treat her with more respect. This quickly boosted her confidence, which made it easier for her to make more sales calls. The calls generated more leads, which led to her closing more sales. The higher her numbers, the more attention she got. The more attention she got, the more in demand she became, which soon led to job offers from rival hotels. She accepted one, and her new, more prominent position led to higher exposure in the community, which put her in contact with a handsome young stockbroker who proved to be her ideal mate. She married him shortly before her 32nd birthday. They settled into a new house that they bought together.
And all this happened because she decided that to have the life she wanted, she needed to start by looking the part.
So what does this tale have to do with you?
Since the first of the year is traditionally a time of reflection and planning, perhaps Linda’s story might inspire you to give more than the cursory nod to your New Years’ resolutions this year.
Perhaps, like Linda, you’re at a crossroads in your life. Whether you’re seeking a new direction in your career, your lifestyle, your love life, or something you just can’t pinpoint, perhaps a new look might help catapult you to a new playing field and new opportunities.
Or maybe you’re happy with the status quo but have something exciting on the horizon this year, like a reunion, a major function, or a significant birthday that warrants a closer look at your appearance. If you start reworking a few things now, you’ll have the new look down pat when the “big event” rolls around.
Now what I’m suggesting doesn’t have to be drastic OR expensive. Try a new haircut or new glasses. Get makeup lessons. Add a few “power” pieces to your wardrobe, like a jacket, a briefcase, or a watch. Drop the credibility crushers like bows, nose rings, or blue fingernails. Resolve to be consistent in your manner and appearance.
Or, if you really want to make an impact, hire an image consultant to help you flush out your image goals. You can probably find one near you at the Association of Image Consultants International website.
Don’t tell yourself you’ll start the transformation AFTER you reach some milestone, because it will take you that much longer to reach it.
Because most people, whether they like to admit it or not, have little imagination. They can’t go into an empty room and imagine it beautifully decorated. They can’t look at a blank piece of paper and envision a spine-tingling, page-turning novel. And they can’t look at you dressed one way and guess how you’d look dressed another. You have to paint the picture for them. You do that through your appearance.
So make this the year you finally upgrade your image. Like Linda, you’ll quickly discover how dressing the part can put you that much closer to your goals.
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is an image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, her best-selling ebook that shows women how to dress whatever their age, shape, size, or budget. Ready for some big changes in your life? Download a copy of Wardrobe Magic!