Dress for Success

By Hannah Wallace August 31, 2005

You've got about seven seconds to make a first impression, says Susan Angermann, president and founder of Ready Dress Go, a year-old business that counsels people on appropriate business attire. "The challenge for this area is for people to find a professional, polished look that does not involve pieces that are going to make them too hot," she says.

The key is layering. For women, Angermann suggests keeping a lightweight jacket on hand for meeting clients, and lightweight pants to eliminate the need for pantyhose. Knee-high stockings with skirts also give some relief. Pantsuits are one of the best ways to pull together a professional look. But however hot it is outside, don't succumb to sleeveless shirts (even a cap sleeve or short sleeve will do) or open-toed sandals. Formal professions call for minimal and simple jewelry, while more creative ones, such as advertising or arts management, or people-oriented ones such as real estate, can take risks with more color, texture and style. One mistake Angermann says women frequently make is not wearing enough make-up.

For men, Angermann suggests keeping suits available for the office, although it's appropriate to sit at the desk in shirtsleeves and a tie. A well-pressed pair of slacks, a good belt and tie, and a well-polished pair of shoes speak volumes.

Small changes, such as scarves, jackets and shoes, can take female clients through multiple scenarios in a single day. For working mothers, who sometimes go straight from client meetings to school volunteering, Angermann suggests keeping separates organized together in their closets so that on busy mornings, all they have to do is reach in and grab an entire outfit that works well together. To go from an afternoon in the office to a cocktail party in the evening, men can simply take a dressier tie and shoes to the office, or a blazer to go with a collared shirt. For women, a dressier shell or camisole to go under the suit and a change in shoe, jewelry and makeup can effect the transformation.

Angermann begins her sessions by having clients complete a questionnaire so she can understand their lifestyle, personality and preferences. Once she's determined their broad style, Angermann will do color draping to determine what colors and jewelry (gold or silver toned) work best on clients. If they choose, she will go through their closet to determine whether they have a core wardrobe-a jacket, skirt and pants for women, and suit, dress jacket and pants for men-and create a list of what is lacking. She provides clients with a little book to take shopping with them that contains tiny color swatches and descriptions of items they need, blouses or sweaters, for example, with the color, style and size written down. Angermann will also do personal shopping for clients if they choose. She also does seminars and consultations for businesses, such as Westfield Shoppingtown, Prudential Villages Real Estate and Canna Investment Management.

You can reach Angermann at, via email at [email protected], or by calling (866) 746-7931.

Closet Tips

Spandex is a privilege, not a right. Never wear anything too tight, too low, too short, too bare or too casual.

Grooming counts. A well-ironed, well-fitting shirt and a well-placed crease in a pair of slacks can make a big difference to how you are perceived.

Go easy. Avoid fashion magazine advice and overly decorative or fussy looks. "I like trendy things worked into a wardrobe, but the whole point of clothes needs to be to showcase you," says Angermann. When making a presentation, women should avoid swinging earrings that can take the focus away from the talk.

Ditch the old coke bottles. Eyeglass frames can date a look. Update them every two years.

Splurge on a good hairstylist. Update your hairstyle at least once a year, even if the alteration is minimal.

Play it safe at the annual Christmas party. Keep the sexy scoop neck and miniskirt for the neighborhood bash, and select festive but more conservative looks for the office celebration.

Filed under
Show Comments