Recently, I happened to catch part of an E! Entertainment program called something like, "The 25 Hottest Red Carpet Stars." It showed some of the most beautiful women in the world as they counted down to number one. Uma Thurman, Selma Hayek, Nicole Kidman - all of the "usual suspects" were there. The youngest was Kiera Knightly, the oldest was Sophia Loren. Halle Berry was number one.
As I watched, it occurred to me that in addition to enjoying active careers and all but monopolizing magazine covers these days, many of the women on their list also happen to have lucrative fashion or beauty endorsement deals on the side. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Elizabeth Arden), Angelina Jolie (St. Johns Knits), Ashley Judd (American Beauty by Estée Lauder) - the list goes on and on.
Coincidence? Hardly! Everyone loves a winner. So when the red carpet reports show "who's hot" and "who's not," companies line up with endorsement deals, hoping to catch some of the stardust coming off the red carpet.
So what does all of this celebrity fashion have to do with you?
It emphasizes just how far a polished image can take you. There are TONS of celebrities out there, but only a handful dominates the magazine covers and endorsement deals. They're not necessarily the most beautiful or the most talented, though a little of both certainly helps. No, these are the ones who understand the power of personal packaging and are savvy enough to "make hay while the sun shines," or in this case, while the spotlight shines on them.
The question is, are you?
Are you harnessing the power of a polished image, whether you're climbing the corporate ladder or are far removed from that world? Are you taking the time to make sure your outside accurately reflects the quality of your inside? Or, like so many women, are you taking an expensive education or in-demand ability and putting it in a discount wrapper?
If so, you're doing yourself a disservice.
As shallow as it is, people DO judge you by how you look . In fact, since your clothing and demeanor reveal SO much about you, from your origins and education level to your probable income, others make snap judgments about you all the time - just as you do with them.
If you look and carry yourself like a thoroughbred, others will assume you belong in the race or in the winner's circle. If you're unkempt and plod along obligingly, they'll assume you're a work horse and treat you accordingly - even if you have the talent and instincts to lead the field. I've seen it too many times to count, even in industries or in positions where looks aren't supposed to matter.
So what can you do to harness this power and use it to your benefit, whether you're in the classroom, climbing the ladder, staying home with the kids, or enjoying retirement? Here are five steps to creating a profitable, "red carpet" image:
1. Make your Appearance a Priority
When you're young and into fashion, how you look may be your only priority. As you get older, however, other things take more of your time like working, raising kids, volunteer work, and the like. Often, we're so busy taking care of others that we lose ourselves in the process. We can justify dropping a lot on dressing our daughter for a special occasion yet balk at spending the same amount on ourselves. Or, if we've put on a few pounds, we put off updating our closets to reflect the new size. We accept the short end of the stick time and again until we look and feel like a work horse - and then we wonder why all we get is more work.
Remember: People treat you how you treat yourself. If you ignore yourself, others will ignore you. If you strive to look like a thoroughbred, people will respond accordingly.
2. Build a Style File
Start by flipping through a few magazines or catalogs or clicking around online. When you find looks you like and that are appropriate for your lifestyle, rip them out of the magazines or print off screen shots and start collecting them in a file. You'll begin to see a pattern of the types of clothing elements you like. You can also pick up some nifty styling ideas.
3. Shop in your Closet
Before you head to the mall, flip through your closet and see if you can duplicate any of the looks in your style file with what you already own. Your pieces may not look exactly like what's in the picture (you have a yellow shirt but the picture shows a blue one, for example), but try approximating the look as closely as you can. It's an easy way to look up-to-date without spending anything.
4. Clear the Clutter
If you're having trouble taking stock of your clothes or accessories because you have so much, get rid of the things you don't wear so you can see what you have to work with. If you're hauling around a bunch of stuff in your handbag, tote, or briefcase that you don't need, get rid of it. If every inch of your office or workspace is covered with papers that need to be filed or sorted, clear them out. If you routinely use your car for business or hauling kids and it's a mess, clean it up. In short, get rid of all the clutter around you that's bringing you down and zapping your energy. Once you clear the mess, you'll look and feel like you're in control - instead of totally out of control and incapable of handling more.
5. Strive for Consistency
Finally, strive to present a consistently polished image. Anyone can clean up for a special occasion. But if you make it a priority to consistently look good, you'll not only feel better about yourself, those around you will consistently treat you with respect because they'll know what to expect from you. Those red-carpet starlets don't JUST look good on the red carpet; they look good any time they're photographed, which makes their endorsement partners even more confident that they have the right person for the job.
So it should be with you. A polished image doesn't have to be expensive to be effective. If you strive for a consistent look every time you walk out the door, you'll be delighted by the response you get. Try it yourself and see .
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of "Wardrobe Magic," an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at www.fashionforrealwomen.com
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