My top 5 tips to get the most out of your shopping experience

Well, the post Christmas sales are upon us again. A great opportunity to pick up some bargains but also a time when many of us get overwhelmed by the offers and end up making impulse buys that soon become wardrobe orphans.

If you’re going to shop, here’s my advice for making the most of your time and your budget. A bit of planning upfront can make the difference between a rewarding and fun day shopping or a wallet-draining, headache-making, confidence-sapping disaster:

  1. Take a look at your current wardrobe before you hit the shops and then make a list of things you really need or gaps that need filling. The big sales are a great opportunity to get your hands on some of those more expensive wardrobe items that you’d otherwise forgo but will get lots and lots of wear out of when you choose wisely…eg a really good suit, great bag or shoes.
  2. Having said this, its also important that your sales experience is within your means… that 75% off bargain is not such a great thing if you can’t afford to pay your bills the next week/month. Once you’ve worked out what you’ll be looking for at the sales, decide on a maximum amount you can afford to spend for the day and write it down on the list of items you’re looking for. This will help you keep a level head if a heart-stopping bargain tempts you to go into the red.
  3. Speaking of red (the colour that is, not the financial), know what colours suit you and then only look at items that are within your colour range. Having your ‘colours done’ by a professional can really make a difference to the way you shop…you’ll be amazed at how much time you save when you can walk past anything not in your colour profile. Not only that, but when you plan your wardrobe around a few core colours and then add accent colours by season or occasion then its much easier to choose your outfit each day and it’s a cinch to pack for a trip because everything goes with everything else! Remember to take your colour profile swatch with you when you go shopping…don’t leave it to guesswork or memory.
  4. Know what styles of collar, leg width, sleeve and hem length suit you best and then look only at those items. If the price is too good to pass up but the style is not going to make you look your best then ‘step away from the rack’ and continue your search. A good way test whether this is a ‘must have’ or just a desperate attempt to come home with a bargain at any cost. Ask yourself “Would I still consider it if I was paying full price for it?” If the answer is no, you know what to do. (TIP: a body shape analysis with an image consultant can save you from costly financial and style mistakes.)
  5. Wear comfortable shoes, smart underwear and clothes that are easy on and easy off. How can you find the perfect sale bargain if its too much effort to try things on because you’ve got tricky buttons and zips, lace up shoes, embarrassing underwear?  If you’re looking to buy an item that requires special underwear or shoes then take those with you and put them on in the change-room. Also, if you ordinarily wear makeup then a shopping trip is not the time to go without. We all know that change-room mirrors and lighting can be soul destroying but your reflection will thank you if you’ve made a little effort with your makeup and hair. Not only that, but you’ll get a better feel for whether an item of clothing suits you when you look as you would if you were wearing it out.

That’s it, enjoy your shopping and may the sales gods be with you!

PS: Remember that to help you keep focused and level headed its important to stay hydrated and keep your energy up… a bottle of water and an energy bar or a small stash of dried fruit & nuts in your handbag is great for this.

The Gentle Art of Letting Go

I am reading a great book by Barbara Stanny called The Secrets of Six Figure Women. In it she includes a quote that resonated with me and thought it was the good basis for this blog post.

“If I get stuck in who I am now, I might never blossom into who I might yet become. I need to practice the gentle art of letting go.” (Sam Keen, author)

We all have times where we realise that to move forward with our life/relationship/career/goals etc we need to make a change to the way we are currently thinking or doing things. But change can be challenging. To make change is possibly to endure temporary pain or hardship. But the question I guess we have to ask is “Will the change I make today result in a better outcome in the future?” If the answer is yes, then perhaps its time to consider ‘practicing the gentle art of letting go’.

I often have people contact me who want to make changes to their image and presentation for one reason or another….to further their career aims, to meet a new partner, to redefine their identity after a life changing event such as becoming a mother, divorce, loss of a job or partner… however although these people recognise that the changes they desire will most likely have a positive effect on their confidence, self-esteem, identity, goals, professional outcomes or whatever, they sometimes find it hard to actually take the next step and let go of the present situation. There is something or some part of them that is resisting making a change. The potential pain of change is greater than the potential pleasure they might experience afterwards.

This is not uncommon, in fact it is human nature to want to maintain the status quo…even if it is causing some pain. But what if by gradually letting go, you started to notice small differences to your life? Perhaps you smile when you look in the mirror before you go out because you know that you look good and because you look good, you feel good.

What if people started to comment that there was something different about you, that you seemed happier, more confident, content or empowered? Would that be enough to make you think about making more changes? About gradually moving towards a new sense of self and knowing that you have made the positive things happen by being open to change and letting go of old thoughts/beliefs/behaviours.

When I work with clients in helping them define their personal brand or develop a signature style, I am mindful that this process can be challenging but is also exhilarating. My primary aim is to educate, support and encourage and to respect my client’s personality, lifestyle and goals. To (in the words of Sam Keen above) help them “blossom into who they might yet become.”

Leave a comment below and share your tip for approaching change and letting go.

Click here if you’d like to find out what some of my clients have experienced.

Tricky Trend | Animal Print

There’s a lot of animal print around for autumn/winter 2011. I’ve seen it everywhere from luxe high-end boutiques to chain store “cheap and cheerful”. Personally this is a trend I love. I am known for incorporating a little leopard into my wardrobe from time to time. However, like most fashion trends this is one that can be confusing if you’re not sure how to wear it. And its an easy one to get wrong!

To avoid looking like you’re trying too hard, this is one trend where less is most definitely more.  If you want to try it out but don’t know if it’s your kind of thing here’s a few guidelines to keep in mind:

COLOUR: Go with a print that will match your colouring – eg if you have warm, toasty tones in your skin/eyes/hair colour then the browns, bronzes and earth colours of leopard and giraffe print will work for you. But if you’re a cool profile with deep hair and eyes and a high contrast between your skin tone and hair/eye colour, then a zebra or snake print or something that also has a high contrast will be better for you. Knowing your colour profile (in general) will help you find what you’re after more quickly and also avoid costly wardrobe mistakes.

SCALE: If you are fine boned and petite then your frame will be overwhelmed by large amounts of print or a print with a large pattern – ie bold stripes and large ‘spots’. A smaller print will work best for you.  However if you are fuller figured and/or taller then you can carry off larger areas of print and also a larger scale print.

How to wear animal prints

Scarf: if you really just want to ‘dip your toe in the water’ with this trend then consider a scarf tied around your handbag strap, to ease you into it (Myer, DJs, Sportscraft, Portmans, Diva, Temt).

Bangle: for ‘toe-dippers’ there are also several really smart leopard and other jungle print bangles around in chunky resin styles (Lovisa, Mouche and Diva) . These work well to liven up a black outfit, but also complement cream, red or earth tones very well. Or if you’re really not sure sure then perhaps an animal print handbag hook (Myer) will give you a way to express your wild side safely.

Sunglasses: Another good way to try it out without being overly dramatic. Leopard, giraffe, tiger stripe, or tortoiseshell acetate frames will work well on those with warm and not too light colouring.

Belt: Alternatively you could consider incorporating a leopard or crocodile print belt (Sportscraft, Valley Girl, Glassons, Myer, Portmans) either with jeans, or worn over a slim line shirt, jacket or cardigan with black pants or skirt. If you are going to wear a belt this way, work with your body shape and emphasise your narrowest part or use it to enlongate your torso.

Shoes: If you’re bold go for all out sex-appeal in high heeled leopard pumps (Nine West) or to downplay it leopard loafers (Sportscraft). Snake or crocodile print is also a good way to bring some animal print into your wardrobe without being too OTT.

Cardigan: I have found several very smart slim cut ‘twin-set’ style cardigans (Basque, Ezi-Buy ‘Emerge’, Wheels & Doll Baby) in leopard print …in colours from very earthy browns and black through to delicate cream, pale pinks and grey. These look great teamed with simple black, tan or cream pants or worn over a dress in these colours.

Trench: If you really want to amp up the drama and the ‘wow factor’ then an animal print trench may be more your speed. Bear in mind with this look that you will be noticed, so walk talk, smile and enjoy the attention.

If you have more thoughts on how the animal print trend can be adapted to suit women of all ages and sizes then please share. I’d love to hear how you wear it.

Author’s note: I have no affiliation with any of the stores mentioned here and receive no incentives or ‘kickbacks’ from them.

Personal Branding: why you should care

As you know, I believe its important to make sure your image is aligned with your personal brand, leaving those who deal with you (whether business or personal) with a consistent and authentic experience. This applies whether you work for someone else, work for yourself or do the work of a ‘domestic goddess’ (ie busy and sometimes overlooked wife and mother).

That’s why I was interested to read a recent blog article by William Arruda, a Personal Brand strategist, on “Personal Branding Trends for 2011”.

In particular, William stresses that “For personal branding, multi-media is critical. It provides the opportunity to build emotional connections with people who are making decisions about you. A picture is worth a thousand words and video delivers a complete communication. Those who make the most of this will stand out from their peers.”

If you want to find out how to ensure your personal brand is getting noticed and if you’re not up to date with “homecasting”, “web purity”, “3D-PB”, or “Personal Portals” and why they are importnat to your personal brand then perhaps William’s article will be of interest.

Read the blog article here or take a look at William’s video on online reputation

Custom clothing – not just for the rich and famous

Have you ever had an experience when buying clothes that you found something you loved but there was something about the fit that just wasn’t working for you? Perhaps you have a short waist or a sway back and jeans or pants gape at the back waistband; perhaps you’re are very tall or quite petite and finding clothes to suit your frame is a challenge.

Buying off the rack is what most of use do, but often to ensure just the right fit you need to have things altered (great tailor in Paddington – Jack’s Alterations (02) 9360 3218, Level 1, 393A Oxford St, Paddington NSW 2021, Australia).

While alterations are easy and very cost effective these days, there is however another option…custom design. I know this sounds as if it’s just for the rich and famous but with the rise and rise of online retailing there are custom clothing, shoe and even jewellery designers for every need at really good prices. All you need is a dressmaker’s tape measure (see picture above) to take your measurements properly (in Australia you can pick these up at Lincraft or Spotlight). Most of the custom design sites will also give you a measurement or size guide showing you exactly how to take your measurements to ensure best fit. Some will even do adjustments for you free of charge if the finished garment is just not quite right.

Here are some of my favourites to get you started, but if you have others you’d recommend, please feel free to post a comment and share them with us.

Shoes

http://www.shoesofprey.com

Jewellery

http://www.bespokeboutique.com.au/

 

Suits and Shirts (Men)

http://www.indochino.com

http://www.shirtsandsuits.com

PS:  If you’re not sure what clothing styles to look for (eg necklines, hem length, skirt/dress shape, jacket style, handbag size and shape, shoe shape and heel height etc) and more importantly what styles you shouldn’t be wearing due to your body shape then a style consultation and body shape analysis is a good investment. Your full report and shopping guide will ensure you know exactly what is going to work best for you, making shopping easier and looking good all the time  a cinch… just something to consider.

 

The art of the apology

Today’s blog is kind of about etiquette, but really more about graciousness. Twice this week I’ve had occasion to apologise and I received two very different responses to my apologies; it got me thinking about the art of giving and receiving an apology.

My first apology this week was for a typo in an email I sent on behalf of an industry organisation I volunteer with, giving the wrong date for an event, to which I received a scathing response from someone on the database saying that this was “disgraceful” and demonstrated a clear “lack of attention to detail”. Which yes it did, but really did the initial mistake require the level of outrage evident in the response? Or would it have been more gracious for my respondent to merely point out my error and suggest I might like to resend the email with the correct information?

The second apology of the week was in a personal rather than a business context and to my surprise only served to generate in response a general list of things I could be doing better.

So both of these responses started me thinking about apologies…giving and receiving.

I wonder, are you the sort of person who offers and apology but then dilutes it by either making excuses or by deflecting blame on others? For example this type of apology might go something like this… “Sorry I’m late but the traffic was awful and I couldn’t find a park and then I got lost and anyway it’s not really my fault, you should have picked an easier place to meet”.

And if you’re on the receiving end of the apology do you merely smile and say quite genuinely “thank you for your apology”. Or, do you use the apology as an opener to remind the apologiser of the other things that annoy you about him/her?

I maintain that in general, an honest and heartfelt apology warrants nothing more than a little grace from the recipient.

However, if the offending behaviour is chronic trait of the apologiser (or of an unconscionable nature), then perhaps its time to take steps towards addressing it. In order to achieve a more productive outcome my advice would be to do this at another time when you have some distance from the situation and perhaps a little more perspective, or at least have had some time to reflect on what specifically it is about the other’s behaviour or attitude that bothers you so much and what you’d like to be different about the situation or relationship.

How do you deal with “sorry”?

Party time, be memorable for the right reasons

With end of year festivities hitting their stride now, I thought it would be a good time to review some social etiquette.

If you’re invited to a party at someone’s home (such as dinner or cocktails) its more considerate to take a fragrant candle or sweets or chocolates than flowers… most often the hostess will have already planned the flowers for the evening and it may be an inconvenience for her to have to find a vase and arrange flowers while also greeting other guests.

When you first accept the invitation think about who else will be there, you may want to find out from the host/hostess if there is someone they think you should meet so that you can do some research beforehand. And speaking of research before hand, it’s a good idea prepare a couple of anecdotes and/or comments on news and local events, in advance of the event, that way when you first arrive and may be feeling a little nervous you’ll be able to strike up a conversation with ease.

Also, find out what the dress code is and make every effort to comply. If you’re in doubt it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. First impressions count and you don’t want yours to say “I just couldn’t be bothered”.

Before you walk into the party or event do what I call the “60 second pre-flight check” Go into the nearest ‘restroom’ and check: a) your hair – back and front, b) your teeth – food/lipstick, c) your nose (for obvious reasons), d) buttons & zips and fastened and secure, e) for dandruff on your shoulders or collar, f) for stains on your tie or shirt. Trust me, you’ll feel so much more confident when you first walk in just knowing all these things are under control.

If attending a business social event remember it’s about people and making connections, not on consuming as much food and as many “free” drinks as you can. Make an effort to meet and talk to people, and on getting into conversations rather than on appeasing your hunger. Remember to treat others as you wish to be treated. Make eye contact and be fully present while having a discussion. No one wants to talk with someone who is always scanning the room for a better option. And when you do have to move on, don’t leave someone hanging. Politely close the conversation before continuing to another person or group.

When juggling drinks and finger food at a cocktail function try and keep your right hand free for shaking hands when you are introduced to someone, that way you don’t have to wipe your hand (from food residue or condensation from your glass) before extending it. A mentor of mine once taught me a great trick for juggling canapés and a drink while also leaving your right hand free. Take your cocktail napkin and put it between the ring and baby finger of your left hand. Then, spread your ring and middle fingers to act as a base for the canapes. Use your thumb and index finger to hold the stem or base of the glass.

And further on canapés, avoid anything drippy, messy to eat or more than a neat mouthful, remember you’re at a business function not hanging out with your mates, and the mess you could make with these items might make you memorable for the wrong reasons. And remember its never OK to double dip!  While food served on toothpicks or cocktail sticks may keep your fingers clean, there is the problem of what to do with those sticks. Don’t litter, and definitely don’t put them back on the serving tray (unless there’s a receptacle specifically for this purpose); it is unappetising to others and it’s unhygienic. If no containers have been provided for the toothpicks, put them in a dish or on the tray only when the wait staff are collecting empty glasses. If nothing is available, wrap the toothpicks in a napkin and dispose of them later.

Remember to get around to all those you wanted to meet and to keep your business cards in an easy to reach place….no hunting through the contents of an overstuffed bag or delving through every pocket. Also, don’t go handing business cards out to all and sundry without any indication of interest. Make an effort to at least introduce yourself and have a short conversation before offering your card. When you receive a business card, look at it and back at the giver before putting it away… its only polite.

Do remember to thank your host/hostess graciously before you leave. And lastly, I know I don’t have to say it but if you’ve had to much to drink, please don’t drive.

Enjoy, be respectful and be memorable (for the right reasons) this party season.

To kiss or not to kiss, that is the question

The etiquette of the business kiss can make for some pretty awkward moments. I know plenty of women (and a few men) who think nothing of going straight in for the kiss on the cheek, even on first meeting. Me however… not so much!

Of course, situation and context are important. In the Middle East, India and some Asian countries kissing (especially the opposite sex) is highly inappropriate, however if I’m in a European country where kissing is de rigueur then of course it feels more natural, but in Australia the rules are not quite so clear-cut.

While I kiss my girlfriends hello and goodbye and I always give the social peck to both men and women when I go to a party or dinner engagement, I’m not convinced kissing in a business context is appropriate. Perhaps its just me, we were not a particular “kissy” family, but it makes me feel a little confronted when I meet someone for the first time (or even second time) in a business setting and they greet me with a kiss.

If you don’t kiss you could be considered snobbish or aloof and if you do, it can make you feel uncomfortable. So what’s the answer?

I was curious about how others deal with this issue so I looked into what the etiquette experts had to say:

Jo Bryant, Etiquette advisor for Debretts.com follows the general rule of “don’t kiss people you don’t know unless you are introduced to them in a social environment”.

Jodi R. R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting suggests that “if kissing in a business situation makes you feel awkward, when you see other the person, …  throw open your arms indicating a big hug and thus avoiding the kissing”.

The kiss is “happening more and more,” agreed Peggy Post, a spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute founded by the doyenne of etiquette. “We’re much more informal in everything from the clothes we wear to how we greet people.”

Ms. Post advocates the handshake and agrees that it’s better “to steer clear of kissing people of the opposite sex, which can be misconstrued in some cases.” This is especially true on first meetings. Later, kissing as a greeting depends on the relationship, she and others said.

So, I guess its take your cue from the situation, watch what others are doing and if you really don’t feel comfortable kissing in business then pre-empt with a handshake.

I’m interested in your thoughts and experiences on the issue. Feel free to comment and give me your take on “to kiss or not to kiss”.

Fashion vs Style – you decide

To all those who’ve ever thought…”you know I really should get on the band wagon of that new trend” – whatever the current fashion fad is at the time – but then wondered “could I really pull it off?” I just have to share this hilarious and very tongue in cheek ‘fashion’ flowchart so that you can determine whether you really need to be wearing harem pants.

I wish I were so clever as to have thought of it but I must credit Laura Olin

Dress for Success

A good friend of mine, business psychology expert and tactical strategist Peter Shallard from New Zealand recently gave away some of the “aces up his sleeve” on sales tactics via his blog. I was interested (and heartened)  to see that one piece of advice in particular generated the majority of comments from readers.  It was about “out-dressing” your prospect, so I decided to continue the theme and add my own thoughts on image and presentation, or what I call your “personal brand”.

I’m a firm believer in get up, dress up, show up! It doesn’t matter whether its social or business, I always believe in bringing my best self. Even on those days where I am short on time or just feel like “dialling it in”.  I know that when I put on a great outfit, do my hair, make-up etc I feel more confident and that feeling leads to more energy, more self-esteem and a greater overall feeling of empowerment. Think about it, its really hard to feel crappy when you look amazing!

Now doing all this doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort. Getting ready for any occasion is simple as long as you have a strategy, and that strategy begins way before you open the wardrobe. It begins when you review your needs, goals, aspirations and then take a good, hard look at your wardrobe and your own physical appearance. Are you doing everything within your control to ensure you look your best and present well? Be honest!  If your clothes or appearance are scruffy or dated then you are sending a clear message to your colleagues and your potential clients… “I can’t really be bothered and I’m not organised enough to make the time or the effort”. Wow, that’s a powerful statement to be making and I can bet its not returning you any favours professionally or socially. I’m not talking about primping, preening peacocks here, just good old fashioned grooming and attention to detail.

If you spend a little time getting to understand the clothes that work best for your shape, the colours that make your skin and eyes glow with good health, and getting to grips with a basic (and speedy) grooming routine you can’t go wrong. This applies to men and women equally. Trust me, when you get this right, you’ll spend a whole less time worrying about what to wear and if your outfit is appropriate, and a while lot more time getting results!

10 Personal Brand Enhancers

  1. Smart, pressed and clean clothing – without stains, missing buttons, pulled threads, frayed cuffs etc
  2. Clothing that fits you well, enhances your shape and minimises any flaws
  3. Polished shoes and matching socks/ hosiery
  4. Good posture…walk tall & sit up straight – good posture can take off 10 years and 5 kilos
  5. Being punctual and calling immediately if something prevents from being so
  6. Smiling, and looking people in the eye
  7. Being consistent in your appearance and your actions
  8. Being authentic and believing in yourself
  9. Saying thank you…often
  10. Making someone feel good, just because you can.