About Us Section
Survival Guide: Angie Michael (expanded
By Evamarie Socha
You�ve heard �image is
everything.� Angie Michael says it�s true. The president of Image Resource Group
Inc. of Falls Church, Va., Michael is an image consultant who has helped people
with everything from professional dress to business etiquette to presentation
skills for more than 20 years. She�s the author of �Best Impressions in
Hospitality� and coauthor of �Business Casual Made Easy,� and she understands
the hidden messages of substance that are conveyed by style. Michael talked with
Managing Editor Evamarie Socha about what people wear to work� and why it
WT: Define �professional image.�
Michael: Your image is the way you
communicate in business. You need to dress appropriately for your audience, your
own physical characteristics, for the occasion, and you need to have your
clothing and image as another business tool. This is nonnegotiable. In the first
30 seconds of meeting, people make assumptions about you, and the communications
is nonverbal. In about 55 seconds, people make assumptions on nonverbal
messages: the way you look, how you act and the tone of your voice.
WT: Why is image important?
Michael: In many situations, when
you meet someone face to face, whether you�re aware of it or not, you are
judging them consciously and unconsciously. � You have to mirror the dress of
those that you work with. That is how we feel comfortable with each other. When
someone is dressed like you, [that is]a tremendous equalizer.
WT: How big a role does image play
in a person�s job?
Michael: Your resume will open the
door for you. The right look will not give you the job, but the wrong look will
certainly keep you out of it. [Today], there are double the number of candidates
for any job. In a corporation that has your resume and 10 more with the same
qualifications and experience, the way you look and behave will get you the
WT: What are the trends right now
in business attire?
Michael: For men, the business
suit is back. A two-button suit will be with you forever, but if you are going
to buy a new suit, get a three-button suit. And please remember not to button
the third button. Men need five shirts that are accepted internationally. A
white shirt is the dressiest, most powerful look. Then light blue, that will
give you a more approachable look. Next is French blue, which makes you even
more approachable and creative. Then there is white with stripes, but they must
be fine stripes on white background. And the latest and newest is light gray.
The lighter the shirt, the more
dressy the outfit. The deeper the color of the shirt, the less formal the
outfit. The highest contrast among the shirt, tie and coat gives people more
brightness, which makes people look more powerful. When the contrast is less, it
makes you look more approachable and friendly.
WT: And for women?
Michael: Again there�s the suit.
But I warn women: In the United States, pantsuits have become almost the norm.
However, if you must do business internationally, be careful, because not in
every country and not at every level will you be well dressed in pantsuits.
The good news for women is that we
don�t have to wear navy blue. I call teal the navy of the new millennium. With
teal, you can choose many colors: purple, royal blue, pine green. Be sure it�s a
color that compliments your skin tone. Have an image consultant recommend the
right shades for you. Please don�t wear light gray or beige, because you�ll
blend into the background. Wear red for presentations, and avoid bright colors
in one-on-one meetings.
For men, I recommend wearing a tie
with some type of red when they do a presentation. Red gets attention. Yellow is
a color the eye can only see for a little time. For women, use a little bit of
yellow as an accent, but not a yellow suit, unless you are going to work with
WT: So no more business casual?
Michael: Business casual has
changed. Many companies are tightening the guidelines. People went overboard �
they forgot it was business first, then casual. The corporate world is getting
more formal, so companies are defining guidelines and making them more
conservative, or they�re limiting casual dress to Fridays, or eliminating it all
together. For contractors, before any meeting of any type, call and ask what is
appropriate attire for the company. � My guess is we will always have some type
of comfortable attire, but it can be more business, more professional than not.
WT: When it comes to the federal
government, is there a particular dressing or image rule?
Michael: The higher you go in
government, the more dressy the people. If you go to the top managers in
government, most of them are very well dressed.
WT: How does that translate to the
Michael: Many times the contractor
needs to know who the audience is, because sometimes they need to meet with the
decision-makers. It�s OK to ask what is the dress code for meetings of this
nature. � I recommend to people, first of all ask what people wear: suits or
jackets? Ties? That is a key item. .. Think to yourself: Who is your audience?
What is the purpose of your message today: building rapport? Selling ideas?
Building trust? And based on that, choose your clothing.
WT: What mistakes are out there?
Michael: Pay attention to
grooming. Be sure your shirt is well pressed. Whatever you put around your neck
should be in good condition. Eye contact happens in that oval that is your face,
the lapel of your jacket, your shirt and your tie. I see a lot of short ties
that are not close to the beltline. Please never wear short sleeves with a
jacket � please don�t! Or short pants, your pants have to go lower to break in
the front of your shoe. Pay attention to your shoes. They need to be clean and
in good condition. If you must walk a lot, get rubber shoes to walk back and
forth to Metro; but when you get to a meeting, put on your shoes that are well
polished and in good condition.
For men: be sure your pants are at
your waist, not below. Be sure your suit fits correctly. You must be able to
button your jacket and have enough space to breathe. Never wear black suits,
they are not appropriate for daytime: only gray and navy. Olives, browns and
earth tones are appropriate for second meetings, but not for first meetings with
your client. Keep your jacket on in the meeting, and don�t remove it without
[seeing] what the rest of the team is doing. For women: Put your jacket on for
six occasions: meetings; interviews for job, press, whatever it is; to meet a
client for the first time; to go to court; when making presentations; and when
you work in an office where people drop in unannounced. First impression is
critical. Be sure your neckline is never below two fingers above your cleavage.
The less skin you show, the more powerful you look, and that goes for men and
women. Women need to wear hose, even if you don�t like it. No sandals, no open
Pay attention to jewelry. Be sure
your earrings don�t move or make noise. Whenever your jewelry moves, you lose
the attention of the people who are listening to you. Their eye contact is
completely distracted. Keep all of those things for the evening. Same with lace
and all the sexy fabrics and tight clothes.
WT: What is a good dressing mantra
Michael: Look in mirror and ask
yourself: Am I ready to meet the highest-level person in my client�s network or
organization without having to make any type of apology? If there is anything in
the mirror you have a question about, leave it out. � You need to look the part
and dress the part. If you want the job, you need to look the part. If you want
the promotion, you need to look promotable. If you want respect, you need to
dress equally or better than the industry standards.