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Don’t Fool Yourself: We Frequently Judge a Book by its Cover

September 21 2010

Lieupofgirlslarge200pxYou walk into a room, and before you open your mouth, you create an impression. The bad news is a first impression is hard to rewrite. But the good news is that you have the power to control what that initial impression is by simply taking your personal image seriously.

In real estate, you are your brand. Your perceived professionalism, friendliness, and credibility are tied to how you portray yourself. You are the brand.

You may even take your brand building serious enough to be creating video welcome messages to post on your website, take a professional photo to display on your for sales signs or open house marketing materials. You certainly dress to meet clients for a home showing. Have you thought through your image here? Before you use a photography service, video service or listing presentation tool to help market your brand, step back.

Take a minute to think through your visual image and your brand.

If your brokerage spend time thinking about whether their company name should be gold colored with a black background, or whether it should be white and blue, so should you. If they considered the style of the brokerage logo, so should you in your own wardrobe.

You may ask why? But when someone comes into a room missing the mark in their attire, you subconsciously categorize them based on their image.

Most women have no idea they’re poorly dressed for business and no one dares tell them. KL Image Group conducts research and consults on image. Research findings include:

  • 65%-70% of women with college and advanced degrees dress in a way that limits their upward mobility in business.
  • 81% of business owners/bosses say that attire affects professional image. 63% of bosses say people with good attire advance faster.
  • Inappropriate, unpolished looks create the following impression:
    • Loss of credibility and authority
    • Competence and professionalism is called into question
  • Height is important. Height has power.
  • Makeup is a pattern for success. Most successful women have has a professional makeup application routine.

While at WITI’s Women in Technology Summit, KL Moore, founder of KL Image Group, shared some ways to view image as a brand.

She said, “Visual brand (what people think of you based on what you have on and how you are groomed) is formed during your very first encounter with a person. It tells people how to interact with you, how you feel about yourself or your business, who you aspire to be, what type of clients you want to attract, what you want others to think about you and whether or not you are already successful.”

Your look, most of all, influences whether people want to do business with you, whether they would like to hire you or to pursue a relationship with you.

For example, which of the two ladies below look more professional? Competent? Who looks the most friendly?


KL Moore gave us 4 things to consider when thinking about creating a visual brand:

1.) Consider the message you want to convey: I want people to perceive me as…(Fill in the blank.)
2.) Think about the market in which your message is directed: I’m meeting with or speaking to…(Fill in the blank.)
3.) Consider your mission (long-term and short-term goals): I look like I’m destined to be…(Fill in the blank.)
4.) Remember your natural impression when people first meet you: When people first meet me, they think I’m…(Fill in the blank.)

Considering the above four principles, create your visual brand and tailor it when needed.

KL Moore says, “ Certain clothing details can make you look more authoritative or more approachable. Adding collars, cuffs and lapels increase authority while the lack of those elements make you appear more approachable.”

To help guide you in your visual branding, KL Moore shared three secrets:

1.) Color

When it comes to color, wearing dark, solid neutrals help exude power, while soft, pastel accent colors suggest you are friendly and accessible.

The hierarchy of color breaks down the subliminal meanings of colors:

  • Dark Neutrals (black, navy, charcoal) represent power and authority and appear conservative and formal.
  • Light Neutrals (olive, beige, soft grey, ivory) are perceived as softer in character and blend easily into a crowd.
  • Bright Colors (bright turquoise, red, hot pink, yellow) attract attention and appear energetic and exciting.
  • Pastel Colors (icy green, pastel pink, baby blue, light peach) represent femininity and gentleness and appear open and inviting.

The more dark and neutral your clothing colors are, the more authoritative you appear. While the more colorful and pastel your clothing, the more approachable you appear. These differing messages can be used to target men versus women clients, and even bridge generational gaps. Experiment with these colors when meeting clients.

KL Moore also places an emphasis on coloring in the individual. If you have a cool complexion, colors that favor your coloring. The same goes for warm complexions.

2.) Fit

Regarding the fit of clothing, hem lengths, shirt length, and shirts tucked or not, KL Moore provided some interesting feedback.

  • Proper Hem Length: Whether female or male, the pant should be long enough to show a break (start to fold) when you are wearing the shoe you plan to wear.
  • Tightness of Skirts and Pants on Females: Pants and skirts should not be too baggy or have no shape. If you can see the full shape of your rear end, and the material is bunching, it is too tight. Your clothes should never distract from your message, they should be an understated compliment to you. Pencil skirts are stylish, but they need to be tasteful.
  • Can a shirt be tucked in or not? For women there is some flexibility, unlike men. If the shirt is tailored to the woman, it can be left out over pants or skirts. But if the shirt is loose, or much longer than the jacket, it should be tucked in.
  • Can the shirt under a jacket extend past the end of the jacket sleeves? For men, yes, the shirt can extend past the end of the jacket sleeves. For women, they cannot. In fact, a woman’s jacket should only reach to the edge of a woman’s wrist, and not extend past.

3.) Style

Regarding style, keep in mind that your style can determine your age, your sense of fashion and communicate a lot about how much you care about your appearance. Here are a few things KL Moore said that were interesting as far as style goes.

  • Wear solid colors in our main pieces, and use complimentary color or patterned accents to add interest.
  • Do not wear flats if you are shorter than 5’11.” This is industry specific.
  • Polished close-toed shoes are preferred. Sling backs and open toe are acceptable depending on the industry.
  • One pair of earrings for women.
  • Long sleeves or short sleeves are acceptable; however, sleeveless tops without jackets are not recommended for women regardless of weather.

About KL Moore

KL Moore, MBA, is a professional Image consultant and seminar leader who teaches business owners and professionals how to tailor their visual image for business success. As an Electrical Engineer and former boutique owner, she infuses her corporate experience with her fashion expertise to help clients understand the link between personal appearance and financial success. She shares firsthand knowledge of how to convey the right message through attire at any weight, shape or height. From personal experience, KL knows that very few people are successful on competency alone. Business acumen, along with looking the part, are all part of her success formula.

KL is professionally trained in Custom Color Analysis by one of six worldwide Color Image Masters and studied Image Management at the International Image Institute in Canada. Clients love her honesty and frankness, while her audience finds her passion contagious. From technical gurus to business savvy professionals, KL invigorates and connects with her listeners.

If you would like to contact her for a wardrobe audit or speaking engagement, please visit her website