Archive for May, 2009


It’s a Wedding!

People frequently ask us what to wear in specific social situations. Our answers depend on so many different factors – what is the activity? where is it taking place? what time of day? during which season?  and so on.  With the wedding season here these are a few of our suggestions for that particularly special occasion …

First of all, avoid wearing white. Some people are touchy (especially the mother of the bride) about anyone other than the Bride wearing white. Then consider where the wedding is. Read the invitation carefully – often the dress code will be clearly stated. If not, look for clues to the tone of the event which can help you make appropriate wardrobe decisions.  If the invitation is in flowing engraved black script on a heavy cream paper with formal language odds are the wedding will be similarly formal. If it asks you to come see them get hitched, you should look for a nice casual outfit – long pants, capris or walking shorts worn with a blouse and flats would work (this means no jeans and flip flops!) If it’s an evening wedding in the city, dress for black tie; if it’s a daytime wedding in Hawaii, a flirty sundress; if it’s a 3:00 am wedding in Vegas, anything goes!  When a wedding is set outdoors avoid wearing anything that will get caught in the wind – you won’t want a battle of wills between the wind and your modesty!  Also, avoid stiletto heels which can sink into the sand or grass – wedge heels are a great alternative. Should a wedding be in a hot location avoid the suit and go for a breezy dress to help keep you cool.

On any special occasion it’s nice to show up and make a statement. Although the statement should be “Wow”, not “Whoops” at weddings be careful you don’t commit the ultimate crime – upstaging the bride!

Most of all, have fun and go easy on the champagne! But that’s a whole new topic – stay tuned for next week’s entry!


Meal Breakers

As those of you who are familiar with our work know, cultural sensitivity is considered an important element in everything we do.  Beyond giving our clients an advantage socially or in business, understanding cultural variations in customs can be quite entertaining.

A few cultural tidbits:
To start …“tidbits” are called “titbits” in the UK – both are small morsels!
When served a whole fish in Poland, don’t turn it over – superstition leads them to believe the fisherman’s boat will also flip!
In Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, it is considered rude to look at a fellow diner’s plate.
 Many cultures use hands to eat – never use your left hand as it is considered un-clean. Always eat with your right hand.
Never give clocks as gifts in China. They are associated with death.

Do your research before you engage with other cultures!  Feel free to share your cultural experiences here. What Canadian cultural oddities exist?


Revealing Baggage

During a Style Assessment session, we ask our clients to fill out a style questionnaire. This does not resemble a magazine survey where points are tallied at the end to find out if one is stylish or not. This is a tool to help clients begin thinking about style issues, about tastes and about themselves.

Some questions are unexpected, some seem strange at first, but if we pay attention to the right questions and answers they can reveal a great deal about us. If nothing else, these questions make us more aware of our habits.

One question is: “What would you never leave home without?” Answers vary. The most common responses include: cell phones, keys, purse, ipod or wallet. But how about a wedding ring? Or a special photograph? Or a pendant from someone you love?

Many women say they would never leave home without mascara or lipstick. Lipstick remains one of the affordable luxuries women won’t live without. In fact, analysts and cosmetics companies around the world have taken note of the correlation between a tough economy and stellar lipstick sales. It is an instant ‘feel good’ item that doesn’t take a lot of cash or space. Make-up is actually one of the most popular choices for things women won’t leave home without.

What would your answer be? What is the one thing you need with you when you go out to face the world?


Projected vs. Perceived Image

We’ve come through a busy few election seasons of late: federally, provincially, municipally and internationally. The role of image during an election is critical and interesting to observe. One of our favourite anecdotes to this point is the story of the John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debates in the 1960 US election. John F. Kennedy was deemed to win the televised first debate handily as he appeared confident, fit, healthy and well dressed for the television audience. Nixon did not manage his on air appearance as effectively, prompting even his mother to phone to see if he was feeling well! He did, however, succeed in being considered the winner of the radio debate where appearance was not as much a factor. As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, studies show that the most “Prime Ministerial” or “Presidential” looking candidate (the one who best projects what the majority perceive to be that capable look) is often the most successful.

In our personal and career lives, it is interesting to consider the perceptions others have and how our projected image reconciles with that. Your comments and own anecdotes are welcome!


Image Inspiration!

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Michelangelo is said to have declared he didn’t actually carve images into marble but rather he simply revealed the image that was already within the marble. The Image Builders have always appreciated this notion and are inspired by this idea when working with clients and image. We don’t seek to impose an entirely new image but rather prefer to guide clients to revealing their own best image.
We’ve had a lot of fun with an exercise we call “Image Inspiration!” which we encourage our Personal Presentation clients to use in order to reveal their personal styles. This process involves gathering images which evoke a personal response – something you love or despise, a favourite scene or colour, something you’d be afraid to wear but adore just the same … really any image to which you are drawn. After forming a collection, the images are then grouped and pasted onto a page. Very quickly, a particular style will be revealed.
This exercise can be used in fashion but also in journaling, writing, and decorating. We always encourage people to have fun with this exercise and in fact have facilitated a number of “Image Inspiration!” group events. Let us know if you have a group you’d like us to guide through an Image Inspiration. There are a few websites which show inspiration or vision boards on-line. Click on these links to get an idea and then get out your scissors and glue and be inspired!  for an Audrey inspired look for Wedding Inspiration


Courtesy Begins at Home

Last week we wrote of civility in the community and the importance of not saving one’s best behaviour for guests. We came across another article you might enjoy by Susan Schwartz for The Montreal Gazette titled “Even a good marriage cannot survive bad manners” Returning to the home front, she writes, (and quotes Barbara Cartland!) about the impact of courtesy as well as inconsiderate behaviour on one’s relationship with a significant other. Read the article here:

On occasion we are asked to run courses for children. In our discussions with the younger set we all agree that courtesy starts at home, with making your bed in the morning!


Support Staff

Company’s coming – shine up your manners!  Sound familiar? 

We recently enjoyed a column written by Shelley Fralic in which she took time to acknowledge her “support staff” – all those people she encounters on a regular basis as she goes about her daily life: the hairdresser, the barista, the car repair fellow, the cashier at her grocery store …  It resonated with us because we don’t believe in saving one’s manners for guests only, we believe everyone’s daily lives flow more smoothly and bring more pleasure and less stress when that kind behaviour is on show for all to enjoy.  We use the terms “manners” and “etiquette” but what we really get behind is Civility. Shelley’s article brought to mind civility and the importance of citizenship in our communities. We all have relationships that need tending and some are indeed with people whose names we may not know!   Enjoy her article here and send her your own list of “support staff”!



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