Archive for October, 2009


Is Talent Enough?

Susan Boyle Before

Susan Boyle After

 Makeover by Harper’s Bazaar

Back in April 2009, when Susan Boyle was on the stage telling the audience that she would like to be as successful as Elaine Paige, nobody took her seriously. However, when she started to sing, everyone stood up applauding.

Why didn’t the judges and the audience believe in her ability before she sang?
It was very obvious that her appearance and body language didn’t match with what she had said according to the audience’s point of view. The poor appearance prolonged the time of acceptance. This also prolonged the time of her success in life. Having such an outstanding voice for so many years, why couldn’t she make it faster to the entertainment industry? What made her wait for 47 years to be successful…?

Managing our image from the inside out  is important. The congruency will earn us trust from people and new opportunities in work and life.


Greetings in a Time of Influenza … updated!

hockey handshake   Since our May 7th blog entry on this topic   the H1N1 flu virus has continued to be a distressing topic in both international and local news. Our tongue in cheek suggestion that distant curtsying may be the greeting of the future is a little closer to becoming reality. Policies relating to personal greetings have been drawn up in a number of amateur sports organizations: it is now stated that young hockey players remain glove-handed when involved in the customary end of game skate-by handshake. Soccer players and even Olympians in many sports are subject to anti-handshaking policies and will be expected to elbow bump rather than grip bare palms.
The Emily Post Institute recently conducted a poll asking “In the coming weeks, will you change the way you greet people socially and in business situations due to concern over the spread of the H1N1 flu virus?”

The responses were categorized as follows:
• 12% Yes. I’ve decided to stop shaking hands.
• 63% No. I’m not that worried. It’s awkward to NOT shake hands.
• 25% I haven’t decided yet. I’ll wait and see what happens.

Some good news is that handwashing has increased in frequency and remains an important ritual of which to be conscious. Once again, at The Image Builders, we stress the importance of courteously acknowledging others no matter how you choose to greet one another. A big smile is always seen as a favourable non-contact option!


A Man’s Bulletproof Closet

The modern man’s wardrobe has more demands than ever before – despite the relaxation of the formal dress code rules and the trend toward casual attire. Business clothes now encapsulate multiple interactions, from meetings and luncheons to social gatherings in the evening. So you want most importantly, to have a bulletproof set of clothes, great basics that meet your needs, as well as the coordinated accessories to pull your various looks together.

men wardrobe


Here are some quick tips on a bulletproof professional wardrobe:

 – dress to emulate the successful men in the group in which you work
 – be up to date – dress for the times
 – wear good quality clothes
 – don’t wear flashy or inappropriate neckwear
 – keep your clothes clean and well pressed
 – avoid novelty fashions
 – ‘simple’ solutions last the longest and cost the least –   invest in classics


As to what a simple business wardrobe should contain, here is a list:

– Navy blue suit – the heart of any man’s wardrobe. Own enough suits so they can be effectively rotated. However many, go with quality over quantity.

– Black leather belt – it goes with just about everything.

– Black leather shoes – lace-ups are suitable for business and even formal
affairs. Wear with dark dress socks.

– White shirt – the oxford-cloth cotton shirt is suitable for almost all

– Dark blazer – the most versatile piece in a man’s wardrobe.

– Gray flannel slacks – they make the transition from business to casual.
Aim for several pairs.

– Khakis – also called chinos, they can be worn almost everywhere (except at the theatre!)

– Black socks – be sure they are long enough!

– Solid dark tie – another wardrobe essential.

– Overcoat – look for a classic cut in a perfect fit.

– Briefcase – there will never be a bag big enough for all the paper in your life, so pack only as much as you can work on.


Soft Skills


  Maya Angelou 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou



 Huh? Soft skills? I know … ability to juggle marshmallows nimbly? Exceptional dexterity folding “soft goods”? The term “soft skills” is a pretty vague one used to summarize those essential feel good qualities which one ideally has to complement his or her technical and practical talents. Friendliness, empathy, an ability to listen well, creativity, optimism, poise, confidence, ease with conversation, trustworthiness, clarity of communication, cultural intelligence, courtesy, comfort with leadership … all fall into the “soft skills” category. Considering their role in the work place or inter-personal encounters at large, these are critical traits for success.

For many years, and in many cultures, focus has been on acquiring and perfecting technical skills. Lawyers need to know the law, accountants and actuaries better know their numbers, hockey players need to know how to … (ok, maybe we’ll leave hockey players out of this and consider that a topic for another day!) You get the picture. In schools, the highest grades have traditionally been given to those who show an understanding of the specific cold, hard facts; soft skill style rarely rates. But now, times they are a-changing: competition is intense for jobs and placements at universities. Interviewers are placing much greater emphasis on interpersonal skills and presentation. When work places are pared down in tough economic times it becomes very important that those who remain are able to respect one another and get along well. Patience is rare when stress increases and it is more pleasant, and more critically, more productive to have a work place which functions without conflict. Procedures and methods can be acquired but soft skills smooth the way. Which reminds me of another favourite quote The Image Builders use to explain what we do:

“Manners must adorn knowledge and smooth its way through the world.” – Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) in a letter to his son


Are You Dressing for Your Age?


“At every age, what makes you have a great sense of style is the ability to listen to your own instincts and to choose what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Being elegant is not a matter of age but of attitude.” – Giorgio Armani


We often hear things like “40 is the new 30” and “60 is the new 40,” but what does that mean in terms of clothing? Does it mean that we can wear miniskirts and cropped tops until sometime after menopause? Should we still embrace every trend? Should mothers and daughters shop together in the same store?

Here are a few tips, regardless of your age:


-At each stage of your life, aim to show the best and hide the worst – understand your body shape.

-At the end of the day, looking both chic and age appropriate comes down to personal style

-In general, extreme trends that appear out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly are caprices that benefit only the youthful.

– Shirts work for everyone – they are a basic that goes from 16 to 70.

– Colors and prints can soften an older woman’s features and give them a lift.

– Change your look through accessorizing – a sky-high heel gives a totally different effect to a dress than a suede pump.


Dressing for your age is really quite simple once you know what to look for. Once you understand the true power of clothing, you begin to see how you can use your clothes to create all sorts of illusions to look: younger or older, thinner or heavier, taller or shorter, more modern, less dated, softer or more powerful, or… whatever you like.


Here are some current looks you can embrace depending on your age:

           20’s: 20


Experiment and have fun. Stock up on big colorful scarves.





Invest in staples in bold silhouettes.





Navy is the new black – just as wearable and chic.




         50’s: 50


Jacquards and brocades always look sophisticated.





Menswear like tailored jackets and smart shirts look great.




A luxe skirt suit will make a statement.




Photos – Harper’s Bazaar Magazine


Umbrella Etiquette

Singing in the rain

The rain clouds are building and with it a subtle storm of irritation related to umbrella management. Today a few words on wielding your umbrella in a dignified rather than dangerous way.
The most important element is to be aware of the sharp pointy bits on your umbrella and their proximity to the eyes of your fellow pedestrians. An Audrey Hepburn or Gene Kelly-esque twirl may appear charming and cute but potentially blind and/or soak your pavement peers.
Always be conscious of the fact that when carrying an umbrella you’ve significantly increased your use of sidewalk real estate. The average sidewalk is around 1.5 m (59 in) Umbrellas typically range anywhere from 89 cm (35 in) to 122 cm (48 in) in diameter. If my math is right that leaves around a meagre 28 cm (11 in) passing lane. Keep this in mind when considering whether to drag your golf umbrella through the crowds downtown.
Space is created for other pedestrians by lifting your umbrella up and above – if you are the tall one. If you are smaller in statue – keep your umbrella tucked close to your head and think compact thoughts; the other umbrella will pass over your head. There are some who believe in the 30 degree rule – if both umbrella carriers angle their umbrellas 30 degrees in opposite directions they will pass one another unharmed. A good plan but be aware of draining your umbrella onto another passerby’s shoulder.
Above all, be conscious of others out in the weather with you. “Drive” defensively and never forge ahead fiercely with your umbrella out front.
Do attempt to shed water from your umbrella before entering an office, restaurant, shop, home etc. Shake carefully, again with awareness of those in the flight path of droplets, and then park your umbrella in the umbrella stand provided. If there isn’t one, then place your closed and secured (spontaneous openings are highly undesirable) umbrella on the floor beside you, or under your chair where it is clearly out of the way of anyone walking past. In some cities it is common to have a “wet umbrella bag” dispenser at the door in which those with wet umbrellas can store their soggy accessories.   

wet umbrella stand

 A quick word about style and umbrellas … your umbrella is an extension of your style just as your handbags and shoes are. Be sure you are sporting the appropriate look for the occasion. That adorable duck billed yellow brolly of your daughter’s does not necessarily translate in the boardroom! Many patterns and colours are available now and allow for self-expression in a stylish way.

fashionable umbrella


Olympic Fashion


Canadian Olympic athletes (Left to right): Natalie Lambert, Steve Yzerman, Jessica Gregg and Mike Janyk model the Vancouver 2010 Team Canada apparel (Photograph by Vancouver Sun)

The  unveiling of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team retail apparel  took place yesterday at HBC’s new Olympic Superstore in downtown Vancouver and featured parkas, toques, knitted sweaters and buffalo plaid designs.  

Designed by Hudson’s Bay Company, the line of 2010 Olympic wear is trying to capture a ‘Canadian’ look. While grey and black are new additions to the traditional red and white Canadian color palette, the look is “dynamic, bold and athletic” said HBC fashion director Suzanne Timmins.   VANOC CEO John Furlong said HBC has delivered a “platinum performance” with the new Olympic clothing.

How do you like the 2010 Winter collection?