Mirror Your Message: Reflect Your True Self in Your Style

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image25632340Do you ever wonder how people see you? Is it what you want them to see?

It’s human nature to make assumptions about people based on what we see. We believe our perceptions paint an accurate picture of the person. First impressions happen in a matter of seconds, and are very difficult to change.

Personal branding is a way of communicating what differentiates you from everyone else – your values, passions, strengths, and personal style. It’s your unique promise of value.
Your “Signature Style” is the expression of your personal brand through your clothes and appearance. It visually communicates your brand message and personality. It’s a powerful way to stand out in today’s competitive landscape.

So, how do you translate your personal brand into your signature style? My new Mirror Your Message workbook helps women define their signature style based on their brand. It merges key principles of branding and style to help women achieve their goals and “dress the part”. It covers these key principles.

1)      Have a Style Point of View

People have expectations about what you should look like in your profession. The magic happens when your appearance instantly reinforces your role, and communicates your unique brand and personality.

2)     Be Authentic

You don’t need gimmicks or false personas. You want to bring out the real you, expressing it through your style. The key to personal branding and your signature style is in its authenticity. Why struggle attempting to assume the appearance of someone you’re not?

3)     Consistency Matters

First impressions can be planned. We wear our best suit when we prepare for an important engagement. But what about the rest of the time? What message does your style deliver when it’s an uneventful day at work or you’re running errands around town? You never know when chance encounters will lead to a great opportunity.

Now, you don’t need to wear your best suit every day, but regardless of the occasion or environment, you should be wearing appropriate attire that goes along with your brand.

4)    It Takes Some Work

For most women, style doesn’t just magically happen. It may appear effortless, and you may assume it’s a natural-born talent. In reality, it takes some work.

You’ve seen that woman who effortlessly and consistently rocks a signature style. You can be sure that the secret to her success is planning (and in the case of celebrities, it may also involve a team of image professionals!).  Stylish women take the time to determine styles and colors that work for them; maximize their options within their budget; create a consistent “look” that works for them; and employ smart organizational and shopping strategies.

5)     Learn the Basics of Style

As an architect designing your personal brand, consider basic style principles (Fit, Color, Quality, Accessorizing, etc.) as your foundation. You need to know what styles and colors look best on you and how to wear them.

6)    Mirror Your Message

When you look in a full-length mirror, you should see your own best advertising gazing back at you. Your image is influenced by external factors; and your identity is influenced by your personality and values. Your signature style is the sum of image plus identity. The goal of personal branding is to influence how other people perceive you.

In your business or your work environment, whether there is a dress code or not, there are rules to follow. The challenge is that the rules are vague or specify what not to do.  Here’s your opportunity to define this dress code for yourself and your brand, using your power of observation.

By understanding the design characteristics of clothes, you can decipher the messages they’re sending. Take jackets as an example: a  blue, traditional cut, suit jacket says “I mean business, I’m to be taken seriously”. Conversely, a black leather jacket says, “I’m adventuresome, relaxed and having fun!”

7)      Avoid Gimmicks for Gimmick Sake

Don’t let uniqueness and quirkiness go too far! Bright colored hair may result in your being memorable for the wrong reasons! Reaction to your look depends on your brand and profession. A purple-haired accountant will get unpleasant stares, while a purple-haired musician or artist won’t get a second look. However, if you’re wearing something true to your style, and you are known for this, then by all means leverage it as part of your signature style.

For more information, and how to get your copy of my Mirror Your Message workbook, Email me at Carolyn@FirstImpressionStyle.com


Do you ever wonder how other people perceive you?

And is it what you want them to see?

In business and life, perception is everything. First impressions happen in a matter of seconds. That’s why everything about you should say who you are and what you stand for. Personal branding is your “unique promise of value”.

It is a way of communicating what differentiates you from everyone else — your values, passions, strengths and personal style. It’s not about creating a false image for the outside world or being self-centered or self indulgent. It’s about being your authentic self and delivering value to those around you.

For years, I’ve been advising my clients on how to make their best first impression and build their confidence by dressing their best. I always stress to my clients that they are their brand and need to be their own best advertisement. So it’s a natural evolution to take the next step and offer Personal Branding coaching as part of my services.

After an extensive training and certification process, I am thrilled to offer a step-by-step coaching process and personal branding assessment tools to my clients using the renowned Reach 1-2-3 Success Personal Branding Process.  

“Personal Branding” has become the latest buzzword. So what makes the Reach 1-2-3 Success Personal Branding Process special? It uses 360Reach, the first and leading web-based personal branding survey.

Developed by behavioral psychologists and branding experts, 360Reach it provides a portrait of your professional reputation that is invaluable for ongoing professional and personal development. The three-step process is a structured methodology for building, communicating and nurturing your personal brand.

Reach 1-2-3-SuccessThe process uses self-assessment as well as feedback from others, collected anonymously through 360Reach. The data is summarized into a report that lets you see how you view yourself compared to how others perceive you with respect to your brand attributes (personality characteristics), leadership competencies, strengths, weaknesses and team roles.

As a Certified Personal Brand Strategist, I will guide you through this process, and most importantly, teach you how to apply your 360Reach survey results to your personal branding and communication activities, such as your online bio, web presence and personal appearance.

Imagine having this insightful information right at your figure tips. No more frustration over how to build your authentic brand that will ring true to the right people.

As a special introductory offer, you can get started for only $497 with my Define Your Authentic Brand Package. Save $100! This offer is only good through September 1st, so don’t wait! This is a three-session, one-on-one program so you will get individualized attention.

Click here to learn more about the details of this package and the more advanced Premium package.

This program will give you the critical external feedback on how others perceive you and your professional reputation. No more guessing!

  • Learn about the “you” others see and use that knowledge to develop your unique promise of value.
  • Gain confidence in your abilities that will inspire confidence and trust in others.
  • Create a clear and concise focus with your target market and message.
  • Stand out from the crowd!
  • Build a powerful on-line presence so your ideal clients and career opportunities can find you (instead of you always trying to find them!).
  • In today’s dynamic and ultra-competitive environment, learn not only to survive, but thrive!

The summer is a great time to work on your personal brand and start the feedback process.  Prices will go up after this introductory offer! 

Click here to get started today! 

Once you have register, I’ll be in touch to get you started.

Style Has No Size – Part 2

Don’t let size be an excuse not to look fabulous!

In last month’s post, I shared with you my “Style Has No Size” philosophy and tips on how to look fabulous no matter the number on the tag. My message must have hit home, as I got many nice comments from readers. Thank you!

In closing last month, I promised to share in this month’s newsletter my favorite clothing brands and places to shop for “Inbetweenies” (Missy sizes 14-18) like me and plus-size women (sizes 14W and up).

Based on what is in my own closet, these stores and brands for Missy sizes 14-18 and Plus Sizes are my favorites:


I was surprised how many pieces I have bought in Talbots lately. While this is partly because of how close it is to my house (and Starbucks), I know I can find key wardrobe pieces in size 16 in the store. Did you know they also have a “Find in Store” feature on their website?

Just enter what you are looking for and the local store will contact you if they have it and hold it for you. From a style perspective, I find things I like in Talbots, but sometimes they are just too…how do I say this? … “Talbotsy” for my taste. (Can you say Paisley Print?)

Get on their mailing list for coupons and insider savings. I very rarely buy anything full price in Talbots. Don’t forget to check online for items not available in the stores. Talbots goes up to size 20 in Missy sizes and also has a full selection of plus sizes in stores, including Women’s Petite Sizes. I great option when you need to buy something now!

Lafayette 148

Love! This brand is found in Nordstrom, Saks and Bloomindales, as well as online. My favorite pieces, especially suits, dresses and leather jackets, are Lafayette brand. The price point, however, is not for the faint of heart. However, I’d rather have less clothes or shop more sales for the basic pieces so I can have the signature or WOW! pieces from Lafayette. I recently wore a Lafayette purple leather jacket to a Chamber of Commerce meeting. I was almost embarrassed by the amount of compliments I received. (See picture.)

Lafayette rarely runs sales promotions, except for their end of season sales (though chances are your favorite piece will be long gone before it goes on sale.) Lafayette 148 also has plus-sizes available on their website (www.lafayette148.com).


This may surprise you, but I do find some fun pieces here, especially for the summer. The trick is to be selective and watch out for their oversize tunics (or what they call ponchos) and accessory overload styling. I found a long sweater jacket there last winter that gets mistaken as Missoni.

Sign-up for their Passport Club and save every time you shop. Chico’s has extended sizes up to Chico’s size 4 (equivalent to a Missy size 18-20) on-line.


As you may know, I started my styling business as a Doncaster wardrobe consultant. Even though I am no longer a representative, if you want quality extended sizes, it is a great option. Shop either via trunk show at a local consultant’s home or order online (www.doncaster.com) with a consultant’s ID number. If you are interested in checking out this line of clothing and the personal shopping experience, I still work with several Doncaster consultants.

The availability and selection of plus size clothing has come a long way –as long as you are willing to shop on-line.  In addition to the above, a few of my favorites are:

www.gap.com – Extended sizes up to size 20 (XXL) available on line.



www.madisonplus.com– Consolidates plus-size brands.

www.eloquii.com– I have several tops from this brand. They always have promotions, so get on their mailing list.

And last, but not least, the big department stores (Macys, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom and Bloomingdales). While they all have Women’s departments, their selection and styles range from barely adequate to downright awful. My advice is to go look, try things on, then go to their websites. These stores have free shipping (some with minimum requirements), so order and return to the stores what you don’t want.

One of my favorite store brands, INC International Concepts, is from Macys. I bought several INC items recently from their Missy department and they also have plus sizes.

If you want to keep up with the latest plus size trends and fashion advice, my favorites curvy style bloggers are Marie Denee at www.TheCurvyFashionista.com and Nicolette Mason at www.marieclaire.com/fashion/fashionista-blog/big-girl-skinny-world-nicolette-mason.

If you have any plus size resources you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

A few favorites!


Stylish Jacket from Talbots

An on-line exclusive
from Talbots.com. Perfect for the office.
Comes in three colors and a complete range of sizes.

Eye-catching Leather Jacket

My new purple leather jacket from
Lafayette 148!

Worth every penny!

Minimal Accessories - Maximum Style

A lot of color and a little bling go a long way in this tunic from Chico’s! Keep your accessories simple.

I own several versions of this from Chico’s.

 Bright color and patterns add punch to your look

I have two very  similar blouses from INC.

This blouse is now on sale for less
than $44!

Style Has No Size

Don’t let size be an excuse not to look fabulous!

One of my favorite sayings is “Style has no size.” The “average” American woman today is size 14. So, I’m above average! I won’t lie and say I’m comfortable at this size, but I will not let “size” be an excuse not to look fabulous! Make no mistake, it is not an easy task. It does take more time, energy and commitment to dress my size 16 body than it did when I was a size 10 (for those three days. Lol.)

To make this more complicated, I am a regular or “Missy” size 16, not “Women’s” or plus-size 16. What’s the difference? Where I can shop and how the clothes fit! It would actually be easier for me to gain 10 more pounds so I could shop in the Women’s department and buy size 16W or 1Xs. Curvy style bloggers refer to women in my size category as “inbetweenies” — in between true Missy sizes and not quite Plus.

This post is dedicated to all inbetweenies and plus-size ladies who want to look fabulous at any size. I have compiled my tried and true style tips and secrets just for you.


No matter what your size, fit is key. For women size 14+ this can be more challenging, but not impossible. A tailor will be your best friend. (I sound like a broken record when I say that, but it’s true.) Don’t make the mistake of wearing over-sized or baggy clothes thinking it will hide the curves. In reality, it just adds pounds.

This effect is also compounded by the fact that the cut of plus-size clothing can be shapeless. It drives me crazy that clothing manufacturers think that once you wear a certain size you lose your waist entirely. Okay, so we may have less of a waist, but we need that definition even more. So, if a garment fits you in the shoulders and bust have the waist nipped in by the tailor to create a waist.

On the flip-side, clothes that are too tight not only look bad (and put you in a bad mood all day), but will also make you look heavier. Going up a size will actually make you look slimmer.

Understand your body-type

Not all plus-size women share the same body-type. (Something clothing manufacturers are just now catching on to!) By understanding what areas you’d like to accentuate versus those you’d prefer to minimize, you can achieve your desired look. Do you carry your weight up top (i.e., are you blessed with cups runneth over?) around the middle, or in the hips and derriere? Your goal is to achieve an “hourglass shape” by balancing your top half (waist to shoulders) and your bottom half (waist to hips.) and defining your waist. Through the use of clothing, cut and color, we try to create the illusion of an hourglass shape where one may not exist naturally.

Keep these simple rules in mind when trying to create balance.

To accentuate the positive use:

  • Light/bright colors in your clothing or accessories.
  • Large/bold patterns
  • Textured fabrics
  • Shiny fabrics
  • Embellishment, ruffles and other details
  • Show some skin. For example, a strong vertical V neckline is great for elongating the neck area and drawing attention to the face.

To minimize or de-emphasize use:

  • Dark-color clothing. Black is not the only color to work. Any dark color or a monochromatic head-to-toe look will make you appear slimmer.
  • Small/muted/no pattern.
  • Smooth fabric.
  • Matte finish.

To look slimmer and taller overall, create a strong vertical line by the cut or pattern of the clothing or strategically use color-blocking. Of course, one of the easiest ways to look taller and slimmer is good posture. Stand up straight!

 Accessories are a girl’s best friend

I find that when the number on the scale goes up, so does the number of shoes, jewelry, scarves and handbags in my closet! Accessories always fit. Let’s face it, we may have fewer clothing options, so accessories are great way to add personality and variety to our wardrobe. Unlike our petite sisters, we can wear our accessories big and bold. When it comes to necklaces, make sure the length is long enough so it is comfortable. I find the standard 16″ necklace too short for me. So, I either add a necklace extender (available at QVC.com) or look for necklaces at least 18″ long. Long necklaces also help create a long vertical line. However, if you are busty, long necklaces will accentuate that fact.

Create a uniform

As a kid, I hated my school uniform. The only two detentions I received at school were for dress code violations where I tried to personalize my look…a little too far. I am not suggesting you wear the same thing every day, but that you identify the style that works best for you and build your wardrobe around these silhouettes. For example, your casual look could be a pair of dark wash jeans, a v-neck tee shirt, a structured, one-button blazer, scarf and booties. Wash and repeat. Create your go-to uniforms for the various roles or occasions in your life.

Plan your wardrobe purchases to get the most “mix-and match” options and avoid buying one-off pieces unless they coordinate with other items in your closet. If you find jeans or pants that look great on you and fit, buy more than one pair or a pair in a different color. Be aware of the different lines or cuts of clothing certain retailers offer and how they fit on you so you can make buy decisions easier the next time. This is particularly important if you are ordering on-line (a must for inbetweenies looking for size 16s or 18s and plus-size options).

It’s no secret that designers and retailers do not have consistent sizing, so don’t obsess about the size on the tag. Especially for inbetweenies, don’t limit yourself to just the Missy department. Cross-shop in the Women’s department as well. (And vice-versa.)

Wow! This post got a lot longer than I expected. So, I’ll continue next month with my favorite places on WHERE to shop for great size 14+ options and the key items that you need in your closet. Of course, you don’t have to do this alone! Please contact me if I can guide you through this process.