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How To Make A Powerful First Impression

April 24, 2019 | Filed in: Your Closet

At M.M.LaFleur, we believe that when women succeed at work, the world is a better place. We design beautiful, office-appropriate clothing that keeps the spotlight on you, and we host intimate events for the remarkable women in our community. This article was written by one of our team members.

There have been times in my life when I have absolutely blown the chance to make a powerful first impression. Once, I was interviewing for a job in San Francisco and I decided to wear a new chambray dress for the first time. I was feeling confident about the interview, and the office was only a few blocks from my apartment, so I figured I could walk. Unfortunately, I hadn’t factored in the hills or that it was particularly warm that day, and I arrived at the interview drenched in sweat, looking ten-times more anxious and unprepared than I actually was. The minute the interviewer saw me, I knew I would not be getting the job. As much as I wish my resume and what I had to say spoke for itself, in that moment, my appearance stole the show (and not in a good way).

Research has found that a first impression happens in less than a second. And this is why making a powerful first impression matters so much: you only get one shot, and that shot only lasts an instant. “First impressions are made within nano-seconds,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Emerita of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and author of Psychology Today’s blog, Fulfillment At Any Age. “And depending on what’s visible, first impressions involve the face, hair, posture, stance, facial expression, grooming, and clothing, including appropriateness for occasion, style, and cleanliness.”

Here’s How To Make Sure You’re Making A Powerful First Impression

Take Yourself For A Test Drive

Even the most organized, put-together person can be thrown off course by a new piece of clothing. Blouses can unexpectedly gap, and heels can cause inconvenient blisters. That’s why it’s important to test drive an outfit before wearing it out. A test drive includes putting on your whole outfit, including shoes, and taking it for a spin around the block. You should do this with enough time to make swaps if need be. Having a go-to dress in your closet, like the Etsuko dress, makes preparing for make-or-break events even easier because there’s one element you know you can count on.

Get A Second Opinion

Nobody knows your style better than you, but sometimes it’s helpful to have someone else weigh in. “A person you can trust who is familiar with the context is in a position to give you the best feedback,” says Whitcombe. “Be sure the photo is a full top-to-toes image, and perhaps include a video as well showing you standing and sitting.” So FaceTime a friend, or better yet, meet them for coffee in your look. Multitasking for the win!

Play The Part

A major part of making a powerful first impression is dressing correctly for the occasion. “Unless you work in the fashion or fitness world, clothing should err on the side of conservative, particularly for a first meeting or presentation,” says Whitcombe. If you’re giving a presentation, you want to be a woman who commands people’s ears more than their eyes. This means wearing something with clean lines, zero wrinkles, and no potential malfunctions. But you also want people to pay attention to you. A dress in a bold color, like the Emily dress in crimson, or the Aditi dress, can be unforgettable.

For a social event, you want to put new friends or colleagues at ease, but also have a memorable style. Playing with proportions is a great way to do this, like mixing the comfort of the wide-legged, cropped Zhou culotte with the Peggy top. You can throw on a jacket like the cropped Woolf cardigan, depending on the weather, but either way, a sleek heel or ankle boot is a must. This is a reliable combo you can wear to a business lunch, or when you’re getting drinks with your new book club.

Pay Attention To The Details

When it comes to first impressions, the little things matter. A piece of statement jewelry, like the Kalpana necklace, could jumpstart a friendly conversation at a dinner party that lands you the big account. But it’s not just what you put on, it’s also the style of your hair, the color of your nail polish, and even your signature scent (which should always be subtle). People will notice these things, good or bad, and remember them. “The old rules of the game still apply when it comes to making a professional impression,” says Whitcombe. “I tell my students this all the time.”

Be Prepared For Anything

The Roman philosopher Seneca said that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” i.e. when you’re on top of things, anything is possible. Similarly, one of M.M.LaFleur’s core values is Kizukai, which boils down to anticipating someone else’s needs before they ask. But there’s also a lot to be gained by practicing Kizukai for yourself.  Before you leave the house, make sure you have business cards, breath mints, and enough time to get from point A to point B. Pack a shawl for chilly offices or trains (a crowd favorite is the Angelou shawl), and wear shoes comfortable enough to walk several blocks. Protip: put a checklist near your door.

When in doubt, keep in mind that the best outfit for making a powerful first impression is one you don’t have to think about while wearing it. Whether you’re dashing up hills to a job interview or on a first date, your clothes should always let you do the talking.  

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Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and Read more of Caitlin's posts.

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