Sandy Dumont, executive director at Impression Strategies Institute in Norfolk, Va., offers three half-day workshops for corporations throughout the United States and Europe to help workers help themselves by learning how to dress appropriately and professionally for work.
During the first session, he introduces research studies that equate dress with business success and shows a slide presentation. One slide, for instance, features a young man dressed three different ways: wearing dark pants, a light blue shirt and tie; dressed in the same clothes but no tie; and wearing the same shirt but with khakis.
Then he asks employees if they were going to spend thousands of dollars on a home theater at a retail store, which of these salesmen would they approach? Everyone points to the man with the tie. Then he reverses the scenario. If they owned the retail store and these three customers came into their shop, which one would they approach first? Which one could be kept waiting? In the latter case, they always agree that it's the man wearing khakis.
For the second session, employees are asked to return wearing their favorite work outfits. With Dumont's guidance, members of the group mix and match one another's clothing and help decide what looks more authoritative and more professional. In the last session, the team effort continues. Men, for example, bring their favorite selection of ties. The remainder of the session is devoted to giving women a crash course in makeup and hairstyles. Since each person both gives and receives feedback, Dumont says no one is embarrassed.