‘Dress for success’ seminar teaches importance of style
LAHORE: Not everyone dresses with an eye to how it will affect their next business meeting or leave an impression on a new client, but “dress good, feel good, be successful” was the central message in a social mobility and power-dressing seminar held at the Pearl Continental Hotel and organised by shipping company TCS and textile company Lawrencepur in Lahore on Friday night. The seminar, called “Moving up & getting about”, focused on two aspects of dress and style believed important for today’s businesspeople: “Power Dressing” and “Charm Management”. Black Fish, a Karachi-based improvisational comedy troupe, provided slightly incongruous but well-received entertainment after the two main speakers.
Power dressing is much more than just an expensive shirt or a silk daupatta, according to the first speaker Rose-marie Fernandez, a Sri Lanka-based human resources practitioner. First impressions are made very quickly, and being assertive with your image can give real advantages in the modern business world; clients and colleagues are more receptive, and feeling good means being more productive “We have to look at our physical, emotional and spiritual lives. When they are in balance then we feel good, and we look good,” she said. “In the same way, when we make ourselves look good, then we begin to feel good.” And feeling good, Ms Fernandez believes, is one way to make that killer impression with friends and contacts alike. Dressing for success, she said, doesn’t mean spending a fortune on designer labels, it just means dressing in a way that asserts your own identity, and feels comfortable and appropriate. Ms Fernandez highlighted the importance, not just of clothing, but also shoes, accessories and posture for both men and women.
All this might sound a little vague, but Ms Fernandez and the second speaker, Zubia Leghari, a corporate ‘etiquette & protocol’ trainer and linguist, both provided tips to explain the application of their ideas as well as their importance. Ms Fernandez, for example, suggested that in Pakistan and other parts of the world, people tend to “ape the West” by wearing the same dark coloured suits that “Caucasian people get away with”, but that darker-skinned people look better in lighter colours. She went on to give some more helpful tips: first impressions are made from the feet upwards (following the natural movement of the eye) and therefore special care should be taken over footwear and feet if they are exposed. Indeed, Ms Fernandez claimed an anonymous survey had discovered that men judge women by their toenails. Shoes should match the belt on a man, and match the closest colour on a woman (shalwar or trousers). Accessories are important; belts should match ties, ties should match shirts, and cufflinks should be chosen with care. Clothing fibres should be natural, especially in the subcontinental climate where perspiration is unavoidable, and non-suit jackets should generally be a shade darker than accompanying trousers. Above all, Ms Fernandez said, power dressing is about feeling comfortable about appearance. “Clothes and grooming are the orchestration, but you have to be able to see the conductor,” she said.
Ms Leghari, the second speaker, left clothing behind and addressed the importance of mannerism and etiquette in a global environment that mixes cultures and peoples. “The end result of etiquette and protocol training can be the ability to feel comfortable in any situation,” she said, and even more importantly not being aware of the rules can cause problems: “Bad manners speak of incompetence”. The 1990s saw a steep decline in etiquette training. Yet it takes only 3seconds for a strong opinion to be made of a stranger, and 55 percent of the impression of someone comes from dress and manner, rather than content. She stressed the importance of etiquette training for professional advancement.
Ms Leghari, like Ms Fernandez, gave some examples of the things she teaches: People with more authority or importance should be the first name introduced. Handshakes should be firm but not crushing; forks dropped on the floor at restaurants should be left alone; desert cutlery lives above the plate; and mobile phones should be turned off when entering any event (a lesson not learned by the audience).
After both speakers, plagued by mobile phone rings, were thanked Black Fish took to the stage for an energetic series of quick-fire improvisational comedy sketches which drew on audience suggestions for their unpredictable style. Organised comedy is rare in Lahore, and the audience enjoyed the entertaining young group’s efforts, though the sketch about burgeoning love between a woman and a monkey had to be cut short.