Who are you and how do you want to be perceived?
This is something I work through with my Style clients to discover who they are and how we can translate their personality into an authentic expression through their clothing and grooming.
If you’ve thought about this topic before and have wondered how you are perceived, here is a fun game to play with a bunch of friends.
- Get some large pieces of paper – A3 or larger (Flip chart paper is great) and some tape.
- Tear off enough pieces of paper for each person to have one. Stick the paper to each others backs like a cape on their shoulders.
- Grab a felt tip pen each.
There are two things you can do here, you may want to do both, using 2 pieces of paper each.
Firstly, you can answer the question for each:
“Based on what you’re wearing right now, and if I didn’t know you, what would I think about who you are as a person and your personality”.
Secondly, you can answer this question for each person:
“Based on my knowledge of you and who you are, what are 1-3 words I’d use to describe your personality (please find the positive for each person)”.
Each write the answer to the question you are working with on each other’s paper cape. Once everyone has written their answers, you can take off your cape and discover:
1. How you’re perceived based on your appearance
2. How you’re perceived based on the personality traits you display to your friends.
Some words may surprise you, others will be what you expected (most likely).
You can then consider how you want to be perceived by both those who do know you as well as those who don’t. Choose a few of these words that really resonate with you and grab some magazines (or get online and create a new Pinterest board or Polyvore set) and start curating pictures that express those words, to you.
If you’ve had some surprise words that you’re not keen on, you may want to consider what the messages are that you’re currently expressing through your clothing and grooming that may not be accurate and how you can dress differently to express who you really are.
Doing this exercise from taking the words and then expressing them in a visual way, will help you to start thinking about how you dress for your personality and the image you want to portray to the world.
Take your words home, maybe make a Wordle (like I have above) and print them out and stick them on a wall. Consider them over time. You may find that 2-3 of them really start to resonate with you and you can whittle down your list to a smaller number which represent your authentic self and style statement.
How to Use Colour To Communicate Your Authority or Approachability
These are some great questions to ask yourself… i have been questioning my style lately.
I find its too laid back and that i wear too much jeans,.
This is one thing in fashion/style that I’ll never understand because it feels like when people judge you based on your looks and clothes, they are judging you because they way you look not who-you-are and in my experience, people can be very *rude* and stereotyping you for it (with you, I refering people, not YOU :P).
If *I* were to dress after my personality I would dress like a slob in bright colors, because Im lazy, a bit nerdy and hyper (but in a friendly way) type of person and that clash with my personal style. I prefer to dress more mature (as in classic) and feminine (tailored clothes in feminine colors/fabrics), sometimes with an edge, but Im far from a “romantic person”, I loathe anything too “lovely dovey”. If somebody treating me badly because of this, I think these type of people are too visual. Beside, not all of us want and will dress after our personality.
Perhaps its a cultural thing, but seriously, why would you hang out or date someone who judge based on the color you wear or how long or short your skirt is or whether you wear sweats or dresspants?? I dont know how it is in Australia but it feel like in US and UK, people are pushing this a bit too much and think a woman who wear a short skirt only wear to bed guys on the streets. Some parents even ban their teenagers for wearing red clothing because they think its “slutty”. 😐
I was mistaken for a streetwalker by foreigners once, when I was younger because I wore heavier makeup and a white long coat with jeans (i just like to be creative…), so “dressing after the way you are percieved” never make sense to me. Just because Red is an sexy color doesnt mean you are looking for mate when wearing it. In Scandinavia, if you dress a bit “different”, people just joke about it, not treating you any different for it.
So in my book, people can never defined by a piece of garment/color. People who doesnt respect you because they mistook you for someone else, that kind of person are not worthy to be with, but thats just my opinion!
and sorry if this come off a bit rude or offensive, it was just an opinion, nothing criticial or targeting anybody!
What a fascinating idea. I asked a good (but honest!) friend to give me six words that she felt described me, while I was working through the book “Style Statement”. One of the words was creative, and I definitely like to add something unusual, bright or otherwise unique to my outfits especially when wearing neutrals.
Lina, you make some very good points, though I don’t totally agree with you. My thinking is that, especially when people don’t know you, it is good to wear clothes that match your personality so you are sending consistent messages. I’m fairly laid-back and easy-going – and I think my casual clothes reflect that. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a slob too!!!! I’m petite, so I do like to wear skirts and dresses that are on or above my knees. I also like wearing touches of red – though I hope in a non-slutty way! I guess it helps that I’m over 60 so people are less likely to misinterpret who I am from what I’m wearing.
My issue with “sending consitent message” is that it tends to clash with other factors with your own style. For example, isn’t more important to wear clothes that YOU are happy wearing and being comfortable, rather than your friends prefer you to wear? I’m not comfortable in casual wear because I prefer to dress up, but people often prefer me to wear jeans over my sheath dresses and pencil skirts. If I was to dress after how other people see me as, I wouldn’t feel happy.
So that’s when I started to think that: If you were to dress after the expectation of others, dressing casual because you are laid back to prevent getting mis-percieved (is thats even a word? lol Im not native english speaker. :P), wouldn’t you start to appear a bit,well “fake” around these people when they DO know you?
An extreme example: Imaging a goth dressing to a casual date. She is easygoing so she choosed to wear more low key outfits just because she wanted to percieved right. After a couple of dates, she goes back to her regulare style and wear dramatic clothing. Would she be THEN percieved that she is only dressed like that to please her date? OR should she throw out her other clothes so other people dont missunderstand her personality?
I might be overthinking, but thats how I personally feel when dressing after other expectations. There is always going to a negative side of it. =P I just can’t imaging me throwing away all of my feminine dresses and skirts just because Im not a “romantic” persons, because Im not.
Being percieved right with a stranger from the way you dress or being happy/comfortable with your clothes, whats really more important?
Hi Lina, This is not about wearing what others want you to wear, but just understanding how you’re perceived. You can choose then to make adjustments if you like or not, but it’s about awareness.
Why can’t you be authentic and dress to your personality and still be consistent? Consistency isn’t about a certain personality style or way of dressing, it’s dressing to your personality all the time.
I guess my english is a bit off right now or a typo. What i meant “what other want you to wear” wasn’t literally.
People don’t take you seriously when you wear certain clothes. With feminine clothes, I always struggling with getting friends – guys think you wear those clothes for them and girls think you are just seeking attention or think you are a “stealer”, when I wear casual clothes, older people dont take me seriously. Younger people find its “cheap” when you dress up more than needed. :S So making adjustment and being authentic are a bit hard sometimes. Perhaps, I mixing this up with “prejudments” and stereotypes. (btw. when I talked about this topic on a forum, they thought it was about social standards).
Imogen: When you wrote the posts about corporate wear, that people dont take you seriously if you dress too feminine. Is this related to being “consistent” or am I thinking about something else?
Lina – corporate wear is about being powerful – feminine is softer, so seen as less serious. Curve lines are softer lines than straight lines which is why they are less serious than straight lines.
Consistency is about giving a similar impression – so being consistently well groomed – otherwise it can appear that your life is out of control, is important in the workplace. Consistency isn’t about feminine, or classic or the like.
I understand not wanting to be judged by how we look, but sometimes we (I) forget, get to busy, just don’t bother to care how we look. And whether we like it or not, people do make a decision about who we are in seconds of seeing us.
As a retired person (retired at 51) its easy to dress sloppy and not think about it. I’ve had times friends have been too kind to say anything about how I dress (not helpful), but I still have to remind myself to at least try to look appropriate. I spend a lot of time online and in my garden. But unless I’m going to the garden store, wearing ratty dirty jeans and looking like I have played in the mud is just not a good idea. I know there are times I’ve had to remind myself not to look so much like a slob.
I’m currently trying to revamp at least part of my closet so I do have appropriate clothing for when I need them. Much as I love to live in jeans, tee shirts and polar fleece, its not really appropriate for everything. Dressed the way I do, I’d probably ignore me if I didn’t know me . Reading the two questions you ask, I can’t really say much about me that is positive – part of the reason I read this post, to make a better looking me.
My style statement is “Sleek, Fluid, Inspired”.. This has taken a LONG time to sort out. I’m a person who like any other person prefers to wear some things over others, know that I look good in some things that I end up disliking and finally have things in my closet that just shouldn’t be there. So one point of interest in this process has been to weed out what I LOVE to wear. The other point of interest has been to find the things that I LOVE about the experience of being me.. This has been the tricky part. Combining these two into a working whole.. mostly happened through trial and error. For me very little in this process referred primarily to other people. The end result will, most likely, make communication go smoother – but when I get dressed I want to inspire myself. To feel the sun shine even when everyone’ve caught a cold, the rain’s been pouring down for two weeks straight and the daylight lasts for only four hours a day. To feel that I know who I am, have a sense of myself, in a crowd of complete strangers (who don’t give a sh** about me). To remind me of my strengths on a crappy day as well as allowing me to be comfortable about feeling awesome and (temporarily) superior when I’ve accomplished something I’m proud of. Since I don’t spend most days looking myself in the mirror, most of the effect – for me – is about colour and colour combinations (“inspired”). The rest of it comes from 1. Comfort (“fluid”) combined with and partly consisting of 2. Good fit with fabrics, textures, shapes and designs repeating my inherent ones (“sleek”). Well, so far so good.. Wishing all a beautiful week.
Loved reading your post and hearing about all the fun, enjoyment and satisfaction you have with it.