betterI was sent this postcard by a client as a “thank you” for the style & colour work that we had done together. I love it because it encompasses the style-lost in just 8 words & one picture.

As does this, Mignon McLaughlin in her book, The Neurotic’s Notebook, wrote “Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two thirds of what is in their closets.”

I was in Guildford on Saturday doing a Personal Shopping Consultation when a woman came out of the changing rooms to show her daughter her “outfit” – dress, jacket & shoes.

What did she think? Would it do for the interview – most importantly would she also be able to wear each of the items again at some stage in the future?

Her daughter preferred the black suede kitten heels to the black suede wedges. So did I. But the wearer was not sure that she would wear a pair of heels again. Too uncomfortable.

We got to chatting and the information I gleaned was not good:

  • The interview was on Monday so something had to be bought NOW and there was going to be no opportunity to take in the dress & take up the sleeves of the jacket to fit. No time either to buy anything other than the best of the lot: “That will have to do”
  • She had no idea about what she wanted her clothes to say about herself. How will her interviewers be able to bond with her? And because she had no idea she defaulted to paying a lot of money in the vain hope that the cost of the outfit will override its ineffectiveness.
  • Work clothes are best staying at work. Trying to buy clothes and shoes that will do for other events is unlikely to be successful. Particularly when the work that you do requires formal dressing.

An effective confident personal image is relevant in both in our work and play lives. Most importantly, developing a look that speaks positively of who we are gives us the opportunity to know ourselves, like ourselves and to our own ourselves in a positive not negative way. It is about speaking clearly without saying a word. The lady in the shop was floundering because she had no idea about what she wanted to say about herself at the interview.

I think that she had done what most of us do when we don’t want to do or think of something – she put off the interview outfit choosing until the very last minute. Not a good strategy. Having a perfectly clear style strategy gives us a real opportunity to be ourselves, and to present ourselves, in the way that we wish. AND to get it right!

It very much seemed to me that she was confusing fashion with style – and fashion was not important to her. However, she then fell into the fashion trap – fashion is about being identified by the labels that are worn and makes us part of the crowd we seek to belong to. Style is about the perfectly clear shining through of the individual and is about using dress and demeanour as a celebration and an expression of who we are. She didn’t need to be in that shop feeling awkward and inadequate; she was a bright, warm, attractive human being. What she needed was style know-how.

We can’t find or display a confident image (which is what she wanted for that interview) when we have little, or no, direction – we need a clear and precise strategy.

Developing such a strategy gives us the chance to look at where we are and where we want to be; to signal who we are effectively and powerfully and manoeuvre change in a way that suits ourselves. Here’s how:

First Impressions Count – Know the Impact

Meet someone new and it takes just three seconds for you to have made that indelible first impression. With just a glance, you evaluate them. Two things happen so quickly they could almost be as one: firstly, you notice the quality and level of energy they give out; whether they are open or closed, charming or alarming, secondly, you respond to how they look from their grooming to what they are wearing… and they do the same to you!

In those same three seconds, they have appraised your visual and behavioural appearance from head to toe. They have instantly analysed your dress, mannerisms and body language. You may intrigue some and disenchant others but feel something about you they certainly will. If they like what they see they will unconsciously tend to see the best in you and look for opportunities to say “yes”. If they don’t like what they see, the opposite is true.

Then, inside a further 87 seconds, without you having said a word, you have been appraised and decisions have been made as to how good you are at your job, what your social standing is, how educated you are and how much you can be trusted. It will take six months for those first impressions to be changed.

On first meeting, only 7% of what you say counts, the rest is down to your dress, demeanour and voice. This is the basis on which you attract that gorgeous woman/man across the room, make friends, win or lose at interviews, in meetings and making sales pitches. And, if you don’t believe me, conjure up someone you know of in your head. Boris Johnson, perhaps! What do you see in your mind’s eye? A naked, motionless Boris or a clothed, animated Boris? It will happen with everyone you can think of alive or dead.

Your height, weight, hair, symmetry of face and body are a big part of this first impression. Some of these things are beyond our control but with style knowledge you can create the illusion of a near perfect body that will attract and not deter those you meet. And, will mean that you can positively enjoy who you are and what you have.

Tease or Please – Your Choice

Those that tease are generally of the opinion that others must take them as they find; they may look dishevelled, disorganised and drab but beneath they are a power house of vibrancy, intelligence and diligence. They leave it to those whom they meet to be amazed and delighted when they discover the real person who lies below that drear and unpromising surface!

Research shows that how you look affects not only how you feel about yourself but how others feel about you too. And, apparently, those who are successful not only increase their earning power but also the confidence that they have in themselves whether at home work or play.

Those that please take an easier route; designers and creators make it their business (because it is their business!) to look as though they have flair, originality and inspired thought, whereas teachers and solicitors meet the needs of their clients by looking dependable, honest and with integrity. If they don’t, those that they meet may find it difficult to believe that they are good at what they do and worth listening to or employing.

An example. I am working with a client whose job is to guide and support senior managers into creating and effecting change within their businesses. Her role is one that is both inspirational and challenging. In terms of experience and intellect she is extremely able BUT she sees a yawning gap. Whilst her deeds and demeanour are spot-on her dress falls short. During her first consultation she described her choice of work dress as “conforming … corporate … dull.” Where does she want to be? “Confident … self-assured … chic … original … “. Easy enough to do now that she has recognised where she is and where she would like to be.

An Image Strategy – The Spiral of Success

Looking good at what you do inspires those you whom we meet to have confidence in our skills. The more inspired they are; the more confident you become. The more confident you become; the more you inspire others into recognising you as a positive presence in their lives. You have clinched the art of being in demand. Being in demand will mean that you are more likely to be in a position to pick the job you want, the friend you want, the lifestyle you want.

The finding of our own personal image is liberating. And, icing on the cake, get it right and you could be making 8-20% more than your competitors who don’t.

All you need is a simple strategy based on self-acceptance not self-criticism.

The mantra that I use with my clients is this:


Understand it, implement it and you’ll find developing your own effective personal style easy and effortless. Some of those who do it now … Michelle Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mary Beard, Gyles Brandryth, Brian Cox, Bob Geldorf.

These are not necessarily conventionally beautiful people but they are people with direction and focus who speak about who they are and what they are and what is important to them not only in their deeds but in their dress, demeanour too. We do not need to speak to them to know this.

This is successful style in action: confident, spirited, characterful and truly personal.

I hope the woman in the shop got the job! The odds weren’t looking good.

Jenny Bersin owns Jenny B Style and Image Consultancy, and is author of Style, the Road to Freedom. Perfecting Personal Effectiveness, Dressing for Success, Addressing Dressing and The Art of Fiscal Attraction are just a few of the subjects covered in Jenny’s talks, workshops, small group and one to one consultations. To find out more contact Jenny on 01661 844190, e-mail; or visit

STYLE POLITICS – leading with style

merkelMy daughter-in-law texted me just after Theresa May had disappeared with husband, Phillip, into number 10 …

“What is T.M. wearing???!”

The simple answer… “Clothes”.

Of course, the simple answer is no answer and the question asked is not a cat scratch from one woman to another but a genuine appeal to understand why a woman who has just become the leading politician in Britain seems not to understand what that means.

And no, this is not about bad taste or good taste.

And yes, I know that the woman above is not Theresa May BUT it could be. Read on dear reader!

It is about no taste at all.

Is this important?

Should our politicians (male & female) sort their clothes out before they change the world? (Lisa Armstrong. The Daily Telegraph. 9.07.16)

The simple answer … “Yes”.

That is not to say that what is required from our female politicians is to look like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character in The Honourable Woman (glorious though she was) but it is to say that they should be conveying the same message. They should be studies in of female empowerment.

Clothes that fit their body, their personality, their aims . The shapes and silhouettes should move seamlessly and in sync with them and, at the very best, be an extension of themselves.

If nothing else they should present a positive image to the world and certainly an image that projects who they are and what is important to them.

If this acts as a shell to protect them from the trials and tribulations of leadership – even better.

Some have already achieved this (I am quite serious here) –Jeremy Corbyn .. Michelle Obama .. Geoffrey Archer .. Christine Lagarde.

If anyone thought that Theresa May’s outfit when visiting the Queen and pro-offering her talk to the nation was “fashion with authority” I beg to differ.

The collar of the jacket fought with the necklace. The necklace was too heavy for the cloth of the jacket and dress and the wrong colour for her own colouring and was at variance with the dress neckline. What a yellow piece of chiffon sown onto the three quarter length jacket was supposed to do I am not sure. It certainly didn’t create anything other than an annoying diversion to the line of both dress and jacket.

Even the shoes – and Theresa May does make some very good shoe choices – were drab.

On the bright side they did fit her feet quite perfectly and show off a well-shaped ankle and calf. And, the hem of her skirt fell just at the right pace to show off a damn fine pair of legs.

So, to answer my daughter-in-law … Theresa May was wearing an outfit that made her look dull and old-fashioned not a professional, approachable and new-thinking leader.

At times of such political excitement and turmoil it is ENORMOUSLY important that our leaders wear clothes with which the led can connect, identify and be assured by.

Nicola Sturgeon has a really good go – she often works with colour really well but her clothes are often too tight making her movements less fluid and expressive than they should be.

Angela Merkel wear suits that work with both her body and personality – strong in line & tight in weave of cloth. The look is marred by the choice of a baby blue or blurry beige and the addition of a fiddly out of scale necklace in an effort, I imagine, to feminise the look.

There is no need for them to make themselves look womanly by wearing a masculine cut navy suit and white blouse with soft frill – unless it suits them of course.

These women do not have to enter into the world of power dressing – women who want to be on a par with men. They are above these men already.

What they need to do is dress like the leader they want us to believe that they are.

Which is why Jeremy Corbyn, Michelle Obama, Geoffrey Archer & Christine Lagarde have got it so right:

Jeremy Corbyn – a man of the people. Anti-establishment. Serious and of few words.
Michelle Obama – energetic & contemporary. Intelligent and forward thinking.
Geoffrey Archer – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His dress & demeanour conned us all, which is just what it was meant to do.
Christine Lagarde – sharp, chic, expensive. A banker to her beautifully manicured toes.

Amal Alamuddin (Mrs Clooney) knows how to do it. Joe Cox knew how to do it. Mrs May can learn how to do it.

What we need from Theresa May is the appearance of one who is thoughtful & aware & subtly powerful. Who is incisive, persuasive, approachable. In touch!

A sizable majority of the British people have just let politicians know that they neither like nor trust them. Dressing in the blobby, dull, shapeless garb of a middle aged, well-off and conservative woman is not going to work.

Her clothes need to instil confidence not create barriers between those within the political circles and those who aren’t.

Her clothes should speak of just that. Their shape should help her to stand and move and sit flawlessly.

The scale of patterns & accessories she wears should make the very best of her own physicality.

She should use colour to energise & engage so that even on “bad days” she looks the best that she possibly can.

To be taken seriously she needs to dress seriously. Those animal print court shoes are a great start!


queen-2The Queen at 90 has a thing or two to teach even the most nubile and youngest of the crowd. Talking of which, I suspect that the former Kate Middleton has been taking a lesson or two both pre and post her becoming a Duchess.

So often those who do not know how colour works and thus how they can make colour work best for them make the mistake of reaching for beige or taupe to make sure that they blend into the background or black which, the older we get becomes less chic and more the uniform of the Alpha Mater. The past it, sexless, post menopausal woman. (Heaven help the early menopausers!)

Not so for the Queen. She has been perfecting the art of colour over many decades now – and quite simply the more practice she gets the better she looks. She knows that the better the colour – the healthier and more dynamic she will look. She will draw people to her. So very different from Queen Victoria who used dour colours to push her subjects away.

Take the lime green coat and hat resplendant with a white and yellow flower at its brim that she wore to cut the birthday cake baked for her by Nadiya Hussain. The cake itself had three layers: the bottom – soft purple, the middle –broad stripes of lilac, mauve and gold and the top layer – pure gold. Nadiya is a fine looking young woman but her outfit of black and khaki though chic did not enhance her cake nor enhance her own colouring. The Queen? Well, POW! Lime green and purple!!

For Trooping the Colour, she did it again. A neon green outfit this time that just sang out against the red and gold uniforms. The hat accessory of purple-pink and lime green feathers was a triumph too. As were the silver buttons and brooch and the white pearls at throat and ears and the rose-pink lipstick.

By contrast, the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice looked autumnal rather than spring like and the Countess of Wessex looked positively bridal.

She did it again on Ascot Ladies Day ….. tipped to wear purple she turned up in orange and blue. As a cool undertone most oranges would be a disaster, particularly worn so close to the face BUT – experience and knowledge is power.

The orange was soft both in shade and because the fabric of the hat made it less intense too. Put together with a bright blue and she had another winner.

As Coco Chanel said, “The best colour in the whole world, is the one that looks good, on you!”

The Queen has taken heed. She knows that “I have to be seen to be believed.” And she works it magnificently.

In 2012 Vogue tracked the bold spectrum of colour that she wore over the year. The results? 29% blue, 13% pink and 11% green. None of it deep and dark, none of it pale all of it working for her as a COOL undertone, SOFT/MUTED clarity and MEDIUM to light in depth.

The Queen THINKS about what colours she is wearing …. if she is to be photographed against a lawn or woodland she won’t wear green but it is the colour she wore when she visited Ireland. All the time she is aware of the effect that colour has on both her self and those she meets. Visiting Ireland in green made sure that she started on the right foot despite the shaky ground she was treading upon.

She displays a highly logical and very formulaic attitude towards her public clothing (deeply coloured tweeds etc are kept for her private life in the country).

More than that it is a sophisticated understanding of the power of colour.

queen-1There aren’t many people who will take time out to develop such an understanding – but they should.

You don’t need to be the main attraction at a Royal Performance or appear on the Palace Balcony to benefit from knowing how to use colour well. You just need to be interested enough in your own effectiveness and the response of those around you.

The Queen isn’t interested in fashion. If she were she would ditch the black handbag and shoes and the white gloves. If she wanted to be chic she would ditch wearing quite so many accessories a la Audrey Hepburn.

The Queen appears though to be interested in the pleasure of being effective, shaping her look to be so – and to speak without saying a word – about her vibrancy and positivity and strength. It’s catching! Enormously liberating!! And you don’t have to be a Queen to achieve it……..