Image consultants advise their clients on personal appearance, fashion
style and beauty regimes. They make sure you have the upper hand, whether
that means creating an arty image to go along with your new record album,
or a preppy business image to open doors at Microsoft.
Within five seconds of meeting someone, you make a critical first impression.
Fifty-five percent of that impression is made up of appearance, 38 percent
is based on how you sound, and a mere seven percent is made up of what you
say. So if you want to capture people's attention, you better look good.
Image consultants say their clients have often allowed their appearance
to lag behind their position. To an outsider, upgrading your image seems simple.
But more often than not it takes an expert to provide the finishing touches
to your new image.
Image consultants deal with wardrobes, wardrobe color, hair, make-up, jewelry
selection and sometimes even personal poise and grace. Some focus on only
one or two of these areas, while others branch into self-esteem -- a popular
feature with teenage clients.
Most clients are women between the ages of 35 and 55, but younger and older
women also use the service. Men also go to image consultants to learn how
to exude success through appearance.
Karen Brunger was a vice-president of education for the AICI. In 1985,
she worked for a large color consulting company. Since then, Brunger has started
up her own business and heads a chapter of AICI.
While flagship stores and shopping malls hire some consultants, most end
up owning their own boutiques or creating their own line of cosmetics.
One of the biggest issues many companies are dealing with is the "casual"
work image. Many employees have taken it to new extremes, so that business
dress is no longer professional.
"The main problem is that people don't know what casual dress means," says
Brunger. "Some people think it just means you can't wear sweats and blue jeans."
In addition, some states have human rights legislation that prevents employers
from dictating how their employees dress. Instead, companies hire image consultants
to hold seminars to teach employees how to put their best face forward.
New York consultant Judith Graham says it's been a long climb to credibility
for the industry. "It's like public relations. Years ago people thought it
was light -- fluffy. Now PR is commonplace, and I think image consulting will
go the same way."
The biggest challenge for Graham is dealing with clients who don't want
to change. A typical scenario has a client saying they want a change, and
then ignoring advice. "Sometimes clients are just mentally not prepared to
Help clients put their best face forward