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Calibrating Your Visual Message

This video commentary about the wardrobes of female presidential candidates has lots of thought-provoking advice for the rest of us too.  Whether you’re running for office, making a business presentation,  leading a Sunday School discussion or PTA meeting, soliciting  good service from a store clerk or just hanging out with friends, I’m betting you want to be regarded with respect and have your input taken seriously in discussions. Designer Nina McLemore shared some tips with NBC News … and I have a few “Yes, but …” additions to the discussion

Solid colors, bright colors  (relative to your personal coloring, of course), over-layer tops, impeccable fit … all add up to greater credibility.   Notice that many of her jackets feature a fold-back sleeve that subtly echoes a man’s rolled-up sleeves (message: getting down to work).  Pushed up sleeves send a similar message.  The jackets also feature softer styling  and face-framing details – not mannish at all – that she calls “familiar and approachable”.

Watch the brief NBC segment HERE

I don’t agree with every comment – her endorsement of bright blue and bright red without reference to the specific red shade or blue tone that flatter the indiviual, for one thing.  And not every situation demands a tailored jacket.  But paying attention to the message our appearance communicates in those first few critical moments is the most reliable way to set ourselve up for a positive interaction in just about any situation.

Even as our day-to-day dress has become more casual, I personally appreciate these reminders that my first impressions always matter.

You may ask how this info aligns with the post I did recently about adding several matte jersey dresses to my own wardrobe.  Here’s the deal:  both approaches are about message management.  I’m very involved in community policy work and I’m a pretty outspoken person. So in some situations I need my visual presence to establish a friendly, approachable first impression rather than an overly-authoritative, assertive one.  The dresses send that softer message and still retain enough polish to engender respect.

In what contexts could you increase your positive impact by applying these principles?

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Kelly on July 16, 2019 at 12:11 am

    I agree with her about prints. Too distracting.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on July 16, 2019 at 6:57 am

      I woudn’t say no prints ever, but certainly they are so attention-grabbing that they need to be used with discretion.

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