Monday, August 27, 2012

Etiquette Tips: Seven Must Dos to Look Your Best From Top to Bottom

It’s the never ending, always going to be there, make it or break it first impression dilemma. After all, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  So here is a list of seven simple things to ensure you are groomed, pressed and polished for any occasion.

Using What God Gave You
While it is important to choose your clothing, make-up and jewelry to fit your age, size and occasion, what many forget is to start with what Mother Nature gave you:
OK, you’ve taken a shower and brushed your teeth.  You’re starting with a clean slate.   To make sure we don’t start off on the wrong foot, take these points to heart:

Perfume/Cologne: Light on the cologne, or even better, don’t wear it to work.

Skin – Keep it clean and moisturized. Use appropriate products for dry or oily skin.

Women and makeup: Go light on the makeup. The goal is to enhance. You will want to appear fresh and bright. Save the heavier stuff for evening.

Hands – Keep nails cleaned and trimmed. Women, save the flashy polish for evening .

Hair – Hair should be kept well groomed – clean, trimmed and styled. Save the bed head look for, well….just rolling out of bed. A good cut can eliminate a lot of primping time for men and women. Keeping it simple and fuss free can add precious minutes back into your day.
Oh, the hair in other places such as ears and nose…keep that trimmed, plucked or whatever it takes to get it out of site. Men, make sure beards and moustaches are neatly trimmed.  Unless you’re auditioning for the Geiko caveman role, the less hirsute the better.

Dress to Impress

Clothing – Yes, it is an age old problem where choosing the right clothing for an event is a book in itself. While there are many books out there to guide you along the way, the most important thing is to choose clothes that fit your size, age and the occasion.
Clothes that are too small or too large do you no favors. Invest in the best quality you can afford in order to compliment your frame.  Trying to look ten years younger might work well on date night, but not when you are going to meet a client or the boss.  If you are having difficulty deciding on what works best for you, bear in mind that there are a number of books and articles that speak directly to types of clothing that flatter various body types. Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies, provides great advice for assessing your wardrobe and adding new items. Other good reads are Frumpy to Fabulous Flaunting It by Natalie Jobity and The Style Checklist by Lloyd Boston.
Dressing for the occasion shows respect to others. Consider the message dress sends in the case of interviews, more formal occasions and meetings within various types of industry. Of course, you would not wear a suit or dress shoes to a luau at the beach. If you are dressing to impress, dress as if you have the position you are aspiring to obtain or like the individuals you will be mingling with. Bankers and accountants will dress much differently than those in “creative/artsy” careers. Always strive to look the part.

Shoes – Buy good quality shoes, making sure to keep them clean, polished and in good repair. People notice footwear more than you realize. Invest in good fitting, sensible shoes. If you succumb to fashion, as I do, be sure you can walk safely and keep those heels in repair. You can polish your shoes yourself as needed or treat yourself to a shoeshine. I know folks who take their shoes periodically to a cobbler for refurbishing. This adds years to the life of a favorite pair of shoes.  Also have a couple of pair of dress shoes so you can switch out your shoes when the occasion merits. This not only adds style points, it also adds years to their life. To prevent foot odors, invest in foot powders or sprays.

Hose – Or no hose? That is the question.  And it’s a tricky one. If you live in any of the hot southern states, hose (nylons) in the summer can be considered cruel and unusual punishment. If the occasion is ultra-formal or executive business where you will be in air-conditioning, I recommend going with hose. You will look more polished and put together. If you just can’t go there, be sure legs are clean shaven, buffed is better (gosh, did I have to say that!) and that you are not wearing sandals. Should your event be sandal approved, make sure you have a fresh pedicure and save all of but the classiest of flip flops for the beach. Men, keep your sandals for the beach or the most extreme casual of events like barbeques in your own back yard.

How Do You Define Casual?
What does casual mean nowadays? When in doubt, think of dressing one step down from what you would usually wear. Sliding beyond that is courting disaster.

Now Stand Up Straight and Smile
Ok, now that you are scrubbed, polished and sporting some classy threads, improve your look even more. Present yourself with confidence through your body posture.  Be sure to smile and make eye contact. You will be inviting to others and feel good about yourself. 
While this article didn’t attempt to cover everything, by considering the basics presented above, you will be assured of making sure that your first impression has you off to a great start.

Carolle Vargas is president of Your Etiquette Style, ,  a business etiquette and professional comportment training firm in Jacksonville, Florida.


  1. I am no executive. I am a plumber by trade. But I do come into contact with the public on a daily basis, as do my employees. One of the things I stress with them constantly is to make sure they are presentable before going on a service call. If that means going home to change after crawling around under a house, then so be it. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

    1. Billy, You are right, no matter the business -- first impressions count. It shows respect for yourself and your client.

  2. This is the first blog of this kind that I have ever read. WOW, you were so informative and comprehensive. I am definitely going to pass this on to my friends.