Executive Makeovers

By Carol Schatz (Signature)
Passed over for promotion? Sales slipping? When you think an unpolished professional persona maybe the reason why, try an image consultant. Fluent in the language of clothing and appearance, these gurus instruct their corporate clients in the ABCs of image. “There’s been an interest from the chairman of the board on down learning the finishing touches in appearance, behavior and communication skills,” says Frederick Knapp of Execu-Image.

The feeling of power that comes from reworking one’s image often leads to more professional self-confidence. Sometimes a client seeks out a wardrobe consultant because of emotional or career changes. “I was bored with sitting back and being a little brown wren in both my wardrobe and business life,” says Susan Leake, an executive who left a top financial corporation to start her own business. “I’ve become different inside, and I want to look different. But I didn’t know what the look would be, so I decided to seek out the services of an image consultant.”

Leake began consulting with Susan Dresner of Successful Ways & Means, choosing her because she is known for her skill in achieving creative yet corporate looks. Like many clothing consultants, Dresner first interviewed Leake at length about her career goals, lifestyle, and current wardrobe frustrations. She took body measurements and visited Leake’s closets, purging them of past mistakes. Next she came up with a written clothing profile based on Leake’s personality and body type, a budget and a yearly strategy. Leake was advised to spend $5000 for the year on “investment clothing”, high quality clothes that would stand the test of time.

Working on her own, Dresner scouted her clothing sources __ many of them designers not accessible to the general public __ for appropriate clothing choices. Then Dresner took Leake shopping. In four hours, Leake bought an entire season’s wardrobe including a custom-made suit, three blouses, a dress, matching separates and accessories. As they shopped, Leake became more daring and excited about her clothing selections.

“My clients have been burned too many times in the past, and most of them hate shopping now,” says Dresner. “I’m trying to make it fun and give them a sense of empowerment __ a sense of the choices available to them.”