It’s easy to send the wrong message without ever opening your mouth. Opportunities are missed, communication is thwarted, and chances are you don’t get a second chance. If you're an ambitious professional, people's perceptions of you will be very important. 

When developing your personal brand in the corporate world, the message you send out to others is something you should pay very close attention to. 

There is an art and a science to matching your message to your appearance. Here are a few ideas to help you hone in on the right image for the message you’d like to convey.

Get serious

You’re getting dressed for a situation and you want to be taken seriously. People are expecting you to bring clarity and your best solutions to the table.

Consider: 'Business' colours like charcoal, navy, black. When with white or off white they create a high contrast look which is the highest level of professionalism.  Jewellery should be in metals, semi-precious stones, or classic pearls; prints can be stripes or subtle geometrics, but not florals.

Avoid: Loud prints; bright colours; noisy jewellery; too much makeup.

Loosen up

You’re switching from work to play. You’re dating or socialising in more casual settings. You’ve left work behind and need to look more approachable and relaxed.

Consider: Tactile fabrics like cashmere, silk, suede, brushed velvet; lighter or brighter colours; prints; accessories that have interest and could be conversation starters.

Avoid: Pinstripes; stiff fabrics; head-to-toe dark colours; high contrast colour combinations, overly classic jewellery.

Show up

If you haven’t changed your look in years, you may appear like you gave up on yourself a decade or more ago. Neglecting to update your style or appearance could send a message that you’re lazy, bored, or stuck… even if you aren’t. People will not see you as 'up to date' and forward thinking.

Consider: Updating your look to be more modern and current so you look relevant and savvy; engaging a professional help to guide you. 

Avoid: Putting your needs off for another few months; expecting you can make these changes on your own. 

Get some help

Unfortunately, we don’t often get second chances. A personal stylist or image consultant can help you align all the parts of your outfit to match the intentions you have. It makes a big difference. Not only will others read these non-verbal cues and make the right assessment about you, but you’ll also be sending a message to yourself that you’re prepared and confident. Whether you’re loosening things up to go on a date or dressing in a more formal way to present to colleagues, your message will be loud and clear.

Lizzie Edwards is a Personal Stylist, Image Consultant and Executive Presence trainer in London, UK.