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When I was a high fashion model working in Washington, DC, the fashion designers would look at you before you went out on the catwalk and sometimes exclaim, "That doesn't make a statement!" Then they would dig into the accessory box and pull out a hat, scarf or handbag in a "shock of color" to give the garment some pizzazz.  

At first, I didn't exactly understand why a designer would give me a bright orange handbag with his delicate powder blue suit. Most people "instinctively" match their handbag to their suit, and I was no exception. But then I remembered from my art studies that blue and orange are complementary (opposite) colors on the color wheel. Of course! Complements "complement" each other due to their exciting high contrast and natural affinity for one other.  

Then too, a catwalk isn't the street. If you went to a fashion show and saw what was typically worn on the street, it wouldn't be necessary to go to a fashion show, would it?  

fashion

Fashion shows are meant to entice and inspire, and it is a great way to pick up little tricks to perk up your own wardrobe. Photos of "the collections" in fashion magazines are decidedly different from the full-page ads of the same designer collection. Magazine ads tend to be toned down because the garments stand alone. Whereas, the same suit on the catwalk might be shown alongside several other garments, and the designer will use all his or her tricks to get each garment to "make a statement" and stand out on its own merit.

One thing I learned from fashion designers is that most people dress too safely. They match things too much, and that includes both men and women. Men are famous for wearing a blue suit and tie, and women notoriously buy a pantsuit with a matching top. "Matching" seems so logical that everyone does it.  

Don't! It will cause you to look unimaginative and robot-like.  

There is a fine line between "making a statement" when you enter a room and having your garments "wear you."  For example, wearing a bright fuchsia pantsuit with matching fuchsia shoes when you enter a room could cause others to notice the fuchsia pantsuit more than you.  However, if you wore a bright fuchsia jacket with black pants and shoes, you would most likely make a statement for the simple reason that most women are afraid to wear bold colors such as fuchsia, so you would look distinctive and stand out in the crowd. Being a standout is positive – being overwhelming is not.  

bq. It isn't necessary to wear bright colors to stand out. With fabulous accessories, makeup and hair, even a monotone beige pantsuit could make a statement and have heads turn when you enter a room. Dynamite accessories in any color will make a statement, so if you are timid about color, you have other options that will enable you to look distinctive.

A few years back I saw a group photo of all the European heads of state, and more than 80% wore not only grey suits, but matching grey ties as well! Instincts are a remarkable thing, and it was obvious to me that they didn't want to "make a statement" at the summit meeting in The Hague. Politicians, in fact, are quite famous for wearing grey suits. As a color, grey literally personifies NOT making a statement, since it is a combination of black and white. Grey sends the message "Maybe left, maybe right; maybe yes, maybe no." Grey needs a bold tie in order to make a statement. For women, a high-fashion style or exquisite fabric might be enough to keep grey from looking anonymous.  

I'm a Katie Couric fan, but I would like to see her adopt a more powerful look when she anchors the evening news in her new job with CBS. Evening anchors need to look highly authoritative and credible, reporting news of the same caliber. Suits personify the authority and presence of an Evening News Anchor– and they make a very powerful statement, particularly in dark shades. Skirts or pants with blouses don't make much of a statement unless they are powerfully accessorized. Katie is a blonde, and blondes easily look "soft and sweet" and need to compensate by wearing powerful colors, styles and accessories – IF they want to make a statement!

Sandy Dumont is an image consultant with 30 years experience serving Fortune 500 companies as well as individuals. For more image tips, visit her website, www.theimagearchitect.com



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