How to Support or Alter Your Inherent Visual Impression

Last week we looked at several women and discussed their Inherent Visual Impression (how others perceive them). Did they come across as friendly and approachable, or formal and reserved, or dramatic and intense? And your homework was to figure out YOUR inherent visual impression.


This week, we want to look at ways you can support or alter your inherent visual impression through your clothing and style.


Let's start with Carmen Del'Orifice. Her inherent visual impression is formal and dramatic. Highly stylized hair & makeup along with refined jewely & clothing in a high contrast color combination all support and accentuate her inherent visual impression. But this sets her apart as someone more to be admired than approached.


So if Carmen wants to be more approachable, here's how she would do it.


By dressing in less refined clothing & accessories (second photo) she creates a more approachable impression even though the high contrast color combination is very similar.



In the third photo we can see how a softer shade of black, a softer fabric & neckline, a softer hairstyle and makeup as well as more casual accessories change her visual impression again. There is still an air of formality, but she feels more approachable. This is a woman you might feel you could approach to conduct business with.


And the fourth and final photo shows her in a monochromatic outfit with soft fabrics and a very casual hairstyle to create yet another visual impression -- much less formal and dramatic. If she were wearing this outfit in her skin tone, she would be even more approachable.


If your inherent visual impression is formal, distant, dramatic or intense and you want or need to appear more friendly and approachable, consider employing some of these style tips for altering your inherent visual impression.


A playful print and style make this woman appear more friendly and approachable

- Choose casual styles & accessories or playful prints and styles as these will help you appear more approachable.


- Choose garments with softer color values, softer finishes, and softer lines as these will also make you appear more approachable. And a monochromatic outfit in a light-medium value color is yet another trick for lowering your intensity.


A monochromatic outfit in soft fabrics make Angelina Jolie appear less intense

But on the opposite end of the spectrum, if your inherent impression is friendly and approachable and you want to appear less approachable or more formal and sophisticated then you'll need some different tips.


Blogger Petra Diener has a "Friendly and Approachable" inherent visual impression which is supported in the many colorful and casual outfits she wears. But should Petra choose to appear more formal then her best option is to wear a darker color.



Darker Colors appear more formal on people with light-medium value skin tones. Tailored pieces will also add more formality. The jacket in the second photo has a print which makes it appear less formal than the solid color jacket in the third photo.


Higher contrast color combinations are more powerful looking than those of lighter contrast as we can see in the fourth photo, especially if the contrast is higher than your personal color contrast. However, if a black and white combination would make you look more like a waitress, you would opt for the darkest color in your palette combined with the lightest color in your palette. Navy and off-white, for example, is a high contrast combination.


If you have darker value skin, you may appear more formal in a lighter value color.


Oprah appears more formal in this High Contrast White Suit in a Menswear style

If your inherent visual impression is more friendly and approachable here are a few more ways that you can change your appearance to one that is more formal or dramatic.


Hard Surface Fabrics appear less approachable than softer looking fabrics. We can see that Jennifer loses some of her friendly, girl next door look when wearing this dark leather suit.


Jennifer Anniston looks less approachable in this leather outfit

Mirrored sunglasses, menswear detailing and metal hardware may also make you appear less approachable.


A more intense approach to hair style & make-up is a trick that many friendly and approachable actors use to change their appearance for more dramatic roles.


Reese Witherspoon looks much more dramatic with this hair style and make-up pairing

Of course if your inherent visual impression is more neutral you will be able to play up either impression by following the rules above.


Learning to dress to maximize your inherent visual impression as well as to minimize it can be something of an art if you don't want to lose yourself in the process. As always, I'm here to help you become seen and known for what you do best. My style services are available in-person or virtually so let's talk!


And although sometimes the occasion calls for you to alter your inherent visual impression, I want to encourage you to play it up whenever you can -- because the world needs you for the beautiful woman you are!








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Joan Kosmachuk

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