We’ve all read studies, or heard stories about the importance of image. Sociologists have told us repeatedly that it only takes a few seconds to form an impression of someone. Most studies will quote anywhere from 7 seconds to a minute is the typical amount of time it takes to look at someone and determine whether you want to interact with that person or not.
I’ve had dozens of clients over the years tell me, “I never judge others by how they look.” Or, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” You may think you don’t make judgements but I can assure you – you do! Let’s take a look at some popular TV shows over the years that prove the point.
Costume designers know very well that the way a character dresses will determine what the audience thinks of that character. One of my favorite shows was “Designing Women.” You knew instantly – before any of the actresses spoke a line – that Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter) was a classy, well-educated businesswoman and her sister Suzanne (Delta Burke) was a man-crazy flirt. They didn’t have to speak; you knew it from the way they were dressed. As directors and producers work on a show, they take advantage of the fact that you will know who the character is by the way she dresses. That takes a lot less work than weeks of dialog and plot lines to develop the character’s persona.
On the TV sitcom Friends, you knew that Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) was going to be the kooky one. Her hair was wild and her clothing choices were random and eclectic.
Sex and the City created quite a buzz during its six-year run on HBO. The four female characters were immediately recognized by the clothing they wore. You knew immediately that Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) was the classic New York Socialite, Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon) was the no nonsense lawyer, Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) was the sexy one and Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) was the artsy creative one.
Modern Family is another sitcom that takes advantage of image to help the audience identify with a character. Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) is immediately recognized as the smart child in the family. She dresses in tee shirts and hoodies with no regard for fashion, she wears glasses (a universal indicator of intelligence) and her hair is long and unstyled.
How do you want to be perceived? The clothing choices you make, the accessories you choose, the way you style your hair, your makeup application (or lack of) tells others who you are. Others will interpret your image and make decisions about you based on what they see. Make sure you are sending the message you want to send.