Your true colours revealed - for a fee: Choosing clothes used to be a matter of taste. Now the right 'season' is all. Naseem Khan remains sceptical

I STUMBLED into all this by accident. The prospectus for 'Presenting Yourself' had promised a one-day workshop on voice, body language and appearance, and I'd enrolled to pick up tips that would help my public speaking.

Little did I know that I would find myself in the realm of shoulder pads, colour coding and leather chequebook covers. But tourists, I told myself, should keep their mouths shut and their eyes open and they might learn something. I certainly did, but whether it was worth knowing is a different matter.

Other people's judgement of us is based 53 per cent, it seems, on appearance and 38 per cent on voice, the tutor said. A neat, trim woman with alarming shoulder pads, she explained that actual words were unimportant. They accounted for a mere 7 per cent.

These are not facts to be trifled with, and the group cowered under their force. Clairol, the cosmetics firm, she continued, the light of messianic battle in her eye, once undertook an experiment. It 'made over' a number of women and sent photographs to firms showing them before and after the treatment. In what income bracket, Clairol asked, would the firms place these people if they were applying for jobs? The 'crisp executive' look consistently came out on top.

The group was silent as the impact of the facts sank in. A shaken young woman whispered that she had just spent pounds 1,000 on new clothes. It was an act of desperation: she had been made redundant a number of times and was determined to do the right thing in the job she now held. Could it be, by some awful stroke of fate, that she chose the wrong clothing? Maybe the message her new wardrobe gave was: 'Sack me again'. The possibility of failure, derision and ostracism loomed.

Authority was the name of the game, the instructor said encouragingly. She listed the items we should pay attention to: belts, jewellery, buttons, briefcases. We noticed people, didn't we, who signed the cheque at Sainsbury with a leather-bound chequebook? 'That says you're going somewhere,' she said.

And above all, jackets. How many of us did not wear jackets to work - the essential armour of the working woman? A few in the group muttered that they did, but several shuffled their feet. (Buy jacket, I wrote down obediently.)

She gave us examples of the power of appearance: the home economics tutor who could not control her pupils. She bought a jacket and, bingo, you could have heard a pin drop in her classroom; the hospital complaints officer who was mercilessly harried by impatient people. Her assertiveness problems vanished when she dressed with authority.

Look, said the tutor, she would demonstrate. And she proceeded to 'de-rank' herself, discarding jacket, high heels, chunky jewellery, belt, make-up. To my eyes, she looked much nicer, with a more natural form of assurance.

Colour was her next target. I'd always thought I was good with colours - olive green mixed with sharp emerald and maroon and orange give me a thrill. I had also thought the colours people chose should be determined by common sense and a simple liking for them. Far from it.

The world, in fact, is divided into four colour types that go by the names of the seasons. Individuals have a spectrum of diverse colours that suits their appearance and from which they stray at their peril.

The instructor started to demonstrate on eager participants, holding alternate scarves in different colours under their chins. A tall, dignified black woman turned out to be a 'winter' person. What a relief, she sighed. They were the colours she chose anyway. She was a single parent and could not afford to buy new clothes. The pounds 1,000 anti-redundancy wardrobe also, thank goodness, more or less passed muster.

The group was now transfixed. There is something comforting about rules. Follow them and success will follow. They make sense of the arbitrary nonsense that is life. (Buck the rules and who knows what will

ensue.)

Notebooks out, we prepared to take down the 20 pitfalls facing the working woman. She should not wear ankle chains, nor should she have hairy legs, double-pierced ears or pop socks. Hang on a minute . . . ankle chains? When had I last seen a woman wearing ankle chains to work? Or with over-long, over-red fingernails (pitfall 8), chewing gum (11) or wearing over-tight, over-short clothes?

Were we really paying pounds 51 for this? Doubts persisted. I noticed, for instance, that only one of this small group was of English origin. Significant perhaps? However, docilely, I wrote on: Italians and Japanese spend a third of their income on clothes, while the Brits spend only 2.2 per cent. Discard wire coat hangers from the dry cleaners.

I wondered if Cinderella had abandoned her wire coat hangers and had her colours done? Maybe if she had gone to the ball in the wrong colours, the prince would have waltzed off into the sunset with one of the Ugly Sisters. Perhaps her unswerving faith in herself would have carried the day, even if her shortsighted godmother had wrongly kitted her out as spring, and as a dramatic (one of six basic personality types) and not an ingenue.

Clearly I was alone with my reservations. The day ended and the instructor packed away her glorious wheels of coloured fabrics, lipsticks and blushers.

The only sound from my companions was the ripping of cheques torn out to pay for the cost of further private consultations. It gave a new meaning to the phrase 'buying power'.

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
Sport
Premier League Live Saturday 23 August
sportAll the action from today's Premier League matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    JavaScript Developer (C++ / C# / HTML, Java Angular.js) London

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading business intellig...

    Application Support Analyst-(UNIX, Linux, Financial Services)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst-(UNIX...

    Application Support Analyst - SQL, UNIX, Linux

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst - SQL...

    Application Support - FIX protocol, UNIX, SQL, Windows, OMS

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support - FIX protoco...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition