You’ve Got 3 Seconds To Make Them Take You Seriously

By Mary Perez
The Sun Herald.


Pam Meinzinger, general manager at Gulfport Premium Outlets, is concerned about the way women are dressing for work. On Friday, she gave women entrepreneurs a plan for how to dress for success.

“I think that casual Friday has gone over the top,” she said. She told the women at the workshop nothing will erode their credibility in the workplace so much as showing too much cleavage or wearing too-short skirts.

“How you dress, how you package yourself, is huge,” she said. It may not be fair, but perception is reality, Meinzinger said, and a first impression is formed in the first three seconds.

“I think it’s absolutely true,” said Shelly Fox with the Knight Nonprofit Center, who attended the workshop.

Shelley Kish, an architect with HK Design in Gulfport, agreed and said women are judged on their appearance more harshly than men.

Women Entrepreneurs, a group of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, met at the outlets to get professional advice and see the latest business fashions modeled by managers of some of the outlet stores.

Start with the essentials and build your wardrobe, said Meinzinger, who holds a Master of Business Administration, and has managed the outlets in Gulfport for 19 years.

“The most important thing you put on is your lingerie,” she said. “It really does make a difference.”

The essentials are a basic jacket, blouse and black or other neutral trousers, shoes and a classic handbag, she said. Then accessorize.

“Just because we stay professionally dressed does not mean boring,” she said. A scarf or necklace can add something beautiful to a regular outfit, she said. Mixing and matching helps stretch a wardrobe. In South Mississippi, pair white pants with different tops, she said, “and you’ve got outfits coming out of your closet.”

Among her other tips:
— Dress modestly. “Leave room for imagination.”
— Don’t bare the midriff or back.
— Shorts are rarely acceptable in business.
— The workplace is not the place for Spandex.
— Classic shoes are always best for business.
— Flip-flops rate as one of the most unprofessional things you can wear to work.
— Dress for where you want to be in your career, not where you are.
— Sleeveless is OK, but make it tasteful and have a blazer for meetings.

“I really want you to leave here feeling empowered,” Meinzinger told the women. “Scrutinize yourself every day before you walk out the door.”

Rhonda Roberts, assistant manager at Gulfport Premium Outlets, said the managers of the stores will help women pull together professional suits and outfits and provide advice.

“Don’t be intimidated about making an appointment,” she said.

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