Frontlines

Talent? What you really need is a good wardrobe

Judith Timson November 6 1978
Frontlines

Talent? What you really need is a good wardrobe

Judith Timson November 6 1978

Talent? What you really need is a good wardrobe

The young management trainee walks into a room filled with everybody who is anybody in his company, and he doesn’t have a power symbol in sight. Not a gold pen. Not a supremely expensive briefcase. Not even a pair of

Gucci loafers. All he has is his talent, enthusiasm, brains and a rather charming smile, which he can flash in vain, because with that hospital-wall-green sports jacket and that tacky checked shirt and those penny loafers—wrong, wrong, wrong—he does not stand a chance. You can already hear the senior execs murmuring: “But do you really think Ross is ready for the Glibbits account?”

What Ross is really ready for, if you can believe in the scenario, is an image consultant, an idea whose time could only have come in the late gotta-getahead ’70s, when the gospels according to American authors Michael Korda

the revolutionary ’60s, is back! It’s big! It’s a gold pen away! The message being if you look the part, you’ll get the part. For those enamored of a slightly deeper approach—not to mention green sports jackets—the hope that image consulting could be confined to cities like New York, where entire buildings disgorge hordes of Guccied stockbrokers, was dispelled recently when Elizabeth Storms hung out her shingle in the heart of trendy Toronto.

“Can You Succeed With the Clothes You Have On Now?” proclaims her brochure introducing a service “unique in

(Success! How Every Man and Woman Can Achieve It) and John Molloy (Dress For Success and Woman’s Dress For Success) have stormed the best-seller charts and brought the news that suc^ cess, after a short run as a dirty word in

Canada”—showing people how to dress for success. Not only was the question designed to intimidate, it also piqued the curiosity of several members of the media (some of them on the scruffy side) who traipsed to her tastefully decorated office and found a not-quiteintimidating (she’s only 23, after all) but definitely polished product of a private girls’ school and the Chamberlain School of Retailing in Boston, ready to dispense mother-style advice (“your hair could be neater ... I was noticing your nails”) along with verbatim passages from the Korda and Molloy books, and a reverence for power symbols. “If a young ascending businessman comes in here, I check to see he hasn’t maintained the trappings of a lower rung.” Bye-bye plastic ballpoints, brown-bag lunches...

Storms, who goes by her childhood nickname Biz, also urges anyone wildly individualistic to proceed with caution in the business world: “Choose suits that are mid to dark blue or grey; these are your safe colors. In terms of fashion, only wear a new style if it’s been around for six months and you’ve seen your superior wearing it.” Up and coming businesswomen—brokers, bankers, real estate agents—are “hustled” down to a well-known Toronto tailor to have a suit (skirt and jacket, never pants) made: “Now you can choose your fabrics and have three fittings — just like a man!”

Storms has so far groomed the female secretarial staff (at their, not management’s, request) of aToronto law firm, is “doing” a branch of London Life Insurance Company, has had lawyers consult her about their clients’ “images,” and for half-price (her consultation fee is $40 for an hour) she fixed up a young male friend of hers in the insurance business, who said disarmingly into the phone: “She’d be ashamed of me if she saw how I was dressed today.” He did stress he was wearing uGucco shoes.”

Even Storms’ public-relations man, one Robert Ramsay, received a little tip, albeit unsolicited: “She walked into my office, took one look at me, and said a guy as short as I am (five-foot-three) should never carry an umbrella. Now you and I might look down on this kind of advice, but there are people out there who want to be told these things.”

Judith Timson