Fashion Lesson # 20: First Impression in 1/10 of a Second


For today’s Fashion Lesson, I wanted to share with you a fascinating and eyebrow raising book that I have been reading, The Power of Body Language by Tonya Reiman.  Ms. Reiman is a renowned body language expert, consultant, motivational speaker and appears weekly on The O’Reilly Factor. 

In her book, she explains the power of our body language in social relationships (romantic or otherwise) and business interactions along with the silent power they hold over our success and happiness.

While I found some of her supporting research to be somewhat controversial, it certainly grabs your attention and provokes you to think twice about what sort of messages you may be sending out unexpectedly.

First Impressions


According to Ms. Reiman, others make their judgments of us within 1/10 of a second upon meeting usOne tenth of a second?  That’s less than the time we can bat an eye lash or flash a smile!

Which brings me to the focus of our Fashion Lesson for today.  If others make judgements of us this quickly, we have some preparation to do before, we have a chance to make our first impression.

The Top Ten Things That Turn Them Off Immediately 

(There are seventeen in the book, but I don’t want to infringe on her book rights, so I’ll let you get the book to see them all.)

  1. Scratching your head
  2. Nervously biting your lips
  3. Raising your eyebrows incredulously
  4. Shifting in your seat
  5. Crossing arms or otherwise displaying superior, conceited, or overbearing body signals
  6. Looking distracted and losing concentration or attention
  7. Looking down or avoiding eye contact
  8. Standing rigidly in place
  9. Keeping your hands in your pockets
  10. Not using any hand gestures

The Secrets To A Favorable “Snap Judgement”

Gather Information

Before an interview or social engagement, do a little legwork.  Find out what the dress code is for the company you are interviewing with.  If you can, try to find any personal bias’ the interviewer may have.  As we saw with The Great Debate: Wear or Go Bare, some managers still expect women to wear hose.  You wouldn’t want that to get between you and your dream job.



Also, if you are going to a social engagement, find out what the dress code will be.  You want people to notice you, not to be distracted by your inappropriate wardrobe choice.  Reiman also suggests women wear an outfit that exposes the “Suprasteral Notch” which is the area between your collar bones. 

If you want to flirt with someone, she recommends lightly touch this area to express your openness, not to mention call attention to your attractiveness. 

(Be sure to check out her Body Signal suggestions for further information on successful techniques in flirting.)

Lose Weight


Unfortunately there is a very strong cultural bias toward our appearance and weight, especially that of women.  Tonya encourages us to reduce that bias and lose the weight once and for all. 

She backs that assertion with the following statistics:

“In 1993, a landmark Harvard study found that overweight women earn an average of $6,710 less a year than women who are not overweight-and that was 15 years ago!  Newer research has found that larger women earn at least 12 percent less than thinner women who have the same qualifications.

The Harvard study also found that obese women are 20 percent less likely and obese men are 11 percent less likely to get married than thinner people.”

(Easier said than done.  Even after having my mouth wired shut for weeks, I have yet to lose that last 10 pounds. But I’ll keep trying!)

Baby Got Back


In her book, Reiman encourages women to wear clothing that calls attention to their bottom.  Most of us may be thinking that this is one of the last places that I want to show off, and I would agree with you.  I have one of the flattest bottoms on earth.  Who wants to see that?

But, in an equally surprising and interesting assertion Reiman notes that, “A round derriere is a powerful subconscious reminder of the rear-entry sex preferred by most primates.”

Shocking?! Yes.

Is this why your male colleagues seemed to take you seriously when you wore you latest tailored suit?  Maybe. 

Honestly, this is all too much for me to think about.

I think Reiman’s point is “show off your best assets”, but in a very subtle way.

She goes on to say that “overt sexual overtones are likely to damage your credibility in all situations other than a bar.”

So what is her fashion advice? 

To wear impeccable suits tailored to your proportions in blue, black or gray and wear a button-down shirt to once again show off the neck dimple (the open area gives an appearance of vulnerability, warmth and an air of openness minus the heaving bosoms.)

I cannot stress to you enough, that the point here is not to dress sexy.  Tonya suggests one aims for a suit or blouse and skirt that gives the illusion of a hip-waist ratio of 0.7.  According to Reiman, this will project an image of health and confidence which will translate into a strong work ethic for a prospective company.

Try to look taller.


If you’re short wear heels.  According to research, every inch translates into 1-2 percent of higher income.

Choose your accessories sparingly.


You want the focus on you and your personality if meeting someone socially for the first time.  Likewise when interviewing, you want the interviewer focusing on your ideas, not your twenty bangles clanging away each time you make a point using hand gestures.

In another bit of controversial advice, Reiman suggests that engaged women leave the ring at home.  She feels that a female interviewer may feel threatened because of it. 

(As a side note, I once had a interview with a woman who told me that she would still hire me even though I was involved in a serious relationship and of childbearing age.)

Groom as if you care, but not as if you’re obsessed.


The point here is to pay attention to the details; clean hands, fingernails (no chipped polish) and clean teeth.  Also, pay attention to any strange facial hair that may arise.  That includes nose hair.  You know who you are. 

Use neutral makeup, even on your lips.


You may love to look like one of those Merle Norman makeup models, but hold off for that first meeting.  Better yet, go in for a make up consultation and learn how to get it right.

Are you ready for her research on this one?

She cites a study of 136 people who felt that women whose makeup was “invisible” to be more qualified for a position and recommended a higher salary than those with the painted on faces.

Here’s where the research gets juicy.

Reiman warns against wearing red lipstick to an interview because according to anthropological studies, men equate it with that certain lady part during arousal.  (Where does she get this stuff?)  She goes on to say that you can get the same enticing effect with more subtleties by wearing colored lip gloss (re: glistening) without being so overt.

Perfume and cologne should be applied very lightly if at all.


According to research, your natural smell elicits a more positive response (assuming you shower each day) from both men and women at a first meeting, rather than a strong dose of Obsession cologne.

Reiman also brought up an interesting point involving memory recall in association to certain scents.  Let’s say you decided to wear that Obsession to the interview.  When you walk in to said interview the scent recalls a painful memory of a bad breakup with the interviewer.  This may not occur to the person consciously, but may impact the way this person perceives you nonetheless.

Be conservative with your hair.


Today is not the day to show off your new hairstyle.  Keep it neat, conservative or up.

(By the way, that was the most conservative looking woman that I could think of.)

I hope you found this information interesting and useful.  I highly encourage you to stop in to your local bookstore or library to check this book out for yourself.

Reiman provides some other very interesting and useful information pertaining to body language that I think anyone would find beneficial.

Be sure to also check out her website for more information and tips.

Photo Sources: Click on each image

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Filed under books, Business, controversial, dating, Fashion, fashion blogger, Fashion Lesson, Fashion Sensei, fit, Hair, Love

2 responses to “Fashion Lesson # 20: First Impression in 1/10 of a Second

  1. almostglamorous

    great article … we as a culture are becoming more obsessed with looks and body image and this is just translating to work situations it’s quite sad…

  2. Zovig

    Agreed! Image isn’t just about what you say. It’s 99% of what you don’t. And that includes gesture, color, and importantly wardrobe choices. Your style of dress speaks volumes about who you are. And in my (our) business, image is a far more a psychological noting than a matter of personal style and taste. So yes, much prep is to b done to ensure that first 1/10th of a second counts. I, like many other image consultants specialize in making the most of the 1/10th of the second. It’s not shallow – it’s life.
    And life is short – look good.

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