Survival Guide: Angie Michael, president of Image Resource Group Inc.

Angie Michael

Image Resource Group Inc.

You've heard "image is everything." Angie Michael says it's true. The president of Image Resource Group Inc. of Falls Church, Va., Michael is an image consultant who has helped people with everything from professional dress to business etiquette to presentation skills for more than 20 years.

She's the author of "Best Impressions in Hospitality" and coauthor of "Business Casual Made Easy," and she understands the hidden messages of substance that are conveyed by style. Michael talked with Managing Editor Evamarie Socha about what people wear to work-- and why it matters.

WT: Define "professional image."

Michael: Your image is the way you communicate in business. You need to dress appropriately for your audience, your own physical characteristics, for the occasion, and you need to have your clothing and image as another business tool. This is nonnegotiable. In the first 30 seconds of meeting, people make assumptions about you, and the communications is nonverbal. In about 55 seconds, people make assumptions on nonverbal messages: the way you look, how you act and the tone of your voice.

WT: Why is image important?

Michael: In many situations, when you meet someone face to face, whether you're aware of it or not, you are judging them consciously and unconsciously. ... You have to mirror the dress of those who you work with. That is how we feel comfortable with each other. When someone is dressed like you, [that is] a tremendous equalizer.

WT: What are the trends right now in business attire?

Michael: For men, the business suit is back. A two-button suit will be with you forever, but if you are going to buy a new suit, get a three-button suit. And please remember not to button the third button.

Men need five shirts that are accepted internationally. A white shirt is the dressiest, most powerful look. Then light blue, that will give you a more approachable look. Next is French blue, which makes you even more approachable and creative. Then there is white with stripes, but they must be fine stripes on white background. And the latest and newest is light gray.

The lighter the shirt, the more dressy the outfit. The deeper the color of the shirt, the less formal the outfit. The highest contrast among the shirt, tie and coat gives people more brightness, which makes people look more powerful. When the contrast is less, it makes you look more approachable and friendly.

WT: And for women?

Michael: Again there's the suit. But I warn women: In the United States, pantsuits have become almost the norm. However, if you must do business internationally, be careful, because not in every country and not at every level will you be well dressed in pantsuits.

The good news for women is that we don't have to wear navy blue. I call teal the navy of the new millennium. With teal, you can choose many colors: purple, royal blue, pine green. Be sure it's a color that compliments your skin tone. Have an image consultant recommend the right shades for you.

Please don't wear light gray or beige, because you'll blend into the background. Wear red for presentations, and avoid bright colors in one-on-one meetings.

WT: When it comes to the federal government, is there a particular dressing or image rule?

Michael: The higher you go in government, the more dressy the people. If you go to the top managers in government, most of them are very well dressed.

WT: How does that translate to the contractor?

Michael: Many times, the contractor needs to know who the audience is, because sometimes they need to meet with the decision-makers. It's OK to ask what is the dress code for meetings of this nature.

First ask what people wear: suits or jackets? Ties? That is a key item. ... Think to yourself: Who is your audience? What is the purpose of your message today: building rapport? Selling ideas? Building trust? And based on that, choose your clothing.

WT: What is a good dressing mantra to follow?

Michael: Look in mirror and ask yourself: Am I ready to meet the highest-level person in my client's network or organization without having to make any type of apology? If there is anything in the mirror you have a question about, leave it out. ... You need to look the part and dress the part. If you want the job, you need to look the part. If you want the promotion, you need to look promotable. If you want respect, you need to dress equally or better than the industry standards.

For the complete interview, go to and type 122 in the Quickfind box.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here


  • POWER TRAINING: How to engage your customers

    Don't miss our Aug. 2 Washington Technology Power Training session on Mastering Stakeholder Engagement, where you'll learned the critical skills you need to more fully connect with your customers and win more business. Read More


    In our latest Project 38 Podcast, editor Nick Wakeman interviews Tom Romeo, the leader of Maximus Federal about how it has zoomed up the 2019 Top 100. Read More

contracts DB

Washington Technology Daily

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.