Tuesday, 10 July 2012

First Impressions

So the thing is...this blog is part of my research into how we use clothes or jewellery or in my case, shoes to represent who we are to the world. Yesterday, something happened that got me thinking...I was working on a branding project from home, when a real estate guy stopped at my house, unexpectedly. He asked what I did for work and when I told him I taught design, he looked at my clothes and I could tell immediately what he was thinking! OMG...never!

I had my favourite baseball shirt on, one that Michael Roman, my friend and an awesome San Francisco artist had made for the local chapter of the "Raybats", a rebel women's baseball team from the Mission.  (Yes that's a possessed looking bat on it!) This was teamed with my black and white tie-dyed slouch pants, red silk Chinese slippers and my hair( the small part I have which is not shaved) tied up in two wee ponytails. Obviously, no make-up either...not a good first impression!

I could sense how this man felt I didn't match to his "perception" of a fashion design teacher, and I knew he was disappointed, and I felt like I'd let down an entire industry. As I apologized and said how I was working from home, and I don't usually look like this, my God voice, you know, your little internal voice was reminding me that I do...I always look like this, a bit mixed up, a bit mismatched or misplaced so why should I apologize? Well, I don't know why, can anyone tell me? Have you ever made a judgement about someone and got it all wrong?

What I wonder though, is how deeply do those impressions go, how long do they last, can they be changed?  If you have a story and you'd like to share it in my research, please e-mail me at dl.fisher@qut.edu.au. (This is because I need you to give your permission for me to use it.)

Choosing happiness!


  1. I can relate to this...as soon as I tell people I research fashion, they scan me top to toe, checking out my outfit, at times in disbelief. My daughter, aged 5, did it to me. Looking me up and down she said, 'you're not very fashion, are you Mum?'

  2. I think it is really interesting that at even 5 years of age we are tuned into some kind of right/wrong barometer regarding what one should look like! Are we born with some kind of radar, or are we programmed through various aspects of life like playing with dolls,or watching sitcoms that present the roles of women as "this or that"?

    This notion of judgement based on first impressions has triggered some lovely comments from my readers about self-esteem and confidence...how the more confident we are in our "self", the easier it is to be free-er with how we dress. Those who felt less confident felt that clothes were somewhat "armour" or protection against being seen as lacking in self expression. Any views on this, readers?

    1. That's a great point Deb - I never saw her remark that way. Now it seems more sinister... where did she get it from? Maybe it's from comparing me to the pics of women we always see on the billboards / shop windows every day(we walk through Pac Fair most days on the way to the bus/shops). And yes, it could always be good ol' Barbie!

  3. A good point was made that creatives tend to push the boundaries...Yes, I agree that creative's push the boundaries, I wonder if it's because it advertises what we can do, shows people visually our artistic ability or something? I feel too for me, it is sometimes that I really like "newness", like seeing things perpetually changing!

  4. I had my first meeting in my pyjamas when a colleague turned up early for our midday meeting, I had been busy working since the first phone call at 8:30am. It didn't bother my male colleague and I was very comfortable so I didn't waste time dressing. Many times since then I have started work on emails and phone calls before dressing for the day. I wonder sometimes what the couriers think. Maybe this was a consequence of working from home and going through very busy times when I worked all hours, perhaps a reluctance to allow my work to totally take over my life.

    People definitely treat you differently based on that first impression. It is worth making an effort before going forth. It is more important to trigger a positive response from people when you are feeling less confident but unfortunately it is harder to do when you don't feel great. There is something about the way you throw things together when you are confident that is more creative and appealing.

  5. There was a lady at the fish and chip shop on Micheal Avenue on Friday night in her flannelette PJ's, no bra, Ugg boots and all. I was a bit horrified! I too, am guilty of sitting down at my computer in my pj's at 8am and not surfacing till the afternoon, but this lady was "ready for bed", and somehow it made me think that she had really "broken the rules". Here she was unashamedly wearing her pyjamas outside the house and wasn't embarrassed. Later that night, I tried to think why it had seemed so wrong to me, why was I challenged by clothes being used out of context? To test myself, I drove my son to school on Monday morning wearing my slippers. I prayed the car wouldn't break down the whole way! I had no confidence whatsoever...

  6. One of the misconceptions about artists is that you can identify us from our clothes- We are supposed to either represent our rebellious, tormented soul with (insert subculture here)'s twist on black, or have a 'wild at heart' badge on, just so nobody mistakes us as a corporate drone...(shock! horror!) Being an old soul, I even found that when I began my BFA, I couldn't go to uni without nailing the look of "accidental vintage"- that was, until I met *Sam*. My idea of uni was going to be lots of attention-seeking youths, like me, trying to get noticed as an "individual" amongst the other "wild at heart" badges. Sam was the course coordinator for my degree, she had her own degrees in subjects like Art History, a Doctorate in Philosophy and of course, A Bachelor of Fine Art mounted on the walls in her office. Also on the walls were abstract drawings by her children and herself; she has a successful arts practice outside of her academic job. There was also a theater program and a huge Guerilla Girls poster. Her bookcase was full of feminist literature and novels, along with reference books in almost every subject. Sam rocked. She was so intelligent and interesting, she oozed 'artist'. But, instead of rainbows or trendy hair colours, Sam was a plain Jane! She had jeans and a loose white linen top on. Shoulder-length dull brown hair and matching dull spectacles. She reached up to get a book off the shelf and I spied a purple and red striped sock, the only hint of colour or quirk in her entire outfit. This wasn't what an artist looked like!? Especially not such an interesting one! She definitely changed my perception of how an artist is expected to dress. Over the years of knowing her, Sam changed what my idea of fashion was, she doesn't use clothes to speak for her personality. Her mind and art practice does it for her! Now, that doesn't mean that I'm going to wear jeans and linen tops every day, or let my hair go dull, but I think it was a lesson learned about what my clothes say, and the misconceptions people have when they see a brightly dressed or "individualised" style on a person... Sam made me re-think the labels we wear unknowingly!

  7. In many ways *Sam* reflects the epitome of a contemporary women, liberated in many ways through her choice of appearance. This a great example of first impressions.
    I truly appreciate your story, and in fact, relate very personally to it. For many years I was involved in the garment industry in NYC, from the creative design and merchandising side of things. It was imperative that I wore clothes I designed when meeting with buyers and other members of the industry. Sometimes, though, I really wanted to have a "uniform", something that neutralized my own personality, and allowed me to just be me...not a designer, not a fashion director, but instead just Deborah, a creative person, but not a "fashionista".


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