The tale of the red dress

Today I made a bold decision and updated my profile picture. It has taken about 6 months to finally change my ‘public face’! It is a step away the former  traditional image that I have used publicly.

Why so long?
I am now 46 years old and have never had the courage to wear red. It seems such a bold colour and one which to be honest I have never had the confidence to wear.

Whilst out shopping last year, by chance I came across a lovely red dress. I tried it on, it looked ok and I bought it.

I thought I would it wear at Coaches Connect, an event that I host which brings coaches  together to share good practice. I tried it on at home and my youngest response was ‘Mum, why are you wearing a dress like the lady from the Kellogg’s Special K adverts’? Are you hoping to lose some weight’! 

I don’t weigh myself, eat in moderation and most of the time healthily and exercise as often as I can.
Needless to say I didn’t wear it.

Roll on a few months and I took over the role of Chair of the Ilkley Business Forum . This meant that my picture often gets printed in the local newspaper. And I often get teased by my good friends for using the same photo and one which is over 5 years old.

Fast forward the end of 2012 and I met up with someone with whom I connected with on Twitter. From the photo I was expecting a 30 something year old with a full head of blond hair. Imagine my surprise when an older person aged late 40’s/ early 50’s with grey hair turned up. The look on my face must have been a give away!

I started to think why am I holding onto an old picture of myself? I have aged, my hair is longer, my head is sprouting these pesky grey hairs and my face is more wrinkled.

And why am I afraid to wear red?  My word for 2013 is ‘Bold’ and with that in mind I decided to be brave and contacted photographer Suzy Mitchell. Suzy’s images are in the moment, distinctive and captures the essence of who you are in a natural way. She has taken some memorable pictures of my family and my previous ‘professional picture’.

Vera in 2012This is image that I chose and for weeks did nothing with as I kept mulling over…

            • Do I look like a professional person?
            • Should I have worn the traditional black and white?
            • Should I have been less smiley?
            • Should I have…

And that stopped me in my tracks…as a professional I am mindful of what others think of me and how I portray myself.

On the other hand, I am values driven, self-aware, live my life with purpose and try to be my true authentic self all the time, every time…I am confident and assured of who I am and what I am.

Is this much ado about nothing? I could always take another picture wearing black and white and looking seriously professional …..

What defines ‘professional looking’ and a ‘professional image’?

Is red a colour not suitable for work? 

Do people take you less seriously if you are not conforming to the traditional work image? 

About colours
There is a host of information and articles on the psychology of colour. A recent one was on the psychology of branding.
Whilst writing this, I undertook a ColorQuiz test which is free. Whilst taken with a pinch of salt it has summed me up very well

Images: Flickr users by Bienenwabe and evilgreg3000; Suzy Mitchell

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About verawoodhead

I help professional women, aspiring leaders and managers to get ahead, progress their careers, be confident and successful by developing their leadership skills and capability...through coaching, mentoring and skills development workshops. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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24 Responses to The tale of the red dress

  1. Jamie says:

    I love this post, Vera! There’s so much that goes on in our heads about seemingly simply things, like the colors we choose to wear. I absolutely love your new photo and the joy and happiness it exudes. Your post reminds me of how I dressed in business suits when I was a new school principal. Then I gradually was able to let go of that attire that said, “I’m the principal,” and move to what was most comfortable for me. We’re always growing and changing and I’m thrilled for you that you’ve embraced the “red” side of yourself!

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Jamie for those kind and uplifting words. It is so reassuring to hear them and for sharing your similar experience. I like your ‘We’re always growing and changing’ which serves as a great reminder about not getting stuck in the past and having the courage to move on.

  2. I agree utterly with Jamie – I saw your Avatar on Twitter this morning and I smiled… it is always a joy to see when folk become more who they are. Hello! J

  3. Jo Royle says:

    I LOVE the new picture Vera. You look exactly who you are… Alive, positive, fun loving, happy, enthusiastic, energetic, healthy, glowing, fabulous and beautiful! The red REALLY suits you 🙂

    I’m thinking of doing a #12outofmycomfortzonechallengesfor2013
    on twitter and 1 of the things I have on my potential list is to wear colour (as opposed to black!) every day for a week 🙂

    Fancy joining me for #12outofmycomfortzonechallengesfor2013? You choose the challenges and then do 1 per month. You in?

    Xx

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Jo for your positive feedback. I absolutely love all those adjectives that you have used!

      Your challenge sounds a great idea – definitely in. Have set aside Tues to look at the Leadership stuff and will in touch.

      Tweet a pic when you are not wearing black – my challenge to you!

  4. Michelle Hodgson says:

    Hi Vera Love this post, really interesting message. For some reason, though, it went into my spam box – thought you should know! Hope all is well with you – I’m busy with the literature festival but plans are going really well and we should have a brochure and final schedule within a couple of weeks. Michelle x

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you for that lovely feedback Michelle. Glad you enjoyed reading it. Good to hear that the Lit Fest is progressing well – would not have expected any thing less with you at the helm! Do let me know if I can help in anyway.

  5. Vernon Young says:

    Brilliant to be BOLD – why not & well done you.
    Of course, it’s also a reminder for ALL to Wear Red in Feb!
    http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/materials/wear-red-toolkit.htm
    2013 awaits – feel the fear, do it anyway! per the title of the book!

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Vernon and for sharing the resource on Wearing red on Feb 1st. Have to admit that I have not come across this.
      Found out that the British Heart Foundation runs the Rock Up In Red campaign to help fight heart disease

      http://www.rockupinred.org.uk/

      Hope to see you wearing Red on National Wear Red Day on the Feb 1st.

  6. Lis Merrick says:

    Vera, red is a winning colour I have read. It is the colour of a lot of successful football teams for instance.

    You look fabulous, more like the “Vera” I know and love and I think younger than in your other picture.

    Enjoy the snow!! Lis

  7. Great message Vera and I too love your new photo. I can really see your personality shine through. On the few occassions I have met you personally, I pick up your energy, enthusiasm and zest for life. The photo says it all. Well done on embracing red! I had a red coat that I wore for years and now have a red jacket instead. My Mum always comments when I wear colour rather than dull grey or black so all for adding a little ‘colour’ to our lives.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Jan and glad you think it reflects me. I am rather surprised by all the positive comments. Not sure I could wear a red dress all day for work though…need to work up to that one! Next time you, will be looking for the red jacket.

  8. Actually I think you look younger in it – it shows a vibrancy to you that didn’t come across in the other picture. You look great and people will want to aspire to have your confidence.

    As far as wearing red at work goes – I think we have become a nation of women who have become afraid to wear colour and stand out. I used to look around me at work and so many people wore black or grey. I personally don’t see a problem with it unless of course its rather low cut!

    Fab post
    Carolyn x

    • verawoodhead says:

      Carolyn, that is very generous of you to say so especially as the grey hairs keep on sprouting! Like your approach to wearing red at work (avoiding low cut and sleevesless). I think as women we don’t like to attract attention / stand out in such a bold way – for me anyway – at the moment!

      • I think for many of us we worry too much about what other people think – and I know I for one should take a dose of my own medicine – I have shared your post with my facebook followers – i think it will interest them

      • verawoodhead says:

        I agree Carolyn – am not sure where we get these self imposed ideas / beliefs. Certainly didn’t have them as a child or growing up and now care less that I am older!

  9. Wow that looks gorgeous! I absolutely love red. In fact I was reading the other day that the colour red helps women feel more confident at work. I think there is nothing unprofessional about it – it can look fabulous on business dress. I never used to wear it much then I had my colours done a few years ago and was told it was a colour that would really suit me. Since then I’ve incorporated it more into my wardrobe and its true – it does make you feel more confident! It looks like it really suits your colouring too. I have a red coat and hat this winter that I love and the colours cheer me up on the dark, drab wintry days. Here’s to wearing more red and to expressing yourself in new ways 🙂

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Fran, that’s kind of you to say so. Have you a link to the article that you were reading?
      Quite a few have responded that they have red coats. Felt as if have missed about as have never worn anything red before this. Definitely here’s to wearing more red!

  10. Well done Vera and especially for sharing your journey – red looks great on you!

  11. What a great post. Thank you for sharing such a personal and insightful story Vera. As a trainer I have often found myself conforming to what I think a business trainer should look like rather than trying to dress true to myself and my moods. I will certainly give this theme more thought. I think people connect with you better if you are happy and content with how you look and it reflects your true nature, rather than a stereotype or a particular fashion. Warm regards from Hamburg, Louise

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Louise, you have hit the nail on the head with “connect with you better if you are happy and content with how you look and it reflects your true nature, rather than a stereotype or a particular fashion”.
      I am glad that you found it of use and is food for thought. Next time you are dressing true to yourself / mood, do tell us, would be delighted to hear more about it.

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