When I first started decorating cakes at the grocery store, I had to wear the store uniform: black pants and a white shirt. Eventually, the store decided that my friend Andrea and I should wear chef coats on wedding deliveries. The main problem was that the coats were men’s sizes, boxy and only came in white. It was hard to feel feminine in this getup!
One year at the Oklahoma Sugar Art Show, Kerry Vincent introduced a sugar artist uniform. It consisted of high quality scrub tops and long aprons. While they were attractive and very well made, I could not wear the long apron climbing in and out of the delivery van. While I thought Kerry was onto something, it just wasn’t the perfect fit for me. I continued my quest.
A couple years later, chef coats were finally available in women’s sizes! Unfortunately, our only color choices were white or black. One day, I was watching Food Network’s Challenge and saw the competitors in colorful coats. Eureka! I thought! Now we were talking! I Googled the manufacturer and learned that, once again, the colorful coats were in men’s sizes only.
I just couldn’t get this out of my head. One day, I changed search terms and Googled colored women’s chef coats. Pay dirt! I found Crooked Brook chef coats and my signature style began. At first, I chose simply the colors they offered. The great thing was, they tailored each coat for the person. No longer did I look emaciated; I looked like I was wearing something designed for me…which I was.
After a while, as my chef coat addiction grew, I started to crave new designs. I started buying my own fabric, accent fabric and buttons and soon thereafter I began wearing the look you all know today. I have a lot of coats, but I have bought them over many years. I may be a fashionista, but I am still sensible. I invested in pieces that will last for many more years to come.
Why should you care about all of this? Because what you wear to meetings with clients, to wedding deliveries, to cake shows and to teach matters. This is your personal packaging. How many of you fretted over which box to buy or bag to use for your orders? Is this really less important? Why is the packaging of a cake pop more important than the packaging of the face of your business??!!
I am NOT saying everyone needs chef coats. I do not care whether you wear cute t shirts from your shop, street clothes or a chef coat. I only care that you look polished and presentable. I have too often seen people on deliveries and at shows in oversized men’s t shirts (they are comfortable), wrinkled or dirty clothes (I am too busy), or unprofessional choices like pajama pants and message t shirts better for a night out with friends. What message do you send the judges, students, event centers, customers? What is your style brand?
We only get one chance to make a first impression. What impression do you give? Are your competitors getting business that you want? Are others getting asked to demo instead of you? We teach people how to treat us. If we dress as though we do not matter or are not important, why are we surprised when people believe that message?
When I was a baby lawyer, a senior partner told me to dress for the job I wanted. That holds true in almost every profession. What is your goal for yourself and your business? The answers to these questions will lead you to the right outfit for you. I was watching American Idol last night and Tommy Hilfiger said that fashion is for right now; style is timeless. All that I ask is that we each find a personal style that reflects who we are, what we do and where we want to be in our lives. I will tell you right now that few people knew my name before I adopted my style. The coats became recognizable and gave me extra credibility. They gave me confidence as I walked the halls at ICES. They helped people remember me. I created a brand for myself.
And please, consider the addition of color to your wardrobe! I know too many people who only wear black. Completely black. I told a dear friend that I wished she would wear some color instead of only black. Tanveer Walli (Cake Mechanic on FB) debuted several colorful scarves at the Virginia show and was told non stop how beautiful she looked! You don’t need to fade into the woodwork! Regardless of whether you like your height, weight, hair or whatever…embrace yourself as you are. Love yourself as WE love you and dress in a flattering way.
So, is it right that people make judgements about others? Of course not. Is it a fact of the world we live in? You bet. Think about why the high end restaurants plate the food with such care and so artistically. It plants a subliminal message that the food is as good as the presentation. What is the subliminal message you send to the world? The next time you are about to meet with a bride, attend a cake show , etc., take one last look in the mirror and think about the image you want to portray. Then find your personal packaging and maintain it. Let me know if it makes a difference in how you carry yourself and in how people receive you.