Advance Your Image: Putting Your Best Foot Forward Never Goes Out of Style

Lori_Bumgarner_of_paNASH_Style - new hair

Whether you’re on a cusp of your career or are in transition to something completely different, an invitation to improve your overall image is one that should not be ignored. And who better to dispense that advice about developing every aspect of your public presence than Lori Bumgarner, owner of paNASHstyle and author of the popular self-help guide, Advance Your Image: Putting Your Best Foot Forward Never Goes Out of Style, published by O’More College of Design. Coincidentally, Lori was one of the two dozen experts who recently contributed to Media Magnetism: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve, and I’m pleased to put the spotlight this month on her incredible arsenal of image-building talents.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

**********

Q: What attracted you to the business of fashion and image consulting, and when/where did the door first open to launch your career in this field?

A: I have always had an interest in fashion ever since I was little. I always loved dressing my Barbie Dolls in different outfits and coming up with outfit designs with the Fashion Plates my grandmother got me for Christmas one year. That interest combined with my experience in career advising is what inspired me to start doing image consulting. This occurred when, for the first time in my career, my creativity was starting to be stifled. I couldn’t work like that. My friends encouraged me to do wardrobe styling which allowed me to use my creativity, but I wanted to do more than just that. As a result, I decided to offer image consulting services that incorporated both wardrobe styling and presentation skills (i.e. interview skills, etc.), which are also part of one’s image. I started my company part-time while still working full-time as a career adviser and did that for 9 months. Then, I took a leap of faith and quit the full-time job to take my business full-time.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know when you started?

A: I have learned so much about running a business that I never knew before. I also am using my undergraduate psychology degree in this career field more than ever before which was an unexpected surprise.

Q: Tell us what inspired you to write this title and how you went about determining what topics would best benefit your target demographic.

A: Actually, it happened the other way around. I came up with the title after writing on each topic. That’s usually how my own personal writing process works, especially with my blog. I write my blogs first and then come up with the title for each after. The initial inspiration of the book came from a lot of the work I do with individual clients and also the work I did in the past as a career adviser. In my opinion, a person’s image is more than just how they dress. It’s also about how they present themselves on paper, online, and in person, whether that includes networking events, job interviews or media interviews. That’s why the book takes time to cover each of those topics separately.

Q: What do you feel is the best takeaway lesson for your readers in Advance Your Image?

A: That anyone can improve their image in simple ways and see results. They will have a greater confidence and will see how that confidence will open new doors of opportunity for them. The great thing about the book also is the Appendix because it gives readers hands-on activities and steps they can take immediately to improve their image. It serves as a resource that readers will refer to again and again over time.

Q: For someone who wants to update their image – whether they’re staying in their current job or transitioning to a new one – what do you recommend as the easiest and/or most economical starting point and why?

A: The easiest and most economical way to update one’s image is to “shop” in one’s own closet to come up with new outfits with what they already have on-hand, and then to incorporate new accessories (jewelry, shoes, bags, scarves, hats, etc.) in with their current outfits. When “shopping” in one’s own closet, it’s always good to get an image consultant or a stylish friend to help you because you are so used to seeing garments and outfits put together only one way. It takes a fresh pair of eyes to show you how to create new combinations that you may have never thought of on your own.

Q: When most people go to have their professional headshots taken for a website, corporate brochure or lobby display at their place of business, they tend to dress according to the current season. Considering that their picture will be likely be seen year-round, however – and possibly even in different countries – what thoughts should govern their choice of wardrobe?

A: They should mix classics with current trends, but never with fads. Fads are things that last for only one season. A trend is something that may last for 3-5 years or even up to a decade. An example of a fad would be those ridiculous chicken feather hair extensions we saw a few seasons ago. An example of a trend would be a pointed-toe shoe or a dark wash dress jean in a modern cut. Also, it’s best to stick with classic colors and avoid trendy colors in photos that won’t be updated often. But, I would say that professional photos should be updated as often as a pair of glasses frames should be updated which is once every 3 years, and more often if your hair or glasses frames have changed dramatically since your last photo was taken. For instance, I went from a blond to a red-head, so I had no choice but to update my promo pictures, especially since I have my photo on my business card.

Q: While we’re on the subject of clothes, should a prospective job candidate (1) emulate what s/he knows to be the company’s workaday dress code and subliminally project “I fit in here!” or (2) wear his/her best business attire for the interview and potentially risk dressing better than the interviewer?

A: Definitely the 1st option! Always know your audience and make yourself relevant to that audience. Once a candidate has made it through the resume screening process to the job interview, this is the point where the company is determining fit. All the interview candidates meet the minimum qualifications. The interview is where the company decides which of those candidates will best adapt to the corporate culture.

Q: During the dot-com era of the late 1990’s, the concept of “Casual Friday” made its debut, inviting workers to take a break from having to wear coats, ties, pantyhose, and dress shoes. But has “Casual Friday” now gone too far by spilling into the rest of the week?

A: It’s hard for me to answer that question since I work mostly with recording artists and music industry professionals, a field where casual is the norm no matter what day of the week (and even here “casual” means “trendy/hip/funky,” not sloppy). I think perhaps it has, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing if people are “dressing up” their casual look instead of just using it as an excuse to be a slob. You can easily dress up a pair of jeans and look well put together, and yet be more productive than you would be in a suit and tie. Maybe “casual” isn’t the right term to be using (because it can sometimes be interpreted as “sloppy”). Maybe we need to call it “not-so-boring Friday” instead!

Also, I think it’s time for the classic job interview attire to make a shift to something a little more exciting than a boring cookie-cutter black suit. If I was a recruiter, I think I would get tired of seeing the same outfit on every single person I interviewed. I would instead prefer to see a little bit of the candidate’s personality and personal style shining through in their look. That way, I would have some idea of how the person would dress on a daily basis if they were to get the job. Anyone can dress up in a suit on interview day, but do they have the style and fashion sense to represent the company well on a daily basis? That’s why I started my Pinterest board entitled “Alternative Job Interview Attire.” It’s my hope that recruiters will open their minds to allow for some personal yet tasteful style in the job interview, and that candidates will be encouraged to take a risk by showing a piece of themselves to the interviewer. After all, if interviewers are trying to determine a good fit for their company, what better way to do so?

Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes that artists and entrepreneurs make in creating their “online presence” without the insights and expertise of professionals?

A: Not keeping the reader’s perspective in mind when creating the content of their web pages and online profiles; not utilizing LinkedIn to its fullest extent; begging for “Likes” of their Facebook fan pages without offering relevant content in return.

Q: “Authenticity” and “transparency” are two words popularly associated with today’s social networking. What’s your personal definition of these two concepts, and what are some ways that individuals and small businesses can apply them to their networking activities?

A: To me it means still being yourself, but a more polished version of yourself. The best thing people can do is to not fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others (i.e. their competition, the people with whom they are networking, etc.). Comparing yourself to others is the quickest and easiest way to feel defeated, to lose your self-confidence, and to lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish.

Q: Is successful networking an art or a science?

A: It’s a little bit of both with some divinity mixed in. I totally believe in divine connections and how we are brought together with other people. After that, it’s what you do with it, applying the science of networking rules and etiquette along with the art of building, fostering, and maintaining relationships.

Q: What are the most common elements of a boring profile and what can be done to rev up the appeal and excitement?

A: It is extremely difficult to write your own professional bio and make it sound interesting. This is because we as humans feel a little weird bragging about ourselves in writing. It’s much better to get someone like myself who can paint a picture with words describing what makes you unique. My artists who have hired me to write their artist bios have all said when they tried to write it themselves, it never came across the way they wanted it to. After hiring me, they always come back and say, “Wow! This is exactly what I was trying to say but just didn’t know how.” Anyone interested in having me write their bio are welcome to check out some of the bios I’ve written for other clients at http://panashstyle.com/documents/SampleBios.zip.

Q: The good news is that you have just been invited to do a media interview. The bad news is that you have never done one before and you are absolutely terrified because you have no idea what to expect. If a client just told you this, what would your top three tips be to prep them for the experience?

A: 1) Do your research. Know the stats about the magazine, radio station, or TV show and know the demographics of their audience such as its median age. 2) Read, listen to, and watch others’ media interviews with a critical eye. Learn from their strengths and weaknesses. 3) Read both Advance Your Image and Media Magnetism for even more tips to be best prepared!

 Q: In addition to being an author, you are also the owner of paNASH Style and editor of a pretty spiffy newsletter, too. What would you like readers to know about the services you provide that enable them to put their best foot forward whether it’s onstage, in a recording studio, or stepping into a boardroom?

A: Our goal is never to turn someone into something they’re not. Instead we focus on keeping the client’s image (their look and presentation of themselves) true to their own personal style, personality, and work/art. Also, we work with many clients virtually via online chat and email, especially for services such as media coaching and development of professional bios. We have clients all over the US, in Canada, and in Australia.

Q: So what’s next on your plate?

A: In addition to more speaking gigs at various music industry events and working with more clients one-on-one, my plans for the near future are to bring on additional stylists, offer more workshops, and possibly start my second book.

Q: If your philosophy of life were printed on a tee-shirt, what would it say?

A: It would be the tagline of the Advance Your Image book: “Putting your best foot forward never goes out of style!”

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

A: Yes. Readers can get exclusive tips and advice not featured in the book when they subscribe to my monthly newsletter on my web site at www.paNASHstyle.com.

 

 

Advertisements

Costume Design 101

Costume Design

Back in the days when I ran a touring theater company, one of my closest friends was my costume designer, Richard Arlen Crane. Dick and I had met in the early 70’s when we were cast in a musical production called Young Abe Lincoln. “If you ever start your own troupe,” he told me, “I’ll make all the costumes for you for free.” His only proviso was that I write fun roles for him and that none would ever require him to reprise the part for which he was physically the best suited: the 16th President. (Not only did I honor this promise but in Exit Grand Balcony, I let him play John Wilkes Booth.)

Dick was obsessive about historic accuracy in his costume designs, though some of his modern improvisations to create a particular effect were often enough to raise eyebrows. “You might want to be careful bending at the waist,” he once warned about a breathtaking Louis XIV gown he’d made for me. “I used hacksaw blades in the bodice…” Whether or not this was true, I was smart enough not to ask. Costume designers – like piano players – are the people you least want to offend in live theater because of the subtle tricks they can play on you like leaving straight pins in awkward places or transposing all your songs to a different key.

It was also assumed that I wrote the plays and then gave Dick instructions on how to dress the cast. Quite often, however, Dick would call to tell me he had just purchased several bolts of brocade, satin and chiffon. “You should write the next play about a sultan and his harem,” he’d tell me. And so I did. I share all of this in preface to my recent interview with Richard La Motte, a costume designer whose career has spanned four decades and yielded an incredible collection of “been there/done that” material for his book, Costume Design 101. As I immersed myself in La Motte’s remembrances of iconic stars, popular movies and budget challenges, there was a common thread that made me smile and think, “Dick would really have loved this book.” Even after a first read-through, this text would likely have a plethora of yellow highlights, dog-eared pages and copious margin notes.

And that, as we move into my conversation with La Motte, is quite possibly the highest praise I can give a behind-the-scenes book about what it really takes to “dress the part.”

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

 *********

Q: So what attracted an art major and former Marine to a career in costume design?

A: When I got out of the Marines, my mother told me about a Producers Apprenticeship Program. I went and interviewed with the thought of getting into construction and becoming a Production Designer. Instead, they assigned me to work in the Men’s Wardrobe Department at Fox Studios. All of my mentors were male costumers, men who had been costumers since the 30’s and had worked on many of the older films which I loved like Grapes of Wrath.  They worked in a time in the industry when costume designers were not a regular part of the crew, and were only usually called to do dresses for the female stars. Because of that, most films’ costumes were presided over by a Key Wardrobe Man and a Key Wardrobe Woman who supervised the wardrobe department and did much of what we would call ‘Costume Design’ today.

Q: Over the course of 40 years, you must have had the chance to see the work of countless costume designers. Who did you most admire for their style, innovation and creativity in the early years and who do you most admire now?

A: Actually I never had the chance to work with a lot of costume designers. The one I remember the best, though, was Dorothy Jeakins. (Interviewer note: Jeakins, born in 1914, was a studio freelancer who won recognition for her design work in The Music Man, The Sound of Music, Samson and Delilah and Young Frankenstein.) I also can’t really pick one designer over another – they all have different budget and time constraints to work with. But like everyone else, I think Edith Head was brilliant.

Q: Life is a series of choices in which we gather information and assess risks in order to either stay within our comfort zone or push the envelope and try something bold. How would you compare this to the choices that costume designers make in outfitting the characters in a film or television show?

A: As designers, we have to try and illustrate the drama using our medium, clothing. We also have to use historical research, human psychology and artistic principles in fashioning the overall look of the show as well as helping to delineate screen characters. The other big concern is ‘what kind of a film will the producers/director want to see and fund. We never work in a vacuum, so part of the ‘risk’ is in the presentation of our ideas and their cost.

Q: What would you say was the most challenging production you ever worked on?

A: Gods and Generals. I took over the show two weeks before shooting. The production lasted about half a year. We dressed between 500 and 1200 people a day, six days a week. We shot two, sometimes three units, sometimes 24 hours  a day (first unit nights, second unit days), sometimes in two different states at the same time. The sheer volume of clothes going in and out of the department, for repair, cleaning, reissue, new characters and bits, including the day-in, day-out manufacture of uniforms and cast clothing was enormous! My day started at 4:30, 5 a.m. and lasted until 9-10 p.m. almost every day (excluding Sundays when I only worked eight hours a day). It was more than a month into shooting before I felt like we had enough costumes to make our daily requirements. The anxiety was bad enough but added to the raw daily physical requirements – well, the experience made me very tired.

Q: What original design of yours still makes you say, “Wow! If I’m to be remembered for only one costume, this would be the one.”

A: It’s hard to pick one. As a show, I think The Wind and the Lion is still my favorite. I like the way both Sean Connery and Candice Bergen turned out. I have had women tell me that the riding skirt on Candice was a favorite of theirs – but the overall ‘look’ of the film still stands up pretty well. I’ve had people ask me if we shot in Morocco – but no, we shot it all in Spain and all the ‘Arab’ background was in costume.

Q: Do costume designers take their lead from what the director tells them to do or do directors defer to the designers’ knowledge of history, culture, fabrics, etc.?

A:  It’s different on different shows. Sometimes you have to prove yourself in the beginning with research and sketches, but after they start seeing a good looking show in dailies they tend to trust you – and everybody is so busy anyway they just let you go.

Q: What fabrics work better on screen and under hot lights than most people think they would? Conversely, what fabrics look nice in off-camera situations but are a nightmare for costume designers to work with?

A:  Since almost every film I’ve worked on has been period, I’ve always worked with fabric appropriate to the period. Usually naturals like wool, including wool crepe and cotton are the best, followed by linen (looks great, loses its shape). Shiny fabrics are more difficult. Silk can become too hot and the sound department hates the ‘rustling’ sound it makes, although raw silk is a great fabric. Satins can be hard to work with and cameras hate highly reflective fabrics as well as whites because of the ‘bounce’.

Q: How do you unleash your own creative process? 

A: I try to digest the script and think about what it’s trying to say – what it’s about – who are the characters and what’s their story function. I research the period and try to imagine what it looked like – maybe do some scribble sketches – perhaps look at other films done about the same period. I try to picture things like an overall color flow – then relax and try to think of ways to make this costume presentation my own – things usually become clear. 

Q: Knowing what you do about what people wore in earlier centuries, what period would most appeal to you if you could time-travel?

A: There are several contenders – American Revolutionary/Colonial period for the men, French Empire for the women, the streets of ancient Egypt or Rome – the Aztecs. I can’t decide!

 Q: How do you make ‘good’ art – symbols that connect – and engage a broad audience for pleasure and profit?  Do you feel the artist reflects or leads the general culture?

A: What unites us is our common cyclical life experience – it’s the essence of all drama. We are a person, a personality – we’re adjusted to ourselves at our age group. We ‘grow out of ourselves’ when we encounter a life situation that exceeds our ability to successfully solve based on our experience/ knowledge/ personal mythology. This leads to emotional turmoil – angst – then we have a cathartic moment perhaps a revelation – a ‘new answer’, and  the ‘old person’ dies and a ‘new person’ is born – and we enter the next or our ages. This is the three-act play of ‘introduction’- ‘confrontation’- ‘resolution’. We are all in some stage of this process. The successful artist finds meaningful symbols to concretize and communicate awareness of this process (think coming-of-age stories or mid-life crisis stories). The artist might use old forms like historical drama, or dress the ancient knowledge in new forms like Science Fiction; in this sense the artist-filmmaker might both reflect age-old concerns while leading the general culture into new forms.

Q: What is something about the Hollywood costume world that most people would be surprised to learn?

A: It’s a lot harder than it looks! I have heard people say things like, “Oh, a Costume Designer! That sounds like fun”. I have enjoyed satisfaction from my job but I never found the work to be fun.

Q: Tell us about your new book, Costume Design 101. What was your inspiration to write it and what was your selection process for determining the content?

A: I had worked on a film in Winston-Salam. We used the film school as a crew base. The Dean of the school, Mr. Sam Grog, asked me once my opinion on why his theatre costume department always had a hard time interfacing with commercial projects. We spoke quite a while on the difference between the requirements of the Costume Department in Theatre and Film. A few years later Mr. Grog became the head of AFI. The publishers of my book called him for a referral for someone to write a book on how theatre costume students could translate their knowledge to film work; he was kind enough to remember our conversations and my name.

Q: Who is your book’s target readership and what do you believe will be the takeaway value for them in reading it?

A:  I wrote the book to help anyone interested in the job of costume design on any film or television production, be they a student or someone already working in the industry. The ‘takeaway’, hopefully, is a realistic, unvarnished step-by-step guide to being able to function in a responsible, professional and successful manner as a costume designer – from job-interview through assessing department requirements, budgeting and scheduling, running a department, interfacing with production, and so forth.

Q: It’s interesting to see that your “retirement career” is real estate. How did 40 years of designing costumes prepare you for helping clients find a house that’s not only the right fit but suits their personality?

A: Actually it’s more about real estate investing. When I retired, I went back to school for two years and studied Interior Design which was a nice complement to my years as a non-union Production Designer where I designed and built sets for low-budget film, commercials and music videos. I intended to use the new knowledge to assist me in rehabbing interiors or creating thematic interiors.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Right now I’m doing some painting. I always have drawn and painted and enjoyed it; now I can spend a little more time at it!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Everything in life happens by either Design or Default. I think it behooves everybody to learn a little about basic design principles. In its most simplified explanation – Good Design = the best use of demanded elements, whatever they may be – and the words of Leonardo De Vinci, “Simplicity is elegance.”

 *****

Costume Design 101: The Business and Art of Creating Costumes for Film and Television is available at Amazon.com. To learn more about La Motte, visit his website at www.richardlamotte.com.