Dressed for success

- December 9, 2008

Jason Meisner Jeffrey Allen, Sarah Perlmutter and Monique Thomas flank stylist Fred Connors, in centre. (Nick Pearce Photo)

For a little while at least, Dalhousie turned downright glamorous. A red-carpeted catwalk was erected in the Rowe building’s lobby and an attentive audience filled the seating. The occasion was the “Big Reveal” of What Not To Wear, and staff and students alike gathered to watch the transformations and garner fashion tips.

Plans for What Not To Wear began in August, while students were still in their vacation clothes. The program was the brainchild of Management Career Services and the Career Services Centre: four students would be chosen for professional makeovers and wardrobe updates, then have their transformations featured at the Big Reveal. Monique Thomas, Jeffery Allen, Jason Meisner and Sara Perlmutter were selected from more than 40 applicants.

Stylist Fred Connors, owner of the salon/café/gallery FRED, acted as Stacy and Clinton rolled into one: he picked clothes, critiqued, offered advice and also acted as the Big Reveal’s emcee. Snappily dressed in black tie—and black everything else—Mr. Connors’ fashion wisdom and frequent wisecracks kept the audience entertained between the reveals, and the metamorphoses themselves were mind-blowing.

“Ratty t-shirts and jeans are commonplace in the halls of academia… but won’t get me a first class job,” wrote Jason Meisner in his application letter. Until now, the PhD student in Neuroscience and Anatomy confesses he would “usually just resort to Value Village.” When he took the catwalk, however, his “male corporate” makeover was first-class Euro-chic; a black moleskin jacket, grey vest and tie, and a fashionably weathered leather briefcase.

But it was a long road to effortless style. “The first thing I said to him was, ‘You look exactly like the unibomber!’” Mr. Connors told the crowd as Mr. Meisner strutted down the catwalk. Still, “You can work miracles on a very strict budget.”

Student Jeffery Allen received a “male business casual” makeover. “I own one long-sleeved, blue, collared shirt which I bought at Frenchy’s with my mom.” When he took the stage, however, he owned not only a collared shirt, but a scarf, vest, and snazzy pair of sunglasses.

“Jeff was quite an extraordinary makeover, don’t you think?” enthused Mr. Connors as Mr. Allen showed off his new look. “Jeff’s lovely girlfriend was cutting his hair prior to coming to me.” Saving pennies is important, but looking good doesn’t have to be expensive; the priciest thing he was wearing was his jeans.

Monique Thomas’ hip “corporate female” look proved that dressing professionally doesn’t have to be boring. “She’s got a little bit of sass and a little bit of an attitude,” said Mr. Connors. Her strong personality carried over into her workplace look in details like a dramatic pink pashmina and heeled boots.

“She was actually terrified of me (when we met), just so you know,” Mr. Connors joked as the commerce student took the stage, looking calm and confident.

“I was scared to get my hair cut,” she corrected as she took the mike, every inch the professional.

Sarah Perlmutter’s “female business casual” ensemble was the last makeover. The 25-year-old grad student was wearing a pair of size six black pants—two sizes too big for her petite frame—when she came to see Mr. Connors.

“In order to look polished, you need to wear clothing that fits your body properly,” Mr. Connors scolded the audience. “Don’t think you’re hopeless and walk out of the store. Just pick a smaller size!”

Ms. Perlmutter looked stylish in a tailored jacket and scarf, but she remained modest about her Cinderella moment. “I don’t think I’ll ever be walking on a catwalk again, so (it was) a great experience.”

Each Big Reveal look was put together in under two hours and with minimal expense. Clever cost-cutting measures were implemented—Mr. Meisner’s briefcase, for instance, was borrowed from his existing wardrobe.

 “If you want to be successful, you need to look like you want to be successful,” said Mr. Connors. “Your university degree will most definitely get you an interview, (but) the image individuals project at that interview will get them the job … You have very, very little time to make a great first impression.”


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