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The Herald News - Looks Transformed For Success

By Penny Humphrey, Herald News Staff Reporter

By the time image consultant Michelle Drake started unbuttoning her long, shapeless, gray wool dress, the 35 business women at the Swede's Cafe on Friday got the message this was not going to be an ordinary Chamber of Commerce women's forum breakfast meeting.

It wasn't.

For the next 50 minutes, Drake--who stepped out of her dress to reveal she was clothed in a silky, short, magenta suit--talked about image, power and style to captive audience attending the second session of resurrected women's forums sponsored by the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Drake's transformation was immediate.

Drake, who was raised on Long Island and lived there and in upstate New York until last year, when her engineer husband took a job in Fall River, went from meek to sleek.

She did all that in less than 30 seconds using a different colors and a more flattering style.

"How we present ourselves and how people view us is a controlling part of where we are going," said Drake, the owner of Saxton Consulting, a year-old company that holds workshops and private sessions in a wide spectrum of topics including image, time management, marketing and communication.

"What we wear says a lot about who we are," Drake said.

She talked about color--whipping out a rose and pink scarf and draping it around the neck of hapless, good-natured forum organizer, who was dressed in a simple navy and white suit.

The scarf was instant cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to the outfit.

"I like color.  I like energy and to me color is energy," Drake said.

Drake, who taught business courses on the secondary and college levels for 10 years in New York, said people tend to dress in bland, dark shades when it is raining outside.

On those days her students tended to call her "Little Mary Sunshine."

"If I saw gray out there, I'd find a blast of color," she said.

She talked about eyes.

You play them up if they are good, watch the colors you wear so you won't dull the shade of your eyes, marry your eyeglasses with your hair and skin tones and know what kind of makeup looks good on you.

She talked about body shapes--the same dress on two women, who are the same size, can look dramatically different.  She proved it with a slide show to compare and contrast women and also show how they looked before and after a make-over.

She told women how to feel more comfortable at business or social events.

"How we are viewed has a lot to do with our body language," Drake said. "Standing in a room with nothing in your hand is terror."

Drake picked up a coffee cup.

"I am not alone now," she said.  "You have a purpose.  You are checking out someone you can talk to.  If you are feeling uncomfortable in a setting, get a drink.  It doesn't have to be alcoholic."

She told women to fuss with their clothes, their makeup, their wardrobe and find out what worked.

"It's really not vanity," she said.  "It's intelligent to put yourself together and the days for you having to apologize for knowing how to put yourself together are gone."

The women's forums were originally sponsored by the chamber and ran monthly for about one year.

Last year, the group organizing the meetings left the chamber and affiliated with the American Business Women's Association, which eventually collapsed.

Because there was so much interest in the women's forum, the group asked to return to the chamber as a committee.


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“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe