Expert Advises Individuality In Dressing, Grooming for Success

Evan Cummings is a free-lance writer.

You are what you wear--and what you wear can play a significant role in helping you achieve your personal best.

So says Aggie Manville, owner of Aggie’s--The Total Look in Dana Point, who has been an image maker for 15 years. When the Ritz-Carlton Dana Point and Dana Point Resort were preparing to open, it was Manville they called upon to establish and operate their respective beauty salons. She also organized and conducted employee orientations on grooming and fashion.

Manville contends that finding the perfect look promotes self-confidence and sends out a more positive message to others. When accompanied by career skills, she says it can propel a hard-working employee straight up the corporate ladder (one of her clients, American Express, has hired her as executive fashion and beauty adviser to their executives).

Whether you are a busy homemaker, a conservative male executive or a shy, slightly awkward teen-ager, there is a look that will show you off in the most positive light and, Manville says, one that will make you feel comfortable to boot.


She says she views each client as a blank canvas upon which she mixes her palette of colors, fabrics, makeup and hair design, until she comes up with a perfect and individual image.

“The last thing I want to see,” says Manville, “is a dozen female executives marching off to the office wearing the same uniform--tailored suit with lapels, pleated Oxford shirt and little bow tie. If a woman requires a conservative appearance, I might dress her in a soft wool suit, silk camisole and pearls. The look is professional, yet feminine.”

Manville encourages women to avoid trying to copy a popular look or emulating a celebrity. “The client who wants to look like someone else will invariably be disappointed because their hair texture or skin may be very different,” she says. “I tell people to spend their energy enhancing themselves, not worrying about looking like another person.”

At her executive fashion shows, Manville illustrates, often with humor, a roster of fashion faux pas. For example, she says women should never wear a white dress with dark hose and white shoes. She maintains that a navy or black dress may be worn with white or light hose and navy or black shoes, but never the reverse combination.


Another common mistake women make is trying to camouflage large hips and thighs with long jackets. She says this actually calls attention to the problem area. And if the woman also has short legs, she will look as if “she is standing in a hole,” Manville says.

She advises women to draw attention to the smallest area of their bodies. If the waist is small, a short jacket or dress with fitted waist and a flared or full skirt will usually be more effective in hiding hips and thighs, she says, while a woman who is diminutive should avoid oversize bag or extra-long hemline.

As for men, Manville cautions tall men with short torsos to avoid plaid or checked shirts and jackets, adding that if a man is very broad on top, he should wear narrow pinstripes or solid shirts.

On one point Manville is adamant: There are no ugly people. She believes that with the right clothes, colors, hair style or makeup, anyone can look attractive.


“If clothing is done according to body proportion, whether slim or not, tall or short, if all the elements come together in harmony, anyone can look great,” she says.

She warns, however, that beauty is psychological--that one must feel comfortable. A new image should complement personality and life style, according to the beauty adviser.

“It is pointless to give someone a hair style they cannot duplicate by themselves,” she says. “If a woman leaves the salon feeling gorgeous, but can’t do her hair the next day, she will be discouraged and depressed. The effort will have been a waste of time.”

Manville, herself a wife and mother of two children, understands the hectic pace of the woman who works at home. “A busy homemaker with school-age kids, who runs errands, chauffeurs the kids, and works out at the gym needs a carefree hair style that can be transformed into elegant or sexy when she goes out in the evening.”


Manville prefers giving someone a “total look,” including a change in eyeglass frames, if necessary. “When a person speaks, they look into another person’s eyes. Often a person will change their hair style and makeup, even buy a whole new wardrobe, but will forget to update glass frames they have worn for 20 years.” Such a change, says Manville, can make a dramatic difference.

Unlike other wardrobe consultants who won’t shop with a client unless they are prepared to spend $2,000 or $3,000, Manville, who charges $50 per hour for her services, will work with any budget. “I can shop in virtually any venue and find a great wardrobe--from Mervyn’s to Nordstrom and in between. If money is a factor to a client, we just go where the best buys are found. You don’t wear your clothes inside-out, (so) labels are not what is important; how you put the whole thing together--that’s what counts.”