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Dress to impress

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  • | 9:35 a.m. December 6, 2013
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Tamy Lugo is all about first impressions. In fact, that's her specialty.

Lugo, a personal wardrobe and commercial stylist, says wearing the right clothes and presenting yourself in the right manner is essential to getting hired or gaining a new client. People who care about their appearance show they are taking the opportunity seriously. “If you look that way when you present yourself, you show that you care and you took the time to look appropriate,” Lugo adds.

Everything from color, to cut, to fabric sends a signal and contributes to the impression you make on another person, Lugo says. Depending on the situation, you can dress to express confidence, approachability, or trustworthiness.

Lugo says she won't even walk into a Walmart without “at the very least looking polished.” Any good salesperson should know that “everyone you meet is a potential client,” Lugo insists, even if in an unexpected place.

Lugo is well versed in building a solid reputation from scratch. Though she claims she is naturally timid, the 38-year-old stylist has earned quality press through blogging fanatically and donating her time and expertise to fashion events throughout the Tampa area.

In 2009, Lugo decided to quit a 12-year career in customer service to pursue fashion. She started studying the role that technical aspects of clothing play in composition of an image.

She spent more than a year and a half doling out free work to build her portfolio. She reached out to photographers and style directors, hoping to make connections that would help her develop a name in the market. She also latched on to a number of local public relations and marketing professionals. She'd tell them, “If you need someone to do this, I'm available.”

That's how she landed regular gigs with “Good Day Tampa Bay” on Fox 13 and a new fashion segment on CNN Latino, a Spanish talk show with more than 4 million viewers. Last year she scored a role as a wardrobe stylist for an episode of “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

Though the local television gigs don't pay, they do wonders for building her client base, Lugo says. “It gives me credibility and shows that I know what I'm talking about” while at the same time providing free press, she adds.

She regularly contributes to beauty blog “Pretty City” and launched an extensive fashion advice blog and social media campaign through her own website,

Her prep work seems to be paying off. Recently she's picked up Ion Media as a client, providing commercial styling for advertisements featuring brands such as Hershey's, DSW, and Tyson Foods.

At this point, commercial work only covers about a fourth of Lugo's business. She fills her schedule with personal clients, usually focusing on at least three personal clients each month. Her typical client is a professional executive with disposable income, interested in a style makeover or advice on what to wear for a big presentation or event.

Working in Florida, Lugo's rates are much cheaper than competitors in cities like New York or Los Angeles. Her package deals including a closet purge and personal shopping start at $350. Four hours of personal shopping starts at $50 an hour, compared with stylists in New York that charge at least $150 an hour for the same service.

She hopes her digital work will help spur growth in her new service offering — virtual styling. Naming her company VStylist, Lugo aims to convert some of her 10,000-plus social media followers to customers, offering style advice via text or email in exchange for a monthly fee.

Sales Tips
Dress the part: If you don't know what to wear, consult with an experienced stylist. Even if you don't want the stylist to shop for you, ask him or her for tips. “If you look that way when you present yourself, you show you care and you took the time to look appropriate,” Lugo says.

Always be assertive: Push through your shyness and act confident when presenting yourself, Lugo says. “If you don't at least act like you know your stuff, you won't be able to convince that person that they can use your services.”

Don't be afraid of free work: Free work helps you make connections and build your credibility in the market.


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