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    Makeover magic
Xiao Changyan
2006-03-10 08:23

Liu Hui saw the pleasant surprise in her husband's eyes again.

When she appeared at the cocktail party held by her husband's company, she felt the admiring glances from the people around. She knew that her beautiful flowery scarf, carefully combed chignon and elegant black dress had achieved their goals. When she chatted with the guests, her wide knowledge of different coffees and wines even attracted the attention of the company's general manager.

But just half a year ago, Liu, a white collar worker in a foreign company in Beijing, was a total stranger to such occasions. Every time she got such an invitation, her first response was fear as she had little knowledge about the dress and etiquette for the occasions. Afraid to be a laughingstock at the parties, she found reasons to refuse to attend.

It became worse after she got a promotion. She found it hard to avoid such social occasions and she desperately needed a new image suitable for her new position.

She finally found a solution by attending the training courses given by a women's club. She had an image redesign. She studied etiquette for different occasions, learnt about public speaking and communications, and even learnt to sing karaoke better.

Liu is not the only one that has benefited from such courses. Quality training for mature women, which appeared in Beijing three years ago, is helping more and more women. Aimed at helping women enhance their personal charisma, such training turns the trainees into modern gentlewomen.

The courses cover almost every aspect of women's lives: communication skills, self-image designing, art appreciation, dancing, flower arranging, dietetics and family massage. Many training centres also hold regular events and parties to help trainees exchange their experiences.

"Every woman is a unique diamond, but careful polishing is a must to help them shine to their full value," said Zhang Lehua, initiator of such training programmes in China. Four years ago, she established the first training centre in Beijing to provide women with such a "polishing" service.

The training institution attracted attention as Peking University and Tsinghua University soon followed suit by offering similar short-term courses. Many private high-end women's clubs copied the lessons to attract members.

"The truth is that there are so many women hungry for guidance to improve their image and disposition, " said Lu Dan, president of the Shang Jiu Tang Woman Training Club. "And they all want an immediate change by such training. "

This takes not only time but also money. The training usually costs more than 100 yuan (US$12) for a one-hour lesson. This is expensive for low and middle-income women. "Perfect Women Training," opened last year at Tsinghua University, charges a lofty price of 28,000 yuan (US$3,373) for 15 days of study.

But the high price has not scared the most determined women. All seats at the "Perfect Women Training" were soon booked and many other training clubs reported satisfactory profit after their openings.

"Of course, most of the customers are white collar, or gold collar women with decent incomes," confirmed Lu. "The others are rich housewives and university students. Ages of the trainees range from 20s to 40s."

But everyone seems to have different practical reasons for the expensive training.

Yao Yue, general manager of Beijing Agency of Fasten Group, admitted that she attended the training for the high-quality talents gathered in the class. "People who can afford the cost are those comparatively successful in their careers, or their families have strong social backgrounds. Here I may find potential business partners and capable employees. "

Li Shu, a sophomore whose mother paid for the tuition, said she hoped to be more competitive for a future job and for a husband through the training. "Only those elegant ladies can attract successful men, isn't that right?" she smiled.

Wu Ge, a housewife and mother of a 7-year-old son, wants the training to help her regain confidence and save her unromantic marriage. "After many years of marriage, the husband and wife usually know each other too well to maintain attraction," she said with a sigh.

Chen Xiaoling, a professional trainer for government officials, tried to infuse such novel ideas and knowledge into her training content.

Though all admitted the price a little bit too high, 90 per cent of the trainees think it a worthwhile investment and confirmed that it had a good effect on their lives.

Compared with the popularity of women's training, such courses designed for men have not won much applause. Last year, Zhang Lehua designed a series of training courses for men to improve their image and disposition, but got few applications.

"Men are usually reluctant to admit that they need help to improve their images. And they hate sitting together to discuss it," explained Zhang.

"They usually prefer one-to-one direction," added Zhang. Her male customers, mostly bosses and senior managers, carefully get guidance in this way. Some only ask for her directions when they have very important events to attend.

(China Daily 03/10/2006 page3)


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