This week, our image management expert, Sally Smy, founder of Queen Bee Styling, shares her thoughts on dressing for work when returning from maternity leave.
Stepping back into the workplace after maternity leave can be daunting and preparation is key to a smooth transition. Your image and appearance will probably be way down on your list of priorities as there are so many other important tasks such as childcare, to sort out. Feeling confident in how you look however, is a vital part of getting yourself prepared. Your image is an important part of your personal brand and sends a visual message to colleagues whether you are conscious of it or not.
The chances are that due to pregnancy and maternity leave it will have been a while since you updated your work wardrobe. Lack of time, body shape changes and feeling out of touch with current trends are just some of the challenges faced that can make the task seem overwhelming. Please be reassured that you DO NOT have to be a size 10, perfectly made-up or dressed in the latest trends. Just be the best version of yourself you can be. This does require a little time and effort but the results will be well worth it. You never know you may even enjoy the process - it beats doing household chores!
I've devised three simple steps below that are guaranteed to get your wardrobe and style back on track:-
STEP 1 - Organise your wardrobe
It is true that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Don't be tempted to dig out your old suit that is lurking in the back of your wardrobe. Chances are the style will be out of date even if it does fit you. Wearing clothes you love and feel great in will boost your confidence.
Declutter - assess everything that is in your wardrobe. Try it on and if it doesn't fit, flatter or you haven't worn it for at least two years then get rid of it.
Pack seasonal items away - who wants to look at a bikini in mid winter?
Organise what is left - group similar styles together, e.g. trousers, skirts etc and sort into colours so you can see exactly what's in there. At this stage you may find you have an abundance of one particular style. I once counted 12 grey cardigans in a client's wardrobe!
Write a shopping list of items that you need- think hard about your lifestyle and consider the different uses you have, for example, do you need outfits for presentations, client meetings, dress down Fridays, working from home etc.
STEP 2 - Understand YOUR personal style
Personal styling is just that, personal, and there is no one size fits all solution. We are all unique and there will be some styles that work for us and some that don't. Understanding the styles that flatter you is key to simplifying your wardrobe and developing your own style. Don't worry about trends but do ensure your wardrobe is current and modern. Audrey Hepburn never felt the need to dress like a hippy chick but neither did she look like Miss Marple!
Identify your body shape and dress accordingly.
If you are not sure of your body shape then I would take some time to work this out. I would be happy to help you do this if you email me on the address below. I can also send you a fact sheet of information on styles to wear and those to avoid if required.
Ensure you wear the right underwear - get measured if you haven't been for a while.
Footwear should be clean, polished and heeled if necessary.
Ensure hair and nails are clean and tidy.
A little make-up can mask a thousand hours of missed sleep! I would advise booking a free consultation at a make-up counter if you need a refresh.
Get some visual inspiration - use clothing brands, magazine, online stores and blogs to build a picture of styles you like. It really does help to have an image in mind before you hit the shops.
If you need to go shopping ensure your trip is focused - take time before you shop to work out exactly what you need and do some online research beforehand. Don't be lured into the children's department until you have everything on YOUR list.
STEP 3 - Ensure you have the wardrobe essentials
Every wardrobe should be built on a few well chosen, timeless styles that will last for season after season. These create a base so that seasonal and fashion pieces can be layered on top. Ensure all these items coordinate to give you the maximum amount of outfits with the minimum amount of items - you will then have a capsule wardrobe!
Here is my list of the timeless styles that will work for every women's work wardrobe:-
- Winter coat - if you think how much this item is worn it's worth investing time and effort to get the right one.
- Trench mac - always looks smart and can be worn with jeans too.
- Dark colour trousers - investing in the latest shapes will give your wardrobe a new lease of life.
- White shirt - can be worn with everything but a black suit unless you work in a restaurant.
- Day dress - be brave and try a bold colour. I love the way Nicola Sturgeon uses colour to empower herself and stand out from the grey suits.
- Tailored jacket - choosing a sharp, contemporary style will create impact.
- Smart shoes - whether these are heels or flats depends on your personal taste. You can use these to add some personality by choosing a print or colour other than black.
- Tote handbag - again add some personality here with a bold colour or even a print. You don't have to spend a fortune on a designer label either, there are some good quality high street styles around that do the job just as well.
Sally Smy is a personal stylist and founder of Queen Bee Styling. She had a successful 18 year career as a fashion buyer before setting up her business to provide styling services that are accessible to everyone. Having had what she refers to as her 'beige' period after the birth of her first child, she realised how easy it is to neglect our appearance with the demands of work and family life. She set up Queen Bee Styling to help people in a similar situation through a range of services which includes:-
- Wardrobe Refresh - a complete overhaul of your wardrobe and style
- Personal Shopping - a shopping trip to refresh, recharge and renew your wardrobe
- Back to Work Styling - designed to eliminate stress and ensure you look your best after maternity leave
- Group workshops - inspiration, advice and visual demonstrations on a variety of topics
- Executive Shopping Service - for those that do not have time to shop
For more information please visit our website www.queenbeestyling.com Please feel free to call or email me for a 15 minute no-obligation consultation to discuss how our services can benefit you.
Telephone: 07956 293845 Email: sally@queenbeestyling Twitter: @Queenbeestyling Facebook: www.facebook.com/queenbeestyling