You can call me shallow, but whenever something big is going to happen, be it a party or a big presentation my first thought is always ‘what am I going to wear?’ Getting my outfit right helps me feel more confident. So when I became a working mum I knew I was going to have to re-think my wardrobe. Not just because I knew it would help me feel more confident but because I had less time to get ready and think about what I was wearing. I needed a smart, easy wardrobe that worked as hard as I do.
So whether you’re just about to go back to work or have been back for some time – here are some wardrobe solutions that I’ve found really work. Of course every workplace has its own dress code so you’ll need to adapt accordingly, but hopefully these will suit most places. If you’re super organized and are reading this even before you go on maternity leave – a top tip is to start saving a little bit of money every month so that you can treat yourself to a new outfit when you go back to work.
Go through your wardrobe and be ruthless. Sort out clothes that are starting to look a bit shabby (this includes your underwear drawer too). Identify what you can put to a charity shop, what needs to be altered or mended and what needs to be dry cleaned. Avoid hanging onto clothes ‘just in case’ they fit you at some point in the future. Even when you’re back to your pre-baby weight you may find your shape has changed. Ask yourself ‘How does this outfit make me feel’ and ‘when did I last wear it’? If it didn’t make you feel great before, it’s not going to miraculously make you feel fabulous several months later. If you’re a bit of a hoarder, enlist the help of a straight-talking friend. Make a night of it by getting some music on (wine is optional) and have a girlie night in your bedroom sorting through all your stuff.
Invest in a crisp white shirt which is guaranteed to brighten any complexion. Teamed with trousers, pencil skirt or jeans you’ll look and feel great.
Dress to impress
Dresses. The savior of working mums. An instant, no-think outfit, that co-ordinates perfectly. Whether you go for a simple shift, a wrap dress or something more fitted, you’ll instantly look ‘put together’. Choose some different accessories that will make it look like a whole new outfit.
Who wears the trousers?
Well-fitted trousers – easier to write than to find. Or maybe it’s just me? Being blessed with rather muscular calves (ahem chunky) I found myself almost in tears recently trying to get a pair as the current fashion seems to be for skinny or straight-legs. I must have tried on 15 pairs in one shop alone. Try on as many pairs as you have to. Remember you can always get a waistline taken in if you need to go a size up to feel comfortable in the bum or calf area.
A knee length skirt. There is nothing more elegant than a black pencil skirt worn with a simple shirt and pair of heels. The trick is to find one that you can walk in without looking like a geisha girl.
Be a trail Blazer
Or at least invest in a really good jacket or blazer. Worn with your crisp white shirt and jeans/trousers/skirt it’ll sharpen up any outfit. I find Zara, M&S, Next and Gap great for jackets. Make sure the sleeves fit well – get them taken up if you have to, otherwise you’ll ruin the whole look.
The Jeans have it
Whilst you may only be able to wear these on casual Friday’s well-fitted jeans are a staple of every wardrobe. You’ll probably have your favourite brand of jeans (I swear by Gap), but whatever you go for I’d recommend that you pay attention to the pockets at the back. Pockets that are smaller and sit higher up will make your bum look smaller and perkier. Avoid pockets that are large and go too far down the leg at the back. When you find jeans that you love, buy a couple of pairs. Have one in a longer length that you can wear with heels for a work night out, or casual Friday, and a shorter pair that you can wear with pumps or flats. Get the short pair taken up by a tailor to avoid scuffed and frayed hems.
Reach new heights
Shoes – I don’t know about you but wearing heels makes me feel a bit more professional. Find a pair that you can walk comfortably in and that aren’t too high. A small platform can give the illusion of height and a padded sole can provide extra comfort. M&S do a great shoe in both nude and black – they’re a steal at only €35. That said, a comfortable pair of flats are really handy for dashing for the train or popping out for a quick walk at lunchtime. Rather than the usual trainers I prefer a pair of pumps as you still look professional. Invest in a snazzy shoe-bag to swap over – this will prevent spreading germs in your bag.
Product Code: T02/0540
If ever you needed permission to go and buy a decent bag this is it. Having a good-looking work bag (that doesn’t have a battered raisin box spilling its contents inside) will make you both feel and look professional. Make sure it’s big enough to fit what you need comfortably inside so it’s not bulging at the seams. Buying a good bag that will stand the test of time will pay dividends – think about cost per use.
Buy less, buy better.
Whatever your budget is, it’s a good idea to invest in a few good pieces that will stand up to constant washing and wearing, and won’t turn into a sack of bobbles the first time you frantically try to rub Weetabix off it.
Enlist the help of a personal shopper – either a friend or a professional. Lots of the mums on our Mumager workshop have raved about the personal shopping services that the larger department stores provide.
Lay out your clothes the night before. It helps to avoid disasters like wearing one black and one navy shoe as you’re dressing in the dark, and gives you one less thing to think about in the morning!
At Mumager we support working mums. We’re here for you – if you have an issue or a question then we’d love to hear from you. You can ask a question via the Mumager forum or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We run workshops throughout the year so do get in touch for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re very happy to approach employers on your behalf too, so do get in touch if you think your organisation could do more to support working mums.