Even saying “Moms returning to work” has me pause a moment because it implies that Mom hasn’t been working. If you are a mother you know it has been meaningful but still work. At no other time in your life do you give up so much of yourself in order to pursue a goal. The goal is to raise children who will grow up to be productive members of society. To do that, you must relinquish most of your own time for self reflection. Getting to know you, falls by the wayside.
So, now you find yourself ready to return to paid employment and staring back at you in the mirror is not the same woman who used to rock the business suit. Instead, you’re mostly wearing yoga pants, t-shirts, jeans or flats. You comb through the closet and rifle through the drawers looking for something, anything, that resembles ‘business appropriate.’ Even that is difficult to interpret these days. If you have looked at some of the clothes women have decided was business appropriate you may be confused. It is safe to say that midriff baring tops and butt crack exposing pants aren’t appropriate, unless your job is to attract that type of attention.
Seriously though, you are in desperate need of business clothes so where do you start? If you are in a business or a business casual environment some great pieces to have in your closet are: Dress pants in easy to mix and match colours, a couple of skirts to start, blouses and dress tanks for under blazers or jackets, comfortable shoes, (no flip flops) business suits and corresponding accessories that compliment rather than over-power an outfit.
What’s in style? If you are not sure what to keep or not keep, begin with the following:
1. Go through your closet and weed out anything that doesn’t fit. (Leave the rest until you have completed the following list.)
2. Grab some business and fashion magazines from your local library or search the Internet for pictures that depict today’s working woman. See what catches your attention.
3. If possible go to the places where you may work. If it’s a bank, what are they wearing? Are you in the business district of your city? If so, take a walk along the street and see what the women are wearing as they enter the doors of office towers. Go to the store you might apply to and get a general idea of the expectation for their clerks. If you are in the trades, things probably haven’t changed much but a new pair of steel toed boots might be necessary. Sometimes, people’s dress isn’t much better than what you see at the local grocery store. So, be prepared to set your standard high and love it, regardless of what others are doing!
4. Gather opinions from those who seem fashion conscious. They can be friends or family but a good trick is to go to a clothing store and ask for advice on compiling a great wardrobe for business. Even if you can’t afford their clothes you have at least received some valuable tips you can use at a more affordable store. I have had people say “I would feel bad if a person worked with me to find outfits and then I didn’t buy anything.” If you are in a position to buy something, even a small item, than do so. If you are not in such a position then you can put the guilt aside and stay focused on your goal. Buy a Thank You card for the clerk which shows your appreciation for her hard work, acknowledge through their management the exceptional service you received or even return to that same store after a couple of pay cheques from your new job.
5. Go to consignment stores to find affordable, up-to-date fashions. They typically only take in what they know is clean, on trend and ready to wear. Also, usually the person who owns the store and the people who work there love the idea of fashion and re-purposing. They are good at mixing and matching pieces and often have more of a personable approach to customer service. You can walk away with an entire ensemble for less than you would pay for one jacket in another store.
6. Now, go back in that closet of yours, armed with your new found wisdom and decide what works. What do you really need in order to complete some outfits? If you have already purchased some new items, play with how they will work with your old clothes.
7. A week or more before your return to work get your business attire in order. Line up what you will wear for each day of your first week. It can be chaotic those first few weeks, why complicate it by scrambling to figure out what you are wearing the night before or the morning of.
Hope these tips helped you feel more confident to step out proudly as a Mom returning to PAID work!
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