Office Fashion Tips for Back-to-Work Moms
Returning to the working world after being a stay-at-home mother (SAHM) presents women with a lot of challenges. In the swirl of making the arrangements to facilitate the transition, it may be hard to remember what to wear to an interview or for your first day back at the office. Here are some tips to help you get off on the right foot:
Learn the Dress Code
If you’re interviewing or starting a new job, start by checking out the scene. “Ask around, visit the office or ask the boss to see what the dress code is, if any,” says Jené Luciani, New York City-based style correspondent for the Today Show and author of The Bra Book. “It's more important to look appropriate than it is to be trendy. Most offices are business casual, so unless they require a suit, women can get away with separates. It’s [generally] acceptable to go bare-legged; however, some larger companies still have rules, such as you must wear hose. Find out. It may seem trivial, but it's important to ask.”
Do an Inventory
Before you hit the sales, inventory your current work clothes. Donate anything that’s worn out. “Clothing that is pilling or shows with a shine will keep others from taking you seriously,” says Holly Quartaro, the fashion stylist for Galleria Dallas in Dallas. Same for clothes that are outdated (think huge shoulder pads). “Dated clothes remind all around you that you’ve been out of the workforce,” she says. If you’ve been at home for a while, consider getting a personal shopper or stylist to help you choose updated business attire for women.
If your office is business casual or you’re a new mom, you may be able to hold on to more items, says Minneapolis-based Sally McGraw, a stylist and body image expert. “Utilize your second trimester maternity clothes,” she says. “You probably want to set all of your maternity clothing on fire, but try to restrain yourself. While you’re in body-limbo, spring for a few fun accessories and accent pieces, but use your second trimester duds as base layers.”
Keep the Good Stuff
Make sure that whatever you keep fits properly. If alterations are needed, invest in them -- it’s still cheaper than buying new clothes. “Be conscious of the ways your body has changed,” says Erica Zidel, a mom and co-founder of Sitting Around, a Seattle-based resource for people wanting to start or find a baby-sitting cooperative. “Select pieces that complement your body now and ones that continue to work as your body changes. You’ll look much better wearing the appropriate size and style, no matter what that size or style may be.”
Dawn Baker, a designer, stylist and mother of two in Manhattan Beach, California, says SAHMs can shop smart by purchasing just two new items -- a black dress and a pair of flats -- that will satisfy almost any dress code. “A great fitting black dress that’s conservative, classy and flattering can be worn with heels or flats -- dressy or casual,” she says. “It’s versatile, and you will get a lot of use out of it. You can tie a scarf around the neck, pair it with a blazer, even wear it with boots and tights in the winter.”
If your budget’s tight, pick up a few accessories to update and revitalize your style, Baker says. Cardigans are versatile and can be worn in lieu of a blazer. Bold-patterned scarves, a high-quality handbag or briefcase, and age- and work-appropriate jewelry can jazz up your look without breaking the bank.
Clean Up Your Act
“I know it's hard when you're schlepping the kids, helming the household and trying to get out the door all at the same time,” Luciani says. “Even if you can't afford expensive clothes or you don't have time to shop for several outfits, you can wear the same black blazer, black pants and crisp white blouse -- but always make sure they are clean, tailored and pressed. People won't notice if you wear the same item often but they will notice if you show up wrinkled and stained. You want to stand out for your work, not your fashion choices.”