Once upon a time, picking suitable dress for the office was easy. I knew what I would be doing all day, I knew the dress code of the company I worked for and I knew once my work day was finished all I had to do was drive home and relax in the evening. One outfit did the job – sometimes for several days!
Things are now slightly more complicated! If I manage to get the kids up, dressed, feed them breakfast and get out of the house without getting any marks on my work clothes it is a miracle. Once I’ve left the house to take the kids to school I then have to run the gauntlet of finding a car parking space that doesn’t involve wading through mud to get to school! Kids safely dropped off, I then have to move to work mode and visit clients.
One of my clients has very smart offices where you are expected to dress accordingly, another is much more casual and another works out of a portacabin on a farm where wellies are part of the job description! I then come back to my home office and work from there until school pick-up time when it normally starts to rain/snow right on cue – wellies and ski jacket at the ready again! Followed by various after-school activities which require me to stand and watch (whatever the weather) then kids tea, bath and bedtime. The day finishes with either more work at home/housework/preparation for the next day.
This is probably more or less how most work at home/freelance mum’s days pan out. And if there was a change of outfit for each part of the day it would require a lot of outfits and consequently a lot of washing! In my book, washing clothes is not something I want to do more of than I have to!
So we need our outfits to work as hard as we do, not cost us the earth and not to look filthy after a few minutes of wear in a house full of children! Here are a few tips I have picked up from admiring some of the beautifully dressed “Yummy Mummys” who appear at the school gate looking calm and serene despite having three children and their own business:
• Wrap dresses: smart for visiting clients, practical for the school run, show off your figure without being too revealing and can be adapted for all seasons (think tights!). They can be easily dressed up or down with clever use of jewellery or a scarf. If you get one of the multi-coloured ones they cover a multitude of baby-sick accidents! Boden have a great range of these – use a Boden discount code to save a few pennies. (Top tip: wrap dresses are also ideal as stylish office maternity wear).
• A Smart Winter Coat: a quality coat can be a big investment but if you look at it in terms of pence per wear then it is a bargain. A smart coat creates a great first impression when visiting customers and will keep you warm at the school gates too. A really good coat will smarten up every outfit you wear, improve your confidence and make you look fantastic. MyVoucherCodes have discount codes for nearly every high street retailer so it might not be as big an investment as you think.
• A Very Large Good Quality Handbag: rather than arriving at your client’s with your folders/papers in a carrier bag, invest in a smart handbag that is big enough to fit all your essential paperwork in. I have one ready packed especially for work so that I know I’ve always got spare pens, business cards and notepads ready for every eventuality.
• Boots and Shoes: my way of covering all bases is to wear boots to the school gate to avoid mud spattered trouser legs and ruined shoes. I then have a pair of ‘nice’ shoes in the car to slip on once away from the mud. (Top tip: a neutral coloured pair of flats goes with any outfit, looks smart and you can still walk in them at the end of the day!).
• Wear clothes that you don’t have to worry about: when you are working there is so much to think about anyway that you don’t want to be wasting energy worrying about what you’re wearing. For example, when I was working as a First Aid trainer I made sure to wear tops that didn’t gape when I bent down to do CPR and shoes that didn’t crucify my feet after standing up for ten hours. Think before you buy – that top might look nice but is it practical?
• Good grooming doesn’t cost a fortune: basic things like neatly tied back hair and plucked eyebrows don’t cost anything but create a great first impression. (Top tip: dry shampoo – if you run out of time to wash your hair in the morning it’s a good back stop).
What you wear speaks volumes about your business, if you employ staff they will emulate what you wear, so if you don’t make the effort, they won’t either. You only have one chance to make a postive first impression on a client – don’t waste that chance with sloppy dressing. Even if you work at home all the time – get dressed for work!
Dress for the office, and you will sharpen your attitude, improve your confidence and get you motivated. Make your outfits multi-task and you’ll save money and still look great.