1. My fashion background: I've always liked clothes, but I never really thought about putting together a wardrobe or about my clothes projecting an image really. Right around the time I got pregnant, I started watching What Not to Wear. At first, it was just a fun distraction. Then I kinda drank the Kool-Aid. I decided that dressing the part was an important part of being a professional. Maternity clothes have come a long way, but it can still be a challenge to look nice while pregnant, let alone professional - at least if you have any qualms about how much money you spend on clothes. But, I took the effort, and I managed. Now that I'm a working mom, it was a matter of incorporating the lessons into a new life.
2. My setting: I am a clinical dietitian at an acute care hospital. Our dress code is on the more conservative end of the "business casual spectrum." All men wear ties, and many a jacket or suit. Women have to wear nylons with skirts or dresses, and closed-toe shoes are required.
3. My finished product:
Not ready for a fashion photo-shoot, but pretty good for the end of a work-day, even post taking my toddler to the doctor!
4. My wardrobe deconstructed:
- Accessories: Opal necklace (purchased on our honeymoon to Australia); drop-down glass earrings.
- Multi-color sleeveless top: SteinMart. I actually paid full price. *gasp* - a rarity for me, and yes - I know SteinMart is a discount store.
- Cardigan: Target (Merona). I actually got this when I was hugely pregnant, but I still love it. It's a nice little pop of color and works with just about anything. I paid less than $5 for it off the clearance rack. I got a lavender one at the same time, and I can't find it; this pains me.
- Navy pants: Target (Merona). ~$20 - special deal but not off the bargain rack.
- Shoes: Target (Merona). ~$15 - usually I spend more on shoes for work. I got these for casual use & found them surprisingly comfy.
- It is shocking that none of this outfit came from Kohl's. With few exceptions, my entire wardrobe is from Target & Kohl's. I think maybe the socks are from Kohl's.
5. My take-home lessons:
- Wash'n'wear hair
- It took me a long time too get here. I started with a pixie about 2 years ago. Not only has my hair gotten longer, but I've finally found a great stylist again. She gives me a great cut, but maybe the best thing about her? - she believes me when I tell her that I'm absolutely not going to style my hair. She tried once to show how easily I could blow it dry. When I came back the next time & immediately confessed that I hadn't done that once, that I'd continued to shower at night & sleep on it - she cut it to work better for that. Oh, sure - it would look awesome if I took the time to straighten it. (... but only for about 15 minutes. This is Florida, you know. Add to the humidity just a little natural wave & about 7000 cowlicks, and you'll excuse me for just going with it.) I know other moms work out a way to style their hair in the morning. I haven't. I kicked myself for it for a little while; now I'm over it.
- 5-minute face
- WNTW fans will recognize this nod to Carmindy. I am not a huge make-up person. I don't like how I look with too much on, and I found it frustrating to spend time putting it in the morning, only to have it wear away later. Carmindy's little routine is super-speedy and seems to last the day. I rarely leave the house without it. I mean, it's only 5-minutes - why not toss it on before going out?
- PS - regular brow waxes matter. If you're not waxing, start. (Unless you're a seriously good plucker.)
- It seems the problem of office thermostat wars is common. Floridians are also very fond of over-air-conditioning all indoor spaces. It makes for a maddening life in which you are never just right, always too hot or too cold.
- I also find layers a great way to add versatility to an outfit. Going out later? Or just running some errands? If you can take off your jacket or sweater, you might feel less like you've been in your work clothes all day. (I also find a pair of flip flops in the car goes a long way toward that!)
- Special layer - Lab coat - Most allied healthcare staff wear lab coat in our hospital. It's a major determinant in my personal choices. I don't wear shirts with bulky sleeves or overly-complicated fronts. I almost never wear a pull-over sweater. Even if it's the coldest day of the year, I know I'll get hot at some point during the day. The layers pictured are pretty much a year-round deal.
- Bargains, but with value
- I used to have a closet bursting with clearance items. If it was cheap & I liked okay, I'd buy it. Now I'm choosier. I want my clothes to actually look nice. I want them to have a little quality. Oh, I still love to find a $5 shirt; I just don't want it to look like a $5 shirt.
- When you find an item you like, go buy another (or a few more). I now have 4 pairs of those Merona pants in different colors. They're fabulous. They fit trim through the leg but don't restrict my middle!
- Splurge on shoes
- I love shoes. There, I said it. I try to fight stereotypes. But I fail here. But I'm still a bargain hunter in that department. Work shoes are an exception. I am on my feet a good half the work day. I take the stairs, and I have a fair hike from the parking lot & back. I don't mess around with cheap shoes or crazy shoes at work. (Exception to the cheap above.) When I go shoe-shopping, I'm on the look-out for "comfort" shoes that are still cute - some favorite brands: Naturalizer, Aerosole, Nurture. Remember that shoe commercial where the ladies wear pumps & play basketball? Well, that's how I like to feel. I've picked up on the flats trend as well!
- I do not iron. Let me repeat: I DO NOT IRON. I love science for many reasons. Among them is the great variety of wash & wear fabrics that actually look a feel good.
- Add interest with color, texture, pattern, accessories
- I used to pretty much have an all black & gray wardrobe. I thought it was an easy way to have everything go together. With my trusty WNTW training, I confidently mix patterns, textures and colors. If you're a novice, start small. Maybe mostly gray & black with a colorful sweater. Are maybe black but with pattern or texture. Before long, you'll be a regular maven.
- I love accessories. Maybe even more than shoes. For work though, I tend to wear 3 or 4 simple necklaces & earrings. You really can't see much else with the lab coat on. Having a few go-to items that look good with everything saves me from over-thinking in the morning.
Above all? Know who you are. Accept your limitations and work within them. If you don't like to iron or do your hair in the morning, that doesn't mean you have to be frumpy. And have fun! :)