Personal stylist Michaela Jedinak talks to workingmums.co.uk about how to dress for confidence.
Lack of confidence is one of the main barriers to women returning to work after a career break. Even after maternity leave and dealing with a totally different reality for several months going back to your workplace can be hard.
Partly it’s because you are not the same person you once were. Your whole life has changed and that also impacts on how you look.
According to personal stylist Michaela Jedinak, rather than trying to get back into the same suit you used to wear months or years ago, you need to embrace the new you and you will feel more confident as a result. Perhaps your body has changed or your priorities and outlook on life. Your clothes should reflect that.
“Do not try to go back to the old you. You don’t want to go back in time, You will never win that way and it’s not healthy to compete with your old self,” she says. “You are a different person. Use how you have grown.
Don’t go to your wardrobe and put something you used to wear on. Buy something new. It needn’t be expensive. That way you will look current and won’t be frustrated or depressed if your body has changed and you don’t look like you did before.
You need to embrace the new you. You can’t go back and pick up where you left off. You are different and have had new experiences. Don’t try to lie about that and be apologetic.”
Michaela is offering to help workingmums.co.uk readers who need some style advice. She has a huge amount of experience in fashion, has just launched her own dress collection and has set up an educational website called joyofclothes.com which includes interactive tools which you can use to create an avatar and dress it to see what clothes suit and fit you best.
She says a lot of women in the UK copy the latest trends and celebrities without knowing what suits them best and making a look their own. “We all have a huge number of body features and we need to know them in order to dress our best,” she says.
“It’s not healthy to always copy others, even if you look as beautiful as Angelina Jolie. It will still be a copy. You need to dress according to your body shape and then you will be confident about yourself. This is particularly important in business. You need to be your own unique self.”
Michaela, who worked in New York in her 20s, says American women are better at knowing what suits them than their British peers. “Everyone is their own expert in the US,” she says. “Here women are more likely to try and fit in and follow others in fashion.”
She says that confidence is vital for making a good impression at interviews. Interview style needs to also take into account the different sector you are working in, the office culture of the job you are applying for and any dress code that might apply. It’s just a question of doing your research.
Dressing professionally also gives the impression that you take your job seriously and are trustworthy, she adds.
Michaela has long been obsessed with clothes, getting the right fit and finding a signature look so after being made redundant in her 30s she decided to take the plunge and follow her passion.
She became a stylist, helping people from 20 to 80 find the right style for them, from students on a budget to those with lots of money. She has worked with a vast range of different women of a vast range of sizes and shapes and has worked with some of the big corporates who, she says, want to promote a certain way of dressing without risking raising a lawsuit.
She feels some women dress inappropriately for work. “They look more like they are going out for the evening than going to work. Over time things have got too relaxed in some companies, but they are too scared to implement stronger guidelines,” she says.
It may be that women are wearing the wrong fabric, she adds, for instance, a sheer top through which underwear can be seen. Their clothes may be too tight or trousers too low or slightly the worse for wear. “The message they convey is that they don’t care and that can be damaging if they have a client facing role,” says Michaela.
Men are also confused about what to wear as the style in offices becomes more casual. Guidelines can help, she believes, but she also emphasises that employees should be free to express their own individuality, whether that is through accessories or colours or some other way.
The problem, she says, is that too much choice has confused people.
Michaela has talked at women’s networking events in corporates or has conducted one to one sessions. One area she addresses is the move from middle to senior management and how women can dress for success. “Senior managers will need a wardrobe that take them from morning to evening and is always appropriate.
They need to know what their engagements will be so they are prepared. Women in business need clothes that they can rely on so they can focus 100% on their job and those in authority need to apply power dressing to reflect their skill set, position and the sector they work in.”
Preparation is key. For instance, Michaela recommends having several spare pairs of tights, spare shirts and a skirt at work in case of emergencies.
Being prepared helps you to focus on the job at hand and gives you more confidence, she says. “It’s about being professional and showing that you are confident in what you do and who you are.”