Dressing for work when returning from maternity leave

Hayley Clarke from One P Design
Hayley Clarke from One P Design

Returning to work after maternity leave can be an challenging and emotional time for women.

Speaking from experience I remember going through extreme swings. One moment I felt waves of grief around leaving my beautiful little girl, Riley, moments of feeling overwhelmed about how I was going to juggle it all, jealousy towards the people who would be spending time with my daughter when I could not, and excitement at the new possibilities that returning to work could bring. In between the emotional roller coaster, I needed thinking time to work through the practicalities of how I was going to manage a family and work all at the same time.  Time itself was a struggle and sleep deprivation put a fuzzy blur over my best ideas! 

I knew I couldn’t have ‘one of those mornings’ every morning – you know, where bub soils her romper just as you settle her in the car, or you forget the bottle in the fridge and remember ten minutes down the road and have to turn back in traffic, and now you’re late and verging on tears. No, If I was to get us out of the house on time, I knew I needed to get up earlier and give myself a buffer just in case. 

I also knew I couldn’t be the cause of us being late every day, so I set out on a mission. Mum looked after Riley and I took on my wardrobe.  I tried on my work clothes and with shape change around my tummy and boobs, half my clothes didn’t fit right. I repurposed a maternity top and got 5 outfits together.  I created my first week back to work wardrobe, all laid out on the bed, shoes and bras included, had everything cleaned and ready to go. I shoved all my other clothes to the far end of the wardrobe and created hanging space for my ‘uniforms’.  

And this is how my first personal work wardrobe was created. Given women on average spend 16 minutes of their day or 80 minutes a week, deciding what to wear to work, this is 16 mins a day that I needed to spend elsewhere. I set about creating a simple but effective personal work wardrobe that meant I had a clear idea each morning what I was going to wear and the confidence that I looked work appropriate due to my outfits being purposely selected in advance. 

Three things I was very clear on when setting out to create my work wardrobe were; 

1. Ensuring my clothes were functional – my day now with a little one meant that before and after work were a lot more hectic than before with childcare drop off and pick up, swinging by the grocery store because I definitely would need last minute supplies, getting dinner ready as soon as I got home and bath time. The luxury of getting home and putting something on that was comfortable was out of the question now. All this added up to ensuring that my personal work wardrobe was comfortable, functional and easy to care for.

2. My body shape had evolved – some items of clothes that previously fit perfectly didn’t fit anymore. My body shape had evolved, my hips had got wider, my breasts had deflated and a tummy that was previously flat had taken up residence. Research from our Measure for Change study conducted by One P in conjunction with the Whitehouse university shows that a woman’s body goes through three major transition periods in her lifetime, each resulting in a major change to the composition of her body. Childbearing years see women gain in the upper body and waist, whilst menopause is similar, it is to a lesser degree. Twilight years see shrinkage in the lower body, height and frame whilst the upper body sees less of an impact. So whilst we hope our body returns to our pre baby shape, we can expect to see it continue to evolve over time.

3. Investing in confidence building garments – Buying a new outfit goes a long way to making you feel confident, which is what you need when you are heading back to work. After being in what feels a parallel universe after having a child, the feeling of going back to work can be daunting. So, putting on a new outfit and feeling good makes that entry back into work a little bit smoother.

My recommended steps to creating a personal work wardrobe when returning to work include:

Step 1 – Start with your own wardrobe
Take stock of what you currently have in your wardrobe and note your go to pieces. These pieces will give you a sense of what you like and feel comfortable in. Consider where they sit on your hips, do you like a high or low waist? Do you prefer loose fitting garments or more fitted, round neck or v neck tops? 

Step 2 – Assess the gaps
Hopefully you may already have some trusted basics that can form part of your personal wardrobe, from there identify your gaps.

Step 3 – 10-day work wardrobe
When creating your personal work wardrobe, you should base it on having enough items to get you through two full working weeks. This alleviates the pressure on washing and ironing too regularly, it also helps protect the longevity of the garment. This does not mean that you can’t wear an item twice in that period, but it gives you a plan without too much pressure on upkeep as well as options depending on the type of day ahead and the weather.

Here is the 10-day work wardrobe plan that worked for me

Creating your personal uniform for work

One P 5 Day Wardrobe
One P 5 Day Wardrobe

Women on average spend 16mins of their day (or 80 minutes a week) deciding what to wear to work.

Given time is so scarce it makes sense that women need to find smarter ways to reduce this burden.

Building and utilising a personal uniform approach for work is not a new concept, it’s been adopted by plenty of successful people. Mark Zuckerberg with his jeans, sneakers and t-shirts, and Steve Jobs with his black turtle neck and jeans have all put personal uniforms to good use. And, if you ever thought a personal uniform approach was not cool you only need to refer to Karl Lagerfeld, a legend in luxury fashion design with his crisp white shirt, black blazer and black sunglasses.

It’s acceptable for men to wear simple jeans and tees, but what does it mean for stylish women to create their own personal uniform? Angela Merkel has a wardrobe of pant suits with the intent of taking what she wore out of the conversation.  Hillary Clinton chose pant suits following media commentary on her legs when she was First Lady.  Arianna Huffington is leading the #stylerepeatmovement wearing seven outfits on rotation: “I think women should deliberately repeat things they love. Men have a competitive advantage. They don’t have to waste the kind of energy we waste.” 

What can we learn from these modern women? The advantages of a work uniform are many. The main benefits come from reducing the time and energy that is required when making decisions about what to wear, reducing waste, saving money and giving women a set of outfits that make them feel confident and comfortable at work. 

Saving time

Creating a “work uniform” allows you to streamline your routine and eliminates one more potentially stressful decision from your daily life.

Roy Baumeister, Professor of Psychology at the University of Queensland, says skipping the decision about what to wear each morning can bring cognitive benefits. “Many studies have shown that self-control and decision-making take a certain amount of energy, especially when one puts a lot of effort into them.”

In our own study conducted by One P, women on average make 5-10 decisions before they leave the house in the morning, taking away one of the more frustrating decisions is what a personal wardrobe delivers. 

In addition to the time taken to decide what to wear, time is also reduced in shopping for more items driven by the feeling you have nothing to wear. Not to mention the time we spend rummaging for items in an overstuffed wardrobe, washing, ironing and dry cleaning.

Reducing waste

According to a Forbesarticle by Ayesha Barenblat, founder of the ethical fashion group Remake, modern “fast fashion” items are manufactured to fall apart. The purpose is for those pieces to fade, tear, and quickly be replaced instead of repaired.

In Australia, the average person sends 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill every year.

A personal work wardrobe allows you to continually reuse your carefully selected garments time after time. If you create your uniform around natural fibres you get the added benefit of them being both comfortable and biodegradable. Everyone is happy!

Saving money

One P’s concept of a personal uniform is built on the strategy of moving away from constantly purchasing trend driven garments that go out of fashion after one season.  Rather, by procuring a set of stylish basics in high quality natural fibres you save money overall as you purchase fewer items of higher utility. Natural fibres are breathable, comfortable, durable and easy to care for as all our garments are machine washable.

One P Design 5 Day Wardrobe

How to create a personal work wardrobe.

For stylish women, the ‘uniform’ can be a stylish personal work wardrobe that can mixed, matched, and updated by way of seasonal accessories.

Step 1 – Start with your own wardrobe

Take stock of what you currently have in your wardrobe and note your go to pieces. These pieces will give you a sense of what you like and feel comfortable in. Consider where they sit on your hips, do you like a high or low waist? Do you prefer loose fitting garments or more fitted, round neck or v neck tops.  

Step 2 – Assess the gaps

Hopefully you may already have some trusted basics that can form part of your personal wardrobe, from there identify your gaps.

Step 3 – 10 day work wardrobe

When creating your personal work wardrobe, you should base it on having enough items to get you through two full working weeks. This alleviates the pressure on washing and ironing too regularly, it also helps protect the longevity of the garment. This does not mean that you can’t wear an item twice in that period, but it gives you a plan without too much pressure on upkeep as well as options depending on the type of day ahead and the weather.

Here is an example of 10-day work wardrobe

Total garments needed

  • 2 x dresses
  • 1 x skirt
  • 2 x pants
  • 3 x tops
  • 3 x shirts
  • 1 x Jacket

Total = 12 items

Step 4 – Create your own style

Style is the composite of accessories, your choice of fabrics, silhouette and the colour of the items you choose. Shoes, belts, scarves, jewellery all play a major part in you creating and showing your unique style.

Fast fashion is very quickly becoming a thing of the past, in today’s fast paced world, who has the time to continually be out there shopping the newest trend? We don’t want to be creating more landfill or wasting valuable water supply in creating our clothes. Developing your own style and creating a personal work wardrobe to simplify your morning routine is both smart and responsible. No wonder it is becoming the new trend. 

Design Philosophy by One P Designer, Hayley Clarke

The role of women has changed significantly over the past 100 years.

The historic expectation of a woman was confined to the home, being responsible for looking after the children and making life easier for the hard-working man. This was not just a social expectation; laws were created to ensure that this was and remained the norm. 

A significant shift occurred for women during World War 1 and World War 2. Given so many men were expected to leave their jobs and head to the battle fields, women were required to step in and work outside the home to keep industry turning. 

After the war, the expectation was that women’s work be confined to the home. But the ‘Jeannie was out of the bottle’. Women had a taste for working, earning an income and experiencing the liberation of being financially independent. Archaic thinking of a ‘women can’t do a man’s job’ was shattered when women were doing a man’s job.

We have many, many women to thank for fighting for women’s right for equality.

Australian women Mary Lee and Mary Colton established the Women’s Suffrage League and fought for a decade and succeeded in winning the right for South Australian women to vote in 1894 and they were the first in the world to be eligible to stand for Parliament. However, Indigenous women did not get the right to vote in Queensland State Elections until 1965.

In the United Kingdom, the Suffragettes fought for and won women the vote in 1918.

In the United States, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to change the laws that inhibit women from working outside the home. Marlene Dietrich challenged the status quo around fashion and what was acceptable for women to wear. Betty Friedan, The American writer and activist wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, which is often credited for sparking the second wave of feminism that began in the ’60s and ’70s and accelerated by Australian  Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch in 1970. Gloria Steinem, aptly referred to as the “Mother of Feminism,” led the women’s liberation movements throughout the ’60s and ’70s—and continues to do so today.

Fast forward to today, the acceptance of women in the workforce is pretty much the norm in the Western World (equal pay eludes us), however the role of the man is still stuck back in the dark ages. As women, we are now in a catch twenty-two, not only are we working but we are still socially expected to hold the role of managing the home.

The way we work has also changed dramatically over the past 15 years. With the introduction of new technology such as mobile devices and the working day has expanded from 9 to 5 to always being online and contactable. Our productivity expectations have exploded, you are never logged off.

When we combine these two forces together it means that today’s modern women have a life that is very demanding, far more demanding than it has been in the past.

Therefore, in today’s world a women’s most valuable asset is her time, every little minute counts. This is where my design philosophy has been born from. My passion for designing comes from a deep desire to help women, help women claw back their most valuable asset. I believe Phoebe Philo said it best when she said, “I create clothes for women who has shit to do.”

To put this in perspective, it takes a woman on average 16 minute (or one percent) of their day to decide what to wear to work in the morning. It takes this long because clothes and the way you dress is a form of communication, a very clear way to express who you are or want to be. People will have an impression of you by the way you dress especially in the work environment.

In my own experience I have seen women turned down from promotions just because they didn’t present well, or in line with what was believed as acceptable for a particular role.

For many women this 16 minutes is not enjoyable, it is stressful, and they would much rather be doing something else with that time, such as reading a book to their child or getting a little extra sleep.

My goal as a designer is to make this process easier and less time consuming but remain effective.

In comparison, men dress very simply with very limited thought or time outlaid. They achieve this by keeping it simple with a tailored suit that they wear for each day with alternating shirt and ties.

Drawing on this same philosophy I am passionate about designing classics that have passed the test of time and modernising them for today’s women. There is a good reason why most fashion trends are inspired from history – they work.

For me as a designer fashion is not about art, as a creative I appreciate beautiful artistic fashion design but for me as a designer success comes from combining function and beauty to make a woman feel confident in what she wears. Confidence comes from knowing your garments are making the right impression as well as being comfortable throughout the day. Achieving this is what defines success as a designer for me.

To do this successfully it is crucial that I have a very deep understanding of my customer’s needs. For me all my designs are what we call customer led. Customer feedback helps me understand what they like, what makes them feel beautiful and how the garments need to be designed to give them the function they require throughout the day.

I fundamentally believe that all designers today have a responsibility that needs to form a part of their philosophy, and that is to create fashion in a way that doesn’t impact our planet or the people who reside on it. There are many ways as a designer you can do this, for me my values are very rooted in using only natural fibres that are 100% renewable or biodegradable, and this extends to our packaging. As well, ensuring all our garments are being made in an ethical manner.

In conclusion, as I grow as a designer each day, my understanding of who I am becomes clearer and more simplistic.

Success for me is about creating fashion that is functional, stylish and sustainable. Which can be summed up in one sentence: stylish basics for the modern woman.

3 ways to identify your skin tone plus tips on how to best select clothes for your tone

3 ways to identify your skin tone plus tips on how to best select clothes for your tone

The right colour has the power to give your look an instant lift and is one of the most important aspects to consider when it comes to styling.

Black looks great on everyone, and some people have become so afraid, confused or uncertain about colour that their wardrobe is comprised of entirely black. That’s fine, but if you feel like a change or if you happen to love colour and are not sure which colours are best for you, this guide will help.

The first thing to know is your skin tone and from there it’s easy to select the colours that match your tone. 

There are three skin tones: warm, cool, and neutral – and this applies across all skin colours.

And there are three easy ways to figure out your tone, best done in natural light.        

 

FINDING YOUR TONE

1. Your vein colour

We’re going to talk about veins. If you turn your wrist over, you will see veins.  Using natural light, look at your veins and determine the predominant colour.  Don’t second guess, just look at your veins and decide the colour. 

Green veins = warm skin tone

Blue veins = cool skin tone

Purple veins = cool skin tone

Not sure = neutral skin tone

Orange veins = you’ve taken the carrot juice diet too far.

2. Mirror mirror

With a white piece of paper up to your face discern the tone of your skin. 

Yellowish = warm skin tone

Pinkish = cooler skin tone

Bluish = cooler skin tone

Grey = neutral skin tone

Not sure = neutral skin tone

Bronze = this test is best done without make up

3. Pieces of silver

This test involves placing pieces of gold and silver jewellery on your wrist. Decide which looks best on the top of side of your wrist.  Does one enhance your skin or does the other make your skin look grey?

If the gold jewellery looks best, you have a warm skin tone.

If the reflection from the silver makes your skin glow, you have a cool skin tone.

If they are both flattering, then you have a neutral skin tone.

 

By now you should know your skin tone.  You’re either a warm, cool or neutral.

Next, we’re going to match the best colours for your skin tone. 

 

 

COLOUR YOUR WORLD

Warm skin tone

  • Oranges, reds, golden yellow, amber, honey gold.
  • Warmer greens such as olive, deeper blues, deeper turquoise, green moss, fern, pesto, red-purples such as magenta
  • Taupe, hot chocolate, creamy whites, winter wheat, latte.

Colours that are tough for you

  • icy shades, jewelled tones (amethyst, sapphire, ruby).

Cool skin tone

  • Bright blue, royal blue, sapphire, emerald, amethyst, deep purples, lavender, lilac
  • Bright pink, cerise, ruby, bright rose
  • Grey, navy, pristine white.

Colours that are tough for you

  • Oranges and yellows.

Neutral skin tone

  • light peach, dusty pinks, soft rose, peony pink,
  • blush-toned pinks, placid blue, jade green, cameo green.
  • Taupes, greys, off-whites

Colours that are tough for you:

  • Anything too bright or vibrant
  • reds and yellows

 

WANNA BREAK THE RULES?

The goal is to enhance your natural colouring, but if you love a colour that isn’t ‘flattering,’ go ahead, you can break the rules, just wear them as an accessory such as a belt, handbag shoes or an article of clothing that’s far away from your face, like a pant or skirt, so that it doesn’t compete with your complexion.