How exactly did this happen? When did it happen? How did I not notice it happened? Who knows exactly, but I vaguely recall starting to change out nice button-down, dry-cleaning required clothes around the time that baby spit-up started to get on everything I owned. Gradually, shopping for “me clothes” turned into buying the “cutest outfits” on zulily.com for my girls. Things got frumpy to another level when my kids started school. It’s difficult enough to get one person ready and out the door—but now three? Well, by the time we got out the door, breakfast in hand, I barely had time to realize that I hadn’t put on my make-up.
Just how long I was walking around in this “frumpy” mode? Who knows. People that see me at school drop-off might wonder if I ever move beyond it (oftentimes I do my workout and get ready after drop off ;).
Then one-day, partly inspired by Pinterest, my reflection in the mirror, my desire to model self-confidence for my girls, and a goal of strengthening and growing my professional reputation, I committed to go from Frumpy to Fabulous.
The Power of Dress:
Dressing well says to yourself that you’re worth the effort and worth the investment. The first person you have to convince that you’re worth the effort and investment is yourself. It takes time to put yourself together, and as working parents, we often feel that our very limited time should go to our kids, our job, our partners, our kids’ teachers, the Starbucks Barista that gives us the fuel we need to get through the day….basically, the list goes on and we’re not on it. That’s not true. Remind yourself that you’re worth the investment. (See related blog post on investing in yourself)
Dressing shows your kids that you think you’re worth the effort. Don’t you want to model self-respect and worth to your kids? Pride and attention to how you look is a way to show your kids that you believe you’re worth your own attention. You don’t have to look like you’re about to enter a beauty contest—a little effort goes a long way.
Dressing shows others that you think you’re worth the effort. Don’t give others a reason to put a negative “frumpy mommy” or “sloppy daddy” label on you. If you go from fabulous to frumpy when you become a parent, people might assume that “you’re letting yourself go” and add on a whole bunch of (unfair!) labels, stereotypes and assumptions about how your work will change now that you’re a working parent. Don’t give them the chance. After all—remember that we believe families and careers can be compliments, not conflicts (and if you don’t believe that yet, see related blog post on this topic.
Powerful dress contributes to a powerful personal brand. Companies spend a lot of time building brand—and much of that investment is in image. They select fonts, colors, photo styles and tone with great intention. How many times have you visited a website to learn more about a company only to close the browser when the page was sloppy and crowded? Don’t let others dismiss you. Make sure your dress compliments and supports your personal brand.
Dressing up can change your mood. I have some friends that dress up on the days they feel the worse. “Fake it to you make it” they say. I tested their theory, and have to agree with them. A put-together outfit can lift my spirits.
Dressing up can build your self-confidence. When you look put-together, you walk a little taller and feel feel better about yourself. I think self-confidence is so important (see related blog post)
How to Make the Shift:
- Make the personal commitment to yourself. You will most likely need to refer to this commitment often. When the alarm goes of in the morning, you will need to remind yourself of this commitment and skip the snooze button. When you spill coffee on your shirt while packing the kids’ lunches, you will need to remind yourself of this commitment and change your shirt. When you just “don’t feel like getting ready”, you will need to pull the “commitment card” on yourself.
- Invest wisely in your wardrobe. You don’t have to spends tons of money to get a fabulous wardrobe. Some fashion-saavy business school teammates introduced me to the power of the versatile black blazer that adds power and pizzazz to any outfit. There are many great companies that sell sharp clothes at reasonable prices. If you don’t have the need to be super-trendy, you can take advantage of the end-of-year sales to stock-up on basic pieces that go with everything
- Get “fashion” inspired. Check out Pinterest. Follow fashion bloggers (a work colleague whose outfit I envy every day has a great fashion blog)
- Look in the mirror—and note how you feel. Most habits don’t stick unless you realize that there is a reward to living them. It’s really important for you to realize the effect that dressing well has on you. Do you feel confident, powerful, happy, fun, outgoing, or less-stressed? Do you feel more stressed? Dig a bit—perhaps you’re trying to create a style that’s too complicated or not for you. Note the good and the bad, and adjust your style goal as needed.
- Observe people’s reaction to you—and write big changes down for motivation later. Take note of people’s reaction to you. Notice if people listen to you differently in meetings. Notice if people smile more when they engage with you. And of course, listen for people commenting on the change. Write down big “wins” and keep them handy for days when you need extra motivation to get ready.
While you may be tempted to think that this applies only to working moms—but it doesn’t. Working dads—all of this applies to you too! And do you have to be fabulous everyone day? No. Perfection isn’t a realistic goal. Doing your best is.
So go replace your frumpy mom jeans with something fabulous!