10 tips for a stress-free return to work wardrobe

Written by Career Mums

30th May 2018

Sarah Gray 10 tips working wardrobe

#finding your new work wardrobe without the stress

Whether you’re returning to work after a short break or it’s been years since you were a feature in the workplace, there are many decisions to make: Return to the same job? Return to the same industry? Try something new? Full-time? Part-time? and the list goes on.

Eventually, though, there is likely to be some kind of interview – whether it be with HR on negotiating your return after maternity leave or a full blown new job you applied for.

Just hearing the word ‘interview’ can be enough to send anyone into a spin. The clammy hands, the blank mind when asked a question, the fear of giving a rushed answer…what is there to love about preparing for an interview?

Of course, you have all of those fears ironed out under Career Mums’ expert guidance, so there is nothing to fear.

Except of course, when you open your wardrobe and think “what on earth will I wear?”

Help is at hand…and could be already hanging in your wardrobe

Approaching a situation you’ve not been in for a while such as feeling under or overdressed, is a common worry for women returning to the workplace.

So, you’re not alone. You’ve worked so hard on your return to this point, don’t let your clothing worries bring you down. Here’s my top 10 Tips for a stress-free return to work wardrobe.

1. Plan ahead

We’ve all been there. And we’ve all felt the pangs of anxiety when we go to the wardrobe with an outfit in mind, only to find it no longer fits… or has a mark on it… or is in fact, looking a bit dated. Avoid this by starting your wardrobe planning in plenty of time.

2. Dress for the job you want not the one you have

Whatever your role right now, think about how you will need to dress for the role you are going after. A move from stay-at-home mum to employee could be quite a jump. Whereas a move within a company or industry could mean only a few tweaks.

3. Consider the company you’ll be working for

If you know the industry or the company you’re returning to, then chances are you’re already aware of their culture and subsequently, their acceptable dress code. Let’s say that you’re entering a company that’s new to you, therefore you’re unaware of the company culture. Here, it’s best not to assume. A quick phone call to the HR department, receptionist or suchlike to ask about dress code would put your mind at rest and allow for your planning.

4. Who are you?

Now you know the company culture and what is an acceptable dress code. However, to feel at your best, you’ll want to feel comfortable for your interview and subsequent return. Dressing to reflect your personality is important for you to feel relaxed. For example; if you’ve discovered that the other women generally wear trousers and a blouse but you feel very uncomfortable in trousers, you can easily opt for an alternative with a dress.  For some, a suit is not comfortable at all and there’s a feeling of restriction so here, perhaps look at softer fabrics and cuts in order to feel more comfortable.

5. Colours

The psychology of colour plays a silent but important role in putting an outfit together. Take red for example; it’s a strong, powerful colour which seeks attention – maybe not the best choice for an interview as you could come across over confident. Whereas blue is a ‘trust me’ colour, depicting sincerity, loyalty, it is approachable while maintaining an air of authority if required.

6. Styles

As you find yourself in different situations, it’s easy to adopt similar styles to those around you. For example; jeans and a T-shirt with fashion trainers for a group of stay-at-home mums – there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever – however, ensure you consider whether or not the style is right for you. We already touched on being in tune with your personality and it’s equally important to ensure you’re dressing for your body shape too.

7. Accessories

What do you need to take to work? Is a small handbag enough? Or would a tote bag be more useful? Do you need to carry papers/laptop? – then a good quality laptop bag would be worth the investment.

If you love jewellery, use this to reflect your personality however, ensure it is appropriate. A subtle scarf can jazz-up a plain shift dress and add a little colour without looking OTT.

8. On your feet

Are shoes your thing? Or are they simply a practical must-have? In reality, a pair of shoes can make or break an outfit. Consider your journey- will you need to change your footwear upon arrival because you’ve had a lengthy walk? It’s perfectly acceptable to do this.

Think about whether your footwear is appropriate for the workplace, for example: if you’ll be in an office, is it office policy for no open-toed shoes?

9. Out the door

There’s nothing worse than arriving at an interview or first day on the job soaking wet because you forgot your umbrella or freezing because you don’t have a suitable coat! So, during your planning, take time to consider your journey – does it involve a school run? Will you need an umbrella or a rain coat with a hood? Is there a car park, a long walk or a wait on a station platform? Make sure you have the appropriate outerwear.

10. Budget

There’s a lot to consider but it doesn’t have to mean massive expense. The first place to shop is your own wardrobe. Do you have any garments in there which can be repurposed? Perhaps a blazer you’ve only ever worn with jeans but turns out it also looks fab with a shift dress you have.

Finishing touches

Now your wardrobe worries are over – it’s time to focus on you. Your hair is the one accessory you wear most of the time. Ensure you have an up-to-date cut which suits you.

Less is more when it comes to your make-up. A natural look will be sufficient and will send a message to the interviewer that you are brilliant at time management! Ensure your nails are well manicured and if you paint them, ensure it’s not chipped.

Bare legs is often a dilemma that women particularly struggle with in an office environment. Unless temperatures are sky high, it’s safer to opt for flesh coloured tights if in doubt.

And one last thing…

Remember, returning to work is an exciting time and the start of a new adventure. It’s also a great opportunity to reinvent yourself and your style. Don’t rush into buying a new wardrobe until you’ve assessed what your new colleagues are wearing – then dress to reflect your personality from your own colour palette. Be confident, be yourself and don’t forget to wear a smile. Enjoy your next chapter and good luck.


Written by Sarah Gray from Sarah Gray Image

Career wise Sarah has worn many hats. She’s done the commute, worked in the City and also juggled the demands of being a working mum. She understands the importance of first impressions in business and appreciates the need to feel confident personally as well as professionally. 

Sarah says “Personal style should be fun…I want my clients to smile about their style and step out with confidence with every clothing combo regardless of their shape, size or budget…”




Sign up for our Weekly Boost

Register your interest here for up to date information on events and new content - direct to your inbox every Thursday!

Related Articles

I need to find a job – where do I start?

I need to find a job – where do I start?

At a time when there are ever more people looking for work and many sectors not hiring at the moment due to the impact of the pandemic, here’s our quick guide as to where to start looking for your next job.   1. Work out your ideal job We recommend writing out a...

How do I find a new job after redundancy as a knackered mum?

How do I find a new job after redundancy as a knackered mum?

You’ve found out you’re being made redundant – no doubt you’ll be experiencing lots of different emotions from devastation, anger, disappointment and being scared. It’s important for you to get on with finding a new role and you know the job market has imploded –...

Let’s chat about being a working mum

Let’s chat about being a working mum

I don’t know your story yet, here’s mine... I scraped through school and against the odds got a place on a degree course, inspired by the fact that most of my friends were doing the same thing. I didn’t have a career plan, didn’t have any major ambitions and realised...