My friend Sarah was feeling humiliated and angry. Seven months pregnant, she was at an important conference for work, when her ‘reasonably priced’ maternity pants split down the seam. It was only the second time she had worn them. « I was seriously hacked off. Here I am trying to hold it together, convince people to take me seriously, that my work is worth investing in despite this looming life event. I mean, already they are making assumptions about my commitment just because I am pregnant, and then the only professional looking thing I could find to wear lets me down. »
This got me thinking about how much we judge people by the way they dress and present themselves, and how so much of maternity wear is just not up to the job – poor quality or just too basic. There is some fabulous stuff out there, but tends to be expensive and not that easy to find. Even in industries where the look is super casual, there are still assumptions and judgements made based on a ‘code’. For women there are always some extra challenges, and many colleagues talk about how what they choose to wear is a projection of how they want to be perceived. But it becomes even more difficult when you are pregnant, or just after the baby arrives (when you are stuck between maternity clothes and regular clothes). Not many of us want to spend lots of money on a temporary wardrobe, and the last thing you need is clothing that falls apart after a wash or two.
Working through pregnancy, you need to convey an air of continued competence. The way you dress and present yourself is especially important as the bump grows bigger. After all, you generally want people to focus on you and your work, not your impending maternity leave. But this is where maternity clothing can often channel you into a narrow selection of dull and boring day in day out. Black pants, a top and a jacket. Or a dress and boots. So here are a few suggestions to help you style your work wardrobe.
Accessories are my number one go-to for transforming an outfit. Take a standard combo of black pants and jacket, and give it some wow factor :
Style Tip 1) A brooch worn high provides a focal point closer to your face, and according to Stylist Ilka Dunn, conveys authority in an almost military sense. A great example here is Lady Hale, Supreme Court president, who wore a stunning brooch when returning the verdict on the proroguing of Parliament in September 2019
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge also used a brooch to this effect to offset the simplicity of her maternity coat.
Style Tip 2) A scarf or necklace also draw the eye towards your face, while offering a form of protection to the neck. A bare neck and shoulders apparently convey a sense of vulnerability (Madderson London Blog).
Style Tip 3) A belt worn high over the bump offers both some interesting detail to your outfit, while also giving a more polished and complete look.
Style Tip 4) Shoes (my favourite!) – don’t be afraid to go for a colour or pattern, you can link to something in your outfit, or if you are in all black, go for an animal print !
Finally, consider renting your maternity or breastfeeding clothes instead of buying them. Aka+Pip offers a great selection that allows you to access the best style and quality, for a fraction of the retail price, so you can experiment with your wardrobe more freely and save more of your money for the really important things!