HOW WILL YOU “PRESS (OR DRESS) FOR PROGRESS?”

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world.  And a further reminder to press forward and progress gender parity.  International Women’s Day encourages us to:

  • Maintain a gender parity mindset
  • Challenge stereotypes and biases
  • Forge positive visibility of women
  • Influence other’s beliefs and actions
  • Celebrate women’s achievements

Every year in our business we make a commitment to one of these key areas to specifically focus on in our own sphere of influence.  This year we have chosen “Forge the positive visibility of women”.

However, as women, we sometimes deliberately want to be less visible than our male counterparts or indeed other female contemporaries. Many of us lack the self-confidence we feel we need to become more visible and can sometimes do this through subtle behaviours such as choosing to dress in a way that says “I don’t want to be seen” or taken seriously.

With the boundaries of work wear often blurring into our “downtime” wardrobes – dressing to be visible in a positive way can be a challenge (or indeed a headache) to be avoided.  Yet we all know the importance of first impressions and sadly they can make or break our success.  You’d think it would be simple; we do it every day – but I’m sure this message will resonate with many of you. If only we could take the headache out of this daily habit.  It was certainly something I was keen to do being a busy working mum running around meeting new clients, coachees and participants on a frequent basis.  Which leads me to introducing our new guest blogger, Gemma Fox, Founder of Plume Boutique, Marlow, Bucks.  Read on to hear what Gemma has to say:

When Carrie Stockton, Founder of Change Gear and one of my wonderful and super stylish regular customers asked me recently to contribute a few words to the change-gear blog I jumped at the chance.

Having set up my own independent fashion retail business 12 years ago and in that same period built up an extensive network of fashion intrigued females it seemed like the logical next step to have a conversation with Carrie about how our paths may cross on a business level too. A year ago I changed the business model of my independent, Plume, from a stand-alone large store open 7 day’s a week and with extensive window frontage on the high street in Marlow Bucks to a more focused and exclusive personal shopping set-up, in line with changing shopping trends and customer needs. The result is a specialist Private Shopping Showroom nestled in a gorgeous little building right off the high street but still available to all of my regulars who have been visiting the store for years and relying on me to style outfits based on their individual lifestyle requirements.

As word has spread about the attraction and appeal of the Private Shopping Showroom I have found myself naturally branching out to a more “corporate” customer – I use the term hesitantly as fashion in business is changing very fast with many medium and large businesses relaxing their dress code and small business owners increasingly adopting a style that is still smart but a lot more casual whilst still being effective. Enter the phase of relaxed tailoring! This is a style that I am creating with my customers on a daily basis, for their work life, for networking events, for business trips and client meetings and it definitely requires more effort than throwing on a dark suit and crisp shirt BUT once you learn the formula this look becomes like a uniform and your go-to style as a woman in business today.

I work with ladies of all ages, shape, colour and purpose and each of them are unique which makes my job so exciting and rewarding, but at the same time their fashion concerns can be very similar, and I regularly hear these statements –

  • I don’t have time to go shopping!
  • I have the time but don’t enjoy clothes shopping
  • I am stuck in a style rut and need help
  • I don’t really know what suits my shape
  • I’ve gone through a change in circumstances (baby, divorce, new job etc) and my wardrobe isn’t relevant anymore.

There are so many considerations to take on board when choosing the right key pieces for your wardrobe and many of us could benefit from some style guidance so that’s where I step in, in a nutshell I take the stress out of clothes shopping and give my customers the confidence and positivity purely through their wardrobe choices to go forward and conquer! There is nothing more satisfying for me than providing customers with the essential tools to create a winning style that can often be life and career changing.

And the bit I often forget is how natural styling other women is for me, like a 6th sense, so I feel it’s my privilege to showcase this ability with customers and in many cases transform negative mindsets based on previous shopping disasters into positive and empowered outlooks.

When new customers come to see me we have an initial 10 minute consultation to establish their personal lifestyle needs and to understand their wardrobe buying behaviour. I almost always raise these suggestions and questions –

How do you feel about your wardrobe? – if it doesn’t give you instant sentiments of joy and excitement something needs to change (e.g time to de-clutter/ re-organise, update)

Get to know your body shape, are you a pair or an apple? What are your best bits? What are the bits you don’t like? (We all have them)! Start to filter your fashion choices according to you, not your friend/ instagram idol/ that actress whose style you love

Do you have a good idea of the colours that suit you best? Most people instinctively choose colours they are meant to wear but often have one or two that are definite no no’s (black, white, yellow) and the wrong colour can make you look drawn, pale and downright unwell. I have a good instinct for assessing customers’ correct colour palette too.

Buy a few good fashion mags to get an idea of what the new season trends are – its more important to dress your shape and according to your colour palette than to cover fashion fads but useful to have a few key accessories to keep your style looking contemporary and fresh.

Now try on pieces that are totally out of your comfort zone – a jumpsuit, a cropped wide leg trouser, a skirt that shows your knees, a block heel boot and forget for a moment about your personally inflicted mental fashion constraints you’ve subjected yourself to for years (possibly based on something your mother/ teenage daughter/ old boyfriend once said that has given you an unrealistic dose of body dysmorphia)! It’s time to liberate and reinvent yourself while in that changing room!

Above all HAVE FUN!

 

And so with this advice to ponder I will leave you to consider how you can make yourself or your female colleagues feel more visible in the workplace.  As Gemma has intimated, dressing can be an enjoyable experience and lift your confidence back to where it should be.

I’m also delighted to confirm that Gemma will be partnering with the Change-Gear team, supporting some of our clients in the corporate world in personal confidence-enhancing image consultations.  Please contact hello@change-gear for more information on how Gemma can help you.  And if you’d like to visit Gemma at her boutique she can be reached at Tel. 08450 038950 or visit

http://www.plumeboutique.com .

In the meantime we’d love to hear about any initiatives you may have towards “pressing for progress”.

Happy IWD to all

 

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