Confidence and identity are two of the biggest issues that come up when I’m working with mamas. How do you feel in your new role, your new body, and your changing relationships? How do you feel up against all the judgmental comparisons of social media? How and when do you manage to find the time to be yourself, or for that matter, just be?
One of the confidence and identity crises I personally have grappled with since the babes came along is how to dress for this new self and new body. Whether to a) try and carry on as I was pre-kids even though nothing quite fits like it used to (including shoes wtf) and it’s making me feel crappy, b) embrace the elasticated waists and milk/yoghurt/dribble stains and just throw out all the mirrors, or c) seek out an updated version of personal style that fits my new rhythm, doesn’t have to cost the earth or take up precious time, and might just help to build a whole new confidence.
A confidence that works from the inside out, by understanding how to work from the outside in.
I asked Tessa Frost to give us her view and some tips. She is the lovely (and extremely stylish!) Founder of Fig & Frost, a luxury personal styling consultancy in central and West London. She runs 1:1 styling sessions, covering everything from wardrobe assessments to colour sessions and shopping trips, and hosts a variety of styling events across London. She lives in Chiswick with her husband and two daughters. Here she is on why option c) is the way to go:
Confidence from the outside in
Since setting up my styling consultancy, I’ve seen first-hand how much of a difference feeling and looking good can make to my clients’ emotional happiness. I had my two daughters fairly close together and took the decision not to go back to work straight away. I knew how lucky I was to be able to make that choice, and threw myself into stay at home motherhood with all the enthusiasm I could muster amidst sleep deprivation, explosive nappies, toddler tantrums and all the exhausting juggling that comes with being responsible for two small people.
Looking back, I realise that while I was prepared for many aspects of motherhood, I hadn’t expected such a complete change to my sense of identity. My world had morphed overnight into something that in no way resembled my life before having children. Everything I did revolved around them; I was solely focused on their needs and happiness. The things I used to enjoy - exercising, going to an art gallery, clothes shopping or drinks after work - no longer happened. Having previously been a keen shopper, I now dressed in a uniform of pregnancy or breastfeeding outfits in dark colours. They did nothing for me but they did hide milk stains and meant getting dressed in the morning was pretty speedy, despite a child under one arm and another clinging to my ankles.
I know from talking to friends and clients since, how common that crisis of identity is for so many new (and not so new) mothers. As mothers we don’t always have the energy or headspace to focus on how we look and what we wear. We can feel guilty spending time and money on our own appearance, when there are so many demands on our already stretched schedules and budgets.
It is easy to underestimate the pleasure and confidence that comes with feeling that we look good. I vividly remember the first time I abandoned the milk-encrusted leggings to don an outfit for a friend’s wedding – I felt as if I was inhabiting someone else’s body for the day. It was wonderful and equally shocking to realise how alien it felt.
When I set up my business, I really wanted to help others feel that transformative effect. Most of my clients are busy mothers; some go out to work and some stay at home. What they all have in common is a desire to look great and feel good about themselves. Together we explore their lifestyle and develop an image that fits their personality and their daily activities. My aim is to make sure they have a wardrobe full of beautiful pieces that they love wearing but that they don’t have to spend time putting together.
I’ve seen time and again how much confidence this brings, making them feel empowered and ready to face the outside world. Investing in your look and revitalising your wardrobe doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take lots of time.
Here are my top tips for styling yourself:
- Get inspired – start thinking about your style and how you would like to develop it. Follow your favourite celebrities on Instagram and see what they’re wearing. Sign up to some fashion blogs or websites like: www.whowhatwear.com and www.vogue.co.uk for style inspiration
- Declutter your wardrobe – take some time to sort through your wardrobe and be brutal: you should aim to chuck out the things you haven’t worn in the last 6 months to a year. It’s likely that they no longer fit or never suited you in the first place. Also think about colour: perhaps you have too much grey or black and could do with some lighter, neutral tones, especially for summer. Or start to experiment with a brighter colour palette, full of the colours you love but you’re cautious about wearing
- Try new outfit combinations –try putting different pieces together and making new outfits with the clothes you have. Mix up your casual clothes with your work wear or with your evening wear and you’ll be surprised how many new combinations you can find
- Make a shopping list – identify the missing capsule pieces, whether it’s the perfect pair of jeans, a pencil skirt or a cream summer jacket. Don’t just go and hit the shops without having a clear idea of what you need
- Make the most of high street fashion – the British high street has some amazing pieces, you don’t need to invest huge sums. My current favourites are: H&M (for work staples), Massimo Dutti, & Other Stories, Karen Millen (structured dresses in beautiful prints)
- Accessorise – it’s amazing the difference statement earrings or a scarf can make to an outfit. Make sure your accessories are accessible otherwise you won’t wear them! You can get some lovely and inexpensive jewellery trees online (try Etsy or M&S) and Muji do really good drawer organisers in a multitude of sizes
- Plan your outfit – once you’ve done all of the above, it should take only a few extra minutes to plan what you’re going to wear the night before, even it’s just jeans and your favourite T-shirt. It means getting dressed in the morning takes no time, you feel happy with what you’re wearing and you might even manage time for a bit more make up or an extra cup of coffee!