Thursday, 14 January 2016
From slummy mummy to career bitch and other wardrobe crises
Going back to work is filled with innumerable terrors for the naturally reclusive home working mummy. After years of only having to make conversation with yourself and day time television (oh the hours I have wasted screaming at Jeremy Kyle and his motley collection of guests), suddenly you have to dust down those long lost social skills. You have to remember that it is not considered polite to start dabbing at a colleague's clothes with a wet wipe and that it really isn't acceptable to spend the entire day with a streak of child snot across the front of your dress (apologies to all in my office who had to witness this faux pas today).
It is very demanding this professionalism.
But perhaps the biggest challenge for me was the complete wardrobe change. When I first got my job a friend who works for the same company said 'Well you will have to get yourself a whole new wardrobe now won't you?'. I looked down at my ensemble by George at Asda twinned with wannabe Uggs and wonder what he could possibly mean.
For the past decade or so, workwear has consisted of leggings and a baggy T-shirt on a good day, pyjamas until school pick up on a bad day. Fashion really didn't come into it. I have been known to do the school pick up run with my nightie hastily tucked into a pair of jeans and hidden under my practical, padded mummy coat.
As for make up, nail polish and blow drys, well those were things of myth and legend, lost in the mists of time. For a girl who had religiously bought every issue of Marie Claire from the day it launched, I really had let myself go. I thought glamming up was changing my top and using a liberal spritz of dry shampoo.
When I went to my interview I wore high heels for the first time since my 40th birthday. I had forgotten what instruments of torture those shoes are. By the time I reached the office I had developed corns.
But a quick recce of the other women in the office confirmed my friend's fears, my mummy wardrobe simply wouldn't cut the mustard.
I preempted my first paycheck with a serious shopping spree. Out with comfort, practicality and machine washable, in with pain, Prada knock offs and dry clean only. My racks of comfy jeans and washed out T-shirts were ruthlessly replaced by chic shirts, little black dresses and the dreaded high heels.
For my first week at work I walked everywhere with a limp until, one desperate lunch hour I dived into Clarks and chose the comfiest pair of shoes I could find. Never mind that they looked like orthopaedic slippers, at least every step was no longer agony.
But it wasn't just my feet that were in for a shock. Having to look presentable every day posed somewhat of a challenge. I am categorically not a morning person, yet a 9am start in central London meant getting out of bed with enough time to spare to transform a rather unkempt 44-year-old into a sleek career woman, and let me assure you that is a time-consuming task.
Shaving my legs became more than just a bi-montly treat, I had to be smooth of limb every day. Imagine that. My middle aged face had to be made palatable by the means of a liberal application of BB cream and my hair could no longer sprout randomly from my head, but had to be tamed into a mirror sleek bob.
In short I had to switch from a woman who firmly believed that a beauty regime consisted of a dab of lip salve and a prayer, and that high fashion was a pair of Ugg boots that didn't smell faintly of the sheep they had been made from, to someone who could wield a mascara wand like a pro and wasn't afraid of a pair heels.
Although I must admit this is still a work in progress as I realised when I got up from a meeting today, only to discover that my skirt was tucked firmly into my knickers and presumably had been since I had gone to the loo about an hour ago. Sadly my fashion report card still reads: 'Could try harder".