I stride on to the station platform at 6.30am every morning (sometimes earlier depending on my schedule and sometimes less of a stride depending on the height of my heels). I rarely fail to get a few sideways glances - mainly due to the fact I'll be wearing a leopard print trench, or a navy and red trimmed military coat with velvet boots, a vintage fur coat, leather trousers or something equally considered un-corporate. You can see it flash in the eyes of the other commuters.. 'What the hell is she wearing?'...
On the platform it's a sea of black, grey and brown, all jostling for door opening positions - occasionally there will be someone equally as daring as me with a splash of red boot or an orange coat but at this time of the morning, the corporate brigade are out in force.
For many years, I was probably one of them. Bringing up two small babies whilst working on a trading floor, house-hubby at home, me doing 14 hour days and a 'win' day for me was managing to get to work without any puke on my trousers. I wore this uniform of black tailored boot cuts, plain blouse (nothing too colourful, in case people looked at me!) and ballet flats - heels under the desk for meeting emergencies.
I only wish I knew then what I do now.
As I grew older and so did the babies, the whole small child parenting fog lifted and I started to get my mojo back. I seem to remember it was with accessories first. A fancy heel, a designer handbag, a wow necklace - I started to dress up my corporate look and people started to notice. And I liked it! With compliments a plenty coming my way, it gave me back the confidence I had had in my youth - always wanting to wear the outlandish or something uber fashionable - pushing whatever the trend was to the extreme if I could.
Approaching my forties, a spell out of financial services and in fashion did me no end of good, giving me the freedom to express myself and when I returned, I found my personal style had evolved and my confidence was even bigger. I was no longer afraid to wear what I wanted. Yes, occasionally I mess it up and I make mistakes with what I buy - lusting after something I've seen on Instagram and then it wallowing in the wardrobe for the rest of the year (this IS NOT good shopping folks)...
My Instagram (CityFashGal) is full of outfits I wear for work everyday - I work in fin-tech but I regularly visit trading floors in banks and hedge funds - some of the stuffiest and stiffest environments for dress code around! But I won't fall foul to the black trouser suit - not unless I'm wearing a silk pussy bow blouse and a leopard print shoe maybe!
A couple of months ago, I took a friend shopping for the day. She had lost some weight, was approaching a big birthday and told me she'd lost her way a bit on the clothes front. We zipped around London's west end for the day, attacking the high street stores, throwing her some outfits together for work, me pushing her to try colour and pattern and styles she slighted baulked at!
The net result is an almost weekly text I get off her, saying she's been stopped in a shop or on the tube or by her colleagues - all complimenting her on her outfits and she is over the moon. The boost to her confidence is amazing and I feel great that she's enjoying getting dressed in the mornings again! Something as simple as putting on a great fitting dress...
Last week, a younger woman had asked my advice. New to new job, her team didn't seem to be taking her seriously. Now this young lady is super smart, so I didn't understand why she wasn't really being heard, until I thought about the way she looked. Dressed very casually in chino's and a blouse, it was so normcore (I hate normcore, can you tell?) that I can't imagine they would even see her, let alone hear her. My advice was to smarten up her look a little - wear a fitted jacket and some jeans, add some accessories and - god forbid - a lick of lippy and see if this helped her.
The result? She took my advice and tweaked her outfit, and the following day, calls me to say how empowered she feels.... The next time I see her, she'd grown a couple of inches in height I swear!
So for those rolling their eyes and giving me the 'women shouldn't need to dress up to be heard' look - I disagree. Someone told me how they dressed down so clothes didn't get in the way of what they were trying to say. I think that's nonsense. Ok, if you're sitting in a meeting dressed like Bubble from Ab Fab, then I get it, but thinking that if you wear a red blouse it will detract from your 'message' at work is just not true.
It's not about people commenting how nice you look and it's not about wearing daring or uber trendy clothes. It's about you feeling empowered and confident which makes you perform your daily tasks better - whatever your position or demographic - even if you're at home with kids!! It's nice to be complemented of course, but if I'm wearing some kick ass boots that I love, that's enough to make me have a better day, irrespective whether anyone notices or not - I NOTICE and I feel good! If you feel good, you perform better.
It remains for me to say, if you're stuck in a rut, consider seeing a personal stylist. Just one visit can turn your wardrobe around. But do your research - there are lots of wannabe's!
If you're looking for inspiration, there is no better place than Instagram. There are literally ton's of amazing, normal women, showing you how good you can look on a budget or where you can spend your cash if you want a smattering of designer.
Whatever you wear, please don't be invisible.
Another @CityFashGal sermon delivered.