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Lyn Preston
Director of Melbourne's Style Genies

Returning to work after some years as a mother can be a daunting prospect. Remember that employers will generally accept the reality that many women have necessarily had a break in their working lives, but remember too that they will balance that 'gap' against greater maturity and greater life skills.

However, it's important not to have lost the plot professionally. Your look and attitude plays a major part in that. But the interview is only day one. It's equally important to continue to be professional. Employers often comment that what their employee wore for her interview was very smart but, sadly, she did not present like that again. Men will go out and buy a suit (or two) for work, and women need to address this issue just as seriously. 

It's unlikely that what you've been wearing at home and for meeting up with other mums is appropriate in the work place. Returning to the workforce, you'll want to prove your credibility and be professional. Organising your wardrobe for the long term will help achieve both.

Here are a few handy tips about attitudes and practicalities, gleaned from our experience in hands-on wardrobe workshops for women, many of them especially designed for mums returning to work.


Factoring in a budget for your working wardrobe is as important as the cost of commuting to work. Both are vital steps in keeping you employed. 

As a guide for how much you need to allow for spending on your working wardrobe, it's realistic to budget for 10 percent of your salary. So, for a role with a starting salary of $40,000, you should expect to invest $4,000 on appropriate clothes.

You can further break your budget down by seasons, allowing for winter to be more expensive, but this is balanced by the reality that winter clothes will last longer than your summer ones. 

No Budget?

In some circumstances there is no budget available for clothes. Be as resourceful as you can. Are you able to get a loan to get started, or have an account where you can pay off the items? There are a few other emergency alternatives available for women with no resources, like 'Fitted for work' and 'Dress for Success'.

With a careful shopping list of what you most need, another option is to go to a few recycle boutiques. Whatever your circumstances, your priority is to dress for the job as best you can.

Hot tips for organising your clothes

Organising your clothes storage is a good discipline to develop. It's important that your wardrobe is easy to use, efficient, and actively contributes to the care of your clothes and accessories. Pleasant, sensible, and easy-to-use wardrobe arrangements also impact on your psychology, helping you feel better about your clothes and your look.:

Must haves

A full length mirror. Hang it where it will encourage the habit of checking your look before you leave the house.
Matching hangers. These ensure your wardrobe looks better and reminds you to remove all wire hangers that do damage to jackets and knitwear.
Accessory holder. There are many ways to store necklaces and scarves these days. Opt for the most convenient, consuming less space and easy to use. Jewellery boxes attract attention for burglaries. Hanging pocket type holders
work really well.
Shoes. Best kept out of your wardrobe. One handy method is to have a large shoe box in the garage or laundry where you can keep your shoes available for a quick exit. Nothing spoils a wardrobe more than shoes lying all over the floor. Out of season or special occasion shoes and boots can be stored in transparent shoes boxes that are very reasonably priced nowadays.

Your wardrobe selections

Invest in the best jacket you can afford for work. This should be a neutral colour that will go with both pants and skirts. Prefer jackets over cardigans and knitwear, for a more professional image that will last.

Tops and shirts
Not see through. Not lacey. Not with plunging necklines. Choose natural cottons and silks over polyester, as synthetics do not breathe and can get smelly.

Skirts and dresses
Safety in numbers! Not more than 2” above the knee.

Neutral colours, machine washable fabrics work best. Never revealing your underwear.

Comfortable and simple styles. Avoid driving in your work shoes to preserve the heels better.

Not too large or too small. Nothing too glitzy. Aim to keep any work related homework in a separate bag or briefcase. 

Mirror mirror!
Make up, not mask up. Not too much foundation or eye colour. Less is more in the workplace, when it comes to cosmetics. Never overpower your colleagues with perfumes or potent deodorants. Opt always for a subtle fresh result.


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  Style Genies

Melbourne's own remarkable style consultancy, Style Genies have set a benchmark through their practical hands-on workshops that focus on women's actual needs and budget realities. They help identify each person's own unique style and teach women how to create that look, and maintain it through clever purchasing and sensible management. Style Genies workshops teach every aspect of dressing, including work, play and travel.

Lyn Preston is a top fashion stylist with over 16 years consulting to both private and corporate clients. Originally from New Zealand, she is now based in Melbourne, where she created Style Genies. Listening to clients' needs is paramount, she says. Learning about their colouring, their body shape and proportions was the secret to establishing their own natural style.

Lyn Preston
Style Genies
Pacific Tower
Suite 1.02A
737 Burwood Rd
Hawthorn East
Vic, 3123

Ph: (03) 9882 2622 
M:  0438 518 234

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