As times are quickly changing, and the economy evolving, women may need to re-think the way they dress for work when they are pregnant. That is the advice of image consultant Maureen Costello, principal of Image Launch in Chicago. She assists clients with their professional image in a variety of business situations, and coaches them on dining and business etiquette. Ms. Costello advises employees of some of the nation’s largest companies through her seminars.
When dressing for the office, Ms. Costello recommends staying away from form fitting maternity clothes that have been the trend in recent years. The introduction of lycra-based fabrics, coupled with a general increase of body exposure in the office, have changed the way pregnant women dress for work. Many of the maternity clothes of late display the woman’s growing belly, growing chest and the all-defining umblicous as it pops out.
Ms. Costello’s advice in this period of business history is to downplay the pregnancy. This is the time to dress in maternity clothes that do not scream “I am pregnant!” to her co-workers and clients. “Things that were perceived to be okay in business one month ago, may not be in alignment today. For example, a client function held in a warm weather resort location is less apt to get approval now. At bonus time, a boss who pulls up in a new corvette can expect a different reaction from co-workers than he might have just a few months ago.” Dressing for work is no different. “Employers are looking to trim staff and increase efficiencies, and these decisions are made behind closed doors.” In these times, the less you make of your pregnancy the better.
Frances Keating worked as a Learning and Development Manager for a large bank during most of her pregnancy. Ms. Keating says, “I agree that a woman who is pregnant in the workplace should down play their pregnancy. I was not a fan of having people notice my growing belly. Actually, I rather enjoyed the comments from individuals that stated, ‘I can not even tell that you are pregnant.’ It wasn’t until I was pushing six months that people began to notice the pouch. I preferred to wear clothes that hid my pregnancy simply because I did not want people in the workplace to focus on my stomach, but to focus on what I was saying, especially when I spoke in front of a large group. No one ever conveyed any particular expectation of my maternity wardrobe and I made sure to continue to look as professional as possible.”
Ms. Costello also advises pregnant women to be aware of other subtleties. If a woman typically wears dark suits to work everyday, but now only wears floral; her employers may take notice of the behavior change. Conversely a woman who took great pride in her appearance, but is now “muddling through” may also be sending out the wrong message.
Adrienne Stachura, who is seven months pregnant, and works as a Consignment Coordinator for a large electronic interconnect supplier company says, “I believe it is even more important now- a- days to look pulled together and business appropriate while pregnant at the work place. The last thing I want to convey to my employer during this economy is that my pregnancy will hinder my image at work. We as women must prove we can balance family, careers, and still look polished while pregnant.”
According to Ms. Costello, a frequent problem for pregnant women has often been finding a website or store to find professional maternity clothing. While there are many large retail stores and small boutiques that sell maternity clothes, Matriarch Maternity is one of the few stores to primarily focus on the professional mother- to- be. Seeking alternative clothing sources to build your comfort and confidence will be worth the effort during this transition phase.
While “looking the part” may seem like one more thing to add to a woman’s list who is working through her pregnancy, the long term impact on your career is worth the extra effort. Maintaining consistency with your over-all image should be your guide as you navigate your pregnancy in the office. The idea of transparency with discretion will go a long way with the added bump in your immediate future.