As a full time athlete from 2003 to 2007, I literally lived in my training kit. My hair was always in a ponytail and the only makeup I wore was sunblock. Then, in 2010, I became a mother. I remember looking at myself in the mirror one day when my two little ones were in the bath – my hair was tied up in messy bun on the top of my head and my sweatshirt was covered in food. My makeup might as well have been pea mush. Thinking about work wasn’t even on the radar.
When I did start thinking about working again, it certainly wasn’t in the context of a full time job. First of all, we were living in Switzerland, a country which didn’t give women the vote until the 1970s. While there are many great things in Switzerland, the return to work environment for women is not one of them. Secondly, I wanted the ability to work flexibly so that I didn’t have to miss precious moments with my children like their first words or their first steps. In my mind, given my environment and my personal desires, the only real option I had left was to start a business from my kitchen table.
One of my very first clients was Kathy Patellis-Schmidt. Kathy is a personal stylist who specialises in image consulting and wardrobe detoxing. Kathy has a genuine heart for wanting to help women of all ages and stages of their life, explore their personal style which she believes will help them build what she calls ‘an impactful presence.’ For Kathy, styling is not actually about style in the traditional sense. It is about discovering your personality, learning to see yourself and bring order and harmony to your external appearance.
In 2018, while I am no longer covered in food… I will admit that there are many days when I still struggle to get out of my sports kit or even bother to do my hair. That said, there have been times in the past year when I’ve called on Kathy for inspiration and help. For example, last May, when the Prime Minister visited TechPixies, Kathy and I spent a lot of time on Facebook messenger going back and forth with possible outfits. And then, when it was time for pitch for the Enterprise Nation Female Start Up of the Year award, I called on Kathy again to work out what I could wear on stage.
Recently, I caught up with Kathy to discuss personal styling and image consulting in more depth. I wanted to get to the bottom of why it matters so much to her.
Joy: “Kathy, you have said before that style and fashion are about making an ‘impactful presence,’ can you explain what you mean by this?”
Kathy: “Powerful and assured women rarely look dishevelled. Investing in your appearance sends a positive message about who you are and how you expect to be treated.”
Joy: “Whether we like it or not, people do judge us by what we wear. Why is that?”
Kathy: “The importance of presenting and maintaining a good business image, when attending that first interview or in the office can make all the difference to how you are viewed by your clients and colleagues and how well you represent the company you are applying too.
It all says a lot about your level of desire, your personal attitude and ambition.
Joy: “At TechPixies, we help women gain confidence to return to work, in our very first module of our social media course, we talk about personal brand. You do similar work, but with a woman’s personal style. Tell us more.”
Kathy: “When I work with women, I’m trying to get to the bottom of their personality. Are they happy with what they wear? How does what they wear affect their own perception of themselves?
I think personal image is a mix of personality, your work environment and your authentic self.
Joy: “A lot of TechPixies who complete our programme are doing interviews for the first time in a very long time. What should they wear to their interviews?”
Kathy: “I tell women that they should always choose classic piece for their first interview back from a career break.
My general tips for achieving a classic elegant look is to invest in clothing and accessories that can be mixed and matched with each other in many interesting ways.
You cannot go wrong with timeless style. Decide what looks good on your body type and own it.
What really works for me and what I like to do with my clients is to create a wardrobe of neutrals, navy, black, camel or grey and then each season mix in bright colors or prints with pieces that may be trending for the season.
Joy: “Any other essentials?”
A well fitted Blazer, a well fitted pair of trousers, a pencil skirt, a good white shirt, and a dress. To these these basic pieces you can add a a print or pattern to be dressed up or down.
Shoes are also very important. Make sure your shoes are in excellent condition. This also, can make a big difference to the look of your outfit.
Joy: “Any last bits of advice?”
Don’t be afraid to spend on your clothes, but on key pieces, you should do it wisely.
Always strive for the job you want not the job you have.