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Fashion & Finance: Back to business and new (baby!) beginnings

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August 30, 2013

With a much busier spring and summer at work than anticipated, I’ve held off on composing a Fashion & Finance blog for quite some time. But, as the summer draws to a close, and new styles have started to replace summer clearance items in shops and malls across the country, it’s once again time for a new fashion season, and to think about your fall work wardrobe.

Some new developments in my personal life have also influenced my plans for upcoming blog topics and an updated work wardrobe, as my husband and I are expecting our first child later this year. This brings a whole new set of considerations into my work life—dress code only being the very beginning of things to mull over.

From decisions such as “lean in” or “lean out,” to work/life balance and planning maternity leave, there is a lot to think about when it comes to the delicate balance of work, life and family.

I have enjoyed Jennifer Lee Wilson’s thoughts on women in the accounting industry and encourage you to check out some of her videos right here on Accounting Today. Beth Wiener, partner-in-charge of the Alternative Investment Group at Marcum also has some great thoughts as well. Check out her video here.

But for this blog post, taking a cue from coach, strategist and leadership trainer Tamera Loerzel’s recent #AICPA_EDGE discussion on dress code, I agree that it's brand you’re portraying though your wardrobe choices for work. This is a smart philosophy and the sooner that young professionals entering into the workforce can understand the importance of branding, both on behalf of their firm or employer, and personal branding efforts to help propel their careers, the more success they may experience.

During pregnancy, it may be slightly challenging to portray your brand with an ever-changing body type, but maternity fashion of today is far more stylish and accessible than that of decades ago. As I look at many of the online retailers offering maternity wear, I think to myself, “hey, that’s actually really tasteful and I’ll wear it!” I’m actually excited to buy some new things to wear to the office and am facing this whole maternity-wear challenge head-on.

Online shopping has truly opened up many doors for women looking for appropriate clothing to fit their size, shape, and corporate dress code regulations. Although my local mall and retail shops don’t carry a very large assortment of maternity attire, I know I can count on online retailers to supplement my shopping needs, many offering free shipping and generous return policies if things don’t fit properly. Online shopping allows many more women access to different styles and designers than they might have had in the past, making it slightly easier (and dare I say even fun) to find work appropriate attire through their unique 9 month experience.

I’d like to open up the comments section below for other working mothers in the industry to chime in with their maternity wear recommendations, but here’s what I have experienced so far in regard to maternity wear.

My favorite online retailers for maternity wear

Asos.com: Some of the styles in this online retailer’s maternity department may be too trendy for a conservative work environment, but even so, there are many up-to-date, flattering, tasteful and fun items to choose from. I love the dresses section, as for me dresses seem to be the easiest outfit to put together (throw a cardigan or blazer on top for a complete corporate look), and I also think there are some great pencil skirts that can be worn over and over again, paired with different tops.

The prices are great and the site offers free two-day shipping. In addition, the company wants to give customers a hassle-free way to return anything, so you can send back any item to them within 28 days of receiving your original order, including sale items, and it’s free. There’s a return label provided to post back to the company via USPS.

H&M: My local H&M stores had a very disappointing and small selection in person, but this popular retailer’s online shop offers a few more options to choose from, with more to come as their online shopping options evolve. After several delays, H&M has finally made online shopping available to customers and, for me, it could not come at a better time. I really enjoy the laid-back look of many of the maternity items available, most incredibly basic enough to be worn over and over again with other items to create new looks. There’s not a ton available just yet, but make sure to add this site to your list and check back frequently for new items.

Gap: During a visit to the mall I was disappointed to find that my local stores did not carry maternity wear, but was directed to the website by a salesperson (and by many of my friends who swear by the brand’s maternity jeans and work pants selection). From maternity tops and bottoms, to PJs and undergarments, the site carries it all, and often has great sales at the end of a season. Although their current sales page merchandise may be too summery for the fall season, I spied a few items that could possibly translate well, including some striped pencil skirts (paired over tights) and comfortable stretchy dresses (worn under a sweater, blazer or tailored jacket).

Pink Blush Maternity: Similar to Asos, although many of these items may be too young and trendy for your taste or your office environment, there were a number of items that could be paired with more conservative items to equal a comfortable, stylish and perfectly appropriate outfit for work. My favorites include many of the tops (try pairing them with slim pencil skirts or dress pants), and don’t forget to check out the clearance section for some good steals and deals.

A few additional tips

Skater style skirts. This silhouette is in style this year and can be found all over for fall. Although when worn too short it can often come across as juvenile, I have found that the stretchy elastic waistband has been easy to wear with an expanding belly. The trick is that I purchased quite a few sizes up from my normal skirt size and this allows the skirt to fit, be worn at the hips instead of waist, and fall at a more appropriate length for work. I plan on pairing my skater skirts with dress shirts, cardigans and ballet flats or short heels. Just love this look on Pinterest for inspiration.

Polyester/spandex sheath and wrap dresses. By purchasing several sizes up than normal, many of these dresses in this material combination fit along with a changing shape and are incredibly easy to throw into the wash for future wear. Try pairing ¾ length and long sleeve sheath dresses with tights and fall boots, or a wrap or faux-wrap dress with a cardigan or blazer. Some designers that use this material combination include Jones New York, Morgan McFeeters (available at Lord & Taylor), Ralph Lauren and White House Black Market. Just look for stretchy material that will move comfortably along with you.

Crowdsource. Use the web for some helpful tips and tricks. There are hundreds of thousands of sites out there for mothers-to-be, many of which have helpful message boards or blogs that can help answer some of the many questions that may pop up. On these sites, use search terms such as “dress code,” “maternity work wear,” “maternity clothes,” etc. for helpful advice from other mothers in the same boat. Articles such as this were helpful to me and provided a few tips and tricks I have used so far. As the article states, you don’t have to spend a ton on maternity clothes, there are many ways to continue dressing professionally and stylishly while at work, without breaking the bank.

For those who have helpful suggestions on where to find the best office-friendly maternity wear, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below.  Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts checking out the top looks for fall, new accessories to accompany the top tech trends, and what to have your eye on for this winter.

Emily Burns Perryman is a State University of New York Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and started her career in New York City working for companies including Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, Christian Dior and Jones Apparel Group. She is now e-Marketing Communications Specialist for Freed Maxick CPAs in Buffalo, N.Y., and was named the Association for Accounting Marketing's 2011 "Rookie of the Year." Follow her on Twitter @FreedMaxickCPAs or email her at emily.burns@freedmaxick.com.

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