Thursday, 25 May 2017

Getting my Business ready for Baby Brown

Head to Toe Topshop ! Now 33 weeks and maternity leave is nearly here!!

Behind the scenes at Wardrobe Angel I have been getting ready to go on maternity leave for a long time. Instead of working in my business I've been working on it for months, prepping for 1st June when I go on maternity leave. If you are self-employed, pregnant and going on maternity leave I hope this list helps you get your head around temporarily leaving your business whilst still growing a baby:

  1. Clear out your office. I used to keep all my back copies of Red magazine and HFM magazine for reference. They have all been recycled. I have been through all my styling folders and recycled all the articles I haven't used, I have cleared out books, unsold clothing, pens and stationary: it's been an incredibly cathartic and freeing experience.
  2. Clean your computer. I updated my anti-virus softwear last month to protect my laptop when I'm out of office. I've also cleaned all my files (hello 'to do' lists from 2014!) and deleted unnecessary emails. 
  3. Get your books up to date. Print out all your paid out invoices and client invoices. Have you paid all your invoices? Have clients paid you? Chasing invoices is never fun however being pregnant has made me really brave - I've been on the phone to clients chasing unpaid invoices and making sure each invoice sent out has the payment term "before 1st June" written on it. 
  4. Make sure you have enough money in your business bank account for the months ahead - tax, phone, wifi and any other bills you pay out of your business account. Check, cancel and/or alter any standing orders you need to pay whilst on maternity leave. 
  5. Talk to your accountant. My accountant, Claire Howarth from Novis and Co, has been a huge source of knowledge about my business transactions when I'm away. As I'm receiving Government Maternity Allowance I can't earn any money through my business whilst on mat leave - thanks to Claire I've been really savvy about saving money this year to see me through to my return to work in 2018.
  6. Decide what you are doing about online presence. I've written a hefty amount of blogs for my website and have been stockpiling articles on the Pocket App to tweet whilst I'm 'away'. I decided to keep my Wardrobe Angel brand alive online but my out-of-office will definitely be on.
  7. Word your out-of-office. As this is my first baby I'm not sure how long I'll be on maternity leave for. My out-of-office will tell people I'll be back at work sorting wardrobes in spring 2018 - a season not a specific date.
  8. Unsubscribe. Each time I have emptied my junk folder I have unsubscribed from all of those newsletters I thought I'd read but never did and from those odd marketing lists I seem to be on. I intend to check my emails once a month and this will really lighten the load. You can use Unroll Me if your email account is compatible. 
  9. Check your contracts - when do contracts expire? Need renewing?  I paused my Mailchimp account this year which takes care of one expense but my car insurance is due in August. I've saved for this and made a note in my diary for the week it needs dealing with.
  10. Manage people's expectations. In the run up to my maternity leave I only saw local clients for 3 hr appointments. I answered new client requests saying I'd keep their details and contact them again in 2018. A new work stream has emerged for me over the past month (working as a Creative Consultant on a business re-brand) so the preliminary work has been done and they are more than happy for me to finish off the work in 2018. 

Boundary setting has been a huge part of me getting ready to go on maternity leave - working more from home (hello Wedding Guest outfit shopping for clients online!) and pausing working further afield, saying 'yes' to some opportunities and unfortunately saying 'no' to others. The mantra that has been running through my mind for the past few months has been:

Image from Preppy Obsessions

What's been really heartening is the number of new clients, existing clients and businesses who are more than happy to wait for their appointments in 2018. 

From the bottom of my heart I thank you. 

I'll still be blogging on this here website during maternity leave so check back every now and again, won't you?

Til next time ...x

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Pregnancy Style 101 - Bodycon Bump

I've hit the 30 week mark and as the weather starts to hot up I finally cracked and bought myself a bodycon maternity dress. Pre-pregnancy I dabbled in a bodycon dress once or twice but both ended up on eBay: I felt too exposed in them. Now, however, rocking a bump to rival a beach ball,

I am totally at home in my own skin. 

I love that the fabric clings, I love that you can see my baby bump, I love that my legs are out and most of all I love the fact I'm not overheating. I wore this dress yesterday to meet a client in paired with my leopard print H&M jacket and a pair of sandals and felt awesome.

I like big bumps and I cannot lie....

I never advocate buying duplicates for your wardrobe but I'm going to break my own rule. Smash. There it goes. ASOS get ready for another order for the same dress! I can see it's all I'm going to be wearing in the next 9 weeks leading up to Baby Brown's arrival.

What else has been happening? Rich and I have our first NCT class next week which I am so excited about!! A chance to meet some people in the same pregnant boat. We've ordered the pram, the cotbed and had the nursery decorated, with the new carpet going down next week. I've put my stake in the sand and said my finishing date for work is the 1st June. Until then I'm getting back office bits organised, taking lots of afternoon naps (my saviour after all the night time trips to have a wee!) and embracing the nesting instinct that has given me a good ole kick: all I want to do is clean and tidy cupboards. I found myself wandering around the house with a duster the other day, dusting the fireplace and the shelves. All I need now is a tabard....

Til next time....x

The Wardrobe Angel

Monday, 24 April 2017

Top Tips for surviving your Pregnancy Wardrobe

Even though my pregnancy wardrobe can fit in a carry-on suitcase this doesn't bother me: I'm building a baby which ultimately is bigger miracle than a wardrobe full of clothes. Here are my top tips if you are struggling with a limited pregnancy wardrobe and what to do about it:

  1. Split your wardrobe into 2 halves - maternity wear and 'other'. I have an Ikea PAX wardrobe and one half is all the things that fit, the other half is full of things that don't fit right now but can be revisited after baby is born.
  2. Don't look back in anger - your body will grow out of stuff over your 9 month pregnancy journey. FACT. When you have gone through a cycle of growth and that top that did previously work now looks like a crop top with your baby bump hanging out the bottom of it just let it go. Move it into the other side of you wardrobe and thank it for what it did for you, thank it for fitting you when you needed it to. 
  3. Edit, Edit, Edit - Getting hot in a particular dress? Feeling itchy in a top? Felt crap whilst wearing it? Even though you are pregnant you still have the right to look and feel awesome (and comfortable) in your clothes and if they don't make you feel awesome, time to move it on.
  4. Raid your clothing stashes - that suitcase of summer clothes under the bed and your husband's shirts and jumpers are now all up for grabs. I have a couple of dresses from Whistles which are usually too corporate for Wardrobe Angel work but a few months ago they came up trumps for a number of speaking gigs I was booked to do. They gave me a polished look that I felt I'd been missing since my bump popped out and I felt amazing wearing them.
  5. Don't knock a gift horse in the mouth - my sister Penny gave me a suitcase full of maternity clothes before Christmas. Were all of them to my taste? Nope. Can I style the items I do like so they match my style and personal brand? Yes. 
  6. Save what you would have spent - I think any pregnancy wardrobe boils to down money. I have certainly been loathe to buy a shed load of maternity clothes because I am growing and changing over a 9month period but with no indication of how big my bump will get at what rate. Sustainability is one of the pillars of my Wardrobe Angel business and if I'm only go to wear an item of clothing for a few weeks that doesn't fit with my ethos. HOWEVER there is life after a limited pregnancy wardrobe and I have had my head turned by lots of shiny new season goodies. In these instances instead of buying the clothes with fingers crossed I'll be able to wear them once I've birthed this human I'm growing, I have saved the money instead. When the time comes after the breast feeding and my body has re calibrated I can happily head to the shops with a fistful of cash and shop until my wardrobe is content.
  7. Stick to a colour palette - if you are investing in a maternity wardrobe then stick to 3 colours max. This means everything goes together and you give yourself more outfit options. 
  8. Just COS - My new clothing best pregnancy-friendly friend. I LOVE YOU COS THANK YOU FOR MAKING AWESOME PREGNANCY FRIENDLY CLOTHES!! Stylish tops and trousers with elasticated bump friendly waists. Buying a couple of pieces from COS last week lifted my spirits no end: I felt chic, awesome and capable when I wore the outfit to a client appointment. Pics to follow!
  9. Don't do a hatchet job on your wardrobe - Pregnancy can be a frustrating time, style wise. None of the maternity clothes you see may float your boat. But don't take it out on your other clothes. You may be armed with bin liners, tempted to rip into the pre-pregnancy clothes and send them on their merry way to the charity shop. This may even be part of the nesting instinct but avoid it if you can. You'll welcome getting back into your own jeans, your favourite tops and shoes post-pregnancy. Put the bin liners down and step away from your wardrobe because
  10. This too shall pass - It's just a phase. Yes I have found some aspects of pregnancy hard: the tiredness, the sickness, the effect it has had on my business, generally feeling like a ball of mozzarella. It ain't all sweetness and light. But clothes are just clothes and right now your body, and my body, are performing a miracle - growing a baby. 

How are you managing your pregnancy wardrobe?

Til next time...x

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Pregnancy Style 101 - Ode to The Denim Doctor

I haven't been able to stand anything pressing on my bump for the past 6 months so whilst Baby Brown has been growing I have been wearing 90's low slung jeans. The ones above are my trusty Diesel jeans from 2002 bought for £110 in the Manchester Diesel store with my second wage packet from Marks & Spencer. At the time they weren't called Boyfriend jeans but after years have passed in the fashion industry, they are now.

When they went through on the arse (the gusset to be precise!) I was mortified!! Hardly glamorous is it?! I contacted Michael The Denim Doctor with an email dripping with shame. He reassured me that was the most common area to go as it is an area of higher friction. I packed up my jeans and posted them off to him for tender loving jean shaped care. 3 weeks later they are back and I am thrilled. I have been living in my Topshop Leigh Maternity Jeans and it'll be lush to get these Diesel bad boys back into rotation. Here's the after pic:

He's done a reet good job. The mended area is a lot stiffer than the jeans themselves (it has been 'fused') but James reassured me that this will ease over time and not be so stiff in the future. No-one will be looking at my gusset so I'm not bothered what it looks like, as long as my arse isn't hanging out!

This repair cost £19.95 plus postage so £25 altogether. WORTH IT. I could easily have gone out a bought a new pair of boyfriend jeans but these have lasted 15 years and they have only needed 1 repair so cost per wear I reckon I'm gaining interest now. If you have a pair of jeans for Michael to fix or alter check out his website The Denim Doctor.

Til next time ...x
The Wardrobe Angel

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Taking care of business....and a baby

Wearing Nike High Tops from the kids section. Oh yeeeaaaaah!

A few months ago I drew out a huge brain map of all the things to consider when going on maternity leave from The Wardrobe Angel: networking memberships, tax and my accountants, my monthly column in Sew Now magazine and my radio show at Phoenix FM. Now the bump is just shy of 6 months old all this planning has come swiftly into real-life reality.

This month I stepped away from my radio show for the rest of the year. Producing, writing and presenting my show each Tuesday morning on Phoenix FM for the past year has been an absolute pleasure. I honed skills which had lay dormant since my university radio days: driving the desk, choosing the playlist, back-timing songs and writing jingles. I've even added to my skill base by learning how to use Cool Edit (yep, that's a real thing) and after having an hour long interview with a business guest each week my interviewing skills are pretty damn sharp now. As a side note I have felt extremely honoured that members of the local business community in the Leeds City Region have gotten up early and trekked over to Halifax to join me in the studio each week.


Having an actual print column YOU CAN HOLD IN YOUR HANDS in Sew Now magazine has been a dream come true this past year. Each month I have been taking the trends and translating them into ways-to-wear which has fed into the sustainable aspect of my business. I have also upskilled myself in the world of sewing, fabrics and print journalism.

This year has been chock-full of business opportunities and I am grateful for each and every email and phone call that came my way heralding the sound of my professional dreams coming true. So naturally I have felt anxious that when I take my foot off The Wardrobe Angel pedal in June that things will change. Well, of course they will - I'll be a mum and have a completely new focus and love of my life. But I take heart in women like Annie Mac who was back at work on her flagship Friday night Radio 1 show after the birth of her first child and I thank my lucky stars that I have such a wonderful network of awesome women who have answered my emails and sat face-to-face with me over a brew to re-assure me that my business will be intact when I return in 2018.

If you look closely you can see my finger marks on the mirror in this pic!

So for now I have my Wardrobe Angel pedal to the metal and I am fully booked until mid-May. Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder for my wonderful clients!

Take care ...x

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Pregnancy Style 101 - In the Hood

It is my pleasure and honour to be invited into the homes and wardrobes of hundreds of women.

One pearl of wisdom I have picked up over the years of working in womanhood has been that when you have a baby you need a waterproof coat with a hood and I quote 
"for when you are out with the pram." 

For a while I did question this wisdom until I realised you can't manoeuvre a pram and an umbrella, well, you can but not easily, hence the waterproof coat with the hood. So not only have I added more flats and trainers to my wardrobe, the floor length 80's wool camel coat I call my winter coat will only be let out occasionally later this year.

In January I actually looked on the Go Outdoors website for such a coat, I even ventured into a Milletts for wardrobes sake. I spun around on my heel and left as soon as I'd arrived; the camping gear looked too menacing. On a cursory glance of the Zara website I spotted my coat. It said "WATER REPELLENT" on the item description. That was it, I was SOLD "get your coat, love, you're coming home with me," I thought. I couldn't stop thinking about said coat and if I can't stop thinking about an item of clothing that is a sure fire sign I need to buy it. I went into Zara a week later and unearthed the coat from amidst the throng of sale shoppers. I tried it on, loved it, paid for it, cut the tags off and wore it home! Like an excited kid! If you fancy purchasing one for yourself click here to be transported.

The hood is pretty frickin' EPIC. And clearly got the better of me here. Silver metallic jumper from Topshop, leather jacket old, GAP trainers, ASOS socks.
The coat is khaki, not poo brown as my photos suggest.

It has 2 deep pockets which are just the right height kind of beneath my burgeoning chest but above the hips. It's warm. Sleeping bag warm. And yes, waterproof. I wear it ALL THE TIME. I even took it out for a Wagamama's to meet my German friend Stefan, that's just the kind of classy, knackered looking lady I am.

That's Stefan hugging a tired, pregnant lady

Now this isn't my first foray into waterproof 'sensible' coats. I ordered a Parka London parka a few years ago and just couldn't find one to fit. I have ogled the Woolrich ones many a time but never committed to a purchase. So Zara it was. I'm sad that I'll have to retire the coat as the weather heats up (unless I want to sweat my way through the summer) but looking forward to the first hints of autumn when I'll dig it out again and head out, this time with a baby in tow.

Til next time...x

The Wardrobe Angel

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Pregnancy Style 101 - a square cut top for the WIN!

So I'm 19 weeks pregnant and find myself amongst esteemed ladies also "with child" - maybe Beyonce wants to come to NCT classes with me? I'm pretty chuffed as I feel I've hit my pregnancy style stride: black skinny maternity jeans, t-shirt or top and a jacket. Sitting here right now I'm wearing a vintage silk Escada blouse and my trusty Helmut jacket, paired with - correct! Topshop maternity skinny jeans!

Sleeve me up Scotty!

I had a business function to attend last week: my dear friend Sue Hanson who was launching her new business Your Lamplighter and I wanted to be there in full support. Pre-pregnancy there would have been a pencil skirt and stiletto heels involved and I certainly wouldn't have worn jeans. I have only ever done a client appointment in jeans once and felt too casual so going to a swish business launch at The Mansion House in jeans filled me with trepidation. However a square cut Topshop Boutique top with a faint whiff of Vivienne Westwood about it saved the day. It's 100% cotton and fairly rigid but the beauty of it is in the side vents - they give the fabric more room to breathe around the lower torso which is where Baby Brown is starting to show now. The top also has epic sleeves which I tucked out of my Topshop longline blazer in pearly dazzling white. I felt great in the outfit and in a white blazer and shoes I really stood out in the room - not a bad situation to be in at a business event!

Side vent-tastic. A great tip to get more wear out of your clothes if you have gained some weight on your hips and your tops won't fit is to get some side vents put in. You gain so much room!

Feeling nautical. Ahoy there!

Let me tell you, I am one tired, pregnant lady and have energy for about 3 hours out of 24 a day so trekking over to Roundhay in Leeds on a Wednesday evening took a herculean amount of effort. I left promptly as the event ended and hot footed it bed to be awoken at 6am by Baby Brown making their presence felt for the first time. That natural alarm clock made my week.

Til next time.....x

The Wardrobe Angel

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Pregnancy Style 101

I went shopping for maternity clothes and they were so horrible they made me weep. 

2016 was the most productive, fun and profitable year as The Wardrobe Angel and personally it has been a whirlwind stepping into 2017: one year of marriage, finishing decorating our home and now a baby on the way! This has meant a significant change to my wardrobe with two thirds of it unwearable and my heels left forlornly on their cosy shelves as I reach for trainers most days. In January I ventured into Leeds to size up the maternity clothing situation. Dire. Appalling. Nasty. were just 3 words that came to mind. In H&M the maternity collection seemed to be based on 2 assumptions:

1. That all pregnant women like wearing tight, scoop neck tops.
2. That all pregnant women like floral prints.

I never wore tight fitting tops when I wasn't pregnant so why on earth would I start to wear them now? Even the Topshop maternity selection seemed to be deep into the floral print vibe with tea dresses a plenty. Bleugh! Sorry, that is NOT by cup of decaff tea! So what solutions have I come up with instead? I have been living in my Topshop Leigh maternity jeans along with a logo t-shirt and a blazer jacket for most of January, delving deep into my vintage t-shirt stash and "borrowing" a few of Rich's t-shirts along the way. Men's t-shirts fit longer in the body so they are perfect for covering a growing bump and pair of boobs. I have 2 thigh length blazers, one white, one black, which I have been chucking over the tees to smarten them up.

San Fran life, eh?! This t-shirt is a 100% cotton wardrobe gem.

My temperature has been fluctuating over the past couple of weeks, either getting really cold really quickly (and keeping my coat on indoors!) or getting really hot really quickly which has meant that the cotton t-shirts have been a godsend. Cotton is a natural, breathable fabric and also feels great against my skin. And let's not forget the shoes - the ones in the pic above are a Topshop copy of a Celine shoe and with a tasty block heel in white leather. They are perfect for client meetings, networking events, 1-2-1's - basically any interaction I have when I'm seated! During wardrobe appointments I now remove my shoes and wear slippers: baby Brown has completely changed my centre of gravity!

More next week...til next time x

The Wardrobe Angel (and bump)

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The baby likes mango (I'm pregnant)

This is clearly not a picture of my baby. 

Rich and I are over the moon thrilled to announce that Baby Brown will be coming into the world in July. The past couple of months have been challenging to say the least: all day morning sickness, 2 weeks in bed to get over a cold, weird pregnancy cravings (tinned ravioli, cottage cheese and mango have been a highlight of my sick strewn days). Pregnancy has taken its toll on my energy; sleep has become my saviour. The sleep of the dead actually. I feel like I've been out for 5 minutes, turns out I've been out for 45 and could easily and greedily lap up more. 9pm is my new bedtime. I eat at 5.30pm.

I'm not only growing a child but eating and sleeping like one. 

And what about my wardrobe? Bye bye to 3/4s of my high-waisted wardrobe. I wore a trusty pair of naturally high-waisted culottes to an interview one day and the feeling of pressure was enough to (nearly) make my puke on the face of my questioner. So it's hello to a 90's low rise jean, a plethora of Rich's shirts (gorgeously oversized on me) and welcoming with open arms flat shoes. My whole centre of gravity has changed and I am now shopping for trainers rather than heels. Rich looked at me in amazement when I came home with some trainers before Christmas and exclaimed "we really are living in upside down world!" Amen husband, Amen.

But can we just talk about the sisterhood?

A powerful network of family and friends has opened up and support has flowed through loud and clear. 

A suitcase full of maternity clothes from my sister, books on pregnancy, a Baby Bjorn baby carrier and a foot muff for the pram, an offer of a spare car seat, and bags of baby clothes from couples who have walked this path before us. We have been touched, and overwhelmed, at the generosity of our nearest and dearest.

I'm nearly out of the worst of it - hoorah!!! Apparently in the next 3 months I will "bloom" and "feel energised". No evidence of that yet but as always, trust will out. So onward into 2017 we go. The year we will become parents. And nothing will ever be the same again.