Your Brilliant Career Podcast

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That initial judgement people make about you can influence how they respond to you, and the relationships and the respect you cultivate.

For this episode, I am joined by Caitlin Stewart. Caitlin is a personal stylist and image consultant and does a lot of work with women in business helping them to elevate their style.

Links we talked about on the podcast include:

RISE Accelerate program:

Caitlin Stewart:

My free guide - How to say 'no' without compromising your reputation:

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Your transcript

Welcome to the Your Brilliant Career podcast. It is a pleasure to have you here. Welcome back. Today we are talking about style – the way you dress, the way you present yourself at work. It’s quite a fun topic, right? But on the serious side of things, your appearance is often the first thing that people notice about you. So dressing professionally can help form a positive impression when it comes to careers.

We all make a lot of judgements right, you know that as well, and that initial judgement people make about you can influence how they respond to you and the relationships and the respect you cultivate.

So there are a lot of benefits if you like in dressing well, and this episode is about amping up your style, and some of the benefits are that when you do dress well you tend to feel pretty damn good about yourself. I love the idea of you all feeling great about yourself. And I do believe your attire can impact your self-image. That is, how you see yourself because I think that confidence generates more courage, you tend to step up to more things in your career, there’s more certainty in the way you communicate, you’re more decisive. A whole heap of things. And I do believe your attire can impact your self-image – that is how you see yourself.

So your clothes and how you present at work, is always going to be a reflection of how you see yourself. So then the question then becomes, so what do you want to communicate to people at work? What do you want people to experience, think or describe you? Secondly, dressing professionally sends the message that you are serious about the work that you do. I genuinely think that it helps others see you as someone that they should respect and take into consideration. 

So, there’s a couple of core benefits there. There’s so many more and today I have invited my lovely friend, Caitlin Stewart to join me on the podcast. Caitlin is a personal stylist and image consultant. She does a plethora of things, but she does a lot of work with women in business helping them to elevate their style and she is going to share with us today.

What she believes belongs in your professional wardrobe as core staples, what is different post-pandemic when it comes to work clothes, what are the pros and cons of online shopping, and plenty of great tips on how to amp up your style.

So, if you feel like you need to dial it up a little bit, this is going to be such a fun podcast full of tips and tricks for making us feel more elevated and stylish in the workplace. So, let’s dive in and chat to Caitlin! 

Gillian Fox: Well, Caitlin, hello.

Caitlin Stewart: Hello, Gillian. Thank you so much for having me today. I am really excited.

Gillian Fox: Well, it's a pleasure and I'm looking forward to this because as you know, this is a topic out of all the career topics that we could explore, style is one close to my heart.

Caitlin Stewart: It is and it's one of the fun ones too, I think. You can really have a bit of fun with it.

Gillian Fox: Absolutely. And it's like, it's not everyone's bag, but I think when it comes to careers, there is definitely a lot of evidence that people will judge you in the way that they present themselves.

Caitlin Stewart: Oh, absolutely. We all know that. You look good, you feel great, and when you feel great, you tend to perform exceptionally well.

Gillian Fox: And that's the point, isn't it? When you feel great, you feel more elevated, don't you?

Caitlin Stewart: Yeah. Food tastes better, wine tastes better, even in a social environment. But I think as soon as you enter the room, unfortunately, you are judged and you want to get that first impression right. And even if you don't care much about fashion and style, in a professional setting, it is important. There is a degree of importance there.

Gillian Fox: Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly. Now, to start with, just for context for everyone, tell us what you do.

Caitlin Stewart: So I'm a personal stylist and also an image consultant. So I've been doing this now for over 17 years.

Gillian Fox: Wow.

Caitlin Stewart: I've been a bit of a veteran in the field. I do a lot of personal styling. I also work with people within the media. I've done quite a bit of television work over the years, corporate consulting. So now post Covid, the corporate dress policy review is quite big. So I run corporate workshops and also I do a little bit of teaching too. So I've done teaching at a fashion college, teaching people how to be a stylist as well, and events. So also contracted with shopping centres and various different fashion styling events. So I've got quite diverse experience, but where my passion lies is with personal styling.

Gillian Fox: I know you do so many different things and your website is fabulous, and we'll make sure that we leave those details at the end. But that's really interesting about Covid. So does that mean people have got a bit sloppy after the pandemic?

Caitlin Stewart: Do you know what? Short answer, yes. So I think everyone was so used to working from home.

Gillian Fox: In their trackie pants?

Caitlin Stewart: Trackie pants and lounge wear, the cashmere lounge pants and I think the lounge wear really took off, but people were, and I think the return to the office has been slow, and even so, people are still doing a few days at home. So the workplace culture has become so much more relaxed. However, I think now that people are getting back out there again, there is a need to formalise it a little bit more, but still be comfortable and casual. So it's finding that balance, and that's usually where I am coming in.

Gillian Fox: Yeah, that makes sense. So why do women come to you? What do they want to achieve?

Caitlin Stewart: They want to look good and they want to feel good. Some women do know how to look good and how to feel good and it's outsourcing. In the professional arena, it's more often outsourcing. So they know what they like, they know the brands they like, but they just don't know where to go and get it, or they don't have the time and they just want someone to manage their image for them.

The other reason people come to me, which is quite common, is they have lost their personal style, so there's been a change. It could be a career change, it could be to do with having children, or they may have been out of the workforce for various other reasons, an illness or some form of life disaster. So they just really want to find their style again and it's a process that we go through. Or clarity and body shape, colour, that's a big one as well.

Gillian Fox: So that's really interesting. So you attract people that have already got style, to a certain extent.

Caitlin Stewart: Oh, yeah.

Gillian Fox: They've already got style, value style. Your job is to go in and bring it to life, bring the vision to life.

Caitlin Stewart: Bring it to life and some of the briefs are just, I almost feel like I'm a bit of a gopher. They give me a shopping list and they say, "Go and get this for me," and I'm sort of scurrying around grabbing stuff. And I think, oh. But I think if I can go out with them and actually inspire them as well, we can kind of meet each other. There's this beautiful halfway point where we meet each other and I can contribute some different ideas, which can assist them in elevating what they're already doing. But I think the entrepreneur now is encouraged to outsource as much as she can. He or she, depending upon who you are, and also the professional, because life is so busy. So it can just be a form of outsourcing.

Gillian Fox: And some people don't like shopping, do they?

Caitlin Stewart: Oh, most people don't like shopping. Everyone I'm with doesn't like shopping because they're with me.

Gillian Fox: Do you like shopping?

Caitlin Stewart: Look, for myself, it's work now. And prior to doing this as a job, I used to love it and I would go every weekend. But if I'm in the shops now, I feel like I'm working. I shop if I'm on holidays. So that's when I'll spend up big. Or even if I'm in a different state, I work a bit in Melbourne so when I'm down there, I'll often have a day for myself where it's my shopping day.

Gillian Fox: Nice.

Caitlin Stewart: And I feel like I'm not at work because I'm somewhere else.

Gillian Fox: So what sort of things do you consider when you're helping someone create a professional look?

Caitlin Stewart: So the first thing is body shape, the items of clothing that suit their shape and we might need to do a style and body analysis, or we just generally consider body shape. The other thing is colouring. So colours that suit their skin tone. And then lifestyle is really important. So being realistic about what it is that you are going to dress for day to day. 

So it's amazing how many people have in their wardrobe a wardrobe that doesn't reflect their lifestyle and they might have loads of park outfits for walking the dog, or beautiful dresses that they would wear out to the races or cocktail parties, but they don't have the stuff they need Monday to Friday.

So being realistic about what your lifestyle requires, it's a hard one. And also I think looking at budget too, a lot of people spend beyond their means when it comes to clothing and you don't have to do that. You don't have to spend a fortune to look and feel good. And often people think that if you do engage a personal stylist we're going to take you out to Gucci and expect you spend thousands of dollars on a jacket and that's not the case. So we look at body shape, colouring, lifestyle, and budget. They're the four main things that I consider when someone does engage me and my services.

Gillian Fox: That makes a lot of sense and it's so true. We gravitate to different things. I love dresses. I'm okay on work gear, and I'm terrible on casual wear, but I've really worked on that in the last couple of years, but it didn't come naturally to me. If I was going shopping, I was always drawn to the dresses or all the work gear, but then I'd go, "What am I going to wear to the shops? 

Caitlin Stewart: Or what am I going to wear to Woolworths?"

Gillian Fox: Exactly.

What are the latest trends that you are seeing with work attire, particularly post pandemic? So we've talked about it being a little bit more casual, but just focus on women for a sec. Is there anything that you're seeing there that is resonating that is deemed more acceptable at this time?

Caitlin Stewart: It's the more relaxed pieces, I think. So that androgynous tailoring, so things which are a lot looser, they're not necessarily as form fitting on the body and it's okay to do that, I think.

Gillian Fox: So pants suits and things like that?

Caitlin Stewart: Oh, absolutely.

Gillian Fox: Which are fabulous.

Caitlin Stewart: Pantsuits. Monochromatic look as well. So the monotone look very similar in tone and we're not sort of going back to the eighties bright red power suit, but people are wearing sort of a very tonal look. And a really, really big one, especially with women, is women do not feel the need to have to wear high heels anymore and people traditionally used to feel like they needed to wear a heel to feel dressed, whereas most women are just turning away from that now and adopting a sneaker on a casual Friday, or a really classic loafer. So a hot tip is that loafer is going to replace the sneaker or become just as popular as the sneaker. So this is what we are definitely seeing more of and I'm really happy with that.

Gillian Fox: Well, if it looks stylish, why not?

Caitlin Stewart: Yeah.

Gillian Fox: What about travel? Because we're back at travel and a lot of the women I'm coaching are doing interstate trips again, not to the same volume that we used to, by any means, and in so many cases it's almost considered as a treat still at the moment. It's like, yeah, two nights in a five-star hotel.

Caitlin Stewart: Oh, that sounds like heaven to me.

Gillian Fox: Well, it does for you having two little people at home. But what about tips for packing?

Caitlin Stewart: Okay, so these tips, I think they've stayed the same since the very beginning and I often do help people pack for a trip. Pack in outfits is probably one of my top tips. So know exactly what it is that you might be doing. So often women say to me, "Well, I don't know what I'm doing," but you do know what sort of holiday it is, right? So if it's a business trip, you know that you're probably going to have four or five days doing business activities. If it's an island trip, you are going to have an idea of the sort of things that you'll do on an island.

So, say you've got five days and you're going to be city based and you've got a few dinners out. So you'll put together five different outfits for the daytime, five different outfits for the nighttime, and then you'll put a few extra bits and pieces in there. So you'll actually lay the outfit out on the bed, photograph it, or pack it together in the outfit.

Gillian Fox: Oh, earrings, everything?

Caitlin Stewart: Earrings, everything. Underpants, bra.

Gillian Fox: But you'll duplicate some things.

Caitlin Stewart: You will. That's okay and you'll obviously, in one of the little pods or some people just use plastic bags or shopping bags, reusable shopping bags, you'll know. You might put a little Post-it Note in there and it sort of looks very pedantic, but it works. So you might have pack number one, you'll have your jeans and a t-shirt and a blazer and pack number two, you might be using the jeans again, but with a silk blouse. So you'll just have the silk blouse with the earrings and maybe the shoes that will match or probably have the shoes separate. And then I often put a little Post-it Note in there saying, "Add the jeans to this outfit," or just take snaps of it and have it in your phone and then that's probably the easy way of doing it.

The other tip is keep it quite tonal, quite monochromatic. So if you go too crazy with different colors, if you throw a pair of red boots in, you're probably only going to be able to wear them once and they'll take up a lot of space. So keep similar with the tone. If it's a gray or a black tone, you might want one or two pairs of shoes in a darker color to match what you're wearing. And then a few pop pieces of a shirt, or a scarf, or a jacket that's just going to make those classic pieces pop.

So I think laying all the outfits out, knowing exactly what outfits you will wear and it doesn't have to be on what specific day, keep it tonal and minimise the amount of shoes and bulk and wear as much as you can on the plane too.

Gillian Fox: Yes, overcoats and things. When we went to Europe recently and I did have one big overcoat and of course I took it on the plane because you don't want it stuffed into your luggage. But the other thing I did, and I have done it for years, with all the sophisticated packing it's probably going to sound very archaic, but I get the dry-cleaning bags and I lie them out, and then I wrap my clothes. I'll lie the clothes out on that, maybe two dresses or whatever it is and then I fold it up and roll it up and it does survive incredibly well. I've had linen dresses and things at the other end, and I don't even have to touch them up.

Caitlin Stewart: The rolling is another one. I haven't heard that with a dry cleaning bag though.

Gillian Fox: Well, that's what I use. I'm sure there's something you can buy, but it's just the plastic because it's slippery.

Caitlin Stewart: Yeah. Oh, that's a great tip. The rolling is good, but yeah, look, I mean, however it works for you, but I think that the key is to know what the outfits are going to be ahead of time.

Gillian Fox: 100%.

Caitlin Stewart: And then that way you don't just have random pieces that are not going to work with other things in the wardrobe.

Gillian Fox: Yeah, for sure. Now during the pandemic, we all got the swing of online shopping.

Caitlin Stewart: Yes.

Gillian Fox: If you weren't an online shopper before, you were definitely one by the end of the Covid crisis. What tips do you have for shopping online? I do a lot of shopping online and people say to me all the time, "I don't know how you do that, Gil."

Caitlin Stewart: Yeah. You are a big online shopper.

Gillian Fox: I love online shopping.

Caitlin Stewart: Well, I think a reason why you do it is because you get the brands that you want, which aren't available in stores, so that's probably one of the pros of online shopping.

Caitlin Stewart: There's a lot more variety available online. It's a lot more size inclusive too, so if someone needs petite size or a plus size, there's a lot more online than in the stores.

But I think that one of the cons is, people struggle to return things, so you end up with a whole load of stuff at home and it is a real ... it's funny because we do it for convenience, but then getting to the post office to package things up and return them, unless the returns are made really easy, and some sites have couriers that can come and pick them up, but not every site does that. It's actually getting it back to the store and quite often people waste money because they end up just leaving it and then the time period in which you can return it expires.

So I think I like online shopping because you can get some things that you can't find in store, but I do like to do a mix of both with clients so we can get some of the core staples in the stores, like the black pants and the jeans and the blazers, and then that way you can try them and you know that they fit. And then if you want a few extra pieces that you can't find in-store to add to that kind of classic capsule-

Gillian Fox: You can top it up.

Caitlin Stewart: You can top it up. So some people love it, some people hate. It's just one of those things that you've got to do what's right for you.

Gillian Fox: So what do you think should be included in most women's wardrobes? Is there a core set of staples that we should have that we can build on for a professional wardrobe?

Caitlin Stewart: Absolutely. So I think in a professional wardrobe, you do need to have a fabulous suit. So that could be a pantsuit or a skirt suit, something that you can wear when you need to make an impact and it doesn't necessarily have to be black, or beige, or navy. I would go a bit fun with this, so a beautiful teal or an aubergine or a rust colour, a colour that really compliments you and then that way you can mix and match those two pieces together. So you can wear that jacket with jeans. You could wear those trousers with a classic black or navy blazer, which is probably another key essential in every woman's wardrobe and I think every stylist undoubtedly would say the blazer is probably the most essential piece because it's your instant power piece, your instant go-to piece. If you have it in the back of your car and you are wearing a t-shirt and jeans and you throw a blazer on, you instantly are dressed.

So a beautiful blazer that works for you, spend whatever it is, the best quality that you can afford, I think in a blazer. Classic pair of black pants as well, or navy if it's not black, one or two great pairs of jeans, so a casual jean, and then one that you can dress up a little more, so that's a casual Friday type jean. Some good quality t-shirts and a handful of nice top shirts or blouses that you can mix in with the separate trousers, the suit, the black pants, and maybe a skirt if you're a skirt girl, a leather skirt, or a pleated skirt, or a printed skirt. Something a little fun.

Gillian Fox: And what about accessories? Do you have core staples? Do you have to have belts or are you wise to have one particular nice black handbag or a tan handbag? What's your suggestion?

Caitlin Stewart: Accessories are so personal, I find. Some women just wear their special pieces, so their wedding band or sentimental jewellery or their precious metals, or their pearls and diamonds and that's it and they don't take it off. And then other women accessorise with costume jewellery. Costume jewellery has become a lot smaller. We used to throw on the big crazy beads, but it's become a lot more understated. I think it, first and foremost, it's personal, but if someone does want a suggestion for accessorising in a professional environment, I always suggest to keep it simple, non-distracting, not noisy. Simple golds, or silvers, or white gold, so whichever precious metal matches your skin tone and I call them, go with anything accessories. So a beautiful gold chain or a pearl or some silver hoops will work with pretty much anything that you wear, every colour, every pattern, every print and then that way you know that it's easy to wear.

And that's a great tip for packing too. If you're going away and you don't want to worry about packing your accessories, take a fabulous pair of hoops or pearls and you know that they'll go with everything else in the wardrobe.

But I think accessorizing is important, but you've got to find your groove with it and it's definitely very personal.

Gillian Fox: Now you've given us lots of tips already, but is there one final tip you'd like to leave our beautiful listeners with today?

Caitlin Stewart: Style tip. Oh gosh, there are so many. Find what it is that makes you feel good. So whatever it is that makes you feel good when it comes to clothing, wardrobe, and fashion, and just do more of it.

Gillian Fox: So if you have something like an outfit that you love, maybe look at how you can replicate that.

Caitlin Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. And change it a little bit. For example, if you find that you feel good in a monotone look, so you always feel good when you're wearing just something really tonal, do more of that. Buy more of those tonal pieces and experiment with them. Or if it's a particular print or when you accessorise, you might feel really good. So add some more accessories to your wardrobe.

And there will be things in your wardrobe that make you feel good. There'll be a whole lot of stuff in your wardrobe, but there'll be a handful of things that make you feel good. So I challenge you to pull them out, look at them, and ask yourself, "Why do I feel good when I'm wearing this?" And it could even be the fit or the fabric. So do more of that.

Gillian Fox: Love it. Love it. Now, Caitlin, where can everyone find you? Because I'm sure there's some people who are like, "I need to check this woman out".

Caitlin Stewart:

You can jump to my website. So it's and you can just shoot me an email and get in touch.

Gillian Fox: And what's your Instagram handle?

Caitlin Stewart: Caitlin Stewart Stylist.

Gillian Fox: Excellent. Excellent. You should check that out too.

Caitlin Stewart: Caitlin underscore Stewart Stylist, I think. Yeah. But you'll find me. If you search me, you'll find me.

Gillian Fox: All right. Sounds super. Caitlin, thank you so much. That was such a fun conversation.

Caitlin Stewart: Oh, wasn't it?

Gillian Fox: And so many great tips and insights in thinking about fashion. If you love fashion, or even if you're looking to up your game.

Caitlin Stewart: Absolutely and I think, in all seriousness, it is important. The way in which we present ourselves is undeniably important, and it's something that I think we do need to give it some weight.

Gillian Fox: Yeah. Well, it's been a pleasure.

Caitlin Stewart: Thank you.

Gillian Fox: Thank you.

Caitlin Stewart: Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for joining me today. I would love to give you something for free to help you with your career. 

It’s my guide on How to say no at work. It’s perfect for the people-pleasers and if you like the idea of learning how to say no, gracefully and honestly and in a variety of work situations, then you’ll love this guide.

It includes 6 scripts on how to say no without compromising your reputation. This is the sort of thing you want to quietly put in your career development toolkit and pull out when you need it. Click the link in the description or go to and click on the free guide button at the top right of the screen – it’s orange – you can’t miss it! Have a great couple of weeks and I will see you soon.