Here is my post about what to wear to a birth. After some recent discussions with other doulas I wanted to share another clothing post – what should we wear to client consultations, prenatal visits, and postpartum visits?
This is completely my opinion, based in large part on the dress standards I heard growing up (army officer’s daughter!) and the area I live (outside a major metroplex in a southern state.) The professional attire in your part of the world may be different, but as a doula I do want to convey to parents that I am a professional. I don’t show up for consultations wearing a suit, but I also don’t show up wearing jeans and flip-flops. Every doula is going to have a different idea of what she’s most comfortable in and the image she wants to portray – for me I would rather be overdressed than underdressed.
I admit this also applies to professionals I work with, refer to, and personally hire. I’ve been at births when another professional was dressed in such a way that they were flashing a LOT of skin. I personally would be uncomfortable revealing my bare back, bum, and undies to others but I’ve seen that happen several times when someone is leaning over a labor tub to support a mom or stretching into another position! Other times they may be wearing a shirt that is low cut and when they bend over they are flashing their cleavage to me and dad and everyone else in the room. PLEASE keep this in mind when choosing your clothing! I am obviously biased by my own upbringing and personal beliefs, but I don’t wear any skirts or shorts above the knees, sleeveless shirts/tanktops, anything that reveals my midriff, or anything low cut. Keeping yourself covered from neck to knees helps ensure you’re not sharing your bra & undies with the world. It’s a safe guideline.
For interviews I tend to dress up a bit – nice slacks or a skirt, dressy sandals or shoes, a nice top. If the couple is of another faith or tradition that has clothing standards (such as wearing skirts, keeping arms and legs covered, etc) then I try to be aware of and respectful of that. Not that I dress in the same exact style, but if I know they are going to be clothed conservatively then I will dress more so myself. This is something I learned when traveling, as I was born in Germany and had the chance to visit a lot of other countries many of which are more formal than the US. It was always better to error on the side of a long skirt and shirt with sleeves and be able to enter the religious building or museum than be in shorts and attire that was forbidden or frowned upon. I think it’s respectful to our clients to be sensitive to their beliefs.
As far as hair and make up, that’s obviously a personal choice as well. I don’t wear make up, but occasionally put on lipstock or gloss when dressing up and I do so for client interviews. I wear my hair up 95% of the time, I always wear it up at births, and so for client visits it’s also up. Do what feels good to you as far as hair style and make up.
When doing our prenatal visits I may be a bit more casual, but I still avoid jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, and so on. Think a nice blouse, slacks or dressy capris. By the time I have the postpartum visit I do tend to get more relaxed and will often go in whatever I was wearing that day. As a mom to six I dress for activity! Before client visits I try to change into something nicer that I wouldn’t necessarily wear to the park and chasing kids all day. In the summers in Texas I often wear skirts as they are cooler so it’s not out of character for me to wear a skirt to interviews. If you never wear skirts then obviously you may not be comfortable wearing those, and it’s important that YOU are comfortable with what you are wearing at interviews.
Borrowing from that birth post, here are some questions I think are important to answer before you step out the door to meet a client: If you lift your arms over your head does your shirt rise and show your stomach? If you bend over is your cleavage showing? Your undies in back? Sorry to sound like a dress code enforcer, but when you’re helping a mom you don’t want to worry about whether the odd position you are in is flashing your underwear to everyone behind you. Try squatting, are your pants still comfortable? All good? Perfect!
What do you think? How much does your clothing choice matter at interviews, whether as a doula or another job? If you hired a birth professional did you notice their attire? (Ultimately I think that’s also the goal – for your clothing to not be a distraction from talking with YOU.) I would love to hear your thoughts!