Dressing for construction says as much about our strengths as it does our vulnerabilities
At a recent industry awards event, I had the honour of wearing a showstopping gown fashioned entirely from PPE.
The neon-orange dress was specially made for the event by dressmaker Hannah Wilde and was paired with steel-toe-capped boots to highlight the importance of authenticity and vulnerability in the sector.
For the evening, the dress was my armour. I asked Hannah to make it because I wanted to feel strong and confident.
I usually feel most comfortable out on a building site wearing my PPE. However, I don’t feel that way in a ballgown at an awards ceremony.
I truly believe you can only be comfortable when you wear something that truly resonates with who you are – I have often joked about going to an event in my PPE!
Women always power dress for confidence. For instance, wearing a blazer might make you feel powerful, or popping on your favourite heels might put an extra swing in your step.
Clothes are a powerful way to express yourself while shielding vulnerabilities, insecurities or buried emotions. Why should it be any different in construction?
I have always been vocal about the importance of authenticity in the sector, living by the motto ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.
By sharing my experiences and making my own career path highly visible, I hope to encourage more equality, diversity and inclusion into the industry, bringing unique skills and perspectives with them. And armour can help to quell anxiety about bucking industry stereotypes.
Be who you are
As a woman who has worked in the construction sector for more than a decade, I know how important it is for everyone to feel comfortable with who they are and not change their identity to suit their industry.
You may sometimes feel that your differences make you vulnerable, but if you are driven and are good at what you do, your differences should be no limit to how far you can go.
I also think it is important to allow my own vulnerability to be as visible as my success, demonstrating that everyone experiences moments of insecurity.
I recently opened up about my struggles with anxiety, showing that social media doesn’t paint an honest picture of success.
Coping with anxiety
Earlier this year, I published images of myself getting ready for an awards ceremony on LinkedIn, with an anxiety-induced rash visible on my chest.
I used the photograph to highlight that although I may seem confident on the outside, I often suffer from doubt, imposter syndrome and anxiety – particularly at awards ceremonies and public-speaking events.
I wore my armour in the form of the neon dress to simultaneously shield and draw attention to my feelings of vulnerability.
By opening up and sharing more, I hope our industry can work together to make real change for the current and future workforce.
Kelly Cartwright is owner of Core Recruiter.