Relaunching 101: Sara’s Story

Relaunching has become a hot topic for many women who left viable careers in order to stay home with their children. All of us have the power to make the choices we feel are right for our family’s needs. Knowing how to find your way back to a fulfilling career can seem limiting, especially as we get older. This was the case for Sara Dunton.

Last summer, Sara from Mind The Mat introduced Stylebook readers to Sara Dunton. The focus of that article was how powerful dedicating yourself to a discipline can be. In her own words, Sara shared her journey of divorce, raising four girls with shared custody, and credited her healthy body and mental state to Mind the Mat, Dr. Megan Brown, and the inspiring wellness community in Del Ray.

Sara used her mommy network to start the process of interviewing and landed her job in record time! To say the least, this girl is on fire! Now Sara has relaunched her career and gone back to a full-time job. She is five weeks into proving that anything is possible with a lot of planning and some critical outsourcing.

To be clear, Sara described the last 10 years of her wardrobe as mommy clothes, tennis outfits, and yoga sets. While she had kept a few pieces from her previous career wardrobe, nothing seemed relevant any longer. Faced with the task of building a completely new wardrobe of 2019 workwear, Sara reached out to me. We had worked together before in 2017 when her goals were to give her closet a boost and put together a few “social event” outfits.

This time the goals were to use my expertise to guide her towards what the new workwear attire looked like for a D.C. law firm. She told me she had neither the time or the mental bandwidth to take on the task of finding all the necessary pieces of this new wardrobe. “I know how many variables there are in getting the kids out the door in the morning so my outfits need to require very little time and effort — or thought!” She basically wanted a uniform for work and longed for that simplicity. “I had been out of the work force for so long. I had no idea what workwear looked like and didn’t want to get it wrong. It’s important that I keep my focus on the demands of my new job.”

Sara and I met three times before her first day.


Appointment 1

I assessed what she had. Not much! However she had gone to Nordstrom for some interview pieces. Knowing what clients have to work with is always a great place to start. I also roadmapped ideas for a color story and outlined the pieces of her uniform. I took into account her size and small frame to start a list of brands that would work. Sara loves gray and has the most amazing blue eyes. These are all directional prompts on where I expect to take a client’s wardrobe. Utilizing her natural assets anchors the clothing to her instead of rubber-stamping ivory blouses and gray suits on her.


Appointment 2

We went shopping! With a list in hand and my method of making sure the colors and pieces would offer enough mix-and-match options, we set off to destinations where I knew we would find good solutions (time savers of using a stylist). Sara also took advantage of The Hive’s Veronica Beard trunk show, where she fell in love with the scuba pants! [Editor’s note: welcome to the club.]

I want to take a moment to talk about something that came up regarding the scuba pants. Sara loves how the scuba pants feel because they remind her of her workout clothing, which is also her safe place. She’s also in insane shape. I attribute this to her making the most of her time with her girls. No one’s life is perfect but identifying opportunities for personal growth (and implementing them) will always lift you up. A snippet from Sara’s first email to me “I want to set a good example for the kids (important to feel good about yourself and look put together without too much emphasis on external appearances, a hard balancing act).”

Sara rocks the scuba pants! They are a perfect fit on her, but in a new job we agreed we didn’t want to alienate by coming across to “show-y,” so the scuba pants are worn with longer blazers or tops that drop over her super-toned physique. You only get one shot at making a good first impression and during these first few months, it’s important to establish your commitment to the job in lieu of being the new girl with the hot bod…there, I said it!


Appointment 3

I came over and put a library of looks together for her the weekend before her first day. If we had time, we would have had her try everything on but scheduling was tight. Instead, Sara has used me as her instant thumbs up or thumbs down pocket stylist. She send me pictures and then I give her my stamp of approval (or back to the drawing board response).

Of course we have been in touch quite a bit over text since she started the job. There was a 911 call about shoes. I had offered some shoe solutions along the way. After the first week on the job, Sara discovered that her feet were not prepared for heels eight hours at a time. I dropped off a couple of solutions one evening and stayed to explore some outfits that she was able to try on. This exercise proved one of the most valuable for her and we’re committed to making time for more of this type of vetting.

Five weeks into her new reality, things have been running smoothly in the clothing department. Being the new person leaves you feeling vulnerable. It’s reassuring to know you are dressed appropriately. There’s nothing like a little bonding over cute shoes that can ease the anxiety associated with whether you are fitting into this new world. I blush at how sincere Sara was in telling me how much my guidance made this major transition easier.


“I can’t imagine how much money I might have wasted being left to my own devices.”


One funny text exchange…I try and be diplomatic:

The bootie Sara picked was too casual. The silver zipper and the shape of the heel were the determining factors. The bootie I chose for her had a heel finished in suede, had a shape that would work with dresses, and the zipper was less pronounced. They were also from Paul Green, which means they are build for comfort.

Sara’s final words:


“This type of service is a genius idea and more people should take advantage of it.”


My final words:

So many of our answers lie within our own local community. One of my mommy friends from Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, Ginny Brzezinski, took her questions about relaunching careers and joined forces with her sister-in-law, Mika Brzezinski. Ginny is currently writing a book with Mika about reinventions, pivots, and returns due out in October 2019. She is also a contributor to a website geared toward empowering women at work and in life…just in case a relaunch might be in your future.

Sara’s first day of work, surrounded by her girls


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Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

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