Midlife Musings... Interview with The Stylebob
"My clothes can instantly become my friendly therapist."
“On those somewhat negative days, I’ll pick out my favourite look and become visible to myself first.”
Every couple of weeks I’m posting an interview with inspiring midlifers on topics ranging from beliefs, goals and habits, to food, mood and mojo; from sex, success and style, to fitness, health and hormones, from sleep, skin and hair to career, change and challenges and a bit of whatever else you fancy that affects us women at midlife. This is the amazing Aoife Dunican.
Do you ever meet a woman and think they’re so cool they’ll never speak to you? It takes you straight back to school when the ‘cool’ gang would be aloof and out of reach? When I first met Aoife Dunican through the LEO Women in Business Network, that’s what I assumed. But she has that rare ability to be THE coolest cat in the room, AND the warmest. We not only run an event together, but have become friends, AND weirdly, we both have a turning down James Bond’s Roger Moore story. Read on to discover hers, and this is mine).
She is the one-woman powerhouse and owner of The Stylebob, a personal and corporate consultancy helping men and women amplify their image for confidence, presence and impact. She works with people from all over the world on image consults and wardrobe management and also speak globally with firms and networks about the power of image. Told you she was impressive! Here’s her thoughts on fashion, fear and framing midlife.
Hi Aoife, why do you do what you do?
I’ve always had a massive curiosity about how people communicate but particularly in my time in professional services where I could see how women exuded confidence when they loved what they were wearing. I set up The Stylebob people to help people put their best selves forward.
What’s the best bit of advice you wish you’d been given sooner?
To trust the process! I used to worry so much about things. What if this, what if that instead of just enjoying the ride. Worry and fear can aid procrastination and prevent progress. As I get older, I look at fear as an opportunity to thrive and wish that someone had told me that fear and nerves were other words for thrill and excitement. Turn the “what if I fall down” to “what if I fall down and stand up again?”
What would you tell your 20 year old self?
You don’t have to be so serious and carry the world on your shoulders. I enjoyed my 20’s but I turned down an opportunity at 22 to go work in Roger Moore’s chalet for winter because I told him I needed to go home and get my degree!! Why on earth did someone tell me to put my degree on hold and go live with Mr Bond! I’d also have said there is no such thing as a wasted conversation or job. I had crazy student jobs from a dog chef, screw tightener in Intel, modelling, cheese taster, ice cream scooper, door leaflet dropper, wedding singer, kitchen retail assistant, breakfast waitress, babysitter, wedding singer and a celebrity housekeeper all before the age of 22 and I can safely say each role prepared me for the person I’ve become today. So do a variety of work because it all plays into the end game and bigger picture in your mid-life.
What must have happened, or for you to have experienced or achieved that hasn’t yet, that you’d look back at 99 and say “Yes!”.
To do a TED TALK about the power of image for confidence and communication and then for all my Tedees to come to my ‘Style and Charisma’ retreat where they will work me, a voice projection expert and a dancer teaching them how to truly let go to project presence and charisma. The robots are coming. All we have left is our creativity.
Tell us one of the toughest things you’ve gone through and what you learned as a result.
Losing both my parents within 14 months of each other when I was aged 36. I was the baby of seven and I missed them terribly. I read an article that journalist Lynn Barber wrote years ago for the Sunday Times shortly after the death of her parents. She said she felt like an orphan now and both of her parents were in her late 90’s when they passed away. After my own both died, I remember that feeling of growing up and becoming an adult overnight. It made me realise that although we may be someone’s daughter, mother, wife, friend, sister or niece, we are ultimately on our own and have to do whatever it takes to protect and manage ourselves.
If you could wave a midlife magic wand, what you most wish for for women today?
To stop apologising for who you are and the choices you make. Why, when women do something nice for themselves, like go for a blow dry, explain and justify it to of all people, especially other women? It is your life, don’t explain it, belittle it or justify it to anybody. Therefore, I will always double check my own emails and take the word ‘just” out of a sentence. I love how the sentence then jumps with strength and conviction. I used to sit beside strangers at events and when they’d ask me what I did for a living, I’d say “I just dress people and give a few talks.” Now I say “I change people’s live through clothes and I speak all over the world about the power of image.” We may not know it all but we know a lot. Own it and praise it.
What matters most in your own midlife?
The stuff that I took for granted in my 30’s and 40’s like my health and the health of my family. I always thought bad health were for those old people over 45 who spoke too much about their joints. Now that I have reached that half a century milestone, I am grateful to be sitting here (dodgy knees and all) with a roof over my head and surrounded by positivity and prospects. Things (apart from shoes of course!) are irrelevant if you don’t have positivity and hope in your life. If someone told me 10 years ago when I worked in the home with three small children that I would go back to work for a global firm and then leave it to successfully set up my own styling consultancy, I would have said they’ve read the wrong tarot card! It goes back to trusting the process but put in the work beforehand to equip yourself with any card dealt to you.
What is a midlife mantra you try to live by?
I live by the puppet BOSCO’s mantra: “Knock Knock, open wide and see whats on the other side” Always stay curious about life, work and people. Travel and eat somewhere different, change career or job, take up a new hobby, learn a new skill, meet someone outside your tribe, wear colour or try a new style. “Knock knock, open more, come with me through the magic door.” Change is where the magic truly happens.
What would you like to share about the work you do and why it’s important for women in midlife?
My clients often tell me they hadn’t realised how much joy they would get from wearing clothes that made them feel themselves again. It makes them feel unstoppable. We’re always chasing our inner girl, and memories and clothes can help us reclaim that. You get dressed every day, so make it count. Getting dressed is our armour and what you wear on the outside should portray what you are feeling on the inside. It works both ways though. I may not be feeling my best on the inside some mornings but my clothes can instantly become my friendly therapist. On those somewhat negative days, I’ll pick out my favourite look and become visible to myself first. Some women as they get older, tend to put on an invisible cloak at a time when they should be anything but invisible. This should be the fabulous Part 2 of our lives where we are telling the world our next steps and clothes are a very important layer in having the confidence to do that. If we look well, we feel well, if we feel well, we are UNSTOPPABLE.
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