I was lucky enough to be invited to the Kate Gerry Unleash Your Dreams 2 day business retreat last week at Champneys Henlow Grange.

It was to be two days to have space and time to think about and nurture your business ideas with 10 other amazing business women facilitated by Kate Gerry and her incredible team.

Instructions were sent to each of us with details of the where, when and how etc. Almost instantly Kate was swamped with enquiries…. Not about whether we should bring business plans, lap tops, goals for the year, achievements to date for 2105… but with angst over what we should wear! Thankfully Kate had not attended to their unease by mentioning that a personal branding expert was one of the attendees…. Guess she didn’t want cancellations…. Lol.

For me of course it really was not a concern that crossed my mind, I was more caught up in where I would get a good coffee on the way and if I would have time to walk the dog before I caught the train Thursday morning (I did have concern about frizzy hair and fog at 5AM in the morning but that really is another blog post) and so I was truly surprised by how many of the very competent remarkable business women that were attending the retreat had concerns over dress codes.

Interestingly, Kate had mentioned business casual in one email and I think it sent everyone into a spin. Business casual has a different meaning for many and no comprehension at all for others. Rightly so really, it is a difficult one to generalise. Business casual for one industry is formal business dress for another.

One query Kate received was ‘I don’t know about you, but whenever I am planning what to wear for events, I always seem to overthink things and try to get it really ‘appropriate’! Or is that just me??’

I can just feel the unease and concern from this poor women.

I was genuinely concerned how unnerving the issue of ‘dressing’ can be for different events and how much time, women spend worrying, deliberating and procrastinating about it.

Interestingly, when I am meeting certain groups or some individuals for the first time they do say upon meeting me and realising how non-judgmental I am about their look that they were really worried about what to wear knowing that a personal brand expert was attending

The concern over being judged for wearing the ‘wrong’ thing outweighed any other concerns over attending the retreat and yet we were attending to push and explore the boundaries of business growth.

I think weddings and black tie events bring out the same fears for women. Usually self-assured women can spend hours deliberating about the correct outfit.

Dress codes are a double edged sword sometimes since if you do not clearly understand the expectation, it causes more concern than if there were no guidelines at all. At school everyone hated wearing their school uniform but I get the feeling that some would prefer that now.

For the retreat, Kate clarified her suggestion as to dress code to: ‘Please wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable :)’

I think probably by day 2 of a retreat having made your mark, met everyone an got to know them and their business, you are more inclined to ‘be more comfortable’ but day one is about making the right impression without trying to come across too formal at essentially a ‘luxury relaxation resort’.

However initially it is balancing being confident and being comfortable and the two do not always combine.

Kate shared with me that for her first business conference several years ago, before embracing her complete polished gorgeous image that she has now, that she spent nearly 4 hours packing for 3 day event. As with many when first starting out, she didn’t have lots of disposable income to spend on a new wardrobe for the event and in not really knowing herself at that point, even if she did have the funds what was she going to buy anyway? She certainly didn’t want to shop for a look that wasn’t congruent with her and her values and business.

The other concern that was shared of attending longer retreats/conferences and events is that there was an expectation of wearing something different each day and if the event dictates, evenings too. Having a business wardrobe that you can dip into for weekly meetings or networking events did not somehow seem as daunting as having to be the best you consistently for several days in a row. However as I explained with a capsule wardrobe that is much easier to manage but I agree when first starting out it can be a real fear.

My advice to anyone attending an event and by the way I thoroughly and utterly recommend kate Gerry’s Unleash Your Dreams , is to be true to you. Be genuine, be yourself, be the best you.