Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Mama Got Her Groove Back - Part II

If you are joining us for the first time, you may want to check out Part I before diving in here.

To pick up where we left off... My sartorial identity crisis, catalyzed by a body in flux, a lack of options, and dramatic life changes gradually resolved itself by learning about the three elements of style and applying them to my wardrobe.  Learning how to dress for my body type (and relearning as "maternal" changes occur) and my coloring, and doing a little soul searching to uncover my tastes for my look, gave me a rational roadmap out of schizophrenic dressing. I'd like to devote Part II to some practical advice on "mom" dressing, which may be helpful to busy non-moms as well.

Piece of Advice #1: Have a uniform that blends the best of color, line and personal taste.
This piece of advice isn't new, the danger is in discounting it because of its simplicity. Choose what looks good, makes you feel good, and is functional. Each style personality category has a spectrum. Do the inspiration board exercise if you haven't already, and then choose elements from the most functional end of the spectrum. My uniform varies by season; right now it is a dark wash pair of straight jeans (the most flattering fit for my body) and a basic tee or tank that I layer over, flats, watch, and simple earrings. Engagement and wedding rings as well.

Piece of Advice #2: Own what you need (and a few extras). 
You can have the most awesome wardrobe in the world, but if you don't wear it because it is uncomfortable, doesn't fit, or is too delicate for your lifestyle, then you don't have the most awesome wardrobe in the world! Also, your body needs to be clothed no matter what size it is now, or what size it is headed toward. Confession: I actually own (in addition to maternity jeans) a bin of "other" jeans - a pair in pretty much every size between my regular size and full on maternity. I find that nothing (ok, few things) sap my morale like pants that are too tight. Too saggy seems to suggest you are headed in the right direction, but who likes their butt to look bigger than it actually is?  I purchased each pair at the thrift store (for a few bucks) in various moments of crisis. So getting what you need doesn't need to be as expensive as it may sound at first. See Advice #5. 

Piece of Advice #3: Some clothes just function better  than others for the mom lifestyle, blending style, comfort, and durability. The key pieces for me are [WARM WEATHER]: 
  • Tees, and tanks in neutrals or patterns that blend well and are in your best colors. I usually avoid anything with logos, and anything that could be mistaken for workout gear.
  • Neutral colored shorts.
  • Flats, sandals, and low wedges. I usually avoid basic flip flops (think Old Navy style); they are not that good for your feet, and such an overdone trend that they don't really add style to an outfit or express individuality. 
  • A pair of shoes that you can throw on that can get wet, muddy, whatever, with no lasting damage. I have some mary jane crocs that I wear around the house all the time.
  • Inexpensive rayon linen blend pants. They usually have a drawstring and are forgiving if your weight fluctuates. These are very cool and wear well (blend equals less wrinkling). Think Club Med vibe, with "stretchy pants" comfort! 
  • A couple inexpensive sundresses or maxi dresses, depending on your preference and body type. I usually wear these on the days that are just so HOT that I don't want to do anything (including getting dressed).
  • A classy bag that coordinates well with your summer wardrobe and is big enough to carry what your crew needs. This summer I wore camel colored sandals ("vegan" leather, aka not leather, aka they wore out super fast and I need to find a new pair before next year) and carried a camel leather tote. I'm not into matchy matchy, but the camel color went with everything (from black to pink to navy),  and that bit of intentionality and luxury (the leather bag) elevated every outfit.
  • Headbands. Hold that hair back and still look great!

  • Jeans in your best cut. Dark washes are the most flattering (less light reflected equals less attention drawn to flaws) , and usually provide the best foundation to build an outfit. Some ladies out there can really rock lighter washes because of their style personality and their locale, so do what works for you.
  • Basic tees and tanks for layering. 
  • Other long sleeve shirts. I'm a sucker for button downs and turtlenecks.
  • Pullovers and partial zip fleeces. I usually try to avoid full zip fronts because they aren't that flattering when zipped and sitting, and again, anything with logos and writing. Old Navy's quality can be really hit and miss, but I purchased a micro performance fleece there last year that is great - warm, flattering, impervious to fading and staining, durable, everything a girl could hope for (for $15, at least!).
  • A wrap sweater or two. This style is great at accommodating (and minimizing) a belly as it expands and contracts, and defining the waist. The trick is finding a durable fabric that doesn't require special maintenance.
  • A roomy shift dress or two. This style is super forgiving to an expanding and contracting belly. To add definition when you have a waist to define, throw on...
  • A stretchy belt. If you don't have a waist because you are pregnant, put the belt above the belly and add a little definition to the same dress. 
  • A blazer. Throw it over anything - instant class.
  • Loafers or flats. Leather is best. Anything else will break your heart as it wears out quickly and dies an early death, or blisters your feet.
  • Boots.
  • A classy bag. See above.

My favorite pullover.
My well worn crocs. Dirty? Just hose them down.

Piece of Advice #4: Choose fabrics that wear well, and take care of what you have.
  • I have given up on hand wash only and dry clean only clothing, for this period of my life, at least. 
  • Wash dark jeans in cold water. They look better for so much longer.
  • Have you ever put a clean shirt on and looked in the mirror only to see a mysterious grease spot? This started happening all the time once I had [sticky, greasy fingered] toddlers. Keep stain remover by the laundry hamper and check your clothes for stains in natural light before throwing them in the washer.

Piece of Advice #5: Buy smart.
  • Don't overspend for basic pieces, such as t-shirts and tank tops. Quality doesn't vary enough on such pieces to merit the jump in cost that you find with certain brands. I have seen tee's for as low as $5 at Target (all styles on sale) in the past two months.
  • Don't be afraid to hit up the thrift stores. If you are a regular reader, you already know how I feel about them. Even better, hit them up on half price day. Yes, thrift stores have those.
  • Keep your eyes open for pieces that can serve you at various stages, depending on how they are styled (e.g. shift dresses, wrap dresses, etc).
  • Have an item or two that will really "class up" an outfit by its quality. Choose these items in timeless designs because you will want them to blend with your wardrobe as trends come and go.

Now for some illustrations. A special thank you to little H for all her help with the living room Iphone pics!

Basic v-neck, straight dark jeans, flats - my uniform.

And with the basic black blazer, brings it up a notch. Ignore that strange face I'm making...

My favorite wrap sweater, or should I say sweatshirt?

My favorite [non-fleece] pullover.

Love this shift dress. Couldn't be more simple/comfortable/forgiving/classy.

And another view... P.S. One can nurse in this dress because of the neckline and stretch of fabric.

Another example of the basic shift, but dressier for that special event. Also nursing friendly. The wedge heel is the perfect blend of height and comfort!

And blazered and belted.

The end.


  1. You look great, Mary!!! I love the post!

  2. Thanks, Sarah! You are too kind!

  3. Your style is so classy, Mary! Love it! I'm so glad you found my blog so I could find yours =)

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! Off topic, but are you in western ny as well?

  4. Oh my gosh - I've been looking through your older posts but this one is my favorite - one of the few wardrobe lists for moms that would actually work for me!! Are there any items you would update for 2014 or it still stands as is (it looks great to me!!!)

    1. Thank you! Today's post is for you!


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