September 16, 2009

How to be a Stylish Mom

Before I became a parent, I wrote about ways to make it easier to be stylish and be a mom. I usually got attacked by current moms saying I was unrealistic and didn’t know how it was.

Well now I do. My daughter is eight months old, I work full time out of the home, I have a lengthy work commute, assist my husband with his photography business, manage three blogs, spend free time with friends and family. It isn’t easy, but it can all be done while looking stylish and not breaking the bank. Here are some tricks I have learned over the past few months that have helped me look pulled together without tearing out my hair or blowing my budget:

1. Get a Wash and Wear Hairstyle… or at least a style that you can manage half-asleep and in the dark. This doesn’t mean you need to chop off all your hair or live in a ponytail, it just means you need to reassess your mane. For me, this meant I needed to stop trying to straighten my hair or get the tousled waves all the celebs wear and I covet. I have naturally wavy/curly hair that likes to part in the middle. I researched online during lunch hours to find products well-reviewed for hair like mine that work when the tresses are air-dried. With my next cut, I let my stylist know I was going the more natural route and she trimmed accordingly. I now have a style that I can wash, condition, add a bit of product, scrunch and go. If I wish to have it be more polished, I whip out a curling iron and a second product.

For you, it may be a style that can be achieved with five minutes of a wet-to-dry flat iron, or one that uses some molding mud, your fingers and a hot blast of the dryer. Whatever it is, stop trying to reinvent the wheel every morning, trying to make your hair something it isn’t. Work with what nature gave you and you can spend less time with the styling tools, less time in a messy ponytail and more time with your child.

2. Buy the polish. All the magazines say in this time of recession, do your own pedicure. What mom has the time to whip out the orange stick, the cuticle cream, the top coat… and who can do it without little fingers wanting to help or investigate? A pedicure at the local nail spa is a cheap and quick way to decompress and have some Me Time. However, moms don’t usually have the time or the funds for Me Time as often as they did pre-family. I have found I can extend a pedicure far longer than I used to with a couple supplies. A daily swipe of clear topcoat will keep chips at bay. Owning the polish color will help when you do get a chip, and will also hide growth. Wearing slippers or socks around the house instead of bare feet will prevent your carpets or hardwood floors from absorbing the natural oils in your feet, and putting a bit of Vaseline on your feet at night will keep your feet looking soft (and if you have your slippers near your bed you can slip into them without slipping across the floor as you bolt up to the sound of a crying child).

As for the hands… I find it’s best to keep them bare and buffed. I love Sally Hansen Hand Repair Hand Nail & Cuticle Cream – I keep a tube in my purse and apply it to my hands (and the excess to my elbows) while I am waiting for the train, stuck in traffic, after washing my hands. It absorbs quickly so I am not too greasy to wield a steering wheel, has a mild orange scent and does a great job at keeping my hands looking soft. That plus a buffing cube can keep your hands looking lovely without trying to maintain a full manicure.

3. Create a uniform. So what if you wear jewelneck cardigans, lace-trimmed camisoles and flat-front trousers almost every day? If the outfit flatters and is appropriate for your lifestyle, then do it. The most stylish women have uniforms. No one criticizes Carolina Herrera for her collection of crisp white shirts – in fact women dream of being as chic as she.
Stop trying for variety, and look for quality. Buy fabrics that you love and love you in return. Choose colors that make your skin look amazing and make you smile when you see them time and again. Find silhouettes that flatter and buy in bulk.

My mom uniform consists of dresses. I find them easy, flattering and fun. A wrap style makes it easy to nurse or pump. I can slip on a dress in the dark and know I will look polished for most any occasion. Fabrics like matte jersey and ponte glide over my curves and are easy to launder.

For some women, their uniform is a pencil skirt and cashmere turtleneck. For others, it’s a button-down shirt and dark jeans. Accept your body and your lifestyle. Stop and think about the pieces you already own that you constantly go to in your closet and drawers. Ask a trusted friend what looks best on your body and stock up on that style.

Stick to a certain color palette so that it is easier to mix and match. This way, you won’t need as many pairs of shoes, as many belts, as many bags, as many accessories. I am one to pair black or white with jewel tones, but many women love a warm palette of browns, creams and greens or a collection of grays and navys with rich colors of merlot, amethyst and teal. Find the palette that pleases and compliments you and feel free to purchase multiples when you find the perfect color as well as silhouette.

4. Keep that uniform for the rest of your look. What’s the point of a wardrobe of pencil skirts and cashmere turtlenecks if you don’t have go-to uniform shoes? Last year I loved in peeptoe pumps – I had them in leather, snakeskin, leopard print, patent and silk. I knew this style of shoe and the height of the heel worked with most of my dresses, skirts and trousers. Now that I have a baby to carry around, I am desire a shoe that is a bit more stable and wearable for long hours. I found a great T-strap from Sofft that came in a dark red patent and looked like a vintage shoe. I could wear it for hours and not feel any pain, and it looked great with trousers and dresses. Instead of looking for other silhouettes to add to my closet, I bought this same shoe in black and found a very similar silhouette from the same brand in a brown croco-embossed leather and had a shoe wardrobe to get me through all of summer and most of the fall.
Make a uniform with your accessories – it’s okay to wear the same earrings or necklace every day – stop thinking of it as boring and consider it your signature piece! Purchase a bag that looks great every day with your wardrobe (tip: a color will be more versatile than black or brown), and make sure that it has enough room for a few kid essentials.

5. Simplify your makeup bag. It’s totally okay to wear the same exact shadow, liner, mascara, blush and lipstick every single day. Buy a second powder and lipstick and keep it in your purse for touchups. I actually have a small mascara that was part of a Gift With Purchase and a second compact of my favorite concealer in my purse in case I don’t have time to complete a full face in the morning.

6. Get rid of Dry Clean Only. I don’t know about you, but I have a bag of clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners that is in the trunk of my car and it has been in there since June. At the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is head to the cleaners. I don’t want to waste the time, and I don’t want to spend the money.

Many fabrics state that they are dry clean only, but can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung up to dry. Matte jersey, poly crepe, merino wool, and most synthetics can survive a gentle tumble in the washing machine. Once or twice a month I wash these pieces and hang them in the hallway bathroom from the curtain rod. They get put back in the closet before the next time guests come to visit (yes, I often get dressed in that bathroom, picking right from the curtain rod).

Stick with fabrics that can take a bit of a beating through the day – I like items with stretch because they don’t crease, usually launder easily, and allow me to crawl on the floor with my daughter and not be all stretched out and weird-looking after little hands grab at my neckline or I sit at my desk for ten hours straight.

7. Be prepared. Keep a bag in your bag with essentials – a couple safety pins, a Tide-to-Go pen or Shout wipes, your makeup uniform, mints, an elastic to hold back hair when needed (like when holding your little one), feminine products, a band aid, pain reliever, etc. This bag then can move from purse to diaper bag and back with ease. Nothing ruins a look more than a boo-boo, so be ready for that dropped hem, spilled salad dressing or blister.

8. Accept your new life. I may still have an active social calendar, but I am not hitting night clubs or cocktail parties like I used to. I don’t have the need for a dozen LBDs or a single garment with sequins. That being said, I have also realized that since I work outside the home and spend most evenings in my living room with my family, I have little need for more than one pair of jeans. Don’t purchase that which you don’t need and don’t hold onto that which is from a previous life. CraigsList, eBay, donate or gift away the items which you know you don’t need any more and make room for more pieces that are sensible yet stylish.

Even if you are a stay at home mom or a telecommuter, you shouldn’t be sporting flannel pajama pants and nursing tanks 24/7. It is possible to be comfortable and look great. Refined knits, matte jersey, ponte, merino wool… these are all fabrics that wash well, wear well and look polished.

9. Don’t write off fashion. You can carry off current trends while being true to your life. You may not have a need for over-the-knee boots, but you can totally rock knee-high boots with jeans or leggings and a slouchy sweater. The skinny jean may look fantastic with high-heeled booties or pumps, but they can also work with flats. Short dresses can work at the office or the cafĂ© with opaque tights and boots or sturdy platform pumps.

And classic fashion is always chic – crisp white shirts like Carolina Herrera, solid-colored v-neck and turtleneck sweaters with flat-front trousers or pencil skirts, dark jeans with refined knits, sheath and wrap dresses in basic black or flattering hues, classically cut leather pumps, tall boots and traditional ballet flats.

10. Quality, not quantity! You can own one pair of jeans if they are made well and fit you like a dream. The same black v-neck sweater can be worn more than once a week if it is made of good quality and has an elegant drape. A higher-quality garment can handle being washed and worn time and time again.

Purchase bras that lift and separate, panties that are invisible under your clothes, shoes that look more expensive than their price tag. Spend money on your hair and skin so you can save time (and the cost of multiple beauty products that never work). The smaller your collection, the easier it is to dress every morning.

28 comments:

  1. I knew it ;)

    I'm not a mom either, but I know it's possible to have a stylish, unfrumpy exterior even while your baby is burping up all over you.

    I guess the rule of thumb is to always have a towel and to have lots of backup dresses in the closet ;)

    Since I'm quite lazy as is, I like clothes that aren't fussy or itchy, so I think my love for wrap dresses, blazer cardigans, jean trouser pants and ballet flats will continue long after I've had kids.

    Thanks.

    (And welcome back :))

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  2. GREAT POST!!!!!

    AND WE MISSED YOU! SO GLAD YOU ARE BACK!!!

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  3. I'm not a mom but I think this post really works for anyone! I have only recently started implementing these ideas into my life. For instance, this summer I found the perfect cotton shirt so I bought it in 5 colors! Needless to say, when paired with dark jeans and cute accessories it made dressing for extreme heat a breeze!
    My lip color has become a signature statement for me. I have used the same color for a few years and I get so many compliments that I feel like it works for me. I also decided to work with the texture of my hair and have done away with the notion of straight hair. It's curly and in a bob which instantly gives me a look without trying hard. I also went back to a hair color that is close to my natural color so that I don't have to touch up my roots as often.
    I'm still working on defining my own distinctive style and yet I feel pretty good with my choices so far.

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  4. Great post, thanks!

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  5. I am a mom and this is a wonderful post! Probably the advice that resonates with me the most is to buy multiples of what fits and looks good (sometimes in different colors)--anything that simplifies getting dressed (because it's not about us anymore!).

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  6. I'm SO glad you can now say you ARE a mom and it IS possible!!

    I've always thought the same thing, but have to be careful around the moms who love to tell me how life's going to be if I have kids, mainly all the things I won't be able to do anymore. I won't be able to dress cute, won't be able to get my figure back, won't be able to travel, won't have time to learn or do anything new...geez.

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  7. Good post. I agree with you. It can be done. I am currently a SAHM and we have moved to a place where there are a lot of SAHMs. At the play ground I often get asked where and for whom I work. It got so tired that I have started to joke that I work for my son 24/7. I didn't understand at first why I was asked this question. I then realized that me wearing dresses and skirts/pants with casual yet good knits made me look put together! Our budget and culture doesn't allow for convenient hair styles however a neat trim and a low ponytail works great for me. Doing my own pedicure, facial is relaxing for me and I get them done during my baby's afternoon nap among other things. Manicures are just buff and shine for me too.

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  8. What is the third blog that you manage? Is it a baby blog (crosses fingers in hopes that you say yes :) Great post!

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  9. a brown eyed grrl I am a mom too, and I travel, learn a new language, hoopdance and belly dance, and I wear cute clothes (ok, I do have a baby that burps cleanly). ((I'll get back to you about the figure once I start working out))
    I realised that a lot of moms that swear they don't have the time to do anything are actually overdoing things: ironing baby clothes (!!!), not teaching their kids to pick up after themselves, have cluttered homes that require extra work... practically they are sabotaging themselves.

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  10. I had no clue about the baby blog, gosh how do you managae it? Anyway, yayyyy to the baby blog!

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  11. I noticed that you have Smashbox O'Glow in your make-up bag. How is it? Any good? I always want to buy it but then stop myself because I'm usually a powdered blush type of gal. Do you recommend?

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  12. I noticed that you have Smashbox O'Glow in your make-up bag. How is it? Any good? I always want to buy it but then stop myself because I'm usually a powdered blush type of gal. Do you recommend?

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  13. @Eternal*Voyageur @ Venusian*Glow--thank you for saying that! You and Allie are inspirations!

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  14. This is the best advice I've ever read for how to stay stylish as a mom. Good job!

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  15. I'm a mom of three and my oldest is 14 and I loved your advice! Wish I'd had it 14 years ago!

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  16. Really great post . Thanks

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  17. I really like this post. You were able to verbalize some things I had been unconsciously doing. You make me feel somewhat victorious in my fashion pursuits! Yay!

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  18. Laundrygirl, I can support each word you said! Truly believe - as more you do, as more you can actually manage! I manage myself, husband, house, 2 works and a photography as a serious hobby, still paying much of attention to my look. By the way, my latest purchase hit all the points - Pompidoo camera bag - I'm stylish, I have my camera, I can carry whatever I might need! Happyy :)

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  19. Thanks for the easy and commonsense suggestions. When someone talks about being a stylish mum, you can pick who actually has had kids!  Well done on your post

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  20. This is one of the smartest things I have ever read about this subject.  Most people don't get it.  Getting dressed in the dark.  You have to be a mother to know this is true.  I have 8 kids and all is true

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  21. I love you for writing this. It's great advice. Ever since I found your blog I've been trying to identify what my go-to uniform is. I start a style blog thinking I had some sort of style, but now I'm realizing my blog forces me to get dressed and is helping me reinvent my style. It's becoming quite a project. I envy that you've found what works for you! My baby is 2 now and I'm finding it harder to spend the time on myself. Naps... Godsend. It's harder when they stop! I feel like I have no time. At all.

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  22. It has taken a long time go get to where I know my personal style, and I had to find it again after having a baby. It's harder once you're a mom but take baby steps, shop slow & with care, trust the opinions of friends, note reactions when you try new things and eventually it will all come together! :-)

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  23. Took
    me time to read all your post but
    I really enjoyed reading it. This is the only time I crossed your blog and definitely I learned new things! I am a mother of two so there are times that I forget to become stylish as I have many responsibilities to manage. Your tips proved
    to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! Thanks for sharing!

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  24. I am glad you found it helpful - thanks for taking the time to comment and let me know! :)

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  25. I like the tips for the most part, but I don't think the clothing tips necessarily work for me everyday.  Dresses and pencil skirts are okay for sometimes, but if I can't play Mommy and Me soccer in it, sit criss cross applesauce in it, run in it, climb on the playstructure at the park in it, or get in the sandbox with it, it just isn't practical most of the time.  Most days, it's "playclothes".   Jeans and a nice T or button up shirt are okay.  Cute tennis shoes are a must.  If I can't sprint after my kid in it, it won't work.  The other tips are great, but couldn't be everyday wear.  I just can't bear to be that Mom who just watches kids play while sitting on the bench in my sundress and wedges playing on my smart phone.

    I like the wash and wear hairstyle tip, but don't diss the ponytail.  I'd love to see more tips on how to make the ponytail look nice.  When I wear my hair down, it says down about 5 minutes before I end up putting it back up.  I hate spending the day bending down to empty the dishwasher, pick something up, put in a load of laundry, etc and contantly having a face full of hair every time I bend over.

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