The Mall and the SAHM

This week, I ran to the mall at lunch for some retail therapy. I recently bought a pair of black trousers that had such a perfect fit, fabric and cut that I returned to get them in two other colors. While strolling the mall sipping my iced coffee, I realized that the majority of the mall was occupied by mothers with their children. Women with slings holding sleeping infants, women with strollers holding up to three kids at a time at varying ages. Women and children hand in hand at the food court, on benches, in stores. As varying were the ages of their children were the appearances of these mothers.

This mall is in a community where every economic level of person lives. On one side of the mall are million-dollar townhomes in a gated community, the other side are rent-controlled apartments. A mile up the street are McMansions and in the other direction, cozy blocks of split-level and rancher-style brick homes built in the 50s. I used to work at this mall, and saw people from all walks of life enter my store. This day of retail therapy and my years of retail management remind me that money does not equal style.

My mom often tells me about my childhood. We were not well off and she had to save up to buy clothes for herself and us kiddies. Weekends were spent at yard sales for clothes, furniture and even Christmas presents come winter. Though my mom had a limited budget, she always looked great. She learned to sew to be able to dress for less and flatter her petite frame. She scoured sale racks and when something worked, she would buy multiples in varying colors to make things simple. Since she was a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), she needed clothes that didn’t wrinkle, could handle multiple washings and were so easy to pair with one another, she could dress in the dark. Pictures of her during this time shows her in jeweled toned knit tops, black knit trousers, black shoes and a silver pendant necklace almost every day. Not too exciting, the sleeve and pant length seemed to change with the seasons, but the premise was the same. Considering it was the 70s and 80s, my mom had a shoulder-length perm that flattered her face but was low-maintenance. You couldn’t look at her and know her income level or that I had vomited on that shirt two days prior. She was a parent of two rambunctious children, a volunteer in our schools, the editor of the church newsletter, active in the community and always overextended. Though her life may have been frazzled, her appearance was not.

It really is possible to look good and be a SAHM. And this is possible without spending much more time every day. It’s all about mindful shopping. I know I have written about this before, but this is something that is important to all women, no matter our lifestyle or responsibilities.

As I walked down the mall, I had two women in front of me pushing strollers. They were friends, chatting with each other as they window-shopped. They were both in their 30s, both of average size, both with straight blonde hair and I believe even had the same strollers. That was where the similarities ended. One was in baggy over-washed black cotton capris that ended at the widest part of her calf. She paired this with a pink, black and white horizontally striped polo shirt that hit right at her waistband and with it a pair of black flip flops. Her hair was half up in a claw clip, though most was slipping out and fanning out around her head. She looked dumpy, disheveled and her clothes looked cheap. Her friend was also in black capris, but they were of a very heavy knit and fit her frame quite well. Paired with it was a turquoise boatneck ¾ sleeve top that hit at mid-hip. On her feet were black ballet flats and her hair was held back with a black elastic headband. Her outfit was just as low-fuss and easy care, yet she looked slimmer and more polished. Both wardrobes can go in the washer and dryer. Both outfits were comfortable and easy. The difference was that the woman in the turquoise seemed more mindful of what she was purchasing.

1. Don’t buy 100% cotton unless you love to iron. It wrinkles, and even an extra 10 minutes in the dryer won’t get those wrinkles out. Also, cotton is known to fade after many washings. Cotton clothes soon look rumpled, old and worn. You don’t have the time and money to replace them, so don’t buy them in the first place.

197334 AG07 A1 BLA2. If your tummy is not your best feature, then don’t showcase it. Tops that hit right at your midsection draw attention to that area. Tucked-in tops emphasize the lower abdomen, and tops that are too tight do not flatter anyone. Look for tops that hit around mid-hip. This length is slimming to the torso without making the legs look short. No need for baggy tops – they often add bulk instead of hiding it. Look for something that either skims the body or sits pretty darn close. This will show you have the figure of a woman, not a sack of potatoes.

3. Flip flops are for the beach, not the mall. I say this often on here, but flops are bad for your feet. Your arches sink, you pull muscles between your toes and they do more harm than good. They are great when hopping in the car to drop the kid off somewhere, tooling around the garden, the pool or the shore but that’s about it. To preserve your feet for your future and not look sloppy, invest in some real shoes. Ballet flats are a great alternative and can be found for less than $20 at retailers like Target. A leather sandal in tan will go with 90% of your wardrobe and be more structured and attractive than a flip flop. This change affects your personal style as well as your personal health.

030207 WOF 192749 1544. With skirts, dresses, shorts and capris, have them end at a slim part of the leg. Your thigh and your calf are the widest parts and when clothing ends there, it gives the appearance that your entire leg is that size. Do your figure a favor and if the garment is perfect except for the length, take them to the tailor. For about $5 they can hem it to a better place.

5. Consider solids. Stripes and patterns may add variety and you may think they hide stains, but they often look cheap and quickly look dated. A solid polo in French blue can look crisp with a pair of khaki Bermudas; a striped one can make you look bigger and often looks cheaper. The best way to make your bargain piece look more expensive is to buy it in a solid color, free of garment-dyed finishes, contrast stitching or elaborate details. Go for simple and you’ll go for gold.

6. Read the label. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t buy it unless you have time and money for such a service. If it tells you to dry flat, it’s telling you not to buy it. You don’t have the time for this, and if you don’t follow the instructions you will probably ruin the shape or finish of the garment.

7. If it’s great, buy two. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I went and bought two more pairs of pants that I already owned and loved. They were the right length, color, fabric and fit. No one is taking a tally of how many styles of garments you own, all people notice is if you look nice. You found a great wrap top that flatters and fits and is easy care and perfection? Get it in black, pink and teal. Found a wrap dress that can hit the dryer as well as the dance floor? Get it in solid black and also in the red print. This is also true for shoes – get them in the neutral you wear most often (black or brown) and then get them in one other color (tan or a contrast shade like red pr green). If they are awesome, they are worth it.

8. Adjust your hair to your life. If you don’t have time to blow out your hair every morning, then get a cut that allows you to wash and wear. If you have bad hair days, you are human. Work with it with flattering accessories. Claw clips seem like a quick fix but look sloppy more often than not. Headbands are hip right now – great time to stock up. Also nothing is wrong with a low ponytail; side parts are flattering on rounder faces and a little hairspray on your brush or comb will help battle flyaways.

9. Buy a new bra. Whether or not you breastfed, your breasts will not be the same as they were pre-baby even if your waistline is. With any weight changes, your breasts change as well. Nothing makes you look firmer and fitter than a supportive bra. Also nothing makes you feel more like a woman than to have a gorgeous red satin and lace number under your standard tee shirt.

10. Keep the active wear for the gym. Knit shorts, baggy tee shirts from a vacation destination, matching hoodies and pants are not appropriate for “the real world.” It is just as easy to buy a feminine cut of tee shirt than to buy an oversized one.

drs11. Don't shy from a skirt or dress. If it hits around the knees, you can still crawl on the floor and run around without trouble. A skirt is always more polished, and a great tee-shirt style dress is easier to put on in the morning than a whole outfit. The one pictured is less than $40 by Jones New York, I found it at Nordstrom.

12. Show your personality.You are more than a mom, you are an amazing and vital woman.Wear your favorite colors, buy a leopard print shoe or a bold necklace.Small touches take your standard day wear from uniform to amazing with little work.



Some companies I recommend to find beautiful, comfortable and durable garments:

      • Lands End – I love this place. I buy knits from there that never shrink, fade or pill. They have petite, tall and plus sizes and offer fit guides to ensure you get the right size. I recommend you use this guide for many of their pieces run big. Best part? Their prices are very reasonable!
      • Chico’s – Fabulous colors, fun accessories and lots of fabrics that resist wrinkles and fading. Do note their sizing is a bit different from most companies and they do not carry plus sizes. As with Lands End, they often run a tad big.
      • J. Crew – J. Crew is the Mecca for pretty solid colored tops. Flattering cuts of polos and tees, high-quality cashmere, cotton and wool sweaters, and all with flattering yet not risqué necklines and cuts. J. Crew often runs small, especially in their bottoms but the quality is good, the cut is usually flattering and their return policy is fabulous. The price may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but the quality usually makes it worth the investment (I am still wearing J. Crew skirts and sweaters from a decade ago).
      • I.N.C. by Macy’s – You may find this a strange choice but if you regularly visit this section you would understand. They carry petites and plus sizes, they always have the most gorgeous colors and a large selection of pants, shorts and capris for the season. I.N.C. does a fabulous job of taking what is on the runway and making is realistic and wearable for every woman. They carry prints, but also a plethora of solids every season in some high-quality knits and other washable fabrics.
      • Boden – Feminine cuts, pretty colors, and great basics for any wardrobe. Do note this is a UK site so their sizes run differently than the us (they have a handy fit guide on the site). They don’t have many extended sizes, though some trousers are offered in long lengths. This company has mastered simple elegance with their basic style.



  1. August 22, 2007 / 3:24 pm

    Deb said…
    Why does it matter what a mom is wearing? Should the main point be her caring for her child? Whats wrong with wearing sweats and what you want to wear?

    -It’s a fashion blog, not a parenting blog. I’m currently at home with my ‘active’ toddler. She’s awesome, but a handful. As I’m reading this I’m sitting in yoga pants, a boxy t and a claw clip eyeing my flip flops on the floor.

    Dilly is right, though. Letting yourself go is a great disservice to the self. People are generally happier and more productive when they feel good about themselves. The claw clip isn’t doing it..

  2. August 16, 2007 / 10:27 pm

    Why does it matter what a mom is wearing? Should the main point be her caring for her child? Whats wrong with wearing sweats and what you want to wear?

  3. Anonymous
    July 9, 2007 / 11:48 pm

    As a friend of many young and fashionable young moms, I am witness to the fact that being a mom does not = giving up your sense of style. Everyone’s different, but I’ve found that the commonality between my friends is that they make looking good a priority. It makes them feel good, and a happy mom is a good mom. I recently saw a What Not to Wear episode about a “super mommy” who always wore pajama bottoms. When her young children first saw her post-makeover, they cried. Your appearance affects your kids, too. Good post, Dilly!

  4. Anonymous
    May 15, 2007 / 11:06 am

    What cracks me up about you angry moms is that you’re obviously here for some style and fashion advice. If you don’t like it, don’t read what Dilly wrote. Also she is telling you really basic things like shop online, buy a solid instead of a print, things that CAN fit into a life, no matter what life. I have been there where I dash into Wal-Mart for a shirt and grab the first thing because that is all the time I have… I grab a solid in a color I like and head home. 9 times out of 10 it fits because I go simple with knits. I think this post makes a bunch of sense for MOST Moms. But like any other post on any other website, it won’t work for EVERYONE.

  5. Anonymous
    May 15, 2007 / 12:01 am

    GREAT post, Dilly. I am a mom, and my kid is great, but he doesn’t like to shop, either. I tend to dress by “formula” much like your mom did, and I embraced the Chico’s concept while pregnant. Their Travelers line took me through my pregnency, and I’m still wearing my stuff from that store. Now I just build on basics, and seriously, it’s not so difficult to get out with my child and try on a thing or two that fit my “formula.” I think that works regardless of whether or not you’ve had kids. If more women were honest with themselves, they’d throw out half their closet and stick with what really works.

  6. The Mommanista
    May 14, 2007 / 11:34 pm

    It seems to me that if this mom has time to stroll the mall with her friend, then she has time to buy proper clothing…mom’s who don’t have time to dress well becuase their baby is ill all the time don’t have time to walk the mall! Only the mom who stays at home all day can make that claim.

    Really? How about the mommies who go stark raving mad home alone with a baby all day, so get out in spite of their baby’s fussiness? Have you ever tried to actually spend time in a dressing room with a baby who is only happy being held or pushed? Have you ever tried to put on make-up with a baby who is only happy being held or puched? Such babies do exist, and their mommies do still deserve to get out of the house sometimes. If they prioritize getting out and having adult human contact over looking good, who are you to judge?

  7. manasvi
    May 14, 2007 / 5:18 pm

    I did this for my mother since she is a SAHM and we always buy one style of top that flatters her figure. Matte jersey looks so nice on her. She likes prints on top. So she bought pinstripe pants from Kenneth Cole reaction at Costco for 25 bucks while grocery shopping. These are her go anywhere pants. She cuts her hair at home and it looks tres fabu.
    She straightens and washes her curly hair into a perfect wave 2 times a week. She has a 6 perfect shirts that flatter her wonderfully, and a skirtsuit with a printed jewel tone jacket bought on sale. She pairs the jacket with her pants and looks boardroom ready. (she was a highpowered exec) She has two perfect pairs of bottoms, one pinstripe and one jeans. She manages to look fabu everytime she leaves the house.

    she became a very successful businesswoman while immigrating from a foreign country, taking care of parents-in-law and raising a gifted child.

  8. May 14, 2007 / 2:12 pm

    It seems to me that if this mom has time to stroll the mall with her friend, then she has time to buy proper clothing…mom’s who don’t have time to dress well becuase their baby is ill all the time don’t have time to walk the mall! Only the mom who stays at home all day can make that claim…

  9. May 12, 2007 / 3:08 pm

    I can see both sides of it. I am certainly not the type of mom to wear ill-fitting clothes or unflattering ones. I have always been into fashion, and becoming a mom has not changed that and never did, even when I was a new mom (my little one is 4 now). I think Dilly offers great fashion advice for all women, moms or not.

    On the other side, Dilly is not a mom, and in some ways she really does not “get it”. Sure, moms can and often do look good and I am sure she does know some moms who always look their best-which leads her to think all moms can but some just don’t. But not all moms are the same, not all babies are the same, and not all situations are the same. For some moms it is easy to keep it up, for others, they barely have time to poop leave alone worry about how they look. Sure, we are judged on how we look but we get to decide whether or not that bothers us. I know some women who never look their best, know it, and really don’t care. They do what they need to do and are happy with their lives just as they are.

    Adjusting to being a mom is hard. I found it easier when I at least looked like myself, and cared about the things I always had. But some women might find it too much pressure to deal with becoming a mom and spend time worrying about hwo they look. Thats fine. I get it.

  10. Anonymous
    May 11, 2007 / 5:41 pm

    I didn’t miss the point…I visit this site regularly and I find it helpful.(Thanks Dilly!) I guess this post struck a chord with me and I should have explained myself better. My first born was a very high needs baby – he had severe colic and reflux. His needs, for the first few months, took all my time and energy. I was probably looking like that girl in the mall. I didn’t have the energy, time or desire to shop for my post-partum body as I was still unable to fit in my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. I guess I have sympathy for new moms that look dishelved as I’ve been that mom, that’s all.

  11. Anonymous
    May 11, 2007 / 3:09 pm

    I love when you talk about your mom, sounds as though she is an amazing woman!

  12. Anonymous
    May 11, 2007 / 1:58 pm

    hear hear. as a parent i have little time for myself, this blog helps demistify fashion for me and make it less of a hassle. i now have a wardrobe that i can use, get dressed in 30 seconds and not look bad. i feel better about me when i look better.

  13. Anonymous
    May 11, 2007 / 1:55 pm

    the point of this blog is to not buy unflattering clothes. Mom #1 shouldn’t have had the striped shirt in her closet. If you have 30 seconds to get dressed, it’s a heck of a lot easier if you don’t have to weed out the unflattering items.

  14. Thalia Harrison
    May 11, 2007 / 11:31 am

    As a mom, I can say your blog has inspired and changed me for better. I now think before I buy, I buy the same thing, but buy better. Same amount of time, same out of money but now I look good and now I feel good. Thanks for the links, I haven’t seen all of those stores before.

  15. Andrea
    May 11, 2007 / 10:39 am

    Um, first anonymous person I think you miss the point of the blog. The point is people DO judge and this blog is here to help you along the way.

  16. Anonymous
    May 11, 2007 / 1:05 am

    I love your blog. This post hits home for me! Thanks for all the ideas on where to find great quality casual clothes.

  17. Anonymous
    May 11, 2007 / 12:44 am

    Don’t judge – you don’t know what’s going on in her life. Also, i don’t think your a mom either!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

powered by chloédigital