My Wardrobe Makeover: Part 1 (or, finding my “mom style” after 3 kids in 5 years)

This post is by Sarah Powers, Happiest Home contributor and Managing Editor, and blogger at Powers of Mine.

Here’s a little story for you. It’s about a pair of yellow pants.

(Spoiler alert: this story is a little less uplifting than Meagan’s Lesson of the Blue Dress, and it definitely involves more grease. And more stain remover.)

A few weeks ago I was headed out to speak to a group of brand new first-time moms. I was thrilled to discover that morning that a pair of pants I’d gotten for my birthday (ahem, my three-weeks-post-partum birthday) actually fit for the first time. I paired them with a striped tee over an off-white tank and a pair of nude sandals. Then I snapped this little selfie to send off to my sweet mother-in-law who had been the brave soul to buy me the pants for my birthday (right, the three-weeks-post-partum birthday).

They finally fit! I texted proudly.

Banana Republic City Chino 

(Side note: if that photo above doesn’t say everything about why it’s hard to feel stylish as a mom, I don’t know what does. Three pajama-clad kids literally underfoot in a dirty bathroom. Oy.)

So off I went to the new mamas group, thinking I looked pretty put-together as a mom of three. My dad came over to watch the big kids, so there was a hasty handoff and a car seat switch as I left the minivan for him and took the baby with me in his car.

I was almost to my destination when I happened to glance down at my right leg. It was covered in some kind of black car grime from shin to thigh. And where any pair of dark jeans or black pants would have hidden the offensive smear, my Banana Republic City Chinos in Perfect Gold did not.

Oh, no. They did not.

yellow pants: after

There wasn’t much to do but laugh about it at the time, and seeing as the sweet women I was speaking to were in their new-mom finest of yoga pants and nursing tanks, I knew they’d be sympathetic – if they even noticed.

The whole incident really captures where I am with my style lately: on the one hand, after three pregnancies in five years and no plans for any future babies, I’m eager to find my sense of style again. I’m ready to be done with maternity clothes forever. I’m a handful of pounds away from where my body usually settles post-baby. I’m really looking forward to re-building my wardrobe with pieces that reflect who I am today (a 33-year-old work-at-home mom of three) and not who I was pre-kids (a 27-year-old working full-time in a corporate environment). Put it this way: If Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear showed up on my doorstep, I’d be totally stoked, not offended.

But on the other hand, I’m not quite footloose and fancy free when it comes to fashion. I’m nursing an infant, which means my undergarments and tops have certain specifications. I’m doing an awful lot of babywearing, which means half the time you can’t even see what I’m wearing on top, and any shirt with buttons or detailing just gives my 4-month-old weird lines all over her face. My day-to-day life in Arizona means that all scarves and layers I see in the magazines – even in the summertime – just won’t make sense when it’s over 100° for the next five months. (They just make me stabby with cool-weather envy.)

And obviously, all the car-seat-hefting, stroller-folding, toddler-shoe-tying, wet-swim-suit-wringing-out, and other signature dance moves of motherhood mean that every item in my closet could potentially fall victim to the fate of the yellow pants.

So, herein lies the dilemma: suck it up and make do until I ditch the nursing bras and ErgoBaby altogether? Or start my wardrobe makeover now and gradually work my way back into style? I’m going with the latter.

Obviously, this will be a process and not (unless Stacy and Clinton really DO show up on my doorstep!) a whirlwind shopping spree that involves an unlimited budget and a weekend at the mall. So I thought it would be fun to share some of my plans and strategies with you now, and then check back in with a follow-up post in a few weeks after I’ve done some shopping.

Here are a few things I’m doing to set the stage for Project: Back in Style.

Embracing reality

It’s fun to imagine myself in a whole new look, but I’m trying to keep reality in mind as well. In Arizona, my mom uniform is shorts, flip-flops and a tank top for more than half the year. Acknowledging that helps me focus on what I really want to do: update my look within those parameters. So while I love skirts and summer dresses, they aren’t practical in my daily life (still fun for a special kid-free occasion, of course) and therefore won’t be at the top of my shopping list.

Paying attention

I admit it: I just plain stopped paying attention to fashion for a while. But now that it’s top of mind again, I find I notice trends and looks I like everywhere: magazines, TV, and – maybe most relevantly – on other moms I see around town. I’m getting back in the habit of noticing what looks good, what I like, and where the trends are moving.

Analyzing my closet

Since I haven’t really done much shopping yet, I’m left with what’s in my closet currently: it’s a mix of odd transitional in-between sizes, lots of pieces that are several years old, and a few spontaneous more recent finds. As I go through the week I’m noticing: What’s the first thing I wear when all the laundry is clean? What pieces are both practical AND make me feel like I look good? What do I have too much of (fitted ribbed knit tanks OMG stop it with them in every color already), and what’s lacking (patterns, tops with more interesting shapes)?

lavender ribbed tank

The photo above was just last week at my three-year-old’s birthday party. Classic look: solid fitted tank with something spilled on it. We can only go up from here, right?

Purging like crazy

I’m loving the post-baby purging this time around. So long, maternity clothes! Adios, hideous post-partum wear! Other than a few things I sent to a first-time pregnant friend, most of this is going to Goodwill or even in the trash. It has served me well and it’s all seen much better days.

But I’m not only purging the pregnancy clothes; I’m also giving a hard look at the rest of my closet. If I don’t remember wearing it in the months just before I got pregnant (which was just about this time last year), I’m not likely to wear it ever again. The leaner my wardrobe gets, the easier it is to see what I really need.

Gathering inspiration

Oh, Pinterest. You time-suck, you. But browsing others’ style boards does help me figure out what other fashionable moms are coveting these days. So yes, I started with Pinterest. You can see the beginnings of my Back Into Style Again board here.

mom style Pinterest board

Meagan pointed me over to Polyvore, which I hadn’t experienced before writing this post. Like Pinterest, it seems like it could steal hours from my day, but definitely a fun source of fashion inspiration.

By far my favorite source of inspiration lately has been Ain’t No Mom Jeans, a fashion blog apparently written just for me. I love the way founder Shana describes the blog’s purpose:

What is ‘everyday mom style’?  Ideally, everyday mom style is something that can stand up to the toddler test:  it can be pulled on, easily washed, is something that can be worn whether you are kicking a ball around the park, going down the slide or taking the kiddos out for lunch.  It’s influenced by trends, but not defined by them.  Everyday mom style doesn’t make compromises in either the comfort, durability or the style category.  Easier said than done?  Yup.  That’s why we started this blog.

Thanks to those of you who chimed in with other great sources of inspiration on our Facebook page this week – I’m looking forward to trying out some of your suggestions, too!

Test-driving a few trends

Finally, while I still have visions of a shopping spree that will transform me overnight, I know this is going to be a process. So I’ve started test-driving a couple of recent trends: a maxi skirt I picked up at the Gap (verdict: love the length and fabric, but this one is cut too full…it feels a little prairie-ish or something); another pair of colored chinos in the same style as the yellow pants (verdict: love these, but again, going into an AZ summer means I’ll have to wait until November to wear them much); and I’ve been trying to break out of the ribbed tank habit. (Keyword: trying.)

And as for the yellow pants? I’m proud to say that after SEVERAL rounds of OxyClean and machine wash cycles, they’re wearable. I can still see remnants of the mystery grease, but it’s pretty faint and the pants are otherwise cute and comfy.

How has your sense of style evolved since becoming a mom? Where do you shop or find inspiration? What crazy new looks do you think I should try? I’d love your comments below, and I’ll be checking back in a future post with some outfits to show off!

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