Now that her daughter's two, this writer admits it's time for a fashion reinvention. Join her in learning how to make mom-friendly style a fashion do. By Cari Wira Dineen, REDBOOK.
When I was pregnant with my now two-year-old daughter, I spent a pretty penny on stylish maternity clothes. Then the baby arrived. It didn't take long for me to adopt a uniform of sweatpants, a stained tee, and sneakers. My pre-baby clothes didn't fit. My maternity clothes didn't fit. I didn't have any time anymore. A quick glance around the playground tells me that I'm not alone in falling into a style rut. "When you become a mother, you're exhausted and redefining yourself. It's so easy to put yourself last," says Marlisa Sailer, a mom of two and a stylist with Style For Hire, a national network of stylists. While it feels impossible to care for yourself when you're putting everyone's needs first, Sailer says it's crucial to our self-esteem to look and feel good during this huge life transition - and to avoid these common mom fashion faux pas.
Still wearing maternity clothes
I've got a friend who wore her maternity jeans one year after giving birth. Way. Too. Long. Just had a baby? You get a two, three months max. Then, it's time to put away the maternity clothes (no matter how comfy those elastic waistbands are). If the styling feels safe, buy some regular clothes in your new size that mimic your maternity clothes - sort of. "An empire waist is okay, but look for tops that don't have gathering as that will only add fullness to your middle," says Sailer. Wrap tops and dresses are also great, especially ones that cross over higher on your rib cage to draw attention to the leanest part of your body.
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The way-too-mom jeans
My mom - and zillions others - wore pleated, peg-legged pants that she thought covered her pooch but only accentuated it. My mom-jean problem isn't pleats. It's the low-rise, bootcut pants that push my muffin-top up, and flash my crack or granny panties every time I bend down. The fix? Look for a higher waist jean (with a flat front, of course). Look for the button to sit at your navel or up to two-inches above it. As Stacy London says about the higher waisted styles, your gut will be "locked and loaded." Another option: a skinny jean or cigarette pant tucked into boots. "This makes you look thinner because the heaviness on the bottom detracts from any thickness at your waist," says Sailer. Brightly colored skinny jeans are especially fun and hot for fall.
Sloppy looking sneakers
I traded in my heels for comfort during my pregnancy and I never looked back. While I try not to wear my running sneakers anywhere but the gym, and at least rock my Converses instead, I've got to admit that sneakers are sneakers. But apparently, I don't have to choose comfort over style. "Instead of flip-flops or trainers, try a pair of ballet flats, studded slippers, flat boots, or if you want height, shoes with platforms across the entire foot," says Sailer.
The dorky diaper bag
I tried several different diaper bags, both cheap and expensive. And all of them were so big and deep that I could never find anything. In a state of desperation, I started just throwing everything into an old LL Bean Boat and Tote. Talk about sloppy. And I look at my old status bags on my shelf collecting dust and wonder what happened to me. "Get out of the diaper bag aisle and find your way back to the grown-up purse department," says Sailer. "There are a lot of bags, like a leather backpack or stylish patent tote that are totally functional without being frumpy." Just corral the diapers and wipes into freezer-sized Ziploc bag and go.
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The perpetual ponytail
It feels like you have one of two hair choices when you're a mom: Either you pull your hair back in a lifeless ponytail or you cut your hair into a mom 'do. I have chosen the former for the past two years. But Sailer suggests changing it up with a chignon, headband, braid or even getting in on the adorable fedora craze. And don't forget the magic of dry shampoo, which can degrease hair in an instant.
Wearing the wrong size
Often, I find that I wear clothes that are too big - namely flowy tops or tees - because I just want to hide my post-baby bod. "Your body is in a state of transition - you are neither where you want to be nor where you used to be," reminds Sailer. Instead of swimming in your clothes, look for garments with lots of stretch, like leggings and fitted or draped tees. "Bigger clothes are creating a bigger visual," she says. "When you wear clothes that skim your body, you'll look smaller." Feel too self-consious in body-skimming shirts and skirts? Get yourself some shapewear, such as Spanx. "Shapewear can smooth you out and make you appear 10 pounds thinner," says Sailer.
I used to match my panties to my bra. Every day. These days, I'm all about comfort with my granny panties. But I know that if I've got graying underwear on, I'm not going to feel good about myself. "Even when it comes to underwear, comfort and style can co-exist," says Sailer. So toss your stretched out and stained skivvies, and look for comfy cotton underwear with stretch lace. And cute retro styled briefs with higher waists can hold in your tummy.
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A lack of accessories
If you're taking the time to pull yourself together, make sure everything is signed, sealed, and delivered. "Accessories add a personal touch to your look," says Sailer. Put away the dangly earrings and delicate necklaces, which don't play well with babies. Instead, break out some bracelets (easy to put on, easy to take off throughout the day), scarves (tie it so that it's elongated to create a thinning vertical), and don't forget the sunglasses. For me, they are a lifesaver. Even when I'm in flip-flops and sweats, with my Ray-Bans on, I feel (and look) cool.
Saggy, baggy boobies and bras
Your boobs have been through a lot, so don't neglect them. Toss your stretched-out maternity bras. And forget your pre-baby bras. Your chest has changed and it's time to get resized. "A proper fitting bra changes the way your clothes fit," says Sailer. And a pretty one changes the way you feel. Toss in some matching panties while you're at it.
Sweatshirts and hoodies
In an attempt to cover up our tummies and stay warm, many of us moms opt for a sweatshirt or hoodie. "The idea of a zipper and v-neck is the right thought since it creates a strong vertical, but sweatshirts look sloppy," says Sailer. Especially when dotted with spit-up. Enter a structured jacket that will hide our belly fat, keep us warm, and still define our bodies. Sailer suggests looking for a jacket that nips in just a bit to create a waist (even if you don't think you have one any more). Layer it over a fitted tee and your new jeans and voila, you - as a mom - only better.
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