Thursday, 21 October 2010

Back on the Style Bus: A minimal mother's essential wardrobe items for more effortless dressing

All the excitement of feeding Baby Boy solid foods has side-tracked me somewhat from my style mission of streamlining, achieving simplicity and not losing my individuality (within budget), while being a hands on, no nonsense mummy (haha). Inspired by a Coca Rocha shoot in Elle recently, highlighting 25 key wardrobe items, I have decided to come up with my own list of ten 'essential' items which form the basis of my wardrobe as an aspiring stylish mother of one.

1. For comfort and joy- The perfect pair of mid-heel shoes for each season

If I wear a pair of heels higher than 3 inches, the pushchair handles become too far away and I develop a shuffle like Fester from the Adams Family. If I wear completely flat shoes I walk like Penguin Man. I read somewhere that a heel of 1.5 inches is good for the back and posture- whatever the science behind having a bit of a heel, if I don't have one, I don't feel quite right- I walk a lot (no car and buses and buggies are not always friends in London), so I know a slight heel is essential for comfort too.

As I am veering towards more masculine styling at the moment, I like these heeled brogues from Office. Investing in a pair of mid-heel boots for A/W is also a good idea but I would avoid shearling and hiking boot styles to ensure that you don't look like a fashion victim and can get some longevity out of them.

2. If you need diversionary tactics- A bottom enhancing pair of black jeans

When your tummy is like a big jelly and your boobs are inflating and deflating regularly (and are often different sizes- or is that just me?), drawing attention to your other assets is often a good idea. Black jeans will flatter if you are generous in the bottom area and can be dressed up or down easily- I am addicted to higher waisted styles at the moment to keep my belly in and to avoid muffin top effect. I do like dark blue jeans in theory, as they are flattering but I always think that they look 'mummyish' and not MILF. These slightly cropped ones from Urban Outfitters will highlight the skinniest part of your leg, your ankle.

3. Want to be a confidence trickster? A blazer/ jacket to be dressed up or down

Blazers and jackets are everywhere at the moment but if you pick the right one, you can keep it and love it for a very long time. If you need to rush out and nothing else is working, throwing a blazer over the top of everything always seems to pull your outfit together. Also good for milk posset camouflaging. This silk one by Whistles is the right combination of smart/casual.

If you want something more tolerant towards flying liquids then this one is probably better by Topshop, it's machine washable too!

4. For practical magic- A chunky knit cardigan for layering/ snuggling

A useful item for play-dates, park visits, coffees and cuddling your little bundle (especially if you have a drafty flat like mine), if you find one in a neutral colour, it will layer on top of pretty much everything.This oatmeal cardi by Phase Eight has a great shape.

5.  When you are on maternity leave but mean business- A great fitting white shirt

Finding a white shirt that fits well and doesn't gape around the boobs is hard, but once you find one it is an instant 'lifter' for any outfit with its crisp and light feel. The white actually looks flattering on most skin tones and if you wear one during a serious discussion with your partner, you may well get the upper hand- especially if slightly see-through- hehe. This blouson shaped shirt by Mango is a forgiving shape, with no buttons at front meaning gaping is not an issue, but its sheerness gives it a subtle sexiness, while obscuring the tummy region.

6. To avoid wardrobe malfunctions- A large lightweight shawl/ pashmina/scarf

To add colour to an otherwise uninteresting ensemble, for breastfeedfing in public and for keeping off the wind (and as an extra layer in the pushchair if you a being an overprotective mum). Also good for sitting on in the park if you have forgotten the blanket (I always forget the blanket!). This Urban Outfitters one is very large, bang on trend but classic at the same time.

7. For pick n' mix- A selection of of men's T-shirts in neutral colours

The fit of a slim fit men's t-shirt is looser around the arms than in a women's cut, without being baggy (so not giving you sausage/ bingo wing/ strong man effect) and fits just on the right place across the chest while completely skimming the belly and often sitting just below the hip. The chances are that that the same colour cotton t-shirt in the men's section of any shop, will also be cheaper than the women's version. I find a white t-shirt an invaluable part of my wardrobe, when I can't be bothered to think about what to wear, I just put one on with whatever seperate is appropriate for the weather (shorts, jeans, leggings, pencil skirt, whatever) and than add a chunky piece of statement jewellery or a scarf for a relaxed but still chic and easy look and layer up with a blazer or cardi. I find that any milk leakages are barely noticable if they do happen and the whites can actually go in with my baby-clothes wash, as they don't seem to ever leak colour. As they are a relatively cheap item, you don't have to be precious if paint and food gets on them and later they can be used as messy play overalls for your little one, when they get beyond redemption. Uniqlo men's t-shirts are currently only £2.99 and are a nice soft cotton!
8. Bum Genius- The ubiquitous leggings

There is no doubt that the leggings revival is here to stay and I have to say that I am pleased. I don't like patterned, lurex, shiny or statement leggings, as unless you have willow-like proportions or are under 25, they definitely increase your chances of membership to the mutton brigade by 100%. However, I do think that black, completely opaque leggings are a minimal wardrobe essential. If you want to run around in an unladylike manner, having any kind of fun with children, partner or friends, they can really save your modesty as an alternative to tights, as well as being a welcome additional layer in the winter months. However, have you noticed the number of girls/ women walking around that don't seem to realise that you can see their pants through them- or who have camel toe- yikes!? It is quite hard to find leggings that aren't see-through but in all my legging purchases so far, Topshop's versions have come out best for price in relation to thickness- do stretch over your hand before buying though! I really want these cable knit ones but I reckon that they aren't going to be thick enough to pass my tree-climbing stretch test and they will make me look like a woolly mammoth- best stick to black :(

9. For elemental pursuits- The wool coat that makes your most crumpled clothes look like a sartorialist's dream

I oppose the current consensus and argue that most of us will not be channelling a luxe '70s vibe by buying and wearing a camel coat, but instead will look like Norah Batty's best buddies on bingo night. Unless you are a proud owner of amazonian inches or have a perfect complexion, the camel coat is likely to make you look like you should be pushing up daisies, rather than adorning fashionable parties as a flower of society. I'm sorry but the camel coat is also just too boring, unless you have the pounds to really invest in something with a truly stunning cut.

Although I would suggest that a neutral colour will do you the most favours I wouldn't ever recommend buying a black coat. Unless you are very blonde (in which case a black coat would look striking) and have a signifcant dry-cleaning budget, wearing that much black next to your skin and in such proportions is rarely flattering. Black, whatever the fabric, seems to be a fluff and stain magnet and an item which is used so frequently could end up looking shabby in days just by an accumulation of tiny detritus. Here is my favourite 'safe' but stylish coat from Whistles and a more interesting option from Cos, an almost modernised Audrey Hepburn look
10. To come up smelling like roses

 Finally, scent. I am not going to recommend any perfumes as taste in this area is very emotive- one person's favourite smell reminds another person of a partcularly vindictive great aunt. I would say though, that a scent you love is a beautiful olfactory pick me up, if you are feeling worn and tired. A spritz of something luxurious, can make you feel sexy, even if you have drippy boobs, eyebags the size of a Bugaboo bassinet and greasy hair. My favourite scent is always the first layer to go on at the beginning of the day!


  1. I am seriously struggling with my post baby number 2 wardrobe. Am plotting a post about it at the moment...some fab ideas here. I adore the brogues...right up my style street

  2. I didn't follow my own advice and got a new white shirt which didn't take into account a more generously proportioned bosom- the buttons keep flying off and I can't move my arms above my head :(