Hey mamas! It's time to get a fresh perspective on our wardrobe. I'm launching the "Mom's Wardrobe Basics" series to cover the bare minimals of what you should consider having in your closet. I emphasize consider because this list will act as a guide, not a hard-and-fast rule book. Every lady has her own style and preferences. I’m not out to tell you what that should be! Instead, I want to provide a starting point to help you as you figure out your own day-to-day, go-to wardrobe based on your lifestyle needs and favorite looks.
For example, you may love wearing skirts in the summer and rarely put shorts on. You can put more priority on finding a few excellent skirt options and skip the shorts altogether.
Also, how much you prioritize shorts/skirts over pants will differ depending on your climate. I live in pretty temperate climate with lots of rain, and only a couple of months of "hot" summer, so I would probably favor pants over shorts at a 4:3 ratio.
There are a few scenarios in which this list may come in handy for you. Perhaps you're having a hard time finding clothes in your closet that fit you right post-pregnancy. Maybe you've started Trim Healthy Mama and the pounds are really falling off—along with your pants; oh my! Or maybe you're frustrated with a dysfunctional set of clothes and you just want to "freshen things up." In any case, make sure you've gone over the basics for creating an elastic wardrobe. You can find that series here (currently just on Part 1 as of this post).
My hope is that this adaptable list will give you a starting place when renovating your wardrobe or even building it up from scratch.
With these basics, and following the elastic wardrobe rules, you will shape a closet of clothes that interchange, re-mix, and create many outfit combinations. Having a versatile, customized wardrobe that basically shouts different outfit combinations at you is my goal!!
The key to checking items off the list is to always follow the rules of an elastic wardrobe. I will relist them here. Make sure an item only gets purchased (or swapped or borrowed!) if it checks off on these points:
- Falls within your color palette
- Fits you correctly
- Can combine with at least 4 or 5 other items in your wardrobe (the more the better!)
- You love it (you don't just kind of think it's cute)
Mentally verifying these criteria as you decide on a piece will help you keep a truly useful and straightforward wardrobe.
Unless I feel an item is worth paying more than $25 dollars, the examples I provide will be items available for less. And remember, you can shop consignment/thrift stores to find the best deals on the best quality!
And finally, if you are a momma who expects to be pregnant again in the next couple of years consider buying at least one option that is pregnancy friendly for each type of bottom. This means non-maternity bottoms with elastic waists. This will definitely be easier to find in skirts and shorts, so don't stress if you can't find cute pants with an elastic waist. It's more important to find a pair of jeans/pants that you love and fit you right. (Side note: some women can get away with wearing maternity bottoms that have elastic panels only on the side if they keep their tops untucked on the sides to hide the panel, example here.) When we look at tops and dresses in the next posts we'll find a lot of ways to shop non-maternity that is also pregnancy friendly.
ESSENTIALS IN BOTTOMS
1-2 pairs of jeans
1-2 pairs of non-denim pants
1-2 pairs of shorts
1-2 pairs of jeans
Owning a pair of jeans that fits beautifully is probably worth paying a bit more. This is one category I think it's worth spending $30 or more. Jeans go with EVERYTHING. You will get more than your money's worth. Some women will happily spend $100 a year on an excellent quality pair of jeans. I have often found my favorite pairs of jeans at thrift stores or even a clothes swap (I have yet to spend more than $30 on a pair!). This is a great way to go if you want to keep your budget below $20 and don't mind the extra time browsing. Always remember this rule: Don't buy something unless you love it and it flatters your shape!!
What about my shape? I plan to write a post soon about body shapes and the best clothing cuts to wear based on your shape. That will definitely help if you’re unsure which jean cut is best for you. Stay tuned! (A quick reference: if you have a larger bust or wide hips, consider boot-cut or flared jeans to counter-balance the top. If you are more of a column or have shoulders/bust that equal your hip size, try skinny, boyfriend, or straight cut jeans.)
- Types: Boot-cut, skinny, straight (tapered), boyfriend
- Shades: Dark to light wash or color (I recommend at least one pair of dark-wash jeans as they can be dressed up or down and flatter any shape)
Shop the styles:
- Flare (American Eagle)
- Boot-cut (Old Navy)
- Boyfriend (Old Navy)
- Straight (Old Navy)
- Skinny (Old Navy)
- Not pictured: Maternity jeans (Old Navy)
1-2 pairs non-denim pants
I used to think jeans was all I needed. I thought they were the cornerstone of a versatile closet. Since researching and learning more about versatile wardrobes in the last few months I've learned that though jeans are certainly key, complete versatility in pants comes with also owning a pair of non-denim pants (in a neutral or accent color). The outfit combinations more than double when you go from owning 1-5 pairs of jeans to 1-2 pair of jeans + 1 other-color pant!
What about capri? Most jeans and trousers can be converted into capri by simply rolling the pant legs up so you shouldn't have to buy a separate pair of capri. If capri is all you wear in the spring and summer though, feel free to get a pair of dedicated, non-denim capri!
- Types: Boot-cut, flare, skinny, straight, cargo (if you’re really brave: palazzo or harem)
- Shades: All colors! I recommend 1 pair in a neutral and 1 pair in an accent color from your color palette.
- Fabrics: I recommend cotton, cotton with some spandex, or cotton with polyester and spandex.
PF= Pregnancy Friendly
Shop the pants:
- Long Pixie Pants (Old Navy)
- Straight Leg Pants (Gloria Vanderbilt on Amazon)
- Skinny Color Pants (Cielo on Amazon)
- Stretch Twill Chino Pants (Merona at Target)
- Maternity Boot-Cut Cords (Old Navy)
Or, do your own search for pants under $25: Click here to load "casual pants" on sale for under $25 from top brands (uses www.ShopStyle.com). Be sure to further filter on the side bar by your size.
There are so many cute skirt styles! A-line, circle, ruffled, maxi, pencil, bubble… just to name a few! As with pants, your body shape will help you determine what type is flattering on you. If you have a larger bust or wide hips, consider skirts that widen as they go down (a-line, circle, loose and flowy maxi skirts) to balance out the top half of your body.
I personally love skirts in the summer time—so comfortable and cool and yet extremely feminine! For those who might have another pregnancy in the future, consider getting skirts with elastic waistlines to work during your pregnancy. If you’re not a skirt person, you can instead get other bottoms that you know you’ll enjoy wearing!
A note about "mini" skirts: They used to basically be a key word for provocative in my vocabulary (ha!), but I've since seen them incorporated into very modest and trendy outfits with the use of... drumroll... leggings! If you don't have a pair of this essential yet, definitely add them to your list. Leggings + flats or leggings + boots + mini skirt = cute and trendy.
- Types: This will depend on what flatters your body, but there are many kinds to choose from! Try to go for styles that are versatile and comfortable for being a busy mommy. I personally like circle, ruffled, and maxi skirts.
- Colors: Get at least one in a neutral from your color palette and any others can be fun accent colors from your color palette.
- Common Fabrics: Cotton, linen, denim, rayon
PF= Pregnancy Friendly
Shop the skirts:
- Pleated Stripe Skirt (Forever 21)
- Navy Buttoned Skirt, other colors available (Forever 21)
- Embroidered Mesh Skirt, Plus Size (3Hearts at Target)
- Grid Print A-Line Skirt (Forever 21)
- Buttoned Denim Skirt (Forever 21)
- Casual Striped Skirt, other color available (Merona at Target)
- Striped Maxi Skirt, other color available (Forever 21)
- Aqua Maxi Skirt, other color available (Merona at Target)
- Pleated A-Line Skirt, other color available (Forever 21)
- Printed Knit Maxi Skirt, other colors available (Mossimo Supply Co. at Target)
- Maternity Fold-Over Skirt (Old Navy)
- Maternity Jean Skirt (Liz Lange at Target)
The global online seller, Sammy Dress, also has some adorable (and cheap) skirts! Check them out: here.
1-2 pairs of shorts
When it comes to shorts, we all have that length that we know we’re comfortable in. If you like them going down to just above you knees, go for bermudas. Just make sure they fit well around the waist/bum (unless they are a loose style on purpose, like linen shorts). I personally love a combination of mid-length and bermuda shorts. I also have a pair of shorter shorts that I wear mostly around the house.
An easy test for modesty is to sit down with them in the dressing room. Do they slide up higher than you’re comfortable with? Are there big gaps that look right up to your underwear? (No matter how cute that polka-dotted brief is, I don't want to see it when all I'm expecting to see is your shorts! Ya know what I mean?)
- Types: Short, mid-length, long (bermuda—even these should sit just above, not below, the knee)
- Colors: Get at least one in a neutral from your color palette and any others can be fun accent colors from your color palette. Bonus: trying also getting one with a fun pattern (foral, plaid, geometric, etc) within your color palette.
- Common fabrics: Cotton, linen, denim, nylon, polyester
Shop the shorts:
- Cargo Bermuda Shorts with Elastic Waist, also in white (Classic Designs on Amazon)
- Boyfriend Jean Shorts (Mossimo Supply Co. at Target)
- 7" Chino Shorts, other colors available (Merona at Target)
- 7" Printed Twill Shorts (Old Navy)
- White Lace Shorts (Old Navy)
- Maternity Jean Bermuda Shorts (Liz Lange at Target)
- Classy Bermuda Shorts, other colors available (Mossimo Supply Co. at Target)
- Printed Twill Shorts (Old Navy)
Shop more shorts on Amazon by clicking here (filtered by $25 or less and a customer rating of at least 4 stars).
Time to work your closet
Alright ladies, it's time to think over your current set of "bottoms." As in the ones you put on your bottom, not the one bottom we all carry around. For better or for worse, right? Alright, try to picture your skirts, your jeans, your shorts.
Brain fart? I get that. Newborn days. Toddler days. Teenagers. They own half our brain. Let's stop by your bedroom and see where you're at.
- Find all the "bottoms" in your drawers and on your hangers and lay them out on your bed.
- Decide what doesn't deserve real estate in your wardrobe:
- You haven't worn it AND loved it in the last three months.
- It's not within your color palette. (Still don't know why I keep referring to that silly color palette? Check out this post.)
- Put them in a bag to re-consign—or if not in great shape, to donate. If you're not ready to get rid of them, put them in a bag, box, or another closet for their future second chance.
- Decide what gaps you could fill in. Only have one pair of jeans? Two pairs of jeans in slightly different shades and cuts will quickly add diversity. No non-denim pants? Consider adding one or two. No maxi skirts? DROP EVERYTHING YOU'RE DOING and buy one now! Alright, you can nurse the baby first. But seriously, every mom should have a maxi skirt. You can wear them before, during, and after pregnancy (basically my criteria for every mom should have one). But again, other than my rant about maxis, I really am only providing a flexible guide. How many pairs of this or that you own will depend on your likes, preferences, and personal style. (Just no yoga pants, ladies. Those are reserved for workouts and those two [three? four?] post-partum weeks.)
- Start a list (if you don't already have one) of the items you still need. Use a pad of paper or Evernote on your phone. Make it specific.
- Poor: "2 Skirts"
- Better: "1) Maxi skirt, striped, in neutral color; 2) Knee-length skirt, a-line, cotton, in a pattern with several colors from my palette"
Do you already feel some weight lift off your shoulders? You now have control over the "bottoms" in your wardrobe!
If you are missing a lot, don't stress out. In my opinion, it's better to have a small wardrobe of stuff you actually wear over a collection of clothes that are just weighing you down. As your budget allows each month, purchase one or two of the items from your list. Either use the links above if something caught your eye or do some online browsing yourself:
Target deals (filter by jeans, pants, shorts, or skirts on the sidebar)
Amazon (filter by jeans, pants, shorts, or skirts on the sidebar)
If you'd rather try things on before buying them, plan a couple hours to hit some of your favorite department stores and consignment shops. Maybe plan a babysitting swap with your friend!
NOW THAT you can do, Mama!
Phew! We made it to the end of the first "Mom's Wardrobe Basics" post! This was both fun and challenging for me to put together. I sincerely hope it helps!
Did you pare down your "bottoms" selection? Or are you mostly in need of increasing your selection? Do you have any ideas for getting out shopping without the kids?