Mamas, this article was inspired by a question I received from Martha. She wrote:
I recently discovered your blog and I am loving the inspiration to step up my mom style a bit, and ideas for putting more personality into my basics. I'm realizing, though, that I have a weird gap in my wardrobe. I have plenty of casual mom clothes (jeans, basic tees and sweaters, comfy shoes). My work wardrobe for a casual but conservative engineering office is jeans, cords, or cotton pants, "boring sweaters", and flats or conservative boots. And I love the rare opportunity to rock a cute dress and strappy heels. But for some strange reason, even before I had kids, I've struggled with what to wear for a dressy-casual night out, like to a restaurant or parties with other "grown ups".
It's true! Dressing way up is easy: dress, shoes, clutch, done. Wearing yoga pants is easy. But nailing the dressy-casual vibe in an effortless way is tough. It's easy to go overboard and end up with something that feels too fussy, too "done". Or, on the other side (like at a business casual office) you end up wearing all solid-color basics. Snore.
In the past, I've done both. Neither is fun, neither feel like "me". But there are a few pieces that I find myself reaching for time-and-time again, whenever I'm in the dressy-casual zone, be it work or Play* related. Keep reading to see both the list, and how I'm mixing up my own pieces.
(Play = Big Girl playtime and involves cocktails, play = kiddo play and involves dirt)
Keep reading for a full explanation of the list, as well as some example pics of how I've been mixing pieces like these...
1. A Cool Blazer
Wear this with jeans and a tee when going out, and for work? It's obviously a no-brainer. Just find a blazer that's interesting. Try an updated shape or something asymmetric (like this one, on sale for $60). Or look for cool details like leather lapels, or a bright pop of color. Whatever floats your boat.
This one still floats mine...it's hard to argue with sweater-sleeves.
(wearing: Jacket c/o TMRDNL, Stylemint tee, Levis 535 denim leggings, 9 West Booties, vintage clutch)
2. Lace Top
I know this is a weird one. Especially when I'm talking about both date night and an office environment. But I've found that if you layer a lace top over a turtleneck and then---OMG somebody STOP ME. I sound insanely dorky and am convincing no one. (Except for fellow turtleneck lovers!! I know you are out there - holla!!). Ok - let me just show you:
See?? Not bad, right? I'll swap out the turtleneck for a tank in the summer (yeah...I get crazy like that), and add a blazer if I need to be more dressed up for work. (Or I DID. Back when I worked.)
(NOTE: Nursing mamas, these are decent pooch hiders over a nursing cami. Just find a lace top that's either boxy and short, or long and flowy.)
Also, if I'm feeling too fussy, carrying a low-key canvas clutch is my new favorite trick. Mine is MOOP's Paperback.
3. A Pretty Blouse
I have one of these. Like...ONE. And it's now almost ten years old. So I'm also in the market for a new pretty blouse. I'll pull together a little shopping post later in the week (or month) with a bunch of pretty blouses. They are insanely versatile for both work and Play. Mamas should have at least one. (And Everlane's new, affordable silk blouses will definitely be on my list!!)
4. A Cool Skirt
I always forget about skirts. They often feel too dressy for most situations, and then when I want to really dress up, I put on a dress. But in the last year or so...I've started to embrace skirts. I like mine a little bit funky - a cool pattern, like the Missoni one above, or some awesome draping/ruching, like TMRDNL's Bunch Skirt.
Looks insanely cool (and effortless!!) with a basic white tee and booties.
I also think that skirts like these, even if they are unconventional when compared to, say, a pencil skirt, can be worn to work. I'd just keep everything else fairly...you know, serious.
No smiling. This is serious bizznizz.
5. Crazy Pants
Sick of your denim? BAM - DATE NIGHT:
(wearing: Bow Back Top c/o TMRDNL, printed flares are 7's...found at goodwill for $4!! Really.)
I love how this top is slightly sheer, yet drapes over the pooch, hiding any saggy skin. Although, now that I'm staring...can you see my pooch? Maybe? GAH. Moving on...
BAM - WORK:
By keeping everything else calm, I think crazy pants work for work. Of course, some Mamas may be more comfortable with printed pants. Which are a slightly less insane version of crazy pants...but can't be as much fun. *cough*LillyPulitzer*cough*
6. Stiletto Ankle Booties
These were one of my Best. Purchases. Ever. They are my go-to shoe for any cold-weather related dress-up or dressy-casual event. For the last three years. And YUP - I wore these to the office. I LOVE how they add an edge to cords. Sheesh. But they're just, you know...black boots. Nothing fancy.
(wearing: all ancient stuff - JCrew blazer, MiuMiu silk blouse, JBrand cords, 9west ankle booties, warby parker glasses)
7. Printed Pumps
Printed pumps are a pretty big trend right now, and with all of the pattern mixing, they are insanely easy to wear. The key is not to overthink it. You could get any pattern you like (floral, dot, etc.) but I'm still loving leopard print. IknowIknow - it's so two/three/whatever seasons ago, but it inexplicably looks cool with everything. The vibe strikes me as flirty and fun, rather than dressy.
Ok Mamas, I'm done. PHEW. Thoughts? What are your go-tos for the dressy-casual thing? And PLEASE: If anyone has come across any gorgeous silky tops, let me know!!