Q: I’m a 20-year old mother of a 22 month old and a 1 month old. I don’t feel old enough to dress fully as an adult, but I know I shouldn’t be dressing as a teenager anymore. I was just wondering what I could do that’s both affordable and trendy?
A. You want to find the right balance of being young and being taken seriously. I don’t believe you have to dress an age…but if you can find a style that can guide you to the things you feel great in, then you make a first impression (instead of your clothes arriving before you do). I loved this quote from Christene Barberich, Editor-in-Chief of Refinery29.com.
“Wear what you feel amazing in… that’s what radiates real beauty…embracing what you love about yourself and what you love wearing.” – 40-something editor of Refinery29
It’s about our your clothes make you feel. You don’t have to shout, “I have a child” with how you dress but you sound like you are ready to move on from saying “I’m a teenager.” The fact that you’re asking means that you want to develop your own personal style. It doesn’t have to come at a price, as the always fashionable moms below will advise. Look at Kate Moss, a mom and style icon who sells her own line of clothes at H&M.
You are at a time of life when you can experiment and have fun with styles, mom or not. The most important thing is to appreciate your body and wear styles that suit it. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Dressing too old will just …make you look old. Dressing in something you don’t feel comfortable in, just makes you feel self-conscious. Wearing something that is trendy doesn’t work if your body doesn’t work it. You’ll learn over time what your body rocks. Probably a lot more things than you think if you are like any 40-something women. Looking back at pictures they all are amazed at how much better they look than they thought they looked at the time.
To help give you a head start, I have some amazing advice from three 40-something women of style as well as a special guest post from Molly Ford of Smart Pretty and Awkward – one of my favorites blog for smart tips great and small for 20-somethings and beyond.
From a 40-something fashion designer and mom – great insight on finding your style. Her strategy: must-have style basics accessorized to tell a story that leaves a lasting impression.
“At 20 years old you are still young! As long as you avoid a few “teenage only” styles such as midriff baring tops, way too short skirts or too much sheer anything, you should be fine.
That said, if you would like to project a more “grown up image” without looking 50, start by clipping your favorite looks out of magazines or style websites. You will see that when you put all of your finds together, you may have some running “themes” that give you greater insight to your own personal style “likes”.
Keep in mind that the styles will work best if they are realistic for your body type and environment. A bartender at a rock and roll nightclub will have different style needs and wants then a banker.
It is not necessary to spend tons of money on clothing as so many stores now offer style at a reasonable price. However, it’s always recommended to invest in a few basics that can be adapted to many looks: a great pair of dark denim jeans that fit you perfectly and can be dressed up or dressed down, basic tank tops in black and white that can be layered or worn alone, the LBD (little black dress – perfect for weddings, parties and evening attire) and a great printed skirt.
Many outfits can easily be updated and dressed up with the “right” accessories – a great cotton or silk scarf can go miles around the neck with jeans and a cute top or as a wrap for an evening dress. Shoes, boots and bags are always worth investing in as you will get your money’s worth if you wear/use them frequently.
Lastly, a few “go to” pieces of jewelry – be it a turquoise ring or a beaded necklace – it can really transform a look and make a look “yours”. Style is something that is built on and acquired over time, adding pieces here and there.”
From a very all-together 40-something fashion industry exec and new mom who’s in the know on where to go and putting it all together.
“This is a great question. You still want to feel young and hip, but with 2 babies under 2 years old, it has to be crazy busy (and frankly rather messy). You need some easy, comfortable clothes to handle the daily activities.
Depending on where you live, H&M is a great place for affordable clothes that fit your age and your life as a Mom with it’s hip casual everyday fashion, active-wear for working out, and fun going out clothes when you get time to do so. All the clothes are interchangeable and well priced so you won’t mind if something gets dirty.
A lot of stores today are offering affordable designer collections. Check out LC Lauren Conrad and Simply Vera Wang at Kohl’s and I Heart Ronson and MNG by Mango at JC Penney.
Macy’s has a several brands that are worth checking out, particularly when they go on sale, as Macy’s always does.
Target is always a good option. Mossimo is perfect for your needs, plus their in-house label called Exhilaration has cute basics. For a chance to wear international designers at a great price, look for their designer rotation program. Fashion designers from around the world do limited edition collections for 6-8 weeks. Right now the St. Barth’s Calypso line has great summer tops and dresses.
All the above are well priced, age appropriate and fun. You just need to do some upfront experimentation to see what is best for your body and lifestyle.
A great way to get ideas for the looks you might like is to check out websites like Piperlime.com. They carry a few different brands (under the Gap, Inc) and always have good ideas for the looks of the season. They have good sales and return and shipping policies.
As for the current looks that can help you transition from juniors to adult looks start with your shoes. Flip flops are great for some things, but consider moving on to more flats and sandals. Ballet style flats never really go out of style and fantastic strappy summer sandals of all kinds are fun and fashionable. They look great and are easy to get around when running after the kids.
Wear them with slim jeans or cargo styles, both cropped and long lengths and pair with some of the beautiful embroidered and floaty tops out now.
When summer hits, it’s all about shorts. Nice cuffed shorts will also pair well with the pretty tops and will make it easy to move.
White is tough with little kids. You can still wear it but stick to jeans or short styles. Bright, happy colors are on trend this season and can hide lots of messes. Dresses are in as well and these can be easy to throw on when you don’t have time to think about what to wear (no need to worry about matching) and they are super easy to run after the kids in. All lengths are in this summer. Long lengths look especially great with the strappy sandals and a light-weight cardigan.
Have fun and find you!
From a very active 40-something mother of twins and PR exec who knows you can work style on a budget:
“It’s a smart move to dress fashionably but with an eye towards budget as well. Having lived through the ’80s and ’90s when one had to buy Guess or Polo (expensive) to be fashionable, today it’s considered cool to find chic but less pricey items at Target or Forever 21. These stores and others like them usually have dresses and skirts that look great on women from 20-40. Jeans can look great but I find wearing a dress or skirt or dress pants can make you feel terrific.
As I moved into my 30s and now early 40s I also found that many of my women friends, regardless of how much money they had, were excited to lend one another special occasion dresses, say if you have a wedding or graduation to go to this summer. Big money savings there. Also, many of my friends shop at “second time around” stores where they can find the occasional treasure for much less money.
Finally, my personal opinion is you don’t need to have a ton of clothes to dress well – just the right amount of clothes that you love and feel great wearing. Clothes can definitely make you feel good about yourself, but less is more. Buy a few things that you love instead of having to have a different outfit for every day.”
From Molly Ford, 20-something founder of Smart, Pretty and Awkward who always has great fashion sense.
“For a young mom, the key is to merge more ‘adult’ pieces while still keeping a youthful vibe – more classic pieces with bright colors and prints. The overall look should be modern but fun, so the preschool’s principal will take you seriously, but you’ll be able to grab a coffee with your non-mommy friends and still feel trendy.
Stay away from tee-shirts with writing and screen prints on them, and gravitate towards tops in soft, washable fabrics. Fun prints (stripes, bows, and polka-dots are big this season) can also help hide playground dirt and keep simpler shapes like crew-neck tees looking youthful and on-trend.
Bright (think red or blue) cardigans will be able to be layered over other outfits on cooler days and can stretch summer dresses and tops into the fall. For the bottom half of your body, a pair of dark jeans and some neutral-colored leggings, as well as comfortable flats (find a brand you like and collect them in navy, brown, and black) round out the look.
And when shopping, stay focused on pieces that can be layered to make the budget last longer (so you can spend it on adorable kid’s clothes, instead!).”
Thank you to all my commentators. Great advice for all women interested in transitioning from teenage fashion to a more adult style.
One last tip I loved:
“Get a great pair of sunglasses. Big, oval shades a la Victoria Beckham or Jackie O. Not only are they eternally stylish, but the they will shield your sometimes sleep deprived, puffy eyelids.”