New moms face a very particular fashion crisis. Giving birth changes your body, and becoming a mom changes your life, so your old clothes may no longer fit either one. If you go back to work full time, you might have an advantage: at least you know what kind of clothes you need to buy for that. But what if, like more than half of all moms, you change your career path so you're home more often, or you take up a new, less demanding line of work? Or what if, like many, you now stay home full time? What do you wear to be a mom who still resembles her former self? We helped these three women find out.
Her Life: Dana Harrison, of Hoboken, New Jersey, gave birth to daughter Zoe four and a half years ago, and her son, James, just turned 1. She quit a managerial job after Zoe was born, then started working as a fitness trainer. Now she also teaches parent/child music classes.
Fashion Crisis: "My lifestyle has changed," Dana says. "I used to work in an office, but now I'm often on the floor with kids." She's got exercise clothes. What she's missing are dressier pieces for any nice social occasion. Ideally she could use her old office wardrobe, but giving birth has changed her body; those pieces don't fit the way they used to.
Solution: Stylist Sally Cannon took Dana shopping for an entire day. The hardest part? Determining size. "Like many new moms, she's small on top but larger on the bottom," Cannon says. "We bought everything from a size 4 to a 10. She has to try everything on."
Worked: Drawstring pants "allow you to get a custom fit," Cannon says, which is key if your weight is still fluctuating. Stretchy cotton dresses also work well. They found her the greatest variety of clothes at big discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
Didn't Work: Pleated skirts and pants don't do you any favors if you want to slim your lower half. Like your top half? Then also avoid the trendy but unflattering pleated shirts that fly away from your waist. Emphasize good arms with tight sleeves or a sleeveless top, and create a silhouette with a belt at your waist.
Must-Have: A blazer dresses up a skirt, pants, or jeans and is perfect for looking nice without trying too hard.
Her Life: Kikki Short, of Port Chester, New York, gets to spend the first half of most days with her 4-year-old daughter, Madeline, and her son, Jasper, who just turned 2. Then her work as a tutor begins. "My first appointment is around 3, and I go until 9 or 10 p.m.," says Kikki, who sometimes sees high schoolers in her house but often travels to them.
Fashion Crisis: Kikki's kid-filled day makes it easy for her to dress like a student herself. But she's in a jeans-and-sweatshirt rut and doesn't have many new clothes because she hates the hassle of trying things on.
Solution: Cannon, our stylist, did a power-shopping morning with Kikki. By devoting just a few hours, they were able to find a couple of great items that made Kikki excited about clothes again. For instance, they found a cute green dress that later inspired Kikki to buy a purple one with a similar cut at her local Salvation Army.
Worked: Kikki wants to avoid a cookie-cutter look, but Cannon taught her not to fear mass merchants, such as Banana Republic, which sell great basics. For instance, a pair of white corduroys can go with any top.
Didn't Work: Kikki knew she'd never put on fussy, froufrou clothing, so they skipped over anything fancy. But she got some classic sweaters to replace her sweatshirts, and prettier tops to replace T-shirts.
One More Tip: "I throw an occasional clean-your-closet party with a friend," says Jessica Denay, who runs the Web site hotmomsclub.com. Have someone help you weed out (and donate) old clothes that you no longer wear, so you can start fresh.
Must-Have: Separates. Stores like Anthropologie are great for a few unique, inspired pieces. Scour sales for bargains!
Her Life: Mieko Takahashi, of Brooklyn, New York, returned to her job as a jewelry designer when her daughter, Luli, was 3 months old. Seven months later, her husband was transferred to London, so Mieko quit and the family followed him, returning to the States after a little less than a year. Now, Mieko enjoys being home and focusing on her toddler. Eventually she'll go back to jewelry, selling her own pieces to boutiques.
Fashion Crisis: Mieko breastfed Luli until she turned 2, which was a great experience but meant oversized shirts for a couple of years. Now she can wear other things but doesn't have much beyond her old work wardrobe.
Solution: Cannon can relate; she's a mom too. While you're waiting to get your body back, you default to baggy clothes, which hide figure flaws but cover everything attractive as well! Meanwhile, your pre-baby wardrobe gets more outdated and ill fitting. "Then you take your first real shopping trip in years, and you need everything," Cannon says. The key here was getting a lot for a little, so they stuck to the sales racks.
Worked: They bought separates that are as appropriate for preschool events as they are for jewelry trade shows. They looked for clothes that nipped in at the waist, to emphasize Mieko's curves.
Didn't Work: Pants are, unfortunately, a more expensive option if you're petite -- "You have to make peace with getting them hemmed," Cannon notes -- though they did end up buying two pairs.
Must-Have: Jeans with some stretch and a flared leg are forgiving. We found good ones at Banana Republic, Target, and Lands' End.
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the April 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.