Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Moms & Personal Style

OK, I still do the ponytail thing pretty often, I admit.

As readers of my book, The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual: How to Have a Wondrous Life Amidst Kids and Chaos, know, it took me a long time after the births of my babies to pull myself back together and cultivate anything resembling a personal style. (Unless you call yoga pants, baggy jeans, nursing tanks, t-shirts, and messy ponytails a "personal style.") And I don't mean a long time after the birth of baby number one, and then a separate long time after the birth of baby number two. I mean the whole damn time between having the first one and, um, the second one becoming a toddler.

My daughters are five and seven now (holy time lapse! how did that happen?!), and though no one would identify me as the most stylish mom in town (that would be this one other mom, the one who wears high-heeled wedges for school drop-off and coordinates her entire outdoor-pool ensembles, and I say that with absolute admiration and envy, swear to God, because OMG the stylishness! does she have superpowers?), these days, if pressed, I could identify my personal style without mentioning workout wear.

This week, BlogHer has asked its Life Well Lived writers (that's me, yo) to answer the question, How do you find your fashion voice and cultivate your personal style? for the latest installment in the BlogHer feature on looking your best.

Because I'm a full-time stay-at-home mom on a budget, my personal style reflects those specifics. Similarly, because I live in a small college town situated in the wholesome countryside, where people are generally more focused on academia, politics, the arts, and/or outdoor sports than on fashion and appearance, my personal style is influenced by the subcultural norms of that particular setting. You wouldn't want to go much farther than wearing high-heeled wedges in the school pick-up line around here, for example; anything more and you'd be straying away from "enviable, stylish mom" and veering into "too unlike everyone else" territory, and it just wouldn't fly.

But that's true for everyone, isn't it? Your fashion voice and personal style are cultivated by your environment, social circle, culture, region, and day-to-day activities, in addition to your own personal likes and dislikes.

When it comes to specifics, I've been strongly influenced by mom-style blogger Susan Wagner, who preaches a classy, grown-up but fun version of preppy style that meshes well with my daily life and is totally doable for most moms. I also like to keep an eye on what 30- and 40-something celebrity moms like Sarah Jessica Parker and Gwyneth Paltrow are wearing in those snaps you see online of them dropping their kids off at school or grabbing an iced coffee at Starbucks. Sure, they're rich and gorgeous, but there's no reason I can't adapt their skinny jeans, boots, scarves, and big sunglasses into a less-rich, less-gorgeous, less-glamorous version for my own school visits and iced coffee runs. You don't see SJP running around in yoga pants and an ill-fitting old nursing tank, do you?

I also think it's crucial to do two related, and sometimes seemingly paradoxical, things when forming my (and your) personal style. Those things are: a.) dress for your body type; but also b.) be confident with whatever shape you have and don't be afraid to wear something that you're not "supposed" to wear with your body shape if you love it and it makes you feel great. Don't let the fashion police tell you that you can't wear a two-piece to the pool this summer just because you've got a little mommy-tummy, or that no one with your curvy hips should be donning skinny jeans. For one thing, there's no actual fashion police. For another, it's your life; if your clothes make you happy, they will be a great component of your personal style, because personal style is all about breezing through your days with an air of confidence and contentment. A confident mom is a stylish mom.

Don't forget to check out the BlogHer main post on personal style for other women's style ideas, and enter the next BlogHer Life Well Lived sweepstakes (beginning April 6), too.

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