Recently, the lovely Abbey e-mailed me with a Very Important Question:
“In one short week, my oldest child is starting preschool. Granted, it is only 4 hours a week, but the smell of freedom is wafting around my kitchen. My Problem? Nothing I have to wear goes with freedom. Any suggestions on a few grown up wardrobe essentials that are also kid friendly?”
Mmmm, smell that? It’s the scent of KIDS IN SCHOOL. Breathe deeply. Smells like lemon, doesn’t it?
Anyway, I meant to answer Abbey’s question right away, but then I had to spend, oh, a week or so looking at myself in the big windows at the front of Charlie’s school every morning and thinking, oh my god why am I WEARING THAT? which wasn’t really the right attitude for giving fashion advice. But this week I seem to have gotten my groove back (I’ve only had ONE day where I wanted to change my clothes at 10:00 am, which was good, I suppose) and now I’m ready to advise! I know you’re excited.
The first thing I need to say is this: if you don’t already have one, get yourself a really GOOD full-length mirror. Hang it on a door or a wall someplace with good lighting and enough room that you can see ALL of yourself at once. I don’t currently have a full-length mirror–well, okay, technically I do, but it’s leaning up against the wall behind the door in our guest room, which is not where I get dressed, so that’s a problem. And of course the REASON it’s behind the door in the guest room is because it’s totally WARPED and the wavy part hits me right across my ass, making EVERYTHING look terrible on me. So I quite literally don’t ever get a full view of myself during the day, unless I happen to wind up at the mall or some other place with a full-length mirror.
It’s not a good system. I should fix that. This weekend! Yes.
But back to the advice: every mama needs a fabulous A-line skirt, in a basic fabric. Denim is always a good choice, but corduroy is also a nice option; take a look at this one at J. Jill or this one at J. Crew (which is ON SALE, even!). Treat your skirt like you would a pair of jeans or corduroy pants; wear it with a t-shirt (I like these, from Old Navy, because they come in a huge range of colors, and because at that price you can replace them guilt-free when they wear out; I also like these from J. Crew, which are pricey but really REALLY nicely made) or a sweater (toss a cardigan or hoodie over the tee on a fall day; switch to a turtleneck when winter comes). You can also change your shoes to keep up with the seasons; a ballet flat, with or without tights, is always appropriate (and practical!), or you can opt for boots in the winter.
Keep in mind that the skirt should hit you just below the knee when you are standing up; too long and you will look Amish, too short and everyone in the carpool line might see your underwear when you bend over to greet your child. I would also steer clear of the pencil skirt, both because that slim line tends to draw attention to the hip and thigh area and because it’s really hard to run after an escaping toddler in a straight skirt. The A-line is universally flattering and incredibly functional.
Feel free to wear a little heel with your A-line skirt; I am partial to the denim skirt and high-heeled espadrille look, although I typically wind up changing my shoes before I go to get the kids because with my kids there is ALWAYS some running. Think twice about flip-flops, though, particularly the rubber ones–keep those in the pool bag. The whole idea here is to spiff up a little now that the kids are in school; opt for some pretty shoes that you can walk in. I am all about the embellished ballet flat these days; they are comfy and practical and pretty, and because they are a little bit last year, they’re in all the discount shoe places.