{Day 11} Mom-Jeans and Miniskirts: What’s a Real Mom to Wear?

{A rare photo of me, the mom photographer in rumpled jeans and non-fashionable sneakers,  on a recent family trip to the apple orchard. }

When I was a teenager I said that I would always dress like one. I swore that when I was a grown-up and a mom, I’d still wear mini-skirts and shop at Benetton and the Esprit store. 

Well, I am now both a grown-up and a mom. I do not wear mini-skirts. And I’m pretty sure I have not sported an Esprit or Benetton label since 1992. 

My youthful self could not have known that women my age who dress like teenagers would be called Cougars {and not in a school-mascot kind of way.}. 

Realistically, there may not be a teenager on the planet who possesses the sensibilities that come with age. I was no exception. 

I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t so much obsessed with the eternal mini-skirt; I just didn’t want to look matronly. I also didn’t want to drive a mini-van, wear mom-jeans, or look the part of a grown-up. 

Looking young and hip seemed cool. Looking old and mom-ish was unthinkable.

I’ll be 40 in a year and a half. As I write this I’m wearing khakis, gray and purple sneakers, and a sweatshirt. If my 16-year-old self could see me now, she’d die of shame and tell me to at least tight-roll my pants. 

She also wouldn’t be caught dead driving the Toyota Sienna that’s parked in my garage.

But as much as I’m tempted to roll my eyes and shush that naive 16-year-old, she speaks loud and clear every time I stare blank-faced at my closet. Because here’s the thing: I still don’t want to look too much like a stereotypical mom I picture in my head…even though I am one.

I know that sounds terrible. Truly, I consider stretch-marks to be a badge of honor and I actually like those parentheses around my mouth that a dermatologist would want to fill with Botox. Evidence of nearly 40 years of smiling? I think that’s a good thing.

But I often struggle to look stylish and appropriate without fearing that I look either too youthful or too old. I no longer shop in the Juniors department but I’m not sure what “Misses” means either.

Also? The idea of synthetic fabrics now makes me feel itchy. And I’ve developed an aversion to most patterns. 

But here’s the real clincher. I now look at outfits and say, Oh, that looks comfortable instead of saying, Oh, that looks cute!

Before you know it I’ll be sporting SAS shoes and a rain bonnet. 

New seasons always make me crave a few new pieces. But as I surveyed my wardrobe this fall, I had an identity crisis. I desperately wanted to get some things but I wanted to be smart about it.

Thank goodness Pinterest came into my life. So did Tiny Twig’s 31 Days to a No-Brainer Wardrobe. {If you’re feeling at all like me, you should check out her fun and doable series.}

As I pinned outfits I liked and assessed the types of things I always reach for in my schizophrenic closet, I noticed common themes: solid neutrals, stripes or vintage patterns, and pops of color in accessories. 

As much as I’d love to be the poster child for Anthropologie, I’m really a Gap kind of girl through and through. It explains why I’ve worn a jean jacket every year of my life since the 8th grade. 

I’ve wasted a decent amount of time and money on things that don’t fit my lifestyle or my true style. I’d like to reverse that trend.

Being realistic with my wardrobe doesn’t mean I’ve given up. Unlike George Costanza, I am not committing to sweat pants ever after. In many ways, it means I’ve finally accepted who I really am instead of trying to dress like someone who doesn’t live my life {complete with PB & J smears} or trying to reinvent myself into someone who doesn’t shop in my closet {a NYC celebrity}.

Today I enjoyed a couple of precious hours to go shopping. Don’t be too jealous. I went to two Goodwills and a discount clothing store. 

Sometimes I’m a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of crazy cast-offs. And sometimes I relapse into rayon and then never wear it. But today I was able to zero in on things that I think I’ll reach for time and again. They are easy, comfy, and very mix and match. And I didn’t even try on anything that duplicated something I already had.  

It was freeing to put my new-found methods into practice. 

Gasp, I sound as if I’m shopping like a sensible grown-up.

I’ve begun a major closet purge and I’m excited to have fewer but truer pieces. 

It’s not what my inner 16-year-old’s closet would look like. Thank goodness. But I don’t think she’s totally rolling her eyes either.

What are your tried and true, go-to pieces? 

{Click on the button for the list of all the days 
& topics thus far.}


  1. says

    So you struggle with this at age 38. . . what the heck am I supposed to do at age 48?? Every now and then I remind myself that I am technically middle-aged. I have two kids in college, for heaven’s sake! My problem may be that I admire too many different styles–one day I’ll think that I want to be all Brooks-Brotherish; the next day I’m smitten with J.Crew. So I usually end up with a hodge podge of things I’ve bought on clearance rather than a few good, simple things that are my style. MY style? Wonder what that is?

    Here’s one truth I’ve finally reached: my style is not the style of younger women, but it’s also not the style of older women. I don’t do party dresses with chunky boots. But I also don’t do SAS shoes and rainbonnets. There’s gotta be something good in the middle. Or at least I keep hoping there is!

  2. says

    I loved this post – I kept thinking, “Me too!” I realized about two years ago that I had “grown up” when I saw some of the current trends and styles that were “in” and thought – UM NO! I would SO never wear that. And I’m sure if I were 16 I’d be all over the latest trends no matter how ridiculous they looked. At the end of the day my style is just what makes me feel like ME. I’m one of those women who spends more money that she probably should on clothes sometimes, but now that I’m older and hopefully a little wiser, I pick out better quality things and think about functionality and usability too. I guess I really am “grown up” now. (o;

    For the record – I think the outfit in your pic is great. You look comfortable and very put together. Just sayin’. (o:

    PS – I love your REAL posts.

  3. Anonymous says

    I always think you just look so cute!! I could never acessorize the way you do…it’s not a natural thing for me-I can’t even figure out a scarf! I love the mom jeans clip though and as long as you never have a 7inch zipper or pleats then I think you’re doing pretty darn good! :)

    The rain bonnet and SAS shoes reference almost made me choke on my coffee it was so funny! At that age hair and feet comfort may be all we have left!!

    haha! keep writing!

    Amy Z Smith

  4. says

    I love this post because it hits me right where I’m at. I’m in the process of figuring out my personal clothing style. The last few years have been spent buying things that I thought I’d like only to find out that I don’t. I want to look really nice and fashionable (for me), but have no desire to look like I’m 16.

    I also have budget constraints so purging my closet and going out and buying all new isn’t really an option.

    I’ve figured out that I like color, but primarily solids. I like comfort and mix and match. Most of the time I prefer understated to overwhelming.

    I have a little testimony. This weekend we were in Georgia and went shopping for a few hours. I wanted a pair of boots really badly, but didn’t want to wade through a million pairs of confusing styles and colors. I asked God to lead me to the right boots and no matter the price I’d buy them. He’s so good- led me to the perfect pair for me, so stylish, so comfy and on sale for $64 versus $100. I also got a cute belt and sunglasses and, after using the gift cards I’d gotten for Christmas, spent a whopping $8 on everything! See- God cares about our fashions too!

  5. says

    First of all — you made me laugh out loud! Just scared a co-worker when I did,too. Mainly because I was imagining YOU in SAS shoes and a rain bonnet!!!
    Secondly, you always look great. Even when you are wearing rumpled jeans and not so fashionable sneakers.
    You radiate an inner beauty that is so enjoyable to to be around. Your smile is so contagious, too.
    Being fashionable at any age is always a challenge. Thanks for a deeper look into the wonderful person who is — you.
    And for the reminder that I really do need to purge my closet this weekend!
    Hugs all around.

  6. says

    All I can think of right now is the mom jeans commercial from SNL and the part that says something about “when you just want to give up.”

    Fashion can be tough, I’m a youth pastor’s wife and am always surrounded by very fashionable teenagers. I have to constantly remind myself that I cannot wear what they do-even if it looks so amazing on them. I have to be true to wear I am, and my body that is built different from theirs!

    And now I better go check out that link!

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