There’s nothing like wearing something that is comfortable, hides a multitude of sins, comes in every price point and
fits nearly every body. The Maxi Dress is a wardrobe staple for moms year round. In a knit, it feels like a nightgown. And who doesn’t want to get away with wearing their nightgown in public, especially when you can look this chic in it!
When I talk with moms – especially new moms – about wearing dresses, the first question that comes up is how the heck do you nurse a baby in one? For the nursing mom, I recommend a strapless bandeau style or a surplice wrap style maxi dress. For the strapless bandeau style, La Leche League makes a strapless nursing bra that is so nice, I wore it long after nursing (but then felt guilty I was hoarding such a gem and sold it to another mama!) If you wear a jacket over the dress, you are reasonably well covered. A scarf around your neck will cover any additional excess cleavage, while still leaving your baby’s face open (I am opposed to nursing covers as a rule – you need to look into your baby’s eyes while nursing, or at least watch their lashes fall on dewy cheeks, no?)
When I was a new mom, probably six months postpartum, I went to teen consignment retailer Plato’s Closet with a friend. I found a strapless maxi dress in yellow and gray print and thought, indeed, I can nurse a baby in this dress! I have worn that dress so much (that baby, then another one, and now, four years later STILL wearing it!) the elastic is getting stretched out. Maxi dresses suitable for nursing moms and all moms are at every price point. There’s even a collection at Meijer right now you should check out. Stick one of those on the top of your cart between the baby carrots and the quart of milk on your way out of the store.
All moms of any size look good with the maxi dress belted – either slightly bloused over the belt or not, your choice. And for added polish, warmth and style, layer a blazer over the top. Maxi dresses can be worn with flat shoes year round. In the winter, choose a flat heeled tall boot, in the summer, a flat sandal, in the shoulder seasons, ballet flats. I have even worn them with topsiders (indeed!) but only because I’d gotten a blister from the sandals I packed and I needed an alternative pair of shoes to wear.
Cool weather maxi dress style: Layer a blazer over the dress and top with an infinity scarf around your neck. Ballet flats.
Cold weather maxi dress style: tights, flat boots, layer a thin sweater over the maxi dress, belt the sweater and wear a blazer over it. Infinity scarf.
Summer maxi dress style: Just on it’s own, with flat sandals and a great bag! Want more inspiration? These are pics from my Pinterest board. Follow me on Pinterest and check out my Effortlessly Chic and Enduring Style board for more maxi dress styling ideas for moms.
Looking for an easy-to-sew and fun to wear garment for postpartum? This nursing shawl can be worn while you’re nursing a distracted baby or a sleepy baby, or it can be worn over a tee and jeans to add some style (and hide extra baby weight!)
You’ll need two Pashmina scarves (or two large rectangular scarves approx. 72″ long) There are many sources for Pashmina scarves – from really fancy cashmere, to more affordable acrylic blends. Try some from scarves.net or the sample ones we’ve sewn here from teen retailer Five Below.
You can also make them from any lightweight, drapey scarf, including georgette, chiffon, crinkled cotton or lightweight linen gauze.
To start, mark the center of the long edge of the scarf. You can do this precisely with a measuring tape, or just by folding the scarf in half and marking the halfway point with a pin.
Then, measure 7″ on either side of the pin. This creates a 14″ wide opening for your head (when worn as a nursing poncho/shawl). It creates enough room you can peek inside and watch your nursing baby or get latched on.
Place the scarves right sides together. Most scarves have a tag in one corner, the tag side is the WRONG side.
Pin perpendicular from one edge, to the spot you marked 7″ from centerline. Then, place a pin parallel to the edge. This second pin provides a “stopping point” reminder to leave the neck opening. Place another parallel pin inside the other 7″ mark for the other side of the neckline.
Continue pinning perpendicular to the shawl til the end.
Then, threading your machine with matching thread, sew 1/2″ away from the top of the shawl’s edge to the neckline pins. Backstitch to begin and end at the neckline. Cut the threads. Move to the other neckline edge and backstitch, sewing down to the end and backstitch again.
That’s it! Trim your threads and you’re done!
It’s that change of seasons again, and moms are taking to hoodies and jeans. But wait! There’s better style to be had. Here are my favorite looks for busy moms on the go. These are everyday outfits (SAHM, or after work or weekend looks.) I’ve included a selection of sewing patterns for most of the elements in this Mom style series, because, well, it’s called SewParadise for a reason. I don’t, however, expect most moms will sew the jacket (and there are so many good RTW options, you shouldn’t have to.)
The jacket. With everything.
I know, I know, I post about this every 10th post at least. The benefits of a great jacket cannot be overstated. There are many options for a perfect jacket – at every price point from $3.99 Goodwill, VOA and thrift stores, to $9.99 secondhand boutique or Target knockoffs on up to $129.99 investment pieces at retailers like JCrew, Ann Taylor, LOFT and Talbot’s (yes, that Talbot’s, it’s not just for your grandma.)
Fit: Jackets should fit in the shoulders and it should button if possible. If the ‘girls’ are your biggest asset, go for a 3-button fit, to keep them in line (and make sure you can button all three of them). If your waist is your problem area, go for a 1 or 2-button jacket. If it fits in the shoulders, it should fit across the waist, but if you can’t button it now, no sweat, just keep it open and keep chasing your kids and eating their leftover fruit and veggies but not their mac n’ cheese.
Fashion: Black is an old standby but it is hard for moms to wear because black/dark fabric shows milk stains (mother’s milk or otherwise.) Also if you had a crappy night up with little ones, you’ll look haggard in black. I recommend a bright color, a textured tweed, plaid or houndstooth for most moms. It can be worn over even a fairly ratty tee shirt and jeans and make the whole look a polished one. Add a scarf and you can cover up milk, spitup and juice stains in a jiffy!
Nursing mothers: Elizabeth Lee Sewing Patterns makes a pattern called the Mother Cover. It is basically six versions of a shell that has lowered armholes. Put the shell/top on, slip on that jacket and when it comes time for a hungry baby, just pull aside the jacket slightly, pull back the top’s armhole and voila, covered up nursing. Don’t stress about the dated photos – I’ve made modern-fabric versions of the Elizabeth Lee patterns and gotten tons of compliments on them.
I wear the jacket with everything, but mostly with jeans or cords on the weekend. The jean shape is up to you, I go skinny OR wide – the rule is the shorter/tighter the jacket, the wider the pant can be. The looser/longer the jacket, the narrower the pant should be. And I finish this look with ballet flats, sporty flats or (with skinny jeans) tall flat boots.
The Tunic and Leggings (with or without skirt)
My second favorite outfit is the tunic with leggings look.
Fit: below-crotch length on the tunic is most flattering. End the tunic below the widest part of your leg, wherever that may be on you. Tunics look best skimming the body, and this is for all bodies – if you’re plus-sized, just sew it so it’s not skin tight and all moms should consider a shaper underneath. This shaper/smoother pattern from Christine Jonson is awesome, can be made to sausage-casing strength or with less snappy knits, a more comfortable smoother. You could also morph the top of this smoother with a leggings pattern (Christine Jonson has one of those too.) for a high waisted, smoother legging! I have not tried this but I’ll bet it will work.
Fashion: Depending upon the length of your tunic, you can go without a skirt, but if you feel more covered up, go with a sleek wrap skirt, a flippy knit skirt or a short A-line skirt. I love the tunics from Jalie, 3132 is an awesome pattern. The tunic is long enough to pass as a mid thigh short dress on me, I am 5’3″. It can be made with nursing openings or not (I’m now past needing them, but made four of them when I was still nursing!)
I also love this cowl neck top/tunic from Christine Jonson Patterns ePattern/downloadable line. It is one of the VERY best cowl neck fitting I have ever seen. Christine agonized over the fact that most cowl necks leave a giant blob of fabric near your armpit/above bust that is really unattractive and took that out with careful and amazing drafting of this pattern. Best part? instant gratification/download.
Nursing mothers, I have posted a version of a tee from Christine Jonson that can be adapted very easily for this pattern. See links at the end of the post.
With the tunic and leggings, I wear sleek ballet flats, or socks and high boots with a flat heel.
These two great looks are part of my weekend/evening wardrobe with kids and they never do me wrong. I always feel great, polished, and confident. I think they help me navigate even the worst toddler tantrum with style!
Want to see more mom style articles? Check out this one on the Six Mom Essentials, this one on the Mom Cape, and this one on modifying sewing patterns for nursing / breastfeeding access.
Cobalt blue georgette top, cobalt bag from a few years back, white jeans, and oweing to the season, wool flannel jacket. A bronze skinny belt finishes it off. First decent day this week that is not raining, this is the outfit! Moms, top is tunic length with a button front, not too sheer that it showed the nursing clips on my bra and it dips low at the back hem. You can nurse in this top for sure.
So, I am working on this vintage dress I picked up at the PatternReview PRWeekend a year ago. It is very on trend again and fun. But of course I had this brilliant idea that I would alter it for nursing and proceeded to make it way complicated. But I have only the waistline casing and then I can toss it in a dyebath and rock a chic maxidress a la 70s.
I had a friend describe my style as ‘preppy’ a few months back. I always termed this ‘modern classics’ myself, but OK, preppy. It fits. I’m a sailing mom in a midwest college town, and I love beaches up north Michigan. Yeah, that’d be preppy.
So what’s the preppy nursing fashionista wearing these spring days? I love a striped top with wide leg pants. It just feels so summery. But of course my boat neck striped top is not nursing compatible. I define this as it covers my belly AND breasts. I get by this by wearing a nursing camisole, but I am also going to sew a nursing top (Jalie 3132, with some mods for a different neckline, a lapped bateau neck).
This mama pairs this outfit with a big sailing canvas tote. I have bunches – made from actual sails which are not as nice as the one I saw at Land’s End Canvas tonight, of course, since they’re cut from 30 year old sails left in someone’s attic (or the sailing club, for years!) But I think if I found one of the white-ish ones, added some blue canvas trim, and leather handles, it would be a chic version of my grocery shopping and boat sail totes.
Wedges. Boot cut jeans, a pretty top with a seersucker jacket belted over it (this is why you need a nursing top, otherwise, every time babe/toddler asks to nurse, you’re unbuckling belt, opening jacket… yada, yada.Of course you could buy a cheap or thrifted striped tee and follow these instructions for making a nursing one to wear under a jacket, too.
Yeah, I could rock that as a casual friday or weekend look. Preppy, indeed. This summer, hoping to finally get out sailing again, now that our toddler is a bit older (2 in June) and our preschooler will big enough and experienced enough around the boat to be reasonably helpful.
I also have docksiders, the actual Sperry ones, that I bought years ago at a marine flea market (about 15 years ago). They’re in good shape, but my foot got bigger after babies and they’re tiiiight, so I don’t like wearing them a lot. I need to stretch them out somehow. Of course I don’t wear any of this on the actual boat 😉 It’s more like shorts, a tee shirt (nursing is fine) and Keen sandals.
As soon as I saw this pattern previewed on the Jalie site, I knew I had to have it. I had my MIL preorder it for my birthday, and it arrived the day after! Of course, it took me 3 months to sew it (kidding, two) with my schedule. I made this tunic version and boy is it long – I mean, with leggings or tights, this is totally doable as a dress. I plan to wear it tomorrow with slim black wool pants, and a cashmere poncho to a client meeting. I have also cut up an old Michigan State tee shirt and some white organic cotton/lycra to make a Spartan spirit hoodie version with kangaroo pocket. Fun! I expect I’ll get a lot of requests to make those (not gonna happen!) for other Spartan nursing mamas!
This is a super easy tute, and cheap to do. You can purchase inexpensive knit shirts, or get some from thrift or second-hand stores. Don’t be afraid to cut up a trendy tee with some detail at the neckline or down the front, to make stylish versions of this. I’ve used a basic tee from my Goodwill bag.
Lay your tee shirts on a flat surface. Measure down from the neck/shoulder edge
to 12.5″ and put a pin at the sideseam. This is about the right measurement for almost any nursing mom (assuming the tee fits you in the bust). Then, using a curved ruler (this is a french curve) or even just hand-drawing a curve, cut a shallow curved shape in from the sideseam, curving up to the shoulder. You’ll be cutting the sleeve off close to where it’s sewn on, making a low-armhole tank top.
Then, you wear this tank under a jacket or cardigan as I’ve shown here, and when you want to nurse, just reach inside and pull the lowered armhole across to access your breast.
You can even sew these too – any basic shell (woven fabric) or tank top pattern will do just fine. You do not need to finish the armseye edges if it’s a knit fabric. This can go dressy in silk under a work blazer or leather jacket. It can go casual in knit cotton under a denim jacket.
The peach knit top example was too large for me, so I added pintucks across the midriff to cinch it up a little. This involved actual sewing 😉
We are headed to a mountain bike race for my husband and 4 1/2 year old daughter this upcoming weekend. The venue is deep in the woods, so our 16-month old son will be carried in the Ergo the entire weekend (that, and with two bikes and a dog, we can’t afford room for a stroller, or even the fold-flat bike trailer/jogger). But the forecast is for low 40s and rain, so I need something more than my fleece babywearing coat. Last year I brought a stroller for the express purpose of gear-hauling and diaper-changing. This year, they can tote their own gear, and I’ll change him in the car.
I am going to sew a zip-in panel for my North Face GoreTex parka. I have both goretex (ultrex, actually) and polarfleece, but I am going to make the babywearing panel out of poly-cotton print and fleece, for a more stylish option. Most likely I’ll be using an umbrella over us if it’s really coming down rain.
I’ll be developing a longer cowl neck warmer, and a couple of cute baby hats (a knotted fleece cap and a two-peaked fleece cap) to match the baby panels. I wear a lot of vee neck tops, so I find most neck gaitors don’t do the trick, especially when babywearing, when your neck and chest are exposed (for obvious reasons – you can’t cover your baby’s head for too long!)
Of course, if you’re going to nurse in a carrier, you’ll need some tops to make it easier to nurse in. Hands down, the best openings that work in tops are the empire opening and the V/cross over or cowl. I post a tutorial about how to create, from any basic tee shirt or top pattern, the empire nursing top version, but you can find ready-made ones at ElizabethLee.com (ignoring the dated photos, NC 307 has a good twin-set looking top. I make these with a contrast or print fabric nursing underlay so it looks like I’m wearing a cardi and tee). You can find a nursing hoodie or vee neck top or tunic at Jalie 3132 or their cross-wrap nursing top 2787. You can find two nursing tops at Megan Nielsen, the Perfect Nursing and Maternity top and the Pina Nursing and Maternity top and dress.
You can have a wardrobe of nursing tops and dresses with just these four patterns (and my instructions to modify any other patterns you like from your stash). Any pattern will do on the empire nursing tee tutorial – as long as there are no design details right below the bust (such as ruching), any neckline will work, any sleeve length or style, any hem length or style.
Along with this, I’ll be wearing knit pants – most likely a version of Christine Jonson Patterns 1010 boot cut pant – it’s a skinny boot, and in a knit, needs no zipper. I also like Christine Jonson’s front seam knit pant from her Travel Trio One (which, incidentally, has a tee that is perfect for the nursing alterations). These patterns fit perfectly, every single time, they fit close to the body and I can feel free to do fabric and design alterations without fear.
The pants are stylish enough for an up-north city weekend, but also casual enough to not look weird if I’m standing around at a mountain bike race ringing a cowbell for my loved-cyclists.
Time to get sewing! Incidentally, the baby in question fell asleep on the couch in my arms. I wrapped a ring sling around him, still sleeping (and nursing) and continued on to laundry and my computer, now off to pull out all my fleece for the babywearing sets. I hope to use my prototypes this weekend, maybe show them off at La Leche League (and eventually the babywearers group) this week, too.