Sew Paradise

The chic mama six perfect items to handle anything, even a tantrum.

A few friends on line were discussing (or lamenting) the lack of style post-baby. Partly out of concern for their ‘new’ or current post-baby bodies, partly out of time crunch and partly because they’ve been disconnected from fashion for so long, these moms fell into the tee shirt and jeans (or worse, hubby’s track pants or pj pants!) mom rut.

I’m a pretty stylish mama of two. Fashion is, to me, the icing on the cake. It is, also, the armor with which I plate my life, too. If I look good, I feel good. Bad skin, bad hair day, pudgy middle, spitup, harried at work; fashion can solve these ills.

I’m also a nursing mother of two (nursing one, 26 months old) so a certain practicality has to appear in my wardrobe or my son will try to undress me, unbutton me and generally make himself annoying in his pursuit of nursies.

The Chic Mama Six are six essential pieces in every mother’s wardrobe that can rejuvenate your style, fit, no matter your shape, and work no matter your children’s ages. I’ll share some nearly free, thrifted sources, inexpensive sources and investment pieces.

Old Navy (Target, Kohl’s – even Meijer) sells dark denim jeans in all sizes.

Jeans that fit.Skinny, bootcut, wide leg, whatever. They should be dark, they should fit you through the hip and thigh and they should make your butt look awesome – whether it’s a size 2 or 22. If you’re only able to wear maternity jeans right now, so be it.

At this price (, this is a total splurge – I would invest in this in black or navy, but if you already have those, buy a bright color you love.

A structured blazer. This is an investment piece, but if you’re not much for the investment, check out Goodwill, Volunteers of America or an upscale second hand store. At the latter, you will find stylish options. At the former, you will be buying and having your dry cleaner recommend a tailor, where, for a small investment, you will end up with a perfectly fitting piece you’ll own for years.  To pick the right jacket, it needs to fit in the shoulders; this will be the hardest part to tailor. If it can button, that’s great. If it’s not quite there, and you’re postpartum, no worries, you’ll get there. Pick any color you truly love – black is a classic, navy is never harsh, a bright color adds fun, and tweeds are in this season. Jackets add shape your post-baby body might not have – if it’s too boxy but fits in the shoulders, have it tailored in at the sides.

A big stylish scarf – if it’s cold out, buy a fuzzy Pashmina or knitted style (or knit one yourself). If it’s warm out, buy a gauzy version. This scarf should be big enough to wear as a wrap, looped twice around your neck and tied in a bazillion ways. Scarves Dot Nethas a whole bunch of affordable scarves (and a million tutes on tying them!) You can get lovely pashminas and scarves locally at Kellie’s Consigments (budget conscious) or

Whatever pattern, color, texture makes your heart sing, get it. Or two or three.

splurge at Grace, in Old Town.

This is from designer Christine Jonson. You can make this dress yourself – including professional and goof-proof sewing instructions – a million times and you’ll never tire of it. Sleeveless, short, long, 3/4, whatever you choose!

A wrap dress. I love this one. This is your postpartum date-night, going back to work, need a go-to dress for an emergency meeting, need a dress to rock that PTA meeting dress. My favorite is this wrap dress. Yes, you’d have to sew it, but my friend Christine makes this goof proof, I promise you it will work. Make it like my friend Sue does and skip hemming altogether. Knits don’t ravel. If you’re squeamish about a raw hem, that’s what they make Seam a Steam (Joann Fabrics) for. If you’re not up for sewing at all, just Google it. For 1.7 million results!

A great coat. Preferably a trench coat. But any belted or nipped-waist coat can go over even a spitup-tee and jeans, and take you to the grocery store in style! There are loads of options for all seasons – I have a black vintage Etienne Aigner that I bought at Goodwill when I was a college student (twenty five years ago). I still wear it. I also have a camel wool version for winter. The belt is key. Nips in your waist no matter your shape.

These affordable beauties can go classic or trendy, and you can get them at Target or at secondhand stores, or invest in the best – Burberry. If you can afford Burberry (or steal your mother’s!) you don’t need my advice!

Dark Hollywood chic sunglasses. Yep, I’ll bet you already have this in your life. No makeup, tired eyes, whatever, they work. I even think they make my acne scars look chic. I own an investment piece pair that a friend gifted me (Burberry) because they had a small scratch, and I own a bunch of cheap pairs.

Here’s how I wear these six:

Wrap dress under trench coat: Date night, first day back at work from maternity leave, big meeting with boss (or client!), girl’s night out, park with kids on the weekend. The only thing I change is my shoes and my accessories – date night gets fancy heels, work gets tailored heels, the park gets flip flops or flat riding boots. If it’s cold, wear the scarf.

Jacket over jeans. This classic look began in the 1980s and continues stylishly today. This is the mom’s go-to item. It will, guaranteed, dress up any humdrum tee (even those graphic tees – no, especially those graphic tees you got in college at concerts). It goes to work, it goes to Meijer, it goes to the zoo and the library, too. The other moms will be EN-VIE-OUS at how chic you look. Clue them in or just smile and go on. It will make your toddler’s tantrum look effortless “Look at her tantruming child and how she’s toting him under her arm like a sack of potatoes. But LOOK at how put together she is, and handling this so well!”

Wear the scarf looped twice over this jacket and jeans, and over your tee. Ballerina flats for moms on the go, heels if it’s mom’s night out (or date night.) If you’re a nursing mother, hop on over to this post and see my cheap and fast (five minutes, with scissors!) nursing tee that you wear under this jacket. It turns the outfit into a discreet nursing duo.

Scarf over everything. In Paris, I nursed my then-seven-month old in a baby carrier or in a seat everywere with that scarf. In Paris, every woman over the age of 12 wears a scarf everyday. It adds a chic element to everything, covers spitup on your tee and keeps you warm. It can also serve as a nursing cover.

How and where to get these Chic Mom Six items:

If you’re on a big, hairy budget, go to VoA for that jacket and coat (the newish Lansing Westside store is nicer than the Southside store, but the Southside store has more inventory). Comb garage sales. I found a trench coat (it was much too big for me, a size 14) for $2 at a yard sale. I didn’t buy it, but if it had been close to my size, I would have snapped it up and had it tailored. If you’re handy with the needles, or want some help, try the helpful ladies at Sticks&Strings knitting store in Old Town (1107 N. Washington Avenue) and have them get you started. Scarves are so small, splurge on really nice yarn you love the feel of.

And next time I see that chic mom pushing her stroller or hauling her tantruming two year old out of the library, in her jeans, jacket, trench and sunglasses, I’ll know it’s a mom who has her act together!


By paradise

I'm Ann. I've been sewing since I was 9. My first project was a denim wrap skirt. Thrifting is a way of life for me - both eco-chic and financially savvy.

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