Wardrobe Wednesday: 5 Essentials for a Put-Together Casual Look

The girls and I ran errands all yesterday morning after we dropped the boys off at school. And this is what I wore:

IMG_0545 

Let me just say…when you’re trying to make it through Hobby Lobby (AKA: the headquarters for all things easily breakable) with three small children, the last things you need are painful shoes or fussy accessories to distract from your ability to dole out snacks, nurse babies, change diapers, and/or preempt the MUST-HAVE-SKITTLES-NOW tantrums of toddlers whose naptimes you have obliterated with your trips to the land of pretty-shiny-things-she’s-not-allowed-to-touch. 

Which means that, all too often, my errand-running uniform consists of workout gear or a hoodie and some comfy jeans.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I’ve noticed something since the twins came along: people pay waaaaaaay more attention to me than they used to. And I don’t mean that as a good thing (although, neither is it necessarily a terrible one).

Little old ladies spot me and my posse from the frozen vegetables aisle, and by the time I’ve made it to the bananas, I have a gaggle of admiring grandmas cooing and gooing over my babies. Or there are the inevitable murmurs of “Look! She has two babies. Twins? Bless her heart. I’d die!” (which kind of make me want to wear a shirt that says, “Yes, I have a lot of small children, but I’m not deaf…yet”).

And I’ve noticed something else: these people who are noticing me and my children expect me to be a hot mess. Or at least that’s what I glean from comments like: “Well, aren’t you brave being out in public with all those babies. And you’re dressed and everything.”

{I had no idea that public outings with small children came with a free nudity pass}.

And then there’s the gasp as they lean in closer and say, “And you’re wearing make up too? Good for you!”

Clearly, the bar for self-care among mothers of littles has been set pretty low…at least where I live anyway. And I must admit that it’s rather tempting to take full advantage of such paltry expectations (and at times, I definitely do). But something tells me I’ll be a better witness if I don’t. (I’ll explain what I mean by that in a minute).

So, today I thought I’d share my 5 essentials for a put-together, casual outfit that’s just as comfy as my sweats but won’t leave a trail of “Poor little thing” whispers in my wake.

  1. A simple, patterned top
  2. Dark rinse jeans
  3. A belt
  4. Pretty flats
  5. Jewelry

IMG_0548

{Sweater: Banana Republic, $8, Jeans: Papaya/Goodwill, $4, Floral belt: LOFT, $7, Shoes: Old Navy, $9, Necklace: Accessory Dash, $25}

The above outfit is what I wore while running errands, and I was never uncomfortable or stuffy-feeling for even a moment.

IMG_0538

Honestly, I didn’t have time to fix my hair (not that it would have mattered if I had with the way the wind was blowing), and I didn’t even bother to put my contacts in, but I still look reasonably well put together because of the details like the flowers on the belt, and the dressier cut/rinse of my jeans—neither of which took any more effort than throwing on a pair of ratty yoga pants.

IMG_0543

I don’t always take (or have) the time to do simple things like put on a coordinating necklace (especially if I haven’t put my jewelry back where it belongs and have to go on a treasure hunt to find it), but I do know this: people notice when I do. And it makes an impression—one that says that I care enough about myself and my family to not be the frazzled, ragtag mama so many expect me to be. And you know what else? It helps my mental state to feel presentable when I’m braving the world with my crew in tow. And it doesn’t have to be expensive (see the prices above?) or take much time (I literally walked in my closet, grabbed the pieces you see, put them on, brushed my teeth, and walked out the door; it was probably 7 minutes max).

Best of all, it often prompts the question, “How do you do it all?” To which, of course, I reply with a resounding, “I DON’T!” Followed up by, “What I do get done is by the grace of God.”

Plenty of people will assume I’m being trite. But I’m not. And, trite or not, if something as trivial as a decent outfit gives me the opportunity to give Him the glory, why not take it?

So, what about you guys? What are your casual-wear essentials?

Do you feel better or more confident when you’re wearing “real clothes?”

I’d love to hear your tips for putting together simple outfits that still feel like you actually got dressed.

Linking up: The Pleated Poppy

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

26 thoughts on “Wardrobe Wednesday: 5 Essentials for a Put-Together Casual Look

  1. Love this post! Just what I needed. I love to dress nicely, but usually stay in my yoga pants when I am not going to see anyone. But, lately I have been feeling like I need to be a better example to my girls (I have 3). I want them to feel good about themselves and be confident. I need to be too. Thanks for the post.

  2. I gotta tell ya. I’m not much for accessories… I make sure my shoes and purse/wallet reasonable go together. and I match. And my standard uniform is dark, straight leg or boot cut jeans… and a top. And my tees? they’re for SLEEPING in… I have some tees that are dresser… pleats or gathers, a ruffled button placket down the front, flutter sleeves, etc. those are okay for wearing out… but the Hanes Her Ways? Pajamas…

    And Oh Em Gee. There is nothing more irritating to me than the folks wearing PAJAMAS AND SLIPPERS to the STORE? Are you for REAL? You can’t go put on some PANTS?

    Who are these folks? When did this become acceptable?

    I know, I know… the same time MUFFIN TOP EXPOSED did… *eye roll*

    I by no means expect folks, women, moms, anyone to be a fashion plate… but i do expect something besides toddler wear in public… Betty Boop does NOT belong plastered across your size 14 buttocks. (And I’m much larger than a 14 so that’s not a fat thing… that’s an ADULT thing…. )

    Thank you for trying to teach these young people of today that it’s OKAY to get DRESSED….

  3. really like that you add the brand, where purchased and cost. Gives much more incentive to know being put together is affordable..
    once when in the midst of major painting and cleaning project, my children and I bipped off to the market for some much needed food and drinks WITHOUT even cking in the mirror. Of course, we saw more people we would rather not have had them see us in the paint spattered condition we were in. (mostly me) My children made our apologies and made sure the folks knew their mommy never usually looked like this . Pretty funny huh???

  4. A ponytail, lipstick and heels…. always make up my list of ‘GETTING DRESSED QUICK AND LOOKING RESPECTABLE. I have very pale skin and if I don’t wear makeup people can be mistaken for thinking I am sick. When my kids were little I did the smart jacket, white shirt, jeans combo and that seemed to pass most tests. Mothers can be so unforgiving of each other. We should cheer each other on always. Abbie, I particularly loved the flower belt and necklace. Both pieces said “I care and I try”, and LOOKED FABULOUS at the same time. Win, Win to you. cheers celina

  5. I really enjoy your blog. I read it every day. I think it helps if you are happy with your looks, your hair and your body/weight. I am not. I’m trying to work on those things. You have a beautiful family. God Bless.

  6. I remember having 4 under the age of 4 (yep, those twins, I had ‘em too) and people would say the oddest things to me like “You’re brave”. Ummm, what, they weren’t trained soldiers, they were kids. Yeah, the outnumbered me but I was bigger (for a little while). Now I look up to all of them.

    But I remember getting dressed and looking decent every time I went out. I also dressed all the kids similarly because I was afraid I’d lose one and wouldn’t be able to describe him or her to the police. Crazy lady, I was.

  7. Relatively new reader here and enjoyed this post. It resonates with me. I have 5 (3 singletons and a set of twins) as well. I find that I am in the spotlight more when all my little darlings are with me and I think people are sizing me up. Can it be done? Can someone have 5 so close in age and still have a good life? well behaved kids? matching clothes on? get out of the house?

    I hope that from encountering us even briefly some of the ideas folks have about a family our size are revised. They might even conclude it’s a good idea and perhaps they could give it a shot ;)

    Also, I’ve noted we get better customer service in public the more put together we are. Not to say we always are but if I can quickly throw on a dress with my flip flops and put my hair in a clip instead of sweaty work out clothes I go for it.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I enjoy them. Think I’ll stick around!

  8. YES. I totally agree. Taking the time to be “put together” minsters to people (especially your kids, who hear in all those comments the expectation that they are too much work). You are adorable, but more than that, your heart is beautiful.

  9. Ok, I cracked up at the “nudity pass” comment…so very funny!

    Your outfit is too cute….love the BR sweater…that is still a killer deal!

    Oh, and when you are out & about w/ all the gawkers….have them take a pic of you…just curious how you situate all the littles in the cart/carriers. And those carts at Hobby Lobby are tiny! I’d love to see ya’ in mommy action :)

    I totally agree w/ you. It doesn’t take any more effort to put on some jeans and a nice shirt…flats & jewlery and you’re good to go. If I put together an outfit like this w/ say a scarf…..my friends say…”wow, you’re dressed up”….not really, just dressed. And, I do find it makes my attitude better throughtout the day. I just feel more “together”.

    My “momiform” is basically the same as yours in the winter..plus a cute jacket/scarf. In the summer, I don’t think it takes any more effort to put on a skirt vs shorts and it looks more put “together”. That being said, I don’t always wear skirts, but I do love ‘em.

    One thing I usually add even if I’m in hurry is my pearl necklace. It just dresses up an outfit. Even jeans & a cute t-shirt w/ pearls…..winner in my book :)

    Totally agree with this: “one that says that I care enough about myself and my family to not be the frazzled, ragtag mama so many expect me to be.”….amen, sista! Hubby appreciates it too :)

  10. Love the outfit and the thought process about looking a little more put together. I only have one so far (8 1/2 months old!) but I agree that it makes a difference in my day–especially if I’m running errands–to take a few extra minutes to look a little more put-together. That said, I do agree with mom24orsinis above that I’m more likely to wear workout pants in the winter than in the summer…maybe something about the state of mind here in the Midwest when we’re just trying to survive the winter??

    Is that sweater a recent Banana purchase? So cute! I have $10 in rewards to use so I might be able to scoop it up if it’s still around!

  11. It’s so true! The standard here for mamas of littles is set pretty low too, I have found I get the same comments being pregnant. I have a 2 year old and an 8 month old while 5 months pregnant and when I am simply dressed with dressy jeans, a fashionable bun, sparkly flats and accessories even my friends with 1 baby are amazed at how I do it. I think it’s just as easy to wear real clothes as it is to wear my workout gear from the gym that morning, it just take a minute longer to decide which shirt to wear :) People think I’m crazy for being pregnant with my baby in the cart but if i’m put together it takes away some of the “poor girl, have they heard of birth control?” Because we believe that children are a blessing from the Lord!

  12. very cute!! and Banana Republic Sweater for $8?? wow! How!!?

    Some of my essentials to make me look (or at least feel) put together are cute jeans, flat suede booties (fairly stylish but also comfy enough for me to wear running errands) and if I am having a bad hair day (or simply have not showered in a day or two ha) I don a cool page-boy style hat!

  13. This is a good reminder! I love to feel “put together”. It’s so true that when you look good, you feel good. If I do run out in my yoga pants and sneakers, I usually hope that people will assume that I just worked out. haha

  14. I’d add a fun, bright, cute, trendy purse can really give the appearance of being pulled together (even when you’re not) and takes absolutely no extra effort. When weather permits, a cute coat can cover up a multitude of sins underneath as well. ;)

  15. Ooo! But I do have to add one more thought :)

    I wonder if it’s different here in the Midwest because we spend so many months wrapped up in coats that, wearing my yoga pants isn’t as obvious as it would be in warmer states where you don’t need a coat all year! I do know that I wouldn’t wear my yoga pants or home-working shorts out in the Summer….I WOULD take the time to throw on a skirt or casual dress…

    So, that’s an interesting aspect I hadn’t thought about…if I didn’t have the protection of my coat, would I still give myself the grace to go out in my yoga pants??? Ahhh, the plot thickens (LOL)!

    See, fun discussion here and in my own head :)

    1. I agree with you that there is a difference between pants with or without a coat. It also depends on the coat! I live in the Midwest and have a lovely black wool coat that hits about mid-thigh length on me. I don’t feel comfortable wearing yoga pants with a waist-length coat or jacket, but with the longer one that covers my tush, I feel just fine. My coat just dresses up anything I wear, and I LOVE that I can wear old jeans or even yoga pants, plus any old shirt, and as soon as I put on my coat I look super put together. Winter months make it easy to run to the store as long as I can just throw on my coat. ;) The summer is a different story. I spend more time to make sure I’m not wearing something old or stained in the summertime, because when it’s warmer I don’t have a nice coverup to fall back on.

    2. yes! I have to agree :) Wearing my long, tie at the waist coat allows me to feel put together (with my face on and hair combed :) ), but the Summer is a different story…skirts and t’s a lot, therefore, if I lived in a warmer climate, I’d probably look more put together more often :)

  16. It’s so interesting to read what people say and how it influences us, or causes us to think about details of our life! I think, and I’m sure you agree, we all have a line to balance when it comes to this topic: dressing well, and yet not letting it have too much influence in how we feel or act…

    SO, I agree that being dressed beyond my yoga pants definitely gives me a peace and confidence…and even more so when my 4 kids were littler…it’s like a need to show I’m not drowning in my busy life. However, now that my kids are older and I have to spend more time homeschooling and caring for my home than I used to (because both of those TAKE more time), I have given myself the grace to, sometimes, go out in my yoga pants and not feel guilt for it. Yes, it might only take 5 minutes to throw on jeans instead, but there are days that even those 5 minutes will be a HOT COMMODITY and going out in yoga pants INSTEAD of jeans will make me more at peace (and more patient too)!

    All that to say, I have grown to not worry if people think I look put together or not put together…I WANT to be put together, I make efforts like getting up early to do just that cause it DOES feel good, but, if someone is shocked that I’m in yoga pants in public OR shocked that I have my hair, face and outfit put together with 4 kids in tow…well, that’s there concern, not mine :)

    People don’t always mean what they say to be insulting or derogatory, even if it feels that way…we just put that smile on our face, give the great response that you did (by the grace of God!!!), and know that yoga pants or easy outfit, going out with your 5 young children will always draw attention, just as it did/does with my 4 kids…a quiverful does that in this world :)

    I appreciate the post and the chance to share my thoughts on the topic :)

  17. I love your ensembles! I always admire your photos, but my own style is very different. I’m a minimalist when it comes to clothing. I just feel most comfortable wearing very simple and pretty conservative things. It’s not a religious thing, it’s just my personality. My clothes are mostly black, dark blue (for jeans), gray, or dark pink/maroon. I just naturally gravitate toward that palette, and I have done so for about five years now. That means that almost everything in my closet is mix-and-match. It’s super easy to throw together an outfit by pairing any shirt with any jeans or skirt, then adding flats and a piece or two of jewelry for a very put-together look. My jewelry is almost all silver or silver-based, which means all of my pieces match each other and all of my clothes. I know my style totally wouldn’t work for someone else who craves more variety and color (and go you, because I LOVE to look at the gorgeous outfits on everyone’s blogs and Pinterest!), but it sure makes it easy for me to look professional, put-together, or just plain presentable in a very short amount of time. :)

I love hearing from you guys!