Guest Post: Style Formulas for Busy Moms

Today’s guest post comes from fellow Minnesotan and blogger Shannon Hyland-Tassava! Shannon’s blog, Mama in Wonderland, is a fun read and a great resource for moms. Since she’s a stylish gal to boot, I asked Shannon to suggest a few easy outfits for moms on the go. Read on to find out more!

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When Sally recently offered me the opportunity to write a guest post about stylish, go-to outfit “formulas” for busy moms, I jumped at the chance. Many people think that “mom style” is an oxymoron. What kind of “style” works for a daily life filled with the nonstop, hands-on work of caring for children—let alone the endless laundry, cooking, and cleaning of many a busy mom’s schedule?

Well, but wait. As a busy mom myself, I believe that we moms can do better than yoga pants, ill-fitting jeans, faded tees, and workout wear as everyday wear. I believe this so strongly that I devoted an entire section of my book to the idea of workable style for moms. Yes, you CAN be a stylish mom, even if you’re home all day with wee ones, your days begin at 5 a.m. and end at never, or your budget is tight (or all three).

My guiding principles for pieces that work for a busy mom’s wardrobe are that clothes need to be easy, washable, practical, and comfortable. Keeping that in mind, here are a few go-to looks for the stylish, active mom. I think you’ll see that “mom style” is NOT an oxymoron, but instead it’s often downright drool-worthy. (No pun intended, moms of babies!)

*Outfit #1: jeans, cute flats, striped tee, bright scarf, big bag

Image via Polyvore

This is my most frequent and beloved mom “uniform.” Striped tops are more popular than ever this year but are also perennially in style, and can be found at every price point, so update your regular jeans-and-tee look with a classic sailor tee that you’ll wear for years to come. I tend to go for cute flats (think: leopard-print ballets, patent driving mocs in a fun color) rather than flip-flops—more practical for running around town (or after toddlers)—but the idea is the same. Note the use of vibrant accessories to punch up a very casual, basic everyday look, and the large, luxe-looking bag that elevates any outfit to hip-mama status yet still accommodates diapers, extra toddler clothes, sippy cups, toy cars, snacks, and the like. (Target has some inexpensive similar bags right now.)

Here’s the fall version of my favorite mom look: similar, but with skinny jeans tucked into tall boots and a jacket thrown on top. So stylish, yet as basic as can be.

Image via The Daybook

*Outfit #2: dress, flats or boots, cardi

Image via

Listen, moms, don’t save dresses for special occasions! A washable, knit dress is the ultimate in easy dressing: throw it over your head, add shoes and a bag (and perhaps a cardigan if it’s chilly) and you’re done. Stick with a knee-length or just-above-the-knee hemline and a shape that’s both comfy and flattering; for most moms, that’s something slightly A-line, perhaps with a wrap top. Experiment! A dress is just as easy and comfortable as yoga pants and a tee—but it’ll make you look stylish and put-together at school pick-up even if you’ve been up all night with the baby and haven’t showered in two…oops, make that three…days. Try a casual dress with ballet flats in spring, sandals in the summer, and tall riding boots in the fall. If you add a cardigan, keep it lightweight and fitted for the sleekest, most polished look.

*Outfit #3: casual skirt, tee, skimmers/driving mocs/flats

Image via J.Jill

Another fun look for warmer weather is a casual skirt in place of your usual shorts or yoga capris. Again: just as easy as those less-polished pieces, but much more stylish and grown-up. Go for knee length, and consider chino, lightweight denim, or cotton twill fabrics for just the right combination of structure and comfort. Pair your skirts with basic tees, ruffly tanks, button-front shirts, cardigans—anything you’d normally wear on top with shorts or jeans. To keep the look “busy-mom-casual” rather than overdressed, add cute and practical skimmers, driving mocs, comfy sandals, or ballet flats. In the fall, try boots instead of flats for a little more warmth and coverage.

I can attest that the above “stylish mom looks” are all completely doable; on any given day, you’re likely to find me in one of the three, even when I’m taking my kiddos to the playground or spending all day cleaning the house and planning playdates. When one of my friends confided that her husband had called me “the best-dressed mom at preschool drop-off,” I knew I was doing something right. And all I’d really done was swap out sloppy sweats for a few simple dresses and a scarf or two here and there. You can, too—you stylish mom, you.

*** Shannon Hyland-Tassava is a college-town writer, blogger, and busy mom. Her first book – The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual: How to Have a Wondrous Life Amidst Kids and Chaos – was inspired by her popular motherhood blog, Mama in Wonderland. Shannon holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and operates a private wellness coaching practice. For more info, visit ***

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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  • I’ve recently fallen in love with dresses.

  • Jennifer

    That’s all really good advice for quick and easy style! Good choice for a guest post!

    One quibble: the first image of the blonde in boots is Sydney from The Daybook – (I couldn’t find the original post) I’m not her, but I like to make sure bloggers get credit for their work!

    • Sal

      Oh, thanks, Jennifer. Shannon provided attribution for that photo, so I didn’t know!

      • Thank you and sorry about that! I had found that photo through a friend’s Pinterest page and had thought I’d located appropriate attribution, but I guess not, so I very much appreciate you chiming in and correcting me!

  • theresa

    They’re cute looks. The knee length or above the knee look doesn’t work for me with little ones, prehaps I’m super awkward, but I’d be flashing my underwear at the world, it would work with older children I guess, or perhaps it’s just me.

    • lisa

      I do a knee length skirt with pettipants underneath to keep from flashing the world when I’m down on the floor with my son.

    • Yeah, I am long past the mom-of-young-children phase, but I really don’t see how the second or third outfits are appropriate for cleaning the house all day or taking your kids to the playground. Unless taking your kids to the playground consists of driving there and then just sitting on a bench. But you really cannot run, climb, or kneel on the ground in a short, straight skirt, so actually playing with your children is out. The strangely reviled yoga pants and cute sneakers seem a much more practical solution for the athletic pursuit that hanging out with, and caring for, tiny children actually is.

      • Anne

        My kids are in middle school now, but these have always been my go-to looks. I can sweep, mop, do just about everything but scrub bathrooms in these kinds of clothes. Just repeat the mantra, “jersey, jersey, knit,jersey.” Just hold your skirt down with one hand when you’re on the slide; better yet, use your toddler as an anchor. If you’re worried about modesty, you can always wear spanky pants like chearleaders do. It is worth the extra trouble in dressing to be able to glance at yourself during a hectic day and say, “Oh, hey, I look pretty good.” For me sometimes that was just enough to get me through one of those endless days with two wild little boys.

  • I find that only now–my son is 8–can I safely wear dresses or skirts while hanging out with him. Really, you can’t go down the slide or even bend over much wearing a skirt. And, what kind of underwear can you wear with a knit dress that isn’t either comfy-but-lumpy or smooth-but-constricting? Those cotton granny pants are gonna look terrible under a knit dress, but Spanx are not necessarily what a busy mom wants to wear every day.

    • Anonymous

      I love the pettipants … without undies! Or short leggings.

  • Anna

    My mom days are long over, but as a grandmom living in a rural area (high fashion not required) and working at home, going out regularly to do errands and visit friends, I can tell you that these looks are entirely suitable for my lifestyle—and perhaps for others in similar situations. Thanks!

  • Velma

    All three of these formulas work for me now that my kiddo is in elementary school. In the preschool years and before, I wore more jeans and leggings/tunics. I often wear long or capri leggings under #2 for more mobility. I wear skirts like #3 these days, but A-line skirts may work better for moms of younger kids.

  • JB

    I am a mom of young kids, am very hands on, and I wear a lot of skirts and dresses. If they are not really short, it isn’t that hard to keep from flashing everyone (also, I probably have flashed a few people, but they are usually other mom’s and I am not that modest!), and if they are wide enough they are easy to run and climb in. One time though, OMG! I was at a fair, and my three year old wanted to go in this inflatable bounce house thing with a slide. At the top of the slide she gets scared and starts freaking out, there are people pushing on us from all sides, and I just want to get out of there as fast as I can, and just grab her into my lap, and sort of hurl us down the slide. My skirt was basically around my waist by the time we got to the bottom. So a bunch of other three year olds saw my underwear, not that big a deal!

  • LaChina

    I love these looks. I’m also a fan of the new skorts, they look just like a skirt, no goofy shorts in the back, and keeps you modest.

    • Sarah Green

      I second the use of skorts! They are not the skirt in front/shorts in back variety anymore. I have good luck finding skorts at REI and Athleta. I’ve even bought an athletic-type skort in a tall length to make it more work-appropriate.

  • Great comments, ladies! Just a quick note on the skirt issue–I, like some of the other commenters here, have been wearing skirts since my daughters were babies–in fact, the summer I was 7-9 mos. pregnant with baby #2 and my older was a toddler, I practically lived in two Old Navy knit maternity skirts. And we did plenty of playground/patio/backyard/splash pool playtime! I found that as long as the skirt wasn’t overly short, there were no real problems. Knee-length kept things covered just fine. It’s true I didn’t go down the slide WITH my toddlers. But I did lots of floor play, cleaning, and outdoor play with skirts and dresses on. As for the underwear issue, if your skirts are chino, twill, or denim, undie lines probably won’t be an issue. For dresses, if they’re drapey and not skin-tight (and I’m assuming not many busy moms are wearing skin-tight dresses–ouch!), the fabric will likely flow away from your lower half and not reveal panty lines–or the dress may be lined, which also keeps things covered. Otherwise, seamless boy short undies seem to work well to keep lines under control.

  • Forgot to mention: Title Nine makes a bunch of “Skirts With Benefits”–i.e. skirts with attached boy shorts underneath–for fear-free running around and no underwear exposure! Some are geared toward sports/workouts (running skirts, for example), but they have many that are multi-purpose and are meant to be worn for everyday casual active endeavors.

    Also–even without attached shorts, any skirt that is at least slightly A-line and/or made of a fabric with “give” will allow you to run and clean house. I promise. 🙂

  • Lauren

    I’m a huge fan of dress type tunics and even dresses over leggings which still look stylish and completely prevent any unforeseen flashes when rolling around playing on the floor.

  • love this guest post! so helpful!