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The Mom's Guide to Looking Great

Ladies, I just cannot begin to tell you how often I’ve heard some variation of this comment from a mom of young children:

“I’m so crazy busy, too much to do and not enough time, completely exhausted at the end of each day, and snowed under with responsibilities from the minute I wake up the next morning… how can I look fabulous when I just don’t have the time or energy to focus on my wardrobe?”

Boy, does this hit home! As a mom of three children between ages 6 and 9, as well as a business owner, the last thing I really feel like doing is digging in my closet to put together new and creative outfit combinations. Frankly, my sleep is more important! Yet, looking like the best version of myself still matters to me. I know this, because every time I start to get lazy about what I’m wearing, I end up feeing crummy all around. When I take the time to shower, do my hair and pull myself together, I set myself up to have a great day.

Here’s what I want you to understand, and where I’m excited to help: it is totally possible to sport a fabulous, finished look most days with very little investment of time and energy. It takes some meditation and planning up front, but the time investment is so worth the payoff in self-confidence and a more simplified life.

The method is quite simple and springs from the idea of the “ten piece French wardrobe.” You’ve definitely heard me reference this before when we’ve talked about streamlining. I’m not suggesting getting your closet down to only 10 pieces, but I’m imploring you to hone in on what you love and the pieces that work well together, and let go of the rest.

Here are the steps you’ll take to make this happen:

1. Define your vibe.

Remember what I advised in my travel capsule video? Pick your concept and stick with it. If you want to simplify your life at home, you’d be wise to follow the same strategy. When you’ve got lots of time on your hands, playing with your look and different style personalities can be fun, but when you’re life is jam packed, too many concepts becomes a burden. For this phase in your life, keep it focused and simple!

For a while, I went through a “sporty phase,” where most of my wardrobe was based on yoga pants, oversized tops and cute boots. That’s an awesome and very comfortable concept, especially if you spend most of your day running after toddlers and/or work from home.

My kids are little bit older (and so am I!), and I find myself evolving into a new fashion personality that I describe as “laid back European.” Skinny jeans, high-quality tees and button down shirts, and great scarves and jewelry now form the foundation of my wardrobe. My life is still busy and I’m on my feet all day, so sneakers and wedges almost always complement this look.

This is a question that only you can answer: what is your best look for your body type, personality, and where you currently are in your life? Choose a vibe that reflects who you truly are at this point in time, not a look that the magazines or the moms around you are prescribing. This is where self-confidence begins!

2. Appoint your collection of favorite, timeless basics.

Now that you’ve defined your look, it’s time to do inventory. If you’re cleaning out your closet, the usual advice is to take everything out and only put back in what you love. Here, I suggest the opposite. For between $20 and $60 (depending on size and quality,) you can purchase a retail-style rolling rack from Target. I want you to temporarily set this up in your bedroom because this is where you are going to assemble your capsule.

Open up your wardrobe/closet and pull the pieces that are your strongest, most reliable, most timeless foundation. If they’re don’t look and/or feel great on, leave them behind. Only hang on your rolling rack the best of the best—those pieces you wish you had three of because you wear them so often. For example, I would pull my three or four favorite pairs of Parker Smith jeans, a couple of pairs of leggings, several high-quality tees, a couple of layering tanks, two Parker Smith pin-striped blouses, one or two relaxed-fit blazers, a cashmere cardigan, a denim jacket and my leather bomber. Depending on your tastes and lifestyle, you may also want to add items like a shift dress, pencil skirt, wide leg trousers, etc. Just make sure they’re not “novelty” pieces, but the mix-and-match timeless items.

If you’re like me (and I know a lot of you are!), you could fill 20 rolling racks with your timeless classics. Remember, our goal here is to eliminate the headache of having to work hard every day to figure out what you want to wear. Too much choice equals major headache, and eventually giving up for many moms. So, as you’re selecting your timeless favorites, think bigger than a carry on (unless you’re on a serious minimizing kick!), but a whole lot smaller than your current closet (if you’re a clothes hound like me!) You’re going to challenge yourself to get your faves onto a single rolling rack.

3. Select a small assortment of fun, seasonal accents.

Here is where it’s time to tap into your true joy. You’ve assembled your foundation, and now it’s time to play with the pieces that express your unique personality and highlight your best features. The focus here is on items that literally thrill you every time you put them on, but aren’t necessarily pieces you’ll repeat every other day, or even next season.

Look through your closet and start by pulling 5 to 8 items that meet these criteria. Look for the pieces that you would truly miss if you didn’t have them at your disposal over the next month. For me, this would be items like my new black and white Bailey 44 shift/tunic, my Bobi strapless harem jumpsuit, my Manduka palm tree print leggings, my new Spiritual Gangster off-the-shoulder sun dress, my Free People blush-colored linen ruffle jacket, and a couple of colorful Sundry tanks and joggers. I’m not wearing any of these pieces on a daily basis, but they all make me smile, feel adorable when I wear them, and, most importantly, can be paired with my foundational basics to make a cute outfit. I also know that as soon as the next season arrives, I’ll probably find delicious replacements.

Remember that, although these seasonal accents aren’t pieces you’re wearing daily, they should be items that get regular use. Do not waste space on your rolling rack with pieces that would look beautiful in a museum (aka the back of your closet!), and that you keep thinking you should wear, but never actually do. Also, do not include your black-tie attire here. That’s in a category of it’s own and is outside the scope of the daily closet capsule we’re talking about.

4. Pick your favorite pairings.

By “pairings,” I’m referring here to the little details that can change an outfit, complete a look, and make a major statement about your unique tastes and personality. These items are small, but powerful!

What I love about “pairings” is that you could wear the same exact outfit comprised of foundational basics three days in a row, and the world would never know it if your pairings were different. Major game changers for me include hats, scarves, jewelry and embellished belts. I also love pairings because they are often what “finishes” an outfit. A shift dress can look dull and shapeless until you pair it with one of Cindy Riser’s sparkly tassel necklaces! In skinny jeans and a white tee alone, you may feel like a wallflower, but pair them with a Chan Luu silk and cashmere scarf and you’re now the definition of French chic! Deepa Gurnani’s embellished belts double as chokers and headbands and can turn an unremarkable outfit into something totally whimsical.

Despite the fact that your pairings add a tiny “pop,” too many of them can constitute major closet clutter and a sense of total disorganization. When you’ve been collecting stuff like this for years, it can take over your space and pose the same common conundrum as an over-full closet: so much there, and nothing to wear! If this sounds familiar, it’s time to whittle down with the same mindset that you’re approaching your clothing. Pick your favorites—only those pieces that make you feel fabulous, are versatile and get regular use. The end result should be a collection of pairings that are easily stored and beautiful to look at—not overflowing and in need of its own separate closet.

5. Consolidate your shoes.

For me, my entire wardrobe actually starts with my shoes. As a mom and extremely busy person, comfort is literally everything. I am so past the phase in my life of being willing to suffer to look taller, leaner and more chic! There is nothing glamorous about pain!

Since this is a guide for moms, I’m guessing this may resonate with you. My suggestion is to identify those shoes in your closet that you wear most frequently and can wear the entire day without having to slide them off to give your feet a break. Those should be the foundation upon which you build your wardrobe. The only shoes worth keeping that don’t meet these criteria are your special occasion shoes, and even those must meet a minimum standard for comfort (for me, I have to be able to stand in them for at least a couple of hours without suffering.)

I know it hurts, ladies, but take ALL of your other footwear and put it in a box! If you feel like your insides are being ripped out to part with this many pairs of shoes, put the box in your garage or some other storage place. Keep it there for a couple of months—no more. When you find that you never even visited the box(es) to get a missed pair of shoes out, it’s time to say farewell. I have done this, and it truly works. Putting them in the garage has given me a strange sense of security knowing that they’re not really gone, and enabled me to loosen my ties. I’ve gotten so much better at parting ways, that I can now pretty much skip the temporary storage phase.

Please know that just because I’m advising a major consolidation of your shoe collection, does not mean that your footwear has to be boring or no longer a source of joy! I adore shoes (you’ll know that from visiting my store!) Shoes can be an awesome “pairing” just in the way a scarf, hat or jewelry can accent an otherwise bland outfit. Just yesterday, I took home a pair of gold glittered Vintage Havanas sneakers that I can’t wait to wear with rolled up skinny jeans and a basic boyfriend tee. Just make sure that your embellished and more trendy footwear is kept to a minimum and secondary to your more foundational, timeless shoes and boots. From a space-saving point of view, you’re better off having a different necklace for every day of the week than a different pair of boots for every outfit you own.

Please feel free to leave comments, questions, and your own tips on how to create a busy woman’s wardrobe that is glamorous, individualized and, most importantly, low maintenance!


Lisa Berry

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