How NOT to dress like a mum

You may be a mum – and a happy one that that. But that’s no excuse for dressing like one, according to the ever-stylish (and still comfortable) Karen Skagerlind of Wardrobe Wand.

Indeed, if you are anything like freelance writer and mum of three Lucy Mason, most mornings you’ll probably find yourself pulling on the same old tried and tested outfit which, although comfortable and practical, will hardly make the style editor of any glossy mag sit and up and take notice (as she confesses in her weekly blog). Even fashion stylist Sally Smy had her own post-baby Vicky Pollard phase!

The fact is that, we all have our own unique sense of style. And when we put on clothes that are ‘us’, we feel good. But it’s all too easy, once children come along, to dress more and more for comfort and practicality, until we begin to lose touch with our own identity – and can look around the school playground and spot several other mums in a similar ‘uniform’.

To help you discover if, like most of us, you have indeed fallen into your own mum style rut, Karen Skagerlind has put together a quick test.

Do you dress like a mum? Take the test to find out!

Are you committing mum fashion crimes? To help you self-diagnose, just answer my five questions:

  1. Are your shoes more practical than sexy?
  2. Does your wardrobe consist of mainly black clothes (or clothes that were black before they went through the wash countless times)?
  3. Have you stopped bothering to accessorise your outfits?
  4. Would you struggle to name a recent fashion trend?
  5. When choosing what to wear, do you go for comfort every time?

If you answered yes to three or more questions and passed on question four, then there’s a very real danger that you’re entering ‘Mumsy’ territory – an adjective the Oxford dictionary defines as ‘giving an impression of dull domesticity; dowdy or unfashionable: she wore a big mumsy dress’.

Now I know some mums, especially new ones, will say that they’re time-poor, haven’t got disposable income to spend on themselves or that their priorities have shifted – and looking trend-aware is bottom of an ever growing to-do list.

Why bother?

And I do understand how that feels; I’ve been there myself. I’ve tried to wear a good top that never looked the same after weaning my toddler on salmon and mash. I’ve tried to wear heels on the school run, only to twist my ankle falling off a curb unceremoniously. And I’ve bought designer jeans which soon ripped at the knees from bending down too often to soothe a fall, wipe something up, or find a tiny (but vital) piece of Lego.

So why bother, I hear you ask?

The simple truth is this – you’ll feel better, more capable and it helps maintain a sense of self (the person you were before you had children). It will mean you don’t morph into an easy world of baggy tops, warm fleeces and waterproof jackets with sensible shoes.

How to avoid the mum fashion trap

So how can you dress in a practical way without forgoing style? To help you learn to love fashion again, AND ensure you’re dressed for all child-based eventualities, I’ve put together some simple guidance which certainly helps me:

  • Add accessories – whether it’s a statement necklace or ring, or an on-trend print scarf, a little effort will reward you with maximum effect and give your outfit a considered look.
  • Make time for makeup – I’m not talking false lashes and tons of foundation, just five minutes on a routine will make the world of difference to you, and project a polished image to the outside world. (Check out our five minute makeup routine for busy mums for tips.)
  • Open your eyeseyelash curlers were an eye-opener to me (literally). Introduced to me by Caroline Barnes, makeup artist to the stars, they’re a quick and easy way to open up otherwise tired eyes.
  • Update your makeup bag – nothing says mumsy more than make up colours that were last popular in the 80’s, so pop into your nearest Boots store for a quick makeover, and treat yourself to a new lipstick or eye shadow.
  • Look after your nails – keep your nails short and apply a quick dry coat of natural pink.
  • Choose stylish footwear – flats don’t need to be frumpy. Buy shoes or boots that are comfortable by all means, but make sure they’re on-trend. I recently bought a pair of over-the-knee boots that tick the fashion and practical boxes, and I live in them. Leopard print can also give your footwear a fashion boost.
  • Layer up – there’s no need to wrap up in an unflattering fleece if you want to keep warm and cosy when out and about. Instead, opt for thin thermal layers underneath shirts, and add jumpers or sweatshirts on top, making sure you turn up shirt cuffs to add interest.
  • Choose the right coatparkas have had a fashion comeback this season, and there are lots of other water resistant macs and coats out there that will enhance your shape without the need for a high tech Regatta jacket.
  • Add colour – are you confident enough to wear bright colours? Not only can the right colours boost your mood and confidence, but they can brighten your skin and enhance your eye colour. Try different shades against your face to see which make your eyes ‘pop’, and which drain the colour from your face. You could even get your colours done professionally – try House of Colour to see if there is a consultant near you.

If you feel in a style rut and want to revamp your outfits, then try to find time to give your wardrobe a complete overhaul (see my previous article How to organise your wardrobe so it works for you). It will help to give you a fresh perspective and highlight any gaps you need to fill.

Put outfits together as you go along, record them or even take photos of them so you can see if a new pair of shoes will bring a faithful look up to date, or if a new scarf will transform a favourite sweater.

Alternatively you could invest in a personal stylist to guide you through the process. There are a lot of services available, including my own. Email me at for more information (quote Talented Ladies Club for a discount).

By Karen Skagerlind of Wardrobe Wand.

Burberry trenchcoat and  Markus Lupfer sweater featured on