A mum shares her 10 wardrobe rules for Talented Ladies

Do you love fashion but sometimes feel as if your wardrobe has fallen into a bit of a style rut? Or do you often find yourself throwing outfits together in a rush before the school run? If so, you’re not alone!

Our fashion articles are always really popular – especially our mum fashion test. Now freelance journalist and mum of two Samantha Downes takes it one step further, by sharing her 10 wardrobe rules for Talented Ladies.

I’m determined to be well dressed

I’ve always loved dressing up, and there are few things that excite me more than new season fashion. But, and it’s a big but when you have the wardrobes of two other people (or three if you add my husband) to organise, as a mum your own sartorial desires tend to get sidelined or worse – completely forgotten.

However I’ve made a determined effort to make sure that – bar exceptional circumstances such as late pregnancy and morning sickness – I am the best dressed I can be.

I gave up comparing myself to others, or even dressing to please others, a while ago. That said, I do have fashion role models – women who have obviously made an effort but don’t look as if they have tried too hard or been a slave to fashion (women like Julianne Moore, Prof Susan Greenfield, Madonna, even Geri Halliwell). And they have one thing in common – they don’t wear much black and they have their own thing going on.

I’ve finally cracked my mum style

So, taking a leaf out of their book, and after two pregnancies (mostly stylish but with the odd mismatched sock and holey legging) and nearly two decades as a working woman, I think I’ve finally cracked the clothes thing. 

True, I may have hair with three inch roots (I tell everyone I’ve ombre-ed it), but I make a concerted daily effort to be the best dressed mummy I can be – whether I’m working or not. And to help you, I’ve boiled my technique down into 10 wardrobe rules for Talented Ladies.

Start with grooming

But first, we need to talk about grooming. And before you panic, we’re only covering the bare basics (after all, I am the woman with three inch hair roots…).

  • Nails – you don’t have to wear loads of nail polish or have a weekly shellac (if you have young children you’re excused) but filing your nails is probably a good idea. Tweezing your brows is definitely a good idea, and if you can dye them and your eyelashes, even better.
  • Hair style – boring but starts with a good cut. I’ve found through bitter experience having a one length long bob with fringe means I can tie my hair back and just wash the fringe on a bad day. I can grow it a few inches or chop it a few inches for a change that’s not too drastic. On a good I might even blow dry it, but dry shampoo is my friend.
  • Hair colour – Having been very blonde and very dark, I’ve been told it’s best to keep to two shades lighter or darker than your natural colour, especially if you have a lot of grey. If you do want to go a lot darker or lighter have it done at a hairdresser, who can give you a proper tonal look (there’s nothing more ageing than an overall hair colour).
  • Hair pieces – a hairpiece is also a brilliant fall back. I’ve got ponytails and am about to buy a fishtail plait.
  • Makeup -makeup need not take too long either. A CC cream with a primer base and a concealer should give you the coverage you need. I use Estee Lauder Double Wear (bought with Boots points) and the Boots No7 version, as well as Benefit’s pore professional and bo-ing concealer. I finish with a slick of gloss (Bobby Brown) and eyeshadow (I use my Bobbi Brown eyeshadow palette to do my brows and use the darker colour as an eyeliner). Time allowing, a Boots No17 bronzer or blush completes the look.

My 10 wardrobe rules for Talented Ladies

So now we’ve sorted the basics, what should a Talented Ladies’ wardrobe look like? Here are my personal 10 style rules – the 10 items or styles of clothing I consider my wardrobe must-haves.

1) Wear black sparingly

If you are going to dress yourself in this unforgiving colour, wear it with some style as it can age women by 10 years. I’ve got a skater style Reiss black dress and an All Saints asymetric ‘prom style’ dress – both have unusual detailing but are always best worn with a subtle  fake tan and interesting accessories.

2) A dress that’s not black

Boden have got a great line in multi-coloured fun but stylish dresses, I’ve got my eye on a pink skater wool dress when the next discount code comes round. Next have also got some pink dresses in stock this autumn. Gap also have some denim dresses in stock which can be dressed up or down. Sorted.

3) A black dress with detailing

I’ve got a Coast dress from 2009 which has lace paneling, this  gives it an edge – it can be worn into work and then out for drinks (when there’s a babysitter booked obviously) even if it’s an interesting bow or tie detail. Black is too boring to worn as basic, unless you are wearing high heels.

4) Skirts

Yes skirts are back. I’ve a chocolate brown leather Marks and Spencer midi skirt bought on eBay from the Autumn Winter 2010 and it goes with everything. Next have a faux leather midi skirt which is £39, or for £26 they do a black pleated skirt which I’m wearing almost every day. It looks great with most shoes and tops and is washable!

5) Converse or (supportive) comfortable shoes

Of course in black if you really must. I’ve also got many different trainers – cheap and expensive pairs that I wear to and from work. Three epidurals and tight pelvic muscles means I have to be careful of my back, and cool trainers are a great way of looking great and feeling comfy. I avoid very flat shoes to protect my ankles and would advise you do too.

6) Jeans

Of course. And the more the better. I have lots of lots of cheap pairs and one expensive pair for ‘best’. I’m debating splashing out my first pay packet (after the taxman has had his payoff) on a full-price pair of high waisted J Crew jeans (this will be my most expensive purchase ever). I’ve got several J Crew jeans bought on eBay for less than £10 all of which are stand out pieces. My other favourite brands are Top Shop, Oasis and Tu by Gok (Sainsburys) all sourced in the sales. And in every colour, even pink.

7)  Tops

Long sleeve and short sleeve t shirts, vests. Not much point spending much on these. Gap and Next in the sale. My fitness regime means I often wear a Sweaty Betty running top with jeans to work and get changed later. I’ve also been known to wear my Gap sport tops as workwear underneath a jacket.

8) Jackets and coats

I’ve got loads of jackets, bomber, faux leather, faux fur and several smart coats. All good brands but bought either on eBay or through Friends (a local dress agency). The fake leather biker style and my All Saints bomber (bought on eBay) are my black items. The rest are shades of khaki, blue, magenta and brown. Because I’ve spent less than £20 on most of them I don’t feel quite so guilty about having so many. Plus I never have the dilemma of what coat to wear (well almost never).

9) One pair of comfortable smart shoes

Mine are Mary Jane style from Marks and Spencer with a two inch heel. I don’t wear them very often. But they are there just in case.

10) High heels

If you have the cash, of course, to go with all your lovely clothes. I’m saving my money and buying trainers and a new handbag. Oh and do not darken my door with beige or tan coloured heels. And don’t ask me to say why…

Just do your best – and feel like you!

Of course, the most important thing is not what you wear, but how you feel. You should feel comfortable and confident in your clothes – whether you’re wearing an old tracksuit or designer dress. And most importantly you should feel like you.

Because when you’re happy and confident, you’ll feel like you can take on the world and win… and you probably will!

Samantha Downes is a freelance journalist and the author of several finance guides and books.