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Is There Hope for a Mom Seeking Style? Sure, Don't Sweat It


Dear Fashion Police: I am a 35-year-old mom of two. I have spent most of the last three years in maternity clothes, and my wardrobe now is basically nonexistent. If you had to recommend 10 basic pieces that I cannot live without, and that will remain stylish for a while, what would you choose? I need things that are easy to move in and things that wash well and hide stains well. Any suggestions you have to offer will be great. I am tired of sweats!


Dear Save: Sweats . . . the clothes we hate to love. Nothing feels so good, so comfortable, yet looks so awful after a few days (weeks, months) of wearing.

It's been decades since sweats broke out of the gym and became street wear. Take a look around--you're not the only one who has fallen back on them as a wardrobe staple. But man and woman do not live by sweats alone, and it sounds like you're overdue for an overhaul.

Before we get to the list, here are some things to keep in mind: Choose three colors that coordinate and look good on you. Stay away from very light pastels that will show dirt.

We prefer natural fibers such as cotton and wool, but some of the new microfibers are very comfortable, machine-washable and don't wrinkle. Knits are easy to take care of and also don't wrinkle as much. Read labels carefully, and don't select anything that must be dry cleaned. To preserve the life of your clothes, wash them in cold water with a mild soap and let air dry if you can. Treat stains as soon as possible.

As we've said before, buy the best quality you can afford.

As for specific items, here are some we recommend that are suitable for a variety of shapes and sizes:

* Pants with stretch: We've been touting these for a long time, especially for active women and mothers. You don't have to go for skin-tight; Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, for instance, often feature loose-fitting pants with stretch. We prefer them over regular jeans, which we've never found that comfortable.

* Wide-leg, elastic-waist pants: You can find these in prints and solids and in a variety of fabrics, such as cotton or rayon. They look best with a blouse or shirt untucked so that elastic waist doesn't show. If you're layering over the pants (a shirt plus a sweater or jacket), make sure the pieces aren't too voluminous or look sloppy.

* A shirt-jacket or non-constructed jacket: If you can find one that matches or coordinates with your pants, you'll have a casual pantsuit look that will take you lots of places. Don't choose anything too tailored or constricting.

* Cardigan sweaters: These are indispensable wardrobe staples that can be worn with pants or skirts. They come in a wide variety of colors and shapes and can be worn alone, as a twin set, or with a shirt underneath.

* Skirts: Some women find these comfortable, some don't. If you're considering a skirt, find one that is full, not straight, with a hem anywhere between below the knee and ankle-length. Look for an all-elastic or elastic-back waist for a bit more give if you need it.

* Tops: You can't go wrong with pullover knit tops in prints and solids, in textured knits and with details such as ribbon trim. These can be worn alone or under jackets and sweaters. Also look for polo shirts, or tunic tops and sweaters.

* Blouses: If you like the look of something more tailored, choose a blouse that's a little oversized to give you more room to move. Some blouses are now made with stretch fibers for added comfort.

* Dresses: As with skirts, this may not be your thing. If it is, choose dresses that fall below the knee and aren't form-fitting. Those flowing rayon dresses are always a good bet--just don't pick anything too oversized or you'll look like you're swimming in it.

* Shoes: Easy on and off is the key here--no laces or complicated closures. Try Easy Spirit, Aerosoles or the Walking Co. We've found that stretch microfiber shoes are very comfortable and wear well. Some women swear by clogs--if you like that look, go for sleek, not clunky.

* Accessories: Don't leave these out. A new pair of earrings or a belt can give you lots of style for little money. Try junior boutiques for trendy, inexpensive items.


Web site alert: If espadrilles are your shoe of choice, there's a new Web site for you. ( offers several styles and colors of the cotton canvas and jute casual shoes. There are lace-ups, sandals and the basic slip-on, all made in Spain, for under $50. As with all online shopping sites, we cannot vouch for quality or customer service. Caveat emptor, and have a nice day.

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