How to Avoid Mom Frump

OK, ladies, let’s hear it: what are your best tips on avoiding mom frump? We’ve talked about it before in a general “professional frump” kind of way, as well as whether you have “mom stores” that you prefer these days — but we’ve never directly talked about how to avoid mom frump. Personally I feel like it’s become more of a challenge for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with my becoming a mother — my body changed after giving birth, as did my body image! I had a postpartum identity crisis! I barely wear heels anymore because it feels like I’m perpetually running after toddlers! (There’s also the “I’m older and care less” reasoning, aka the popular “zero f_cks to give” argument!)

So how do you avoid mom frump? Where are the battle lines for you — and do you care? Some tips that we’ve mentioned before:

Pictured: If you haven’t seen the original sketch on Mom Jeans, you must. Apparently Tina Fey and Amy Poehler told Glamour that they think the 2015 version of mom jeans is “granny panties.”

  • Pay attention to shapes and proportions, both in terms of what’s current, as well as what flatters you — including for denim, even if you only wear it on the weekends. This is a big one — if everyone is wearing skinny jeans and you’re still in bootcuts it affects every single thing you wear (pants, shoes, etc) and that in turn steeps into your work life because you’re used to those proportions. It isn’t a coincidence that skinny ankle pants for work came in around the same time as skinny jeans for weekend — and as designers try to talk us all back into flared looks for work and play the proportions will change again. We did a roundup in 2017 of some of the most-loved denim at Nordstrom, and because of all the customer feedback (even by age!) the Nordstrom site itself is a great resource. (Wearing the wrong shoes with the wrong hem length is a cardinal sin here — it’s old but I still stand by this chart on the best hem lengths for different kinds of pants). If you’re going back to work for the first time in several years, or at a weight you haven’t been at for a few years, note that even little details on things as basic as suits can change — a puffed sleeve, a shawl collar, etc.
  • Pay attention to fit. If something is too tight or too loose it’s never a good look, but especially after the baby the fit really matters. Make sure you’ve got a great mirror so you can check things from 360 degrees, whether it’s too look for back fat, bra overhang, or more.
    • A corrollary here: Get a great bra that fits you right now. We just talked about how to buy a bra a few days ago, with all sorts of tips on fit issues, so do check it out… but for moms this is particularly important because so many of us got comfortable to soft nursing bras after the baby (and, let’s face it, for many of us, breasts change after nursing). When I insist on comfort for the long haul I wear my Shapeez/Unbelievabra bras.
    • Psst: we’ve also talked about the best no-VPL underwear, especially if you don’t like thongs.
  • Frizzy hair. Postpartum hair isn’t fun — but hairspray is great to tame those frizzy wispies. If you’re beyond the postpartum stage, you can look into keratin treatments, or find an easy office updo that works for you. For my $.02, I find long hair to be easier as a mom because I can pull it up and out of my face more than I could with shoulder length hair (and, if I’m really going for a gold star, use hair spray to contain extra frizz). You may want to check out our recent discussion on Corporette on how long most women spend on their hair for work if you’re feeling bad — for most of us it isn’t long.

Readers, what are your best tips on how to avoid mom frump? Are there things you swore you’d never do that, as you’ve gotten older and gotten bigger priorities (like getting everyone out the door in the morning on time) that you now are guilty of? What common problems have you seen among friends and colleagues — or if you’ve seen women who still look chic but easy, what are they doing RIGHT?

Social media images via Deposit Photos / AllaSerebrina.how to avoid mom frump - image of family shopping

What are the best tips for avoiding mom frump -- and is it really that different from general tips on avoiding frump, like professional frump? We rounded up some of our best tips for people whose bodies may have changed recently (and may be changing again), as well as their personal identity -- to say nothing of their budget. Been there, done that... :)

Comments

  1. I haven’t quite figured this out for myself, but I think an off duty uniform really helps here, even more than at work. I find this easier to do for summer than wintr. Right now I’m just a few weeks post partum and live in casual button down shirts because it’s easy to layer over camisoles, not too form fitting and makes me feel somewhat put together with boyfriend jeans.

  2. Not a mom but how is this different for moms than other women? I don’t see how poorly fitting clothes or frizzy here leads to moms looking frumpy but childless women would still look great. Or maybe this has to do with a soccer mom stereotype? Also I am surprised frizzy hair is an entire bullet but getting more sleep, taking care of your skin, even makeup aren’t mentioned.

    • biglawanon says:

      I am a mom, and all of this.

    • Anon in DC says:

      I don’t know, I kind of get it- being a mom means going through a ton of body changes and sizes- like in the last two years I have lost and gained 45 lbs, my boobs have changed sizes probably 4 times, and I need work and casual wear and bras that also work for breastfeeding and pumping in many of those various sizes. Sooo it’s been pretty easy to get lazy and just wear that stretched out nursing tank in the summer so you can just nurse on the go instead of finding a cute shirt that fits, but might require a different bra, etc.

      Personally I’m fighting mom frump by embracing it at the moment and telling myself that after my size has stabilized after the second baby I’ll get a nice capsule wardrobe.

      • Meiqi says:

        I have a one year old, a two and a half year old, and a three and a half year old, who is with us half the time. I can relate to frizzy hair being an entire topic unto itself because now that my hair has stopped falling out in handfuls, I have a 2-3 inch regrowth “crown” that will NOT lay flat. I started wearing my hair up and using more mousse because of it. I’ve read that your hair looks so thick while pregnant because it doesn’t fall out at its normal rate. With both of my pregnancies, I lost a lot of hair in the first few months after delivery, but this time, the regrowth cowlicks are almost comical.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because your body actually changes, more than weight fluctuations, stretch marks, and cottage cheese thighs. Your stomach literally pooches (usually not until the 2nd). Things slide around, because your organs were pushed around. Your pelvic bones spread so you literally get hips. Your boobs get enormous and then sometimes droopy. That rarely happens if you haven’t had children – they stay more perky, even if they sag they’re still fuller. Some people’s hair gets curlier…or less so which leads to the frizz.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah I read this as an article about things to look out for when your body changes, especially from pregnancy. No kids here, but my body is changing quickly due to a health problem, so much of it applies now as well as hopefully later as I get back to something more like my usual self and have to think about whether my old clothes potentially look frumpy then.

  3. I’ve simplified the colors in my wardrobe significantly (and everything is washable against sticky cuddles). Now I buy a lot of black and gray, with a little olive, burgundy, and blush to give it life. There’s only a few bright colors left in my closet, and I wear those (new-ish) items occasionally when I miss color. This way everything works together. I bought a bunch of flowy blouses in the same colors to coordinate across bottoms. Mixing it up with accessories – for me, scarves, necklaces, and earrings – keeps it from getting boring.

    Also, uniforms! Mondays at work = black dress in the warmer months, a black sweater over any color pants in colder ones. My office is on the casual side of business casual, so that gives me a lot of flexibility. In the summer I wear a lot of dresses (mostly ponte, several wrap, everything washable) so there’s less mixing and matching to think about.

    I have a go-to neutral, natural makeup look that I can do in about 3 minutes just to add a little polish and to boost my confidence – I use this for everyday and have all the dry products in a single palette. I wash my long hair about twice a week and have a few go-to styles to pin it up and keep it tidy. A hair steamer/straightener has really helped with my super-curly wispies, as well as good hair spray (or clear brow gel, which I read somewhere and used successfully). I also go in for regular brow threading and schedule haircuts at regular intervals during my lunch break. Not great about getting regular mani-pedis. Grooming makes a big impact on frump, and it keeps me from falling into the no-time-for-myself rut.

    Still struggling with trends and “giving up” on my pre-baby clothes and size. But I have a loving and honest MIL who tells me that something I love and still sort of fits now is simply out-of-style. So I’m trying to be more aggressive about recognizing whether I could find and buy something like the thing in my closet today, or if it’s good enough quality to hang on to until the trend comes back around.

    One thing that helps a lot is getting clothes tailored as I’ve crossed sizes and dealt with the mommy belly. That pair of LOFT jeans that I got 40% off? $15 later, the waist fits in the back, and once I put them on, they don’t budge or sag or anything, and I feel like a million bucks. That clearance dress from Talbot’s that looks sad hitting me well below the knee but fits everywhere else? $15 bucks and the hem at the knee makes me look instantly taller and thinner. It’s totally worth it to tailor that smaller wardrobe of stuff that fits now even if that stuff isn’t as nice as your old stuff.

    Being ruthless about whether something fits and flatters me right now helps a lot with shopping. If I’m tugging at it or something doesn’t feel quite right when it’s on, that item doesn’t earn a spot in my closet. Marie Kondo’s “sparks joy” test was a game-changer for me.

    Finally, even for lounge wear, I’ve slowly upgraded from old college tee shirts that don’t flatter anyone to cute easy finds like a lantern-sleeve sweatshirt I can wear over my go-to black leggings. I feel prettier for it, which makes me happier. And if I’m playing with the kids outside around the other parents or someone stops by or we need to run to Costco, I look presentable.

  4. farrleybear says:

    Part of me bristles that the term “mom frump” is even a thing. But then again, I do honestly think being a mom brings a couple of challenges that increase the odds of looking “frumpy”: body changes post-kiddo, and less time to shop/primp/give a s**t. With that in mind, a couple thoughts:

    I have tended to embrace color more–bright lifts my mood and can make skin look better. I have started working in more floaty tops that pair with jeans and leggings. Updating boot styles every few years makes a big difference in me feeling current, and I like to invest in quality footwear. With shirts and sweaters, I’ve been going for a lower price point, but then feel more justified in following trends. I think services like stitch fix are great for this.

    I’ve been brutal with clearing out older stuff. I’m working hard on working out/eating well but I’m starting to accept that certain things will never go back to pre-baby days (wider rib cage and hips, for instance). I also am stronger/more muscular on top from carrying around heavy kiddo, and I’m trying to look at that as a good thing:)

    I agree with the comment above re tailoring–it can make such a difference.

    And finally hair–I def feel maximum frump when my roots show. But my stylist does a quick color, where I get color applied to roots, drive home, and rinse. Saves time/$$$ between full appointments.

  5. anne-on says:

    +1 to embracing a uniform. I tend to go for well fitted button down shirts (Brooks brothers red fleece!) over camisoles plus skinny jeans with flats in the summer and boots in the winter (swap jeans for shorts in the summer). I also wear a lot of tunics with leggings for fall/spring. And I’ve accepted that I simply can’t wear the same floaty sundresses I used to (or spaghetti strap camis/tops) as my child is still in the hold me while I climb you like a monkey phase. I’m lucky that preppy classic clothing is the trend in my NE city so I don’t really feel pressure to wear the latest/most trendy stuff, Brooks Brothers, Boden, Jcrew, and Lands End serve me really well.

  6. Anonymama says:

    In addition to body changes, drastically less free time and money to spend on shopping, curating clothes, and paying attention to fashion trends, and increased likelihood of kid staining, stretching clothes, theres also the fact that you basically put your entire wardrobe on ice for a year or more due to pregnancy and nursing, so it doesn’t really get the gradual updating over time that people normally do, so the little wardrobe details like how pants or sweaters fit or which boots you have will just be a little more behind the fashion curve.

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