As a work from home mom, I was surprised at how easily I fell into the habit of wearing my work from home uniform—yoga pants occasionally stained with avocado from making kids lunches, a V-neck shirt (bra optional), a black The North Face or Burton fleece, and a cap in case my hair was a little crazy. If it was cold, I would wear a North Face vest over the fleece. On any San Francisco playground, it might have been difficult to pick me out of a crowd.

Looking like a “before” picture of a mommy make over was my own fault as I prioritize caring about my appearance somewhere after…squeezing in 8 hours of work into 6 hours, tidying up the house, going for a jog, researching kindergartens, trolling houses for sale in bay area neighborhoods I can’t afford, and picking up the kids early enough for a playground run before dinner.

My rotating line up of athleisure did not reflect who I am—a happy, career driven mom who, underneath it all, looks pretty darn good. Luckily my almost six-year-old is too young to be embarrassed of my Kramer from Seinfeld hair or that I occasionally sneak wearing pajama pants to drop her off. If it came to the point where I needed a new job, would a parent at school refer a harried yoga pant wearing mom, or a mom who looked like she had her stuff together?

Time to see a professional

I can do many things well, but styling myself is a challenge. I had enough money saved up for new clothes and decided to get a personal stylist at my local Nordstrom store where they have a free stylist to help in situations like these. Before my appointment, I gave her my parameters:

  • Casual clothes (a.k.a alternatives to yoga pants) to wear to school, playdates, after school sports, the zoo, etc.
  • Must be easy to wear while chasing after a very fast 2.5 year old.
  • Don’t want to look like I am trying too hard.
  • Don’t want to break the budget.
  • Must include alternative jackets to fleeces.

Entering my dressing room felt to me how going to Joe’s Ice Cream Parlor must feel to my kids as they see all of the yummy, sugary flavors and assorted colors of creamy icy goodness. The three way mirror only accentuated my outfit choices: colorful tops, soft stretchy jeans, sassy jackets, casual sneakers, and great alternatives to the yoga pant and v-neck top with optional bra.

All of the items were classic and not trendy so they would last a while. She added a few “out of my comfort zone” pieces like a fedora for the sun and a chambray romper. I purchased almost all of the items she picked out.

Extra pep in my step

Donned in my new outfits, I left the house with an extra pep in my step. It was similar to the feeling I had in middle school when I first started wearing contacts instead of my thick, brown-rimmed glasses. Back then, walking down the halls of middle school, I felt like I owned the world. Similarly, I noticed that people, including my husband treated me the way I felt on the inside, which was undoubtedly due in part because of the way I looked on the outside.

Part of my issue before was that I had office-wear and then athleisure with no in between. Not wanting to wear high black Cole Haan boots to the zoo (which I have done), I would default to the yoga pants and running shoes. With my new choices, I no longer toiled over what to wear to the Giants game, the zoo, gymnastics class, or book club because I had my go-to outfits that looked effortless.

I hit a snag in my new outfits

However, after the novelty of my fun outfits wore off, I longed for the cozy soft cotton with lycra blend pants with the stretchy waist. No one wants to put on skinny jeans and a button down soon after a 5:45am wake up from a toddler. Similar to the time I gave up sugary sweets for 30 days… I decided to focus on “Everything in moderation.” So I made an adjustment to the plan. I let myself wear yoga pants at least to school drop off. To keep myself on track, I make a point to wear one of my perfectly assembled outfits for the after school part of the day; especially if I am taking the kids somewhere after school.

With my youngest starting activities, I am finding that friendly moms approach me more readily when I am dressed in clean, well-put together outfits. No surprise there. At school, when I am dressed neatly I am mostly met with smiles and more energetic “Hello!” type responses instead of the commiserating, exasperated parent looks.

Key learnings

What I learned from this experience is:

  • You are what you wear
  • Yoga pants are fine in moderation
  • Busy moms need to think of themselves and their appearances sometimes
  • Comfortable clothes don’t always come from the active wear section

Without sounding like a 1960’s housewife, I think caring about your appearance and having a positive outlook is always a helpful component to a good marriage and important over all. In addition, I like my daughter seeing me making myself a priority.

I still believe in “Dress the way you want to be treated” and “Dress for the job you want,” even though I rarely head to the office. There’s nothing wrong with making a good impression any day and dressing the part is just one component of it.