Fall Basics 101: A Starter Mom-Drobe


Mamas!  Fall is around the corner, and we're juuust about ready to start talking Fall trends.  In September. So stay tuned.

However, each time we start discussing trends here on Ain't No Mom Jeans, our inboxes flood with requests from Mamas asking us about the basics.  

Reader Lauren wrote in:

"…my clothes are woefully worn, outdated, and too big.  I've been saving money for a "reward" shopping spree when I hit my goal weight, and that day is coming quickly.  I feel overwhelmed with where to start with my buying, though; I literally need a whole new wardrobe."

Reader Kammy agrees: 

"I'm a long-time reader, but am ashamed to admit that my wardrobe has consisted of the same sweatpants and tank tops since my first son was born over 3 years ago. I'm ready to dress like a grown up, but am feeling so completely overwhelmed!  I've glanced back through your mom-drobe series, but I am still feeling so lost and just don't know where to start!"

And by the sheer number of requests we've recieved over the last two years, these Mamas aren't alone.  

So.  Before we start yapping about trends, let's talk basics.  Below I have gathered up 14 key pieces that can be considered a cornerstone of any Mama's wardrobe.  These items represent only the business of being moms (including a simple date night look).  Black-tie event?  No.  Workin' Out?  Nope.  Going to the office??  Not unless your workplace is very casual.  But for trips to the park, days at the museum, afternoons running errands…this is your starting point.  

DISCLAIMER:  The starter mom-drobe shown below is based on my style sensibility.  Which may not be yours.  That's OK.  This list is intended to be inspiration for the types of pieces to look for, not necessarily the exact pieces.  



1. T-Shirts

Featured: T by Alexander Wang Classic Jersey Tee in Gray, MIH Jeans Striped TopMadewell Dotted Anywhere Tee

I think Mamas need three types:

a. Basic Plain, Drapy Tees

Find ones you love, buy multiples.  Wear with everything.  My new favorites?  Everlane.  OH. MY. WORD.  As awesome as my James Perse, but their drapy v-necks are half the price ($25), and the Box tees?  $15.  No joke. 

b. Patterned Long Sleeve

Any pattern would work, but I personally love a good long-sleeve striped tee.  Wear it under everything and let the sleeves peek out.  Instant style.  J.Crew's striped tissue turtleneck peeks out nicely at the neck, too.

c. An Interesting Short-Sleeve Tee

Cool t-shirts are the easiest way to add style, especially on those days I'm feeling a bit uninspired.  My favorite tees have come from Stylemint lately, but I do love Madewell's dot tee (shown above).  There's no rules here, just find one you love. 


2. An Everyday Dress

Featured: Clu Ruched Cotton Jersey Dress

Find something comfy, something that doesn't require Spanx, something that will look great with tights and boots (for day) or with heels and a tiny purse (at night).  I've had luck shopping for day dresses at Zappos (especially good for nursing Mamas), and recently picked up Banana Republic's Luxe Striped T-Shirt Dress.  I'm going to hem it super-short and wear it with leggings and ankle boots.  (Or WOW – Gap and Clu collaborated on this one!)

Day dresses can be warmed up by layering them under a fab jacket (denim, perhaps?) and adding a scarf.  Or tie the flannel shirt around your waist. 


3.  Denim Jacket

Featured:  AE Denim Jacket

Mamas, bust 'em out.  Denim jackets are back in a big way.  Wear them with everything (especially pretty skirts).  More on this later. 


4. Cozy Flannel Shirt

Featured: Quiksilver Flannel Shirt

Mixed prints continue to be a BIG THING this Fall, and plaid is no exception.  A cozy plaid is a washable dirt-hider that a Mama can nurse in…a total score, right?  We find plaid so mom-friendly, that we even did a whole series on styling Plaid shirts two years ago!

Wear your plaid long with leggings (under that denim jacket!!), or tied at the waist (to show off curves) or with an animal print scarf.  Really.  J.Crew and Madewell make the best flannel shirts.  They are thin and drapy, fit perfectly, but still retain that cozy flannel feel.  

*J.Crew and Madewell are currently really low on stock.  I'll let you know when their fab plaids come in.


5. An Updated Sweatshirt

Featured: Oak Split Front Sweatshirt

We first talked about modern sweatshirts here.  And there are now so many iterations of the updated sweatshirt, it makes my head spin.  I'm totally in love with Oak's Split-front sweatshirt (shown), but each year J.Crew, ASOS, Forever 21, and Gap all have their spin (I've linked to my favs).  (Try it in cashmere for a totally luxe spin.)  I wear mine over a striped long-sleeve tee (push the sweatshirt sleeves up) with a pattterned scarf. 

If this totally isn't your style, I'm currently loving Banana Republic's Textured Knit One-Button Blazer.  Translation:  a sweatshirt in the shape of a blazer. 


6.  An Interesting Sweater

Featured: Joie Dixie Colorblock Sweater

We coined the term "Interesting Sweater" in our original Style Rules For Moms article.  Basically, find a sweater you can throw on over anything, instantly making your outfit chic.  I have two:  a cape/poncho and a big drapy one.  Both are awesome pooch-hiders.


7.  Jeans, Leggings, and Tights

featured: Levi's 535 denim leggings, Current/Elliott Boyfriend Jeans, JCrew tights, Kate Spade leggings 

a. Skinny Jeans!!   

I think everyone needs a pair of skinnies.  Yes.  Still.  I know people are buzzing about flare jeans, but buzz buzz buzz whatever.  Go buy these. I don't think skinnies are going anywhere (here's my rant).

b. Leggings

We still haven't decided on the best leggings (I have a ton I can rule out for you…) but every Mama should have a pair.  If for some reason you continue to waffle on the legging front, for God's sake grab a pair at Forever 21. $5. Done.

c.  Tights

These are still my fav tights.  But I love layering thick tights and fishnets, too.

d.  Denim that's NOT skinny

Cause we're all getting kinda sick of skinnies.  Flare denim, boyfriend jeans, whatever.  Just something to change it up.  


8. A Non-Diaper Bag Diaper Bag

Featured: Madewell Transport Rucksack

Mamas, we can do SO. MUCH. BETTER. than diaper bags.  The vaaaast majority of diaper bags are pricey and overly cutesy or just blah (Ok – except for these 50 that M found.  Of course.  I stand corrected.).  Anyway, try a chic cross-body bag, or my current fav, a back-pack.  A cool bag makes a difference, Mamas.


9. A Go-To Jacket

Featured: Topshop Varsity Jacket

Varsity jackets are big right now (and Topshop's caught my eye)….but the point here is that virtually any outfit can be made by a great jacket. Remember reader Catherine in her Parisian trench?  Or Viani's Burberry Anorak?  So whether your style is more rain jacket than military, find a gorgeous topper that you love.  Wear over everything.


10. A Patterned Scarf

Featured: J Crew Polkadot Scarf

Find a scarf that makes your heart beat fast.  Don't over-think it, nothing should match perfectly.  Also, did you see this crazy-amazing scarf tying tutorial?  Inspirational.


11. Tall, Flat Boots

Featured: Frye Melissa Button Back Boots

Many of us are getting sick of the tall boots-and-skinny jean combo, but tall, flat boots are a classic.  And once the snow hits, pretty much the only things you'll want to wear (snow down your ankle boots is NOT fun).  So if you are still missing this wardrobe basic, consider adding it to your list.  Personally, I prefer my boots in a shade of tan or camel – they look amazing with black, brown, grays, navy, etc.


12. Glam Sunnies

Featured: Madewell Hepcat Shades

I feel like I'm beating a dead horse (we've talked about glam sunnies so much….here, here and most of all here) but I do believe a great pair of sunnies can make every outfit cooler. 


13.  Ankle Boots

Featured: DV by Dolce Vita Java Bootie

These little babies have been coming on the scene for the last few years (we first talked about them here), and I think they're here to stay.  I'm especially loving the low-heeled options:  look for Isabel Marant-inspired westernish boots, or try a classic Chelsea bootie.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.  More on these in September.


14. Flat Shoes

Featured: TOMS Multi Glitter Shoes

Every Mama needs a pair of comfy, flat shoes to run around in.  I'm a TOMS girl myself (and Oooo…these are glitter) but really – any flat shoe would do!  Try a pair of oxfords, or Sperrys, smoking loafers or ballet flats.  My next pair will be either these moccasins or a pair of Bensimon sneaks, since I'm insanely picky about comfort. 

A note about color & patterns:  We often get emails from readers asking us which pair of TOMS they should pick, or which color of ballet flat – basic black, or leopard?  There's really no wrong answer here, but if you want my advice…here it is:  Go with something that makes your heart beat fast.  Leave the safe option in the store (unless, of course, the safe option makes you swoon).  Outfits become better styled when they are slightly imperfect.  And to have on shoes that are fabulous, but don't necessarily match is very, very cool.  My $.02.


That's it!  My starter wardrobe recommendations!  Any questions? 




  1. Love this post! So helpful and good to know I’m on track. HA! But seriously, I love “basics” posts because it gives such a good frame of reference for building outfits. THANKS!

  2. Thank you Shana! This is beautiful, I love that I have some of these things already, makes me feel stylish, man!
    Oh and can I just say that one of my favorite things about your blog is that everything is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct?! Thank you, spellcheckers unite!
    Once again, you guys rock my closet (one more exclamation point please!!)!!

  3. Great post! And funny… I’ve been thinking about either Minnetonka mocs or bensimons for my new comfy fall pair!
    Wondering about the everlane t’s… The drapey one says it’s dry clean in the description?! I’m really wanting to try one, but scared of that for sure! I’m desperate for some flattering drapey tees but hesitant to spend the money on something like a James perse with all the stains and little hands in my house.

  4. Love this advice! Question…so Toms can be used in place of flats?? I’ve been wanting some Toms so bad. Can they be worn with everything ballet flats can???

  5. Great suggestions, can’t wait to go shopping! You’ll have to convince me about the sweatshirt though, totally not feeling that.

  6. Are the Everlane shirts see through? I’m having that problem a lot with stuff from Stylemint – the fabric is too sheer and almost see through in most cases. I don’t want to have to wear a tank top under a simple tshirt.

  7. This is a great post, very helpful…just one question – did you say tie a flannel shirt around your waist?! I am pretty sure there is no possible way I could wear that without looking like I was back in the 90s! I don’t think I even want to cross into that danger zone!

  8. Thanks for this…I’m so excited that you wrote it partially for ME! I really like the suggestions; I’m ready for the summer heat to end so that I can enjoy scarves again. I also can’t seem to think about long-sleeved tees or sweatshirts at the moment, so thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Love the AE jean jacket!! Do you know if it’s lightweight or a thin material? I would love a lightweight one that I can wear as a part of my “outfits.”

  10. Shana, found your blog and I am in love! I’m not too far from the Main Line for you to be my personal shopper!! (I’m only half joking) Can’t wait to go through your archives. Thanks!

  11. Whyyyy must I open up 18 tabs in my browser to look at all the pretties every time I read your latest article? It’s a good thing, but a bad thing, you know!?

  12. Thanks for the feedback, Gang!
    Kristen – Oh my…M and I are crazy about grammatical errors. As in they drive us BONKERS. In the future, if you do happen to see one, let us know. I’ve been known to update posts from over a YEAR ago because I happened upon a mistake! LOL
    Megan – My Everlane tee (I have the drapy v-neck…the Ryan, I think) just washed up beautifully. It came out of the dryer a tad wrinkled, but not bad. And may have shrunk a centimeter or two, but not more than that.
    Stephanie – I HEAR YOU. YES.
    Amy – TOMS totally in place of ballet flats? Ummm…mostly. I happen to wear my ballet flats with fancy dresses on dates with my little one…TOMS would look weird. But other than that, I want to say yes….
    Christina – I have the light and dark gray everlane tees…and they are MUCH more opaque than Stylemint, though I haven’t yet tried white.
    AmyS – Do you mean tied around your waist like a sweatshirt, grunge style? No. I mean wear the flannel normally, but tie the ends around your waist instead of tucking them in, 50’s bombshell-like. Does that make more sense? LOL
    Stacie – UGH I find that they are NOT consistant. I’d go into the store and try several on.
    Kelly – Hi!! So glad you found us!
    Sarah – OMG that is on purpose! I HATE using the back button, and (incorrectly) assumed that others did too! LOL But we’re worth it, right? ps. Do you use Google Chrome as your browser? The tab mgmt in it is waaay better than the others….

  13. Re: STYLEMINT ~ if you join, don’t buy right away; you will get a coupon code in 24 hours for Buy 1, Get 1 free ($29.99 items only), BUT if you place any order before, you can’t qualify for the coupon (as you are no longer a new customer). learn from my mistake; don’t be too eager, lol! ;>
    LOVE your tips & style! Thank you so much for sharing, Shana!!

  14. In the pooch hider & interesting sweatshirt department, I LOVE Prairie Underground. Their Satellite top with leggings was my go-to in the months right after my daughter’s birth and it never failed to get compliments.

  15. Love this post. Would it be okay to wear my own varsity jacket from the 90’s or my dad’s from the 1960? I’m in love with both but maybe I should buy another more updated version.

  16. Thanks for the reminder to buy more than one of basics we love. I have one long sleeve Henley I wore with everything last fall/winter. I bought it on clearance, and when I realized I was in love it was too late. :-D. I did just order another long sleeve shirt (and took the plunge and ordered some skinnies while I was at it). If I love this shirt I’ll buy another!
    Crazy for Autumn! Thanks for this basics post.

  17. Great framework. I also have a dissolving wardrobe to be replaced. I packed it up when I moved to maternity clothes for the latest babe and refuse to get it out of the box because everything predates my first kid and is so, so sad.

  18. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had a breast reduction three months ago and have really been struggling to figure out how to dress my new shape. This gives me a good idea of where to start!

  19. thanks for this- amazing as always. I love the interesting sweater’s link but am having a hard time finding interesting sweaters at stores this season, any recommendations?

  20. I’m new to the site and TOTALLY mesmerized with all the SUPER ideas/information/trends you highlight… I’ve spent WAAAAY too much time browsing through your archives and LOVE your seasonal “basics” content. Will you possibly be putting together another one for Winter? I’d love to include some things on my Christmas wish list!

  21. What about some excerise clothes? Some sports shoes for walking or riding ones bike, a tracksuit for gardening? What do others do while being home? Mine is to walk the kids to school, to grow our own veggies as much as I can , to walk the dog which is at a much faster pace than the school trip? Any swimmers out there? Any one wear underwear? Wear socks? Do you need a rain jacket? A wooly hat? A sun hat? Johanne

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