Reader Question – How to Add Flare to Basics and Still Pack Light


Reader Question:

My husband and I are going to Italy in October for a week (my 40th bday) and I’d like some thoughts on how to give my uniform/basics/classics a slightly more sophisticated flare (and still pack pretty lightly). Any ideas (um, I’m always open to making a few good purchases)?

– Jodi


Oh Jodi.  I seriously envy you.  Italy is one of my very favorite places to visit.  And it seems like it will be an eternity indeed before I’ll visit again.  Especially on a romantic getaway with Hubs, sans kiddos.  Sigh.  Again.  Sighhhhhhhh. . .

OK.  On with it.  You’ve got shopping and packing to do.  October in Italy, like anywhere in the northern hemisphere, can be tricky.  One may start the month in shorts and end it in a turtleneck, depending on your luck and where in Italy you’re going.  Further north, in Venice, for example, average highs are in the mid 60’s (pretty chilly on the water) while averages are in the low 70’s in Rome (though both cities have enjoyed a few 80+ degree days of late according to  I went with a fall vibe, of course, but the true key to dressing in tricky weather is layering, and everything here can be layered in spades–with tanks, tees, long sleeves, leggings or tights, according to the weather, and since I’m an advocate of packing light too, nearly everything is interchangeable within each of the four sets I cooked up for you.

First up, my top picks to update and add flare to tried and true basics:


Sophisticated Flare
I am in. love. With the Fieldstone Satchel from Anthro.  Perfect as a hands-free carry on, for baby wear-ers and as a stylish diaper bag.  And with all those nice zippered closures and inside storage, sticky fingers, whether they’re your kids’ or pickpockets’, will have a tough time finding their way in un-noticed.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this showed up in my closet some time in the near future. . .  Push present, anyone?  Maybe to myself?  Early?  I am so jealous of non-preggos this season, what with all the fab colored cords and jeans floating around–such a great update to my Girbaud colored denim fixation in the early 90’s.  To my chagrin, I haven’t found a single maternity equivalent to these gorg Pilcro Superscript Cords, but I must say I am enjoying Zara’s Tricolor Snakeskin Ballerina flats.  The flats are comfy, packing and travel-friendly, soooo on-trend with the season’s snakeskin crush, and they’re more than $300 less than the $380 J.Crew authentic python version I almost bought (out of lust, not good common sense) a few weeks ago (I’d say they run a titch small, though it could be my preggo feet).  Anthro is my go-to for funky belts, and I always get them on sale.  The Elm Belt, Sycamore Earrings, Asos Tortoise Shell bangle set, and Almost Octagon shades add a really autumnal, warm vibe, without adding a lot of bulk to your suitcase or too much heat if the weather turns out to be on the warmer side for your trip.  I agonized over including this the hill-side Wool Scarf from Madewell.  I adore it and all the chic, vintage-inspired deliciousness it will add to any plain v-neck and jeans ensemble, but it is possible that it may be as warm as a Pendleton blanket, which is probably too warm for Italy in October (again, sigh. . . ), but it feels like a forever piece to me, so do consider if you’re traveling towards the middle or end of October.

October in Italy - Look 1




Flare pants
$118 –


Zara rubber shoes
$70 –


ASOS metal bangle
$37 –


Madewell wool scarve
$126 –


Leather belt
$30 –


Fieldstone Satchel
$388 –


Almost Octagon Vintage Shades
$100 –






Double Duty Day-To-Night
Again, on the theme of packing light, grab your fav jersey dress (I love that you can literally wad these up in your suitcase and they still look good on) for evenings out (or one of these three, all of which I’m drooling over), and dress it down for day with the same jewelry and accessories plus a drapey open cardigan (please, go check out the back of this Ted Baker cardi–it is fanciful and amazing) or voluminous scarf.  Add textured tights or contrasting leggings if it’s cool.  For night, go with just the brass/gold bangle, skip the chunkier ones and let your hot mama birthday self be the statement.

October in Italy - Look 2



James Perse jersey dress
$225 –


T by Alexander Wang draped dress
$140 –


Bailey 44 party dress
$190 –


Ted Baker drape cardigan
$181 –


J Crew herringbone tight
$27 –


Madewell suede boots
$230 –


Silk scarve
$198 –


Leather belt
$30 –


Almost Octagon Vintage Shades
$100 –




The Basic Basic Look
Rock those newly-hemmed Banana Republic flares you mentioned (or these drool-worthy Alexa Chung for Madewell ones) with a simple, neutral top, same accessories and another scarf option.  Whole different look.  Still packing light.

October in Italy - Look 4




Madewell mesh t shirt
$58 –


$145 –


Zara shoes
$70 –


ASOS bangle bracelet
$37 –


Madewell vintage scarve
$58 –


Fieldstone Satchel
$388 –


Almost Octagon Vintage Shades
$100 –






These not-so-basic basics will add sophisticated flare as additions to any of the above sets.  Layer them over tanks and camis and under the scarves and please excuse the re-use of S.’s suggestion for the Calson V-Neck Poncho Sweater–but it’s a perfect travel piece and it’s now on sale for $40!

October in Italy - Look 3




Caslon poncho sweater
$40 –


Cord pants
$88 –


Cheap monday
$102 –


Alternative Apparel
$40 –





Jodi, I hope this helps you on your hunt for the perfect vacation ensemble.  Happy trails and happy 40th to you!


– M.




  1. Omg Mol – that first one? Best. Set. Ever. Holy mama I want that scarf! And those pants. And bag. And flats. And sunnies. Ugh.

  2. Excellent post. Love all the items suggested -great fall wardrobe update inspiration. Well done and thank you- I need to go online shop now.

  3. all absolutely beautiful, but seriously – what planet do you live on? Who do you think can afford these outfits without a sugar daddy?!

  4. Hi "shocked," thanks for commenting.  Sorry to offend you, but I am trying to illustrate pieces that would add flare to basics.  People already have flare jeans, skinny cords, flats, t-shirts and tank tops, jersey dresses (who would buy three $150+ jersey dresses for one trip?), bangle bracelets, and printed scarves, etc., I'm just trying to show how they can work together.  We are never suggesting that readers buy every item in a write-up at Ain't No Mom Jeans, we are showing how pieces can work together pictorially, and to do that, we need to use items that are currently for sale online so that we can use the photos.

  5. I have been stalking that caslon poncho since you first featured it! Finally ordered it!
    and I am pairing it with a striped t-shirt from Loft.
    Thank you for all the inspiration

  6. I have been stalking that caslon poncho since you first featured it! Finally ordered it!
    and I am pairing it with a striped t-shirt from Loft.
    Thank you for all the inspiration

  7. Molly thank u so much for such a wonderful response to my question. Lots of great ideas that will totally work with what’s in my closet. I appreciate your taking the time to do this.

  8. Molly – I LOVE the day to night looks. Can you recommend how to wear the jersey dresses and still be friendly to (aka cover up) my mommy pooch? Great post!!! Love the ideas here – especially the accessories.

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