A while back, I received an email from reader Cristin, titled, simply, “Post Idea”. She wrote:
Your post with Sarah at Target gave me a great idea for a future post for you: You go shopping with a mom of two whose work wardrobe needs some serious help postpartum. I even have a possible subject for you: Me! I could even come to you!
We emailed back and forth, set a date (she wanted to wait a bit to give her body more time to bounce back), and then met two weeks ago at King of Prussia mall. First order of business? Getting an idea of Cristin’s style. We did the flip-and-rip style assessment technique (you just page through super fast, and rip out anything that appeals to you on a gut level – no thinking)….and this is what we ended up with:
As you can see, Cristin’s style is fairly preppy, but also girly and romantic, which can be tough to pull off in an office environment. Also working against us? The season. Soft pastels and floral prints abound in Spring, but in the Fall, most retailers have switched to darker hues and structural shapes. Also, Cristin wanted to look like a serious yet young professional – she wanted outfits that were office appropriate, sure, but more interesting that a basic black suit and button-down.
Here’s what we came up with:
Mission: Back-To-Work Outfits For Post-Partum
At LOFT, we used the Zip Sweatshirt Jacket and the blue Sole Society Pumps to keep a basic work outfit interesting. (We left the shirt behind, since it didn’t seem to drape well.)
The Zip Sweatshirt Jacket was also used to make the Short Sleeve Lace Dress office appropriate. This dress wouldn’t work for pumping at work, but we loved how the fit-and-flare helped to define a waist and disguise her small pooch.
Another way of making this dress office-friendly is to layer it over a silk blouse (below).
We loved the intensities of the colors together. Black isn’t really Cristin’s style (nor is it great with her fair coloring and love of color)…but a bright navy works just as well. Cristin is actually wearing LOFT’s Roll Sleeve Utility blouse, but she ended up exchanging it for Ann Taylor’s similar Long Sleeve Camp Shirt (with tiny gold buttons – so girly).
The dress-over-shirt trick can be sharpened up even further with a soft blazer. In this case, Cristin is wearing LOFT’s Wild Prarie Print dress with the ruffle shirt and the Zip Sweatshirt Jacket. Truthfully, we’re on the fence with this dress. It looks good here, under a blazer, but we couldn’t decide if we liked it (which is why I didn’t include it in the collage above). I think Cristin brought it home just to give herself another option (it’s on super sale).
But we definitely loved the subtle mixed print possibilities.
Then we headed over to Ann Taylor (J.Crew was a total bust – SO disappointing, right?).
This is my personal fav. The skirt looks black in the pic, but it’s actually a bright blue tweed, and has enough color to pass Cristin’s is-it-interesting test. We paired it with a floral silk blouse that is SO Cristin’s style. I was thrilled. Ann Taylor Tweed Pencil Skirt in Dark Sky with Equipment’s ‘Brett’ Floral Print Silk Blouse .
Ann Taylor’s All Season Stretch Seamed Skirt Dress has pooch-disappearing magic. (Although, Cristin’s pooch is smaller than I expected, but it IS there. I promise.) We loved it under Ann Taylor’s Tweedy Open Jacket. Technically speaking, Cristin probably didn’t *need* two soft moto jackets, but they were both so comfortable and versatile (hello, weekend wear) that she couldn’t choose and just brought them both home.
Can you tell we were getting tired by now? But we played around with this combo: pencil skirt + silk blouse + soft jacket. All of the shirts, skirts, and jackets can be mixed interchangeably.
Oh! One more jacket:
This is the closest thing to a power jacket that we both liked. The soft gray helps to soften up the look so it still looks like Cristin’s style. It’s a better option for her than a traditional black blazer. Cristin is wearing Ann Taylor’s Felted Wool Colorblock Jacket over the Carina Striped Blouse (you can see the gold buttons) and Tweed Pencil Skirt in Dark Sky.
A Few Notes On Skirts
Because Cristin’s style is so girly and romantic, I really was hoping to incorporate a few floaty skirts. But these are tricky for the post-partum mama, and in the end, the pencil skirt shape was SO much more flattering. But I thought I’d share a few more photos so you can see what we were thinking:
The Skirt That Was Too Long…
The midi skirt is a really big trend (as are matching prints), but we couldn’t make this work. I think that you either need to be much taller (and Cristin is roughly 5′ 6″), or have a really trim middle that you are willing to show off. (Incidentally, I love the jacket she’s wearing – if Cristin ever feels like rocking a typical black blazer, this is the one.)
The Skirt That Was Too Short….
We both loved the Kate Spade leopard print dress (yup, the same one I’m wearing here)….but Cristin was already leery of leopard print at work, and the hemline was just too short for office comfort. But seriously – NO FLIPPING POOCH. That’s the power of the fit-and-flare, especially in a gorgeous fabric and print.
The Skirt That Was Just Right…
Cristin was surprised by how much she liked this outfit – it’s not really her style. But when things are flattering, you feel good. In the end, Cristin left it behind, which is probably for the best. (Her first reaction to the skirt on the hanger was “ugly”! LOL) But now she can look for similarly shaped pieces, in colors/prints she likes better.
And Finally…a Capsule Work-Wardrobe For a Post-Partum Mama
Based on what we learned working with Cristin, we can create a capsule work-wardrobe for any post-partum Mama (who resonates with Cristin’s style). And since there’s something both classic and cool about these pieces, they still feel relevant today. Here’s our update, for those post-partum Mamas shopping in 2020.
Shop the 2020 Update:
That’s it! Cristin, I had a blast shopping with you! Thank you for reaching out, for your fabulous shopping idea, and for being such a good sport.