Moms try to be fashion-for­ward with­out turn­ing back the clock

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS -

When dig­ging out my sum­mer clothes, I spot­ted last year’s straw fe­dora on the top shelf of my closet. As I reached for the hat, I had a flash of the Ur­ban Out­fit­ters cat­a­log that I had just tossed in the re­cy­cling bin. The cover model’s askew fe­dora was ac­com­pa­nied by a pout, bobby socks paired with laugh­able plat­forms and some mys­tery shorts that I’m still con­fused about: an old-fash­ioned bathing suit or puffy un­der­wear?

This model didn’t look like she was head­ing to a par­ent-teacher con­fer­ence. I put the hat back on the shelf.

A sim­i­lar feel­ing of self-doubt came over me while at a friendly get-to­gether last year. I over­heard a mom neg­a­tively re­fer to an­other (ab­sent) mom as “so trendy.” She went on to de­scribe the trend-fol­lower as al­ways wear­ing skinny jeans, boots, bulky scarves … ba­si­cally ev­ery ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing I was wear­ing at that very moment. I was one head­piece away from be­ing Ni­cole Richie.

Luck­ily, I was sit­ting at a high ta­ble, so af­ter re­sign­ing to the fact that I could never stand up as long as this woman was still in the room, I had time to con­tem­plate my closet. Was I get­ting too old for trendy?

Trendy is prob­a­bly the wrong word I’m look­ing for. Young is a bet­ter fit.

I ab­so­lutely be­lieve that we should wear what makes us happy. But as moms, don’t we have to be care­ful not to con­fuse what makes us feel happy with what makes us feel young?

In the af­ter­math of hav­ing my third baby, I plowed through the “Twi­light” saga with ev­ery feed­ing. One rainy morn­ing while strolling the mall, I came dan­ger­ously close to buy­ing a Team Ed­ward T-shirt. Yes, I can blame my cloudy judg­ment on the baby fog, but I swear it seemed like a funny idea at the time.

I’m in on the joke, but I guess the joke isn’t funny any­more. I re­mem­bered Amy Poehler in “Mean Girls”: “I’m not like a reg­u­lar mom; I’m a cool mom.” This hi­lar­i­ously grotesque im­age saved me from my worst

night­mare: a clue­less mom try­ing to be some­thing she’s not.

That lit­tle voice in my head that said “Don’t buy the vam­pire T-shirt, you fool” must be an­other as­pect of women’s in­tu­ition — the same voice that says, “Get that mole checked,” or “It’s too quiet in the play­room.”

I’m just won­der­ing when my in­tu­itive lit­tle voice will urge me to start dress­ing more mom-ish. I’m not sure how the tran­si­tion hap­pens. One day, do we just go in for a rou­tine hair­cut and then walk out with our ’tildeath-do-us-part mom coif, a sweater set, crop pants and prac­ti­cal shoes? Or is it more grad­ual?

Be­lieve me; my miniskirts went in the Good­will bag la­beled “Where the hell will I wear any of this stuff again?” af­ter hav­ing my first baby. I learned that les­son af­ter hik­ing up the Mag­no­lia Café park­ing lot in a puffy mini while lug­ging an in­fant car seat. I apol­o­gize.

So I am mak­ing progress. I’m just strug­gling to let go of youth­ful ten­den­cies.

At 32, I should be long fin­ished with hum­bling For­ever 21 out­ings, but there are still days where I can’t turn down a $13 dress or $5 sun­glasses. I can’t af­ford to dress like a ma­ture adult!

I do look for­ward to be­ing an ec­cen­tric old gal — wear­ing plaid pants and big hats; hope­fully bik­ing around the lake on some tricked-out cruiser and look­ing a bit like Bon­nie Raitt (I’ve been pluck­ing a few grays out of my red hair lately). But I’m get­ting way ahead of my­self.

These are the years I’m wor­ried about — try­ing to stay age-ap­pro­pri­ate while main­tain­ing a sense of self and style.

I hope­fully have a few more years of fly­ing un­der the radar and wear­ing in­con­spic­u­ous items from teen stores, but soon enough, I’ll be run­ning into my kids’ awk­ward tween friends at the mall while swinging by the Proac­tiv kiosk.

I guess our kids will con­tinue to in­flu­ence what we wear out of the house. At birth, they stole our biki­nis and miniskirts, and in mid­dle school, they will be mor­ti­fied by ev­ery ar­ti­cle in our closet.

The ar­rival of my third child cre­ated a new trend. I call it “what­ever is on top of my ham­per from the day be­fore will do.” Six months and count­ing, she is still sleep­ing in a Pack ’n Play in my closet. Ev­ery morn­ing I pick up fallen scraps from the day be­fore to piece to­gether some­thing for car­pool.

These kids will keep us in check; but just to keep my­self from fall­ing back­ward over that fuzzy line of youth, I’ll con­tinue work­ing to­ward my fu­ture look: ad­vancedage coun­try singer in fe­dora, ham­per-div­ing for yes­ter­day’s plaid bell-bot­toms.

That’ll get the moms talk­ing.

jar­rad Hen­der­son Amer­i­cAn-StAteS­mAn

Like a lot of youth­ful moth­ers, Sarah Wit­ten­braker, 32, strug­gles with fol­low­ing the trends while know­ing soon she could run into her chil­dren’s friends at the teen stores where she likes to shop.

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