Style & the SAHM: The Quest Continues

two years later . . . .

It’s been almost two years since I wrote Style & the SAHM: A Quest, the beginning of an on-again, off-again series.  I’ve been less enthusiastic about my quest lately (gaining 20 pounds will do that to you).  Still, the quest continues.  Here are some lessons learned from the past fall and winter . . . which, in April, is helpful to no one in my hemisphere . . . you can bookmark this to read come October.  😉

1. If you try on a sweater at TJ Maxx

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and don’t buy it and then find yourself, thinking about it a lot, you should go back and buy it.  You’ll wear it a lot.  Especially, since you’ve been on the lookout for a flattering,  white, non-scratch, cableknit sweater for a long time.

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2. When in doubt, ditch the bootcut jeans and sneakers and go for skinny jeans (or LOFT curvy straight leg jeans) with boots, especially if you have a drapey top.  Also, those red bowling clown shoes were a mistake.

See example A

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vs. Examples B and C

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3. But bootcut jeans aren’t always a bad choice, if your top is more on the fitted side.  And even those red sneakers, well . . .

IMG_7660 IMG_76614. If you have a round face and broad shoulders to begin with, and then gain weight, you’ll wish you had bought more v-neck, drapey tops like this one from T.J. Maxx . . .

IMG_8211 IMG_8227and this one from Express (didn’t buy it but should have):

IMG_7639and fewer fitted crewnecks like these.  The pictures were taken when I bought them a year ago–they’re more snug now 😦

IMG_7579 IMG_76385. If you find yourself at a coffee shop wearing the same sweater as someone else, then later notice that she has taken off the sweater and is now wearing just the shirt underneath, take a good look at yourself, and ask

“Would I want be dressed like me?”

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Lesson learned: beware the siren song of the elastic waist.  When in doubt, wear jeans.  😉

Also, after two years, it was time for another closet purge.  It’s amazing how much piles up, even when I try to be pretty minimalist.

Most of these things I gave away, or am in the process of giving away.  A few I saved for a different season.  A very very few I couldn’t bear to part with and saved in hopes of losing weight.

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Now the extent of my wardrobe is this:

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and this:

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with one box in the closet of out-of-season or too-small things I’m hanging on to.

The battle against frumpiness and clutter takes constant vigilance.

Keep fighting the good fight

{And click over to Jenna’s blog for more five favorites posts.}

A New Outfit: 20,000 Pinners Can’t Be Wrong

I saw a similar ensemble on Outfit Posts blog and pinned it on a Pinterest board.  Since then, it’s been re-pinned over four thousand times.  I figure at least four other people have had the same experience, so that’s . . . 20,000 people who like this outfit.

It’s an odd accomplishment to have one of one’s Pinterest pins re-pinned over 4,000 times.  It was exciting for the first 1,000 times or so until I realized — this is a picture of someone else, on someone else’s blog.  I get the glory . . . how?

Oh, I know how!  By recreating the outfit myself and blogging about it.  That’s better.

Denim jacket, leopard scarf, LOFT curvy skinny jeans, brown boots

 

I’m linking up for the first time with What I Wore Wednesday at The Pleated Poppy.  Thanks Lindsey!
pleated poppy

Joy’s Mom Wardrobe: For When the Job You Want Is the One You Have

I’m happy to have a guest post today from Joy, who shares some lessons she’s learned in developing her SAHM style.   Joy is the mother of three littles and is also a nurse-midwife turned part-time clinical nursing instructor.  She blogs at Joy In the Morning.

It is an often-repeated adage that you should not only dress for the job you have, but also the one you want; at the moment they are one and the same ~ I want to be a stay at home mom and live out that vocation in such a way that reflects to my daughters and the world around me the pride and enjoyment I have in using my charism for caring primarily to care for my family.  (I teach part-time at a local university one semester a year.)  And how I dress helps with that.

Both style blogs like Putting it Together and Get Your Pretty On and mommy blogs like Grace’sAna’s and Rosie’s help me to dress my best, so that state of mind and appearance complement and even help each other.  I may at times feel overwhelmed & exhausted, but I truly love my life.  Sometimes a favorite piece of clothing or jewelry is just the thing to boost my energy or confidence on a tough day.

The first take-away for me is to take a go-to outfit and then tweak it up a notch.  Laura and Rachel have written so eloquently about the value of a mom uniform, and as my morning gets crazier with multiple school drop-offs I agree.

Outfit #1: Jeans ~ tank/sweater + cute shoes & jewelry: there are tons of affordable flats and wedges around this fall as well as boots of all heights; and while my favorite dangles are out right now thanks to a grabby baby these studs and necklace work just fine.

Joy 3

black tank and sweater from Motherhood Maternity, straight leg jeans from Christopher & Banks, ankle boots from Kohls.

Outfit #2: Jean skirt + tights; just as toddler-wrangling-on-the-floor-friendly, with just a touch more dress with intent vibe.

Joy 2

denim skirt ~ Christopher & Banks, black wedges ~ Target

Outfit #3: Left to myself my jeans will always be blue and my tops black or blue, but, following the inspiration of others, I’m experimenting more with the colors of the moment.

Joy 1

sweater ~ Christopher&Banks,  jeans ~ Target, tall boots ~ Charles Albert from Zulily

This leads nicely to the other  lesson, which is to know yourself: not all colors work on every person, and not every trend is meant for everyone or everyday.  For example, skinny jeans and tall boots are fun sometimes, but I feel more myself in straight legged jeans and ankle boots.  Which I suppose is the most important lesson ~ be yourself, your best self even if it means carving out a couple more minutes getting dressed and taking some risks.

Agreed, Joy! Thank you!

A New England Fall Momiform

I’m very happy to have a guest post today from my cousin-in-law, Monica. (That sweet baby girl whom you see below is my girls’ second cousin!) Monica has put together a classy, casual Fall wardrobe, which she has kindly allowed me to share with you all today:

Hi! I’m Monica and I’m a SAHM to a ten month-old girl. I have been following Laura’s Style and SAHM series for a while and have been working to apply her advice in hopes to step-up my wardrobe. I’m happy to be here to share some of my favorite wardrobe pieces, why they work for me and what I’ve learned along the way.

Probably one of the most important things I’ve learned while de-frumping my wardrobe is this: clothes simply must fit in order to look good. Most jeans are too long on me and generally look sloppy as a result. These ankle-length jeans from Banana Republic are the perfect length and look great with flats or boots.

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I’ve also learned that wearing socks with flats is a semi-big fashion no-no. So now I only wear these brown Lucky leather flats in the spring, summer and fall. Sans socks.

I like to wear bright solid colors like this festive orange sweater below. It’s just the right amount of fun for fall without risking being too Halloweenish and looking more like a kindergarten teacher than a SAHM.

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^^ I love this Boden tunic. It’s so easy to just throw on and I always feel put together when I wear it. With it, I like to wear Cresta Wool Midweight Base Layer leggings. They keep me warm, are very soft, never fade AND come with a lifetime guarantee from LLBean. Worth every penny!

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This cardigan sweater is perfect for me. It’s long, so it looks great over my leggings or skinny jeans, has a tie around my waist and is a wool/cotton blend so it keeps me warm. The cream/winter white color also works with my complexion because it doesn’t wash me out like plain white would.

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^^ A staple thrift store find: This cream colored Gap body shirt goes with everything I own. I like it because it was inexpensive, lightweight 100% cotton and the color provides a nice background for brighter statement pieces like necklaces, scarves and vests.20131015_184000

Every now and then I stumble upon a real gem at a great price. This yellow vest was a ThredUp find and I just love this fun statement piece. It serves as a nice reflector while walking in the evening, too.

Fashion for me is functional and fits my personality. I try to invest in quality foundation pieces, like jeans and shoes. Then I like to have fun with color and less expensive items that add personality to my outfit and make me feel good in what I’m wearing.

Thanks, Monica! I think you’ve put together a great Fall wardrobe!

 

Style & The SAHM: How To Look Less Bad

Never let it be said I don’t learn from my mistakes.

How To Look Less Bad

After my recent wardrobe malfunction . . .

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here’s what I’m doing differently, wearing the same pair of jeans and a similar top:

How to Look Less Bad--AFter

1.  Higher ponytail: Just putting a ponytail higher on my head looks perkier (as one commenter pointed out).

2.  Colorful cardigan:  Neutrals are classy, but I think most of us need some color.  So much gray was too blah.  The scarf, while having color, was not the right color, nor the right shape, nor tied well.  Just wrong in so many ways.  It went in the give-away bin.

3. Trimmer cut: A long, oversized cardigan, obviously, can look really good, but it takes some finesse to avoid looking like I’m wearing a bathrobe.  I don’t have finesse at 6:30 in the morning.  A more moderately-sized cardigan is more versatile.  (The gray, oversized one is going to Twice.)

4. Spiffier shoes: Birkenstocks can look okay but, like an oversized cardigan, they require some finesse.  You have to go all-out boho, I think, or be tall, thin, painfully chic and preferably blonde.    These Top-Siders are a bit more versatile.

So I think I’ve gone from an “F” to a “C” or so.

A more fashionable look with  wide-legged/flared/bootcut  jeans like these would be to wear heels.  But . . . um . . . what kind of a freak would I look like wearing heels to preschool drop off?  Another option is to wear skinny jeans with boots.  But I don’t want to wear boots on these in-between days when temps might start in the fifties but later reach the eighties.

So, my friends, you’ll have to go elsewhere for cutting edge fashion.  But stick with me if you want to peer deep into the depths of frumpdom . . . and then watch me claw my way out.

Fall Momiform FAIL

Fail, fa-FAIL!-fuh -fail.

I rolled out of bed this morning and put on what I put on almost every day: jeans, dark blue tee, gray cardigan.  Plus a scarf or necklace or something.  Today, something just didn’t feel right.  I asked Pat to snap a picture (photos are more objective than the mirror; don’t ask me why).

This, this! is what I saw:

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Huh? What the. . .  ? I can’t even . . . . How?  How is this happening to me? ??!!!

I’ve obsessed about my mom-drobe for how long now?  I have how many pins on my “cardigans” Pinterest board?  And for what?  For this???

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I love this cardigan because it feel like a comfy bathrobe . . . Earth to Laura: It looks like a comfy bathrobe!

You see?  As soon as I let my guard down, BOOM!: the frumpies are back.

So, keeping things positive . . . here’s my action plan:

For now,

  • Loose cardigan only with slim-fitting jeans; only slimmer fitting tops with aforepictured jeans (there goes that completely mix and match wardrobe I was going for);
  • Ditch this scarf, and
  • Brush up on scarf-tying skillz;
  • Only Sperrys with these jeans, no more Birks (too warm yet for boots, new shoes not in budget); and
  • Hair . . . do . . . something.

For next year,

  • More fitted cardigan
  • More color
  • Cute flats (leopard?)
  • Replace jeans
  • . . . never leave house.

Until next time, this is Laura Christine, reporting to you live from Frumpsville.  Signing off.

(Here’s the post going over  what I learned from this fiasco: How to Look Less Bad.  Also, I sold the cardigan on eBay for like $15.  Not a total loss.)

Finding the Perfect Jeans (and Why They Might Be In Your Closet) [Style and the SAHM]

I recently have come closer to my goal of having four pairs of jeans to wear for my everyday “Mom Uniform.”  I haven’t yet reached denim Nirvana, but I’m closer than where I was a few months ago.    Below are some things I’ve learned along the way.

#1: Alterations are your friend.  I have read in many places, including Audrey’s blog, Christina’s blog and Trena’s comments on my post, that one should buy jeans to fit in the thighs and seat and have them altered to fit at the waist.  I nodded my head and thought, “Yeah, that makes sense.  I’ll totally do that next time I buy jeans.”  Then it occurred to me:

Why not do that with the jeans I already own?

And it worked!  Exhibit A:  Levi’s trouser/bootcut jeans, purchased at a thrift store for $12 (can’t tell which style number).  I like the way they look, and they are comfy, but they stretched out too much and would be falling off by the end of the day.

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For the low low price of $15, a seamstress took them in a bit in the back waistband and seat.  (She also sewed down the pocket flaps.)  Voila!  Like new jeans.

So these pictures aren't the clearest.  I don't like taking close-ups of my bottom half.  You'll have to take my word for it: they fit better.

So these pictures aren’t the clearest. I don’t like taking close-ups of my bottom half. You’ll have to take my word for it: they fit better.

Similarly, Exhibit B: LOFT Modern cut “Marisa” crops (from last summer, no longer available that I know of).

Before:

Snug in the legs but saggy in the waist.

Snug in the legs but saggy in the waist.

After:

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Why oh why did I buy the “Modern” cut instead of the “Curvy” one?  This brings me to my next point:

#2: Curvy cut jeans are your friend:  (This might not be of much use to ladies with Banana or Apple shaped figures.  But for those, like me, with Hourglass or Pear-shaped physiques, who find themselves with some junk in the-general-area-of-if-not-exactly-in-the trunk, some tummy, but still, somewhere waaaaaay up there, a discernible waistline, read on.)

Until now I avoided “curvy” cut jeans because I’ve never been exactly bootylicious.  Also, the descriptions of most “Curvy” cut jeans say something about a small waist.  I do not think of myself as having a small waist.  I’ve got plenty of Mummy Tummy, and I hate hate hate the feeling of a tight waistband.

Somehow, though, the curvy cut really is better.  It sits above the poochiest part of the tummy but not too too high.   The waistband sits higher in the back, which keeps it above your hip bones, which in turn keep it from falling down.  If the waistband is too wide and low, physics demand that it slide down to the narrowest point (i.e., your ankles).

#3: Bootcut jeans are not so bad . . . perhaps.  I’ve avoided them because all the stylish people (like Megan and Shana) say they are best worn with heels.  Heels most definitely are not part of my Mom Uniform.  But then I happened upon these babies:

Levi’s 529 Curvy Mid-rise bootcut

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These are not perfect: the fabric is not the softest, and  the dye rubbed off on my Top-Siders, even after washing the jeans a couple of times (grr).  And the tag is scratchy in the back.

Man, though, they’re comfortable and, I think, decent looking.  They stretch out a little with wear, but not too much.  I went around exclaiming at random intervals, “It is so great to have a comfortable pair of jeans.”  Pat thinks I’m crazy for ever wearing anything but comfortable jeans, but there you have it.

(I would have bought straight-leg instead but they were cut differently.  By the way, the cut seems to differ depending on the wash.   I think the back pockets are best in this particular dark wash.)

They’re not so stylish with flats or sneaks, but seriously, who cares?  Everyone I hang out with wears bootcut jeans with everything, so who do I think I am?  Also, they’re snug enough at the knees that I can tuck them in my boots if I fold them just right.  (See this tip.)  Maybe eventually I’ll see if my seamstress can pull a Dwija, but for now, they’re okay.

#4: If jeans barely touch the floor when you’re in socks in the dressing room, they’re too short.  *Sigh*  At 5′ 7.5″, I really need to get in the habit of buying Longs and having them hemmed up.  I never want to bother taking them to the seamstress, so I talk myself into regular length, but they’re just not quite right, even with flats.  And forget about heels.

Lose the shoes already, Laura!  I've tried getting rid of them so many times, but they're like ugly, patent leather boomerangs.

Lose the shoes already, Laura! I’ve tried getting rid of them so many times, but they keep coming back like ugly, patent leather boomerangs.

#5: Perfect jeans are hard to come by.  Duh.  All of the above three pairs sag occasionally, and I have to hike them up every hour or so.  But that’s improvement from every five minutes, so, you know: progress.

Perhaps my perfect pair of jeans is out there somewhere with all those really high-end, $100+ models.  I haven’t gone there yet.  For now, a little bit of sagging is just the way it’s gonna be until (unless?) truly high-waisted jeans become fashionable again.  Poor Jessica Simpson tried valiantly but failed miserably.

Thanks for taking one for the team, Jess!

I now have three pairs of pretty good jeans, plus my least-bad pair from my before-Girl 2 days.  They’re all comfortable enough that, on most days, I can talk myself out of my pajama pants.  Like Bono, I still haven’t found (exactly) what I’m looking for.  But I’m calling it good enough, as spring is upon us.  I’m working on my warm weather uniform for now, and I’ll return to the perfect jean quest in the fall.

Have you found a great-fitting pair of jeans?  Do tell!

7 Things I Learned While Shopping for (Inexpensive) Jeans

I went shopping today and learned a lot today about denim, about marketing, about the world at large.  Here I share some of my more profound insights:

— 1 —

Thanks to the modern miracles of Spandex and low-slung waistbands, ladies today have a choice of fits in their jeans: do you want them to fit for the first few hours out of the dryer?  or do you want them to fit in the later half of the day?

Choose the first:

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Jeans I already owned. Don’t stay up. Purchased at a thrift store to tide me over until I had more time to shop.

 

And you literally will be holding your pants up to keep them from falling off by the end of the day.

Choose the second and you look like this at first:

But they will loosen up in a few hours but still stay on you of their own accord.  At least that’s what the salesladies at LOFT assured me.

— 2 —

Forget everything you’ve heard about size variation and vanity sizing, blah blah blah.  LOFT’s sizes are correct.  Everyone else’s are wrong.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

— 3 —

Once you find a pair of jeans at LOFT, or course they will be out of the correct style (skinny but not ankle skinny and not “super skinny” if you please), in the correct fit (curvy, not modern–after two kids I no longer am modern), in the correct color (dark but not black).  Figures.  But if you order from the store you get free shipping.  Sweet.*

*BTW, I don’t live in that lovely world in which LOFT jeans are “cheap” or even “inexpensive,” especially when (oh, the shame!) I buy them at full price.  They are still safely in the two-digit price range, however, so I’m lumping them together with truly “cheap” jeans.

— 4 —

Old Navy’s jeans are awful.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I was going to post a full picture here, but then I remembered pictures live forever on the internet.

I was going to post a full picture here, but then I remembered pictures live forever on the internet.

{*Update: over a year later, I tried Old Navy’s jeans again and they weren’t so bad. . . . I just had to go up a size to get them over my wide muscular voluptuous imposing . . . majestic thighs.  Fit your thighs and hips first!  The waistband can be altered. *)

— 5 —

Pockets are important.  It’s all about the pockets.  They need to be wide and low, not small and high.   Because whatever your pockets are, your rear end will look the opposite.

Some of the worst offenders in the pocket sizing department are the jeans for Vera Wang’s Kohl’s collection.

I like to imagine Vera personally designing each piece for the lowly Kohl’s line with the same love and care she puts into her high-end bridal gowns.  But there’s no way Vera, in all her sleek chicness:

English: Designer Vera Wang at Ralph Lauren's ...

would come up with these:

Okay, they don’t look so bad in this picture, but believe me, they are.  I think the pockets are correctly sized for pants size 00 but they don’t make the pockets bigger as the jeans get bigger.  Something like that.

— 6 —

Kohl’s has altogether too many choices.  It’s so dizzying.   They do have one line of jeans that has decent back pockets, however:

Can’t get the picture to work.  You can see it here.

(And yes, A, I did notice your back pockets the other day but, no, I’m not in the habit of checking out your behind.  Honest.)

But they don’t fit me well in the front.  (No picture, you’re welcome.)  Ah well.

— 7 —

 I think choice in general makes clothes shopping hard.  That’s why shopping for clothes at Costco is so appealing.  One or two options, no possibility of trying them on.  Grab it and go.  It works!  Have you seen how the clothing section has expanded at Costco in recent years?  People like shopping for clothes that way.

Costco’s clothing boutique

The only jeans I saw at Costco were of the Gloria Vanderbilt variety, and I had been forewarned.

Gym pants, though . . . I was in the market for gym pants, along with jeans.  I found a pair of gym pants at Old Navy that were okay, but I didn’t like the price and the fit wasn’t perfect.  Tried on a few more at another store, and they just weren’t right.

As I was walking out of Costco, however, I grabbed a pair of Kirkland brand gym pants.  I still don’t know if they fit.  They actually cost more than the pair at Old Navy.  But I didn’t have to think about it.

And really, after trying on all those jeans, they had me at “elastic waist.”

Happy weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Is Losing Weight Like Finding Your Way In the 100-Acre Wood?

Or, Why I’m Giving In and Buying New Jeans

As I’ve written before, I’ve been inspired by Jennifer Fulwiler’s account of overcoming food addiction and losing weight through her “saint diet,” which is similar to the Perfect Health Diet that Pat and I are following.  Jennifer wrote a really inspiring post about how she finally got on the path to healthy eating habits when she was pregnant and her focus wasn’t on losing weight.  Only when she stopped trying to lose weight did she start losing weight.

Well, I do want to lose weight.  Not a lot of weight, just the last few pounds I need to get back into the jeans I was wearing two years ago.  So far I’m not losing weight on the Perfect Health Diet.  (The only weight loss method that reliably works for me is restricting and counting calories, and who wants to do that??)

Perhaps I need to stop trying to lose weight in order to lose weight.  It reminds me of Pooh and Rabbit and Piglet’s predicament when they got lost and kept circling around and coming back to the same sand pit:

“How would it be,” said Pooh slowly, “if, as soon as we’re out of sight of this Pit, we try to find it again?”

“What’s the good of that?” said Rabbit.

“Well,” said Pooh, “we keep looking for Home and not finding it, so I thought that if we looked for this Pit, we’d be sure not to find it, which would be a Good Thing, because then we might find something that we weren’t looking for, which might be just what we were looking for, really.”

“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.

“No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it on the way.”

What does all this have to do with buying jeans?  Well . . .

I have six pairs of full-length jeans, all the same size on the label but of varying actual sizes.  Only the three biggest pairs currently fit: two Limited “Cassidy” bootcut jeans that I’ve had for over six years, and one Gap “Long and Lean” pair that I picked up at a yard sale somewhere.  I have refused to buy new jeans in the past 10 months since Girl 2 was born (okay, except two cropped pairs I bought to get me through the summer), because Iamgonnagetbackintomyoldjeansgoshdarnit!! The pairs that currently fit all look more or less like this:

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I’ve genuinely worn a hole in the knee of one pair:

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Apparently bootcut pants are sooooooo passe, and they drag on the ground a bit when I wear sneakers.  Also, I like tucking my jeans into my boots to show off all that pleather.  So hide-you-boots-cut jeans are sub-optimal for many reasons.

Lately I’ve taken to pegging and rolling them a bit to make them the current hotness that are “boyfriend jeans” (or perhaps it’s for that “classic 80s look,” as Reliant K puts it in their how-to here).

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Then I took a good long look in the mirror:

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Hmmm.  These are more “your-boyfriend’s-mom’s jeans.”  Oops.

On Thursday I found myself with only one clean pair of jeans, plus the white cropped jeans I bought over the summer.  I previously put together an outfit, which I thought was pretty cute, using those white jeans.

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 I had a playdate at a friend’s house planned for Friday (Hi Alaina!), but I realized I would feel like a pretty silly in my accidentally-on-purpose half-tucked chambray shirt and white jeans tucked into boots . . . for a playdate.  This outfit might be nothing for people like the fabulous Shana, who wears leather short-shorts with booties while out and about with the kids,

Shana of aintnomomjeans.com

but I’m just . . . not there yet.  Plus the white crops don’t fit so well anymore. (I haven’t lost weight but the pants seem to have lost their shape.  Stupid LOFT.)  They sag and I have to hike them up continually, which makes me feel even more like a awkward, pathetic poser.

So, leaving my bootcut blue jeans clean for the playdate on Friday (I’m not above wearing jeans several times before washing, but there’s no guarantee they’d be fit to wear out again after a day at home with the girls), I was left with this to wear on Thursday:

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Perfect for the preschooler dropping-off and picking-up, diaper-changing, food-preparing, volunteer phone-calling, floor-mopping, laundry-folding day ahead.  I did have book club that night, but it was a cold night and I threw on a sweatshirt, resulting in something like this:

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So all this is a long way of saying that I’m buying new jeans!!!!  Or maybe I’ll put them on my Christmas list and, if I don’t get them from Santa, I’ll buy them for myself next time they go on sale.  I’m thinking I’ll try these:

Old Navy “Sweetheart” Skinny Jeans

or these:

Old Navy “Sweetheart” Real-Deal Straight-Leg Jeans

Old Navy’s quality has disappointed me lately.  Also, I’m wary of skinny jeans because they generally only look skinny on already-skinny people.  But Old Navy is fairly good at translating trendy styles into real-body fits.  Plus, these jeans are recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy.  What’s good enough for Mrs. Darcy is good enough for me (merely a modern Elinor Dashwood).

And even if they do fall apart after a few months, as Old Navy clothes are wont to do, maybe by then I will have lost weight.

Because I’ve stopped trying to fit into my old jeans.

The End.