I loved the show What Not to Wear that used to air on TLC. I think you can still catch reruns of it at odd hours of the day. I was captivated by the buildup to the final makeover reveals and became armed with the knowledge of what clothing works best for different body types (spoiler alert: it’s always straight leg jeans and a blazer). And while I’m not a fashionista, I sure as hell dressed better than the women they paraded on that show, so, yeah, part of the fun was judging the participants.
Their typical target was a frumpy, stay-at-home mom who took care of everyone but herself, and I was always perplexed as to why these women were so resistant to their makeovers. Free expert advice and $5,000 worth of clothes—sign me up! Dress me in whatever you want. You are the experts, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London. You know better than I do!
Now that I am one of those frumpy moms, I’ve changed my tune. No, Clinton and Stacy. No, you don’t know better than I do. I completely understand why these women were so pissed to have their sweatpants taken away from them. Chasing small children all day is not a fashion show. It’s a shitshow—sometimes literally.
And then there’s hair and makeup. Carmindy, the show’s resident makeup artist, taught every woman how to put on her “5 Minute Face.” She can talk to me when she’s perfected the “5 Second Face.” Has she ever tried to steal herself five minutes in front of the bathroom mirror with two little gremlins opening every cabinet, dumping out every drawer, and grabbing any lipstick they can reach? Five minutes can spell disaster when toddlers are nearby but not the center of attention.
At least Nick, the hairstylist, often left women’s hair long enough for a ponytail. I’m glad he did. I tried cutting my hair into a tousled bob once thinking that it would force me to style it every day. It didn’t.
While Stacy, Clinton, and their team may be fashion experts in the traditional sense, I am a fashion expert in the realistic sense. As in, I’ve curated the perfect wardrobe of sensible, inexpensive clothing for everyday wear. I like to call myself a Practical Mom instead of frumpy, because in truth, I’m in good shape and wear tight yoga pants. However, I can’t quite live up to the status of Sexy Yoga Mom. I don’t show enough skin in the right places, and my effortlessly messy ponytail is, really, just messy.
So, I’ve settled for Practical Mom, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to run errands, go to the playground, and cook dinner in a pair of straight leg jeans, a blazer, and ballet flats, as Clinton and Stacy recommend. I consider that date night attire, thank you very much.
What these fashion experts should know is that my outfits are as carefully considered as a couture evening gown, and they are perfectly unspectacular for a reason.
My running shoes provide great support for pushing a double stroller, sprinting after toddlers, and spending countless hours standing in the kitchen cooking, cleaning, and cleaning some more.
My yoga pants give me flexibility to bend over and pick up the toy I just stepped on, to squat down to hoist one child into my right arm while holding my other child in my left, and to crawl on the ground as a horsey for the amusement of my children.
My tee from Target allows me to guiltlessly feed my children spaghetti with red sauce (their favorite), pick them up when they have sticky hands, and let them nuzzle their runny noses into my shoulder.
My makeup free face and undone hair let me shave precious minutes off of my daily routine, opening just a little bit wider the window of opportunity to actually leave the house. And let’s not talk about actual shaving, OK?
I salute the women who prioritize their daily beauty routines, whether by choice or necessity. I certainly don’t think I’m better than them, but I don’t think they’re better than me either.
My choice of clothing is not due to a lack of confidence—a desire to hide behind my clothes like some of the women on What Not to Wear. For me, one of the perks of staying home is not having to rush in the morning to get myself ready. Instead, I choose to wake when the kids wake and skip the morning beauty regimen.
Sure, I like looking nice, and I do put in the effort for special appointments during the day, for the nights we go out to eat with the kids, and definitely for nights away from the kids. Other than that, when I’m running through my daily routine and my biggest interaction is making small talk with Janelle, my favorite Target cashier, then I’m fine in my practical mom gear.
I completely agree that clothes send a message about the wearer, and the message I’m sending, unapologetically, is, “Back off, Clinton and Stacy,” and also, “Thanks, Janelle. See you tomorrow!”