What Does It Actually Mean to “Dress Like a Mom”?

Pandora Sykes redefines dressing like a mom

There are many curious things about becoming a mother, but right up there is the assumption that you will suddenly “look like a mom.” (I think I might have fallen afoul of this myself pre-child: “But she doesn’t look like she has a kid!”) The subtext to the many missives I have received from brands since birth is that moms don’t wear super-sized earrings or silly shoes or daft blouses. Moms wear button-down shirts and wrap dresses and yoga pants, because they must be comfortable and breastily accessible — even, curiously, post-nursing — for the rest of their lives.

All women (not just moms) deserve to feel comfortable in their clothing. And I would never shame a woman for wanting to wear any of those things. But “comfort” is not objective; comfort is as mental as it is physical. For some women, comfort means leggings for five years straight; for others, it’s pencil skirts even to the park. One way is not better than the other. I rail against the idea that a woman should be forced to abandon and forge anew her sartorial identity just because she has a baby. What if my wardrobe is what anchors me? What if the clothes are mandatory to who I am?

All that railing aside, I have felt an inevitable gear-shift in my wardrobe. I resisted it at first, even bristled at the implication, but there is no doubt that I dress differently since I had my daughter (as everyone knows, dangly earrings beg for lobes to be stretched like taffy). Where I once regularly wore heels in the day, particularly during my newspaper career, I would never, ever reach for them now, unless I have a fancy meeting in town or an evening event. It isn’t that I am dashing around the park with a pram every day of the week and therefore need to dress with that in mind — I work Monday to Thursday and my daughter has childcare those days. It’s more that I look at the more overwrought parts of my wardrobe now and think, what’s the point?

I’ve pondered this long and hard while writing this piece: Is this why a certain style of clothing has become synonymous with motherhood? But I think it has as much to do with age and the fact that I mostly work from home (I am never too far from the fruits of my womb, but I also have few people to dress up for) as it has to do with me being a new mother. I am 31 years old now; my style has inevitably changed since I was 25. Occasionally, I am tagged in pictures from fashion weeks previous and I find myself bemused and baffled by the cacophony of accessories, the jarring hemlines and the dodgy embrace of micro-trends that clearly did not suit me. (Or perhaps they did, at that moment in time?) There is no doubt that my style is less fash-un than it used to be. But is that not merely the passing of time?

It is mandatory to give a nod to my slim privilege, which sees me able to wear my pre-partum wardrobe (though I am, like many women, super self-conscious about my still distended belly). But an oscillating body type is not an experience relegated to pregnancy alone. This is not a story about size, or my body, but one of a different lifestyle and more importantly, a different mindset. Even though I may resist the cultural forces that demand that internal changes must be reflected in my external packaging, I cannot deny that I no longer want to dress how I used to dress. Right now, my personal style is buffeting me away from things that feel like old me and nudging me toward things that are a little less… high-strung.

What I refuse to buy into, however, is the idea that adding “mom” to my list of monikers means losing myself. My definition of comfort may be evolving, but it remains my own. For me, a key tenet of that is the blazer. That you see them in two of the three looks here is reflective of how much I depend on its form. The color might be jolly as hell (see, this violently pink one by Rika) but there’s a pleasing lack of nuance for me, when it comes to the blazer. I mean that in a complementary way: you put it on and it hangs. Done. More and more, I like clothes that lack confusion. I want to put on something that needs no adjustment. No draping, or buttoning, or tying just so.

What you see here are pieces that allow me to get dressed in 30 seconds flat, without worrying that a limb is tied up in the wrong bit of fabric. Clothes that are form-fitting without being tight, or complicated. Silky dresses and slip-style skirts; blazers and vintage-style denim; boots with low heels and “gym shoes” (Gazelles, Supergas, Cariuma), as my mother would call them. As I type this, I’m wearing a Rixo dress, short and ruffled, with a plain black cashmere Whistles knit over the top and the same Prada sandals you’ll in the slideshow (which I’ve worn every day since I bought them, after much guilty deliberation). If these clothes mean “I look like a mom,” then that’s okay. Because I am one. I just happen to still look like me.

Photos by Eva K. Salvi.

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes is a contributing editor at Man Repeller, freelance journalist, stylist and consultant of She is also the co-host of the weekly news/pop-culture podcast The High Low. Follow her on Twitter @pinsykes @thehighlowshow and Instagram @pandorasykes.

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