As a fashion editor, I relish in trying the latest trends and of-the-moment designer pieces (when I can get my hands on them), but as a mom to a 20-month-old, I realize that not every fashion-forward (and expensive) piece is always practical with a toddler. Any mom reading this will know all too well about runny noses being wiped on nice silk blouses or dirty shoes smearing all over chic white pants. Motherhood is messy (in all aspects), and I’ve learned some lessons in dressing for the job—both jobs in my case.
My working wardrobe has certainly had to adjust slightly with a child. But that doesn’t mean I sacrifice on style. In fact, my working-mom capsule wardrobe consists of elevated, comfortable, and practical trusty basics that will not only look polished and chic at work (or right now, for all my Zoom meetings) but are also easy enough to move and play in and inexpensive enough that I’m not overly precious about getting a spill or snag on them.
Below, I’m sharing some of my go-to pieces I rely on time and again as a busy working mom—all under $150. And if you’re not a mom, they’re excellent staples to have in your wardrobe all the same.
1. Stretchy Jeans & Pant-Legging Hybrids
Sure, there's definitely a time and place for cool rigid denim, but being able to move around quickly and comfortably is the name of the game when you have a little one. I don't have much patience for any clothing that's not comfortable these days! So when it comes to pants, I always favor jeans with stretch and pants that feel like leggings. Great options for après work lifting and playing with the kiddo.
I've owned these crazy-soft, stretchy black skinny jeans from Madewell for years. They are super comfortable and pair well with practically everything in my closet. I'm also a fan of Everlane's comfort stretch jeans.
While these comfy, luxe pants are on the pricier side, they're an excellent investment because of the quality, fabric, and comfort. However, there are plenty of legging-pant hybrids out there that are polished, comfortable, and budget-friendly. I'm particularly loving split-hem pants that have a slightly more sophisticated and of-the-moment feel.
2. Black Tops
I will never not wear white. Practically half my wardrobe is made up of white blouses and dresses, and I love (with a capital L) the fresh and versatile hue immensely. However, on weekdays when I know I'll be picking up my toddler after work or moving around with him a lot, chic black tops are my go-to. They are versatile and polished for work and will disguise any spills or accidents that come my way.
A fitted black long-sleeve top is a perfect day-to-night option and conceals spills much more effectively than other colors.
3. Chic and Comfy Flats
I love my kitten heels and block heels for work, but since I run around a lot after my energetic toddler, I generally favor a chic, polished, and comfortable pair of flats. Soft, suede loafers, ballet flats, mules, and leather slides are my favorites.
These soft suede loafers are comfortable and polished, plus the versatile beige hue pairs well with practically everything in my closet.
4. An Effortless Poplin Dress
On days when I have no time to think, an easy and effortless poplin dress is my answer. I'm particularly fond of comfortable, non-restrictive billowy dresses—especially while I'm seeking ease and comfort right now while working from home through quarantine. (And yes—living dangerously in white here!)
5. A Versatile Blazer
No matter how tired, low-energy, or disheveled you feel on certain days, I wholeheartedly believe a blazer is the answer to looking instantly chic and put-together. Ideal for busy moms.
6. Small Hoop Earrings
A pair of chic gold hoops always makes me look polished and put-together no matter what I'm wearing. Much like a blazer, they'll add an instant enlivening effect to your working wardrobe. I like to go for a smaller-size hoop so the little one doesn't pull my ear off.
7. An Oversize Button-Down
No wardrobe is complete without a classic button-down, and it's an item I fall back on time and again when I want to feel comfortable but look smart. It's an excellent option if you're breastfeeding or pumping, as you don't have to take your whole top off to do so.
Judith is the senior fashion market editor at Who What Wear and has worked in fashion for nearly a decade. Judith started on the Shop Who What Wear team, creating content and managing a team of merchandisers for the Who What Wear shopping app. She later crossed over to the editorial team, where she shares the coolest, most desirable fashion market finds and brands in her shopping-focused stories and social takeovers. She has become one of the top affiliate earners during her six plus years at Who What Wear. Before working in fashion, Judith was a TV host on the PBS travel show Globe Trekker (airing on Netflix and Amazon Prime) and shared her passion for travel and food. She studied at the prestigious London Academy of Dramatic Arts as well as Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. She later studied fashion merchandising and design, which laid the foundation for her career in fashion.
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