Forever in mom jeans? Hardly

Fashion ShowsEntertainmentNewspaper and MagazinePhilosophyAudrey HepburnKelly RipaElsa Schiaparelli

Long before Angelina adopted Maddox, and Gwyneth bore Apple, and Katie spawned Suri, mummies were yummy. Audrey Hepburn, it bears reminding, had two sons. Jackie Kennedy. Grace Kelly. Princess Diana. All, of course, moms. There's this notion of late that moms are suddenly expected to be toned and stylish and trend-conscious, thanks to "Desperate Housewives," celebrity magazines, Botox and/or Kelly Ripa.

But the pressure isn't new. Get a load of these lyrics from "Wives and Lovers," a 1963 Jack Jones song (penned by Burt Bacharach):Comb your hair, fix your makeup/Soon he will open the door/Don't think because there's a ring on your finger/You needn't try anymore .../There are girls at the office/And men will always be men/Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers/You may not see him again.

Talk about pressure.

But we all know that style isn't about keeping men from straying. It's expressive. It's artful. It's fun. "Elsa Schiaparelli said, 'Women dress to be annoying to other women,'" says Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour magazine's executive fashion editor, quoting the Italian-born French fashion designer of the 1920s and '30s. "There's nothing more annoying than a mother of three who looks better than someone who's never had children. If they have time to look fantastic, what are you doing?"

Schwartz maintains that moms actually have relaxed their standards. "In the '50s, '60s, '70s, you had the trend of the dress," she says. "So even if you didn't look good, you were in a dress and you looked good. Today it's much more functional fashion than glamorous perfection."

And on occasion, fashion has taken a back seat to function. "The '90s were all about comfort, and that was a little bit of a problem," Schwartz says. So perhaps the recent pressure is really a call to dig deep into fashion's archives for inspiration.

Polly Williams, author of "The Yummy Mummy," a 2006 novel about a young mom struggling with her new identity, says moms would be wise to ignore modern standards of style--especially those set by Us Weekly magazine. "Celebrity mothers have become a yardstick of motherhood, even though we don't all have staffs of nannies and personal trainers," Williams says. "The problem comes when women feel like failures for not meeting this new standard of perfection." But style doesn't have to mean perfection. Sometimes it's a scarf tied just so. A signature shade of lipstick. An astounding ability to find jeans that both lift your rear and shrink your thighs.

It's a challenge, of course, to find your style, maintain that style and project it for all the world to see--whether your world consists of fellow room mothers or fellow attorneys, or both. But moms have risen to the challenge for decades. "After children, you don't want to lose your identity," says Schwartz, who has three young ones. "So you're forced to think about what your identity is. You want to look different. And better."

In honor of Mother's Day, we salute three local moms who keep their fashion mojo alive and kicking. Here, Michelle, Joi and Brooke show off their favorite outfits--and their joie de vivre.

Michelle Smith
42, Grayslake
Three sons: Benjamin (5) and twins Zach and Zane (18 months).
Speech-language pathologist with Libertyville School District No. 70.
Fashion philosophy: "Find what works for you and work it. In my case, that means quality go-tos (shoes, pants, sunglasses) and tossing on something unexpected to shake it up. Finding the 'unexpecteds' is where the fun lies--and if it's '70s inspired, that's a bonus!"
Outfit: Armani Exchange shirt, Seven for All Mankind jeans, Candie's shoes and necklace from Nordstrom.

Joi Kim
36, South Loop
One son: Jason Lucas Kim (6).
Human resources professional.
Fashion philosophy: "You don't have to spend a lot of money to be stylish. I do it in a very affordable way. You just have to learn how to shop smart by knowing what style looks good on you."
Outfit: Hazel sweater, Mossimo for Target shorts, Barneys shoes.

Brooke Allen
33, Lake View
One daughter: Grace (22 months). Another baby due in September.
Stay-at-home mom.
Fashion philosophy: "I know what works for my body and personality, which sometimes isn't necessarily a current trend. Mixing inexpensive items, higher-end pieces or even an old classic from the closet makes an outfit fun, original. The main thing is to feel comfortable, to feel good when you get dressed."
Outfit: Ripe shirt and MA Los Angeles jeans, both from Kickin' maternity boutique, 2142 W. Roscoe St., Giorgio Brato sandals.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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