For the past 16 years, I worked in Corporate America. My wardrobe could be easily classified into one of two categories — Work, or Work-Out. My work clothes are beautiful; they are expensive, they feel so good to wear, they are (of course) dry clean only. My work out clothes, in stark contrast (which makes classification between the two very easy) are holdovers from college: intramural or club t-shirts and shorts that have managed to only fray vs. dissentigrating in the washer/dryer as some of their compatriots did over time. Being the cheapskate that I am, even though I earned enough money, I couldn’t justify spending money in the “casual” wardrobe category when clothes for work cost so much….and when all you’re doing on the weekends is running after babies and toddlers, no one really cares if your shirt says “Spring Fling 1992”.
But now in the world of small business and an exponential increase in playdates, I face a dilemma: What to Wear. Neither of my two wardrobe options quite fit. With a starving entrepreneur’s salary (read: $0 coming in), and Baby #3 on the way, this is hardly the time I should be buying new clothes. BUT, in the spirit of necessity, I must. Now, I’m going to ask you to suspend your belief for a minute that I will actually buy these clothes….with Baby #3 due in April, any clothes I buy right now are going to be maternity. But my first step in wardrobe updating was to figure out just what is fashionable – since I don’t read the beauty & fashion magazines anymore, I needed to do some research.
And then I thought – I wonder if I could update my wardrobe for fall (theoretically speaking) for $300 or less? Is that possible? Well, ladies, yes it is. Quite possible, in fact.
See what I selected below after spending several hours perusing online stores – all of which have locations widely available for your offline shopping pleasure. And, if you’re scoping out maternity clothes (like me) I will be submitting the “$300 Fall Maternity Wardrobe” in a couple of weeks, so check back!
First, I’ll share with you the parameters that guided my search:
- Nothing white (except for under-layers). Big color these days, but honestly, not for Moms. Or at least not for Moms who can’t get dressed and walk immediately out the door without sticky hands and fingers clawing – er, hugging – them on the way out. Really, how long would a white sweater stay white with toddlers around?
- Nothing sleeveless. I thought when you had young children, your biceps were automatically supposed to become more defined from lifting / carrying kids. For the first time in my life, I looked forward to showing off my arms. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen to everyone, and hasn’t happened to me. So my arms will be well hidden inside sleeves (you can thank me for that when you see me).
- Nothing with tummy bulk. I saw some cute “kangaroo” sweaters at Old Navy that I considered, but then thought of the extra inches around my middle that haven’t gone away after my second child and decided I didn’t need any extra padding around my stomach. I know I’m not alone among Moms in that issue.
- Nothing that impedes a Mom’s ability to carry kids around on her hip, back, shoulders, etc. Even though both my children now have the ability to walk quite well, I end up carrying at least one of them most of the time we’re out (and not always my youngest and lightest weight, unfortunately). So while I saw a few very cute “sweater capes” and “raglan sleeve” tops, practicality trumps fashion, and you won’t see anything like that here.
What I did find were 10 great basics, at no-guilt prices, that provide fashion, versatility, and enough “umph” for your buck that you will look hip without breaking the bank. They include options for everyday wear, a festive outing, and pulled-together looks for meetings. All of them add up to $300.34 total, including tax (at 8.25%). Hope it gives you some ideas for your own wardrobe updating this fall!
Every woman needs a hard-working, great fitting pair or jeans. If you are less than toned (like me) and need a little extra forgiveness, I highly recommend the Lee brand. I hate to say this, but they really are cut for a woman who’s had kids …. we all know what changes that brings to your hips and tummy. JCPenney carries a wide selection of Lee Jeans; I chose the Relaxed Fit Straight Leg Jeans with a bit of stretch in them, in a dark denim color (Mystic Hand Blue). $29.99.
I have these Old Navy khaki pants in a different color. For fall, I thought the black pair would provide the most versatility and mix/match options. They are the “Women’s Perfect Khakis”, $29.99.
Cute fall top
Old Navy has a ton of options. I personally like the empire waist style now that my tummy is not as flat as it was in my 20’s. I am also a sucker for pink (obviously), and love solids vs. prints, so I chose this cross-over top in Hollyhock. $24.50.
Cute fall sweater
Every fall wardrobe needs a soft, cozy sweater. I loved this one at Old Navy. The shawl collar just seems to scream coziness. Shawl collar sweater, crimson red, $34.50.
Button down shirt
Nothing provides more versatility than a button down shirt. Old Navy has lots of colors to choose from, but white gives the most options. Just be sure to wear something over it around the kids…at least until you’re out the door. Here’s their basic white option, $20.00.
An option like the Kohl’s Croft & Barrow Quilted Corduroy Jacket looks appropriate at a casual business meeting, a volunteer group meeting, or running errands. Found it on sale for $23.99, marked down from $50. Several colors available, I liked the Faded Pine green.
For dressier occasions, this Old Navy Chiffon Top top can be paired with the wide leg dress pants (below). Or, for just an evening out to dinner with your husband or girlfriends, you could wear it with jeans and heels. Loved the Spilled Wine color, $29.50.
Wide leg dress pants
You can wear these dress pants with the chiffon top above for dressier occasions, or even paired with the quilted jacket for a more casual look. Very flattering cut for those of us “pear-shaped” ladies. They’re from Target, Mossimo brand, in Ebony, $24.99.
It’s not a fall wardrobe without a cute pair of boots. These can be worn with everything above. They are seriously the cutest ones I found under $50 (boots were the hardest piece to find and fit into the $300 budget). They’re from Target, Merona Kenna Short Boots in black, $29.99.
Hoodie & pants
And for all those very active days (playdate, errands, or just no shower), activewear sets let you still looked pulled together (somewhat). Can’t beat Old Navy’s prices on these; I liked this microfleece hoodie set in Green. So even if you’re sleepy and low energy, no one will be able to tell with this upbeat color. $15 each piece.