There was a time when I was kind of cool. And I do mean, kind of.
Before I made a baby out of the barely functioning, late '70s-model junk heap that is my body, I was a bit of a clothes horse. Because I worked full time in the music industry, I had the requisite overpriced designer jeans, a mountain of cute, tight T-shirts that barely covered my belly, and various hipster accessories.
My outfits vacillated between “carefully constructed casual” and “I’m classing it up in a vintage dress.” It was the uniform of the 20-something creative professional.
I didn’t think of it as a uniform, of course. I was, like, so unique, y’all. It was my personal style. But the truth was, I could have been a stand-in for an illustration of Stuff White People Like or a street shot model for a mundane Sartorialist.
Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, with a kid and considerably less personal grooming time, fashion has taken a backseat to such selfish pursuits as sleeping, reading, and churning out articles on the best way to hang laundry. I don’t have time to look cool. And if we’re being honest, I have no idea how to look cool anymore.
My fashion barometer is broken.
It’s like I’m back in middle school, trying to rock a shirt with a quote from Shakespeare while all the other kids are wearing hypercolor.
Unlike middle school, though, I’m not alone. A lot of moms (and dads) I know or see around town have embraced what appears to be the path of least resistance: a hodge podge of their pre-child style with elements of contemporary functionality. Even when we’re trying, we have to keep utilitarian styling in mind — you never know when you’ll be forced to play rodeo monkey clown unicorn with your imaginative little dictator.
So what is the uniform, or Momiform, of choice for today’s mother? After extensive observation, by which I mean lurking around elementary schools and staring at parents like a creepy stalker, I have boiled the Momiform down to the following categories:
The “I Just Came From a Workout”
Clad in running shoes, yoga pants, a tank top and a Lululemon hoodie, this mom has found a way to wear a socially acceptable form of pajamas around town.
Particularly useful for days when a shower just ain’t happening, the “I just came from a workout” look can be worn all day or may be replaced later with …
The “I’m trying here, people”
A step up from the security blanket of elastic-waist pants, the “I’m trying here, people” typically consists of skinny jeans or leggings and a long, trendy tunic top (horizontal stripes, a recognizable Boden print, something purchased from Forever 21 in a haze of age-related shame). Shoes are often Tom’s, but may also be Converse, ballet flats, or knee-high boots worn over the jeans. This look is a favorite for stay-at-home or work-from-home mothers.
The “I Have an Excuse to Dress Up”
Common among mothers who work outside the home, this look inspires equal parts jealousy and intimidation from moms in the previous categories (like me), but actually, bwahahaha, it just means less sleep for the moms who wear this Momiform.
Decked out in heels, pencil skirts, chunky jewelry, and full hair and makeup, the “I have an excuse to dress up” mom often reverts to the “I just came from a workout” look on weekends.
The “Vegan Attachment Co-op Cyclist”
Often connected to the “Off the grid” dad (see below), the “Vegan attachment co-op cyclist” rocks layers of handmade, fair-trade dresses over organic cotton pants, hair wraps (or cute little hats), hoodies with screen-printed bicycles, and stripy loop scarves.
Often found cycling around town with their children or attending cultural events with a 3-year-old strapped to their back, this mom can be seen sporting sandals long into fall.
And what of the dads? What looks are fathers turning to as they embrace their role as Jungle-Gym-in-Chief?
The “I’m Still Totally Kewl”
For dads who want to remind the world that the Bjorn on their chest doesn’t define them, the “I’m still totally kewl” consists of a microbrew or band T-shirt, a hoodie, and jeans. Footwear options are Converse, trendy running shoes like Saucony or the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 (just the name of that sneaker alone brings a guy back 20 years), flip flops in warm weather, or for the borderline kewls creeping slowly toward “I’m not totally kewl anymore but grasping” — Keens.
The “Off the Grid”
Commonly found in cities along the Interstate 5 corridor and in places like Vermont, the “off the grid” dad can be identified by his blatant disregard for anything non-functional. Typically dressed in layered construction wear — Carharts, Birkenstocks or boots, old T-shirts over wife beater tanks under long-sleeved waffle shirts under thick chamois button-downs, the “Off the grid” is outfitted for anything — hiking, gardening, demolition, meditation, urban goat herding — he’s a man of immediate action.
Accessories include full-sleeve tattoos, nose piercings, ear plugs, and cases of Rolling Rock tucked under the seat of his truck.
En route to their Connector or Metro bus stop, you’ll see these dads in nice jeans (often designer, picked by their wives) and button-down shirts in varying shades of plaid. Footwear leans toward Euro comfort brands (Ecco, Mephisto) and accessories include black man bags loaded with technology.
Did I miss any Momiforms or Dadiforms? What have you noticed?
Cedar Burnett is a freelance writer and the mother of a fascinating 3-year-old. More at cedarburnett.com