Frumpiness among the beautiful people

I'm not a clothes horse. I never have been. I always stole my older sister's clothes in high school, because her clothes were cool, and mine weren't. (She didn't appreciate that, by the way.) In college, everybody looked frumpy in sweats all the time anyway, so I fit right in. But by the time I got to graduate school and a profession, I had finally shedded the sweats look, got some classic pieces in my wardrobe, and felt like usually, I looked pretty good. Somebody even remarked at work once, "Speech Pathologists are always the best dressed therapists." It took me a second to realize that she was including me in her statement, but it confirmed what I had secretly hoped and suspected: I was no longer frumpy. Well, all I can say now is, Welcome to Frumpville. Population: me. Is it motherhood? Is that my problem? What is it about motherhood that makes one turn into Frump Girl? Am I the only one who looks at pictures of me before kids and thinks, "Wow, good thing DH met me back then!" Usually, I actually don't think that much about how I look, (frankly, I hang out with 3 year olds and their moms most of the time, and the moms are just as covered in bodily goo as I am) but the other night, my frumpiness was called sharply into focus. I went to a fancy shmancy work event with DH and my parents, and the song "One of these things is not like the other" went through my head all night as I was introduced to some big wigs. I was suddenly acutely aware of my unpainted toenails, my oft-bitten fingernails, my seriously unhip hairstyle that comes out of a ponytail pretty much only on Sundays, and my choice of attire that did not seem to match the other womens'. Do other mother's feel like this? Am I the only one that can deal with 2 three year olds fighting over a stick in the middle of a forest with ease, but feels uncomfortable in a room where people are wearing something besides what was at the top of the laundry pile? For right now, I guess it's not that big of a deal. Like I said, most of my associations are with other moms and little kids, neither of whom give a flying flip about what I have on. But I'm worried--will I ever be able to remember what it's like to put on something hip? Am I going to be stuck in Frumpville forever? Hey, what a great excuse to head to the mall. Shopping, anyone?


Anonymous Nate Oman said...

For the record, my wife was hands down the most beautiful woman at the event in question. No question.

6/09/2005 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Nate Oman said...

And no, she didn't pay me to write that. In fact, she doesn't even know that I have read the post or that I am commenting here. In fact, I don't think that she even knows that I know about her blog. Our marriage is like that. Quick! I hear her coming down the stairs! If she catches me blogging instead of doing the dishes, I am done for!


6/09/2005 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

I'll take you shopping. I've learned a few things about being hip from a gal in my ward who is the ultimate authority on fashion. (She goes on TV to talk about it and stuff). So, break out those emergency credit cards, baby!

6/09/2005 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs. M said...

Nate, you have extended my life by at least 1 day from all that laughter. Thanks.

Heather, I relate to the frumpiness. And the clothes from the top of the laundry pile. My body hasn't recovered yet from being pregnant w/our 3 month old, so my choice of clothing is limited to maternity clothes that I can still stand to wear or "normal" clothes that are loose enough to fit. Sign me up for the shopping trip.

6/10/2005 12:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben S. said...

FWIW, I've always thought ponytails were sexy. Alas, my lovely wife prefers to keep her hair well short of that length, so I've never seen her with one.

6/10/2005 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Nate, you are just the sweetest guy.

I have four cotton nightgowns, all the same, which I change into the minute I come home. I take off my shoes, then my bra, then slip on that comfy nightgown. I wander the yard in it, I figure I'm as covered as I could possibly be.

I don't know about frumpy, they certainly are not sexy, my husband complains every once in awhile and my neighbors just laugh.

At my age, comfort is key.

6/10/2005 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

well, I don't wear all four of them at once.

6/10/2005 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Rosalynde said...

Last night I was putting on makeup in the bathroom, and my 21-month-old wandered in, saw me powdering my nose, and immediately began tugging on my blouse begging desperately, "Carseat! Carseat! Jackie mine carseat!" I guess he's realized that I rarely put on makeup unless I'm going somewhere--and it's almost always somewhere without him!

I don't wear makeup regularly, and I literally spend less than two minutes a day on my hair (long and straight--so ponytail or just down). But I do try to put on an outfit I like--no haute couture here, mostly just Gap and Old Navy and Marshalls, but a cute sundress or cute capris and a bright t-shirt makes me feel a little more put together.

6/10/2005 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Rosalynde --

My 21 month old does the same thing! Except it's when I get him dressed. Once he's out of his jammies and into a clean outfit, he says 'car' and runs to the garage, opens the door, and tries to open the car door. I guess I don't get him dressed often enough just to hang around the house.

I like to wear clothes that are comfortable, but I'm with Rosalynde on this one, too. Looking a little bit put together for yourself really elevates the mood.

If I wear sweats all day (which I do occasionally), I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode, where Jerry tells George 'You're saying to society - I give up.'

6/10/2005 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Here's the thing Heather. You are just one of those naturally beautiful women--which means that you will never be frumpy. If you're wearing sweats, you're sporty. So just embrace sporty, be comfortable, and have fun chasing around your cute little peanut.

6/10/2005 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Man, I wish I was "one of those naturally beautiful women" like Heather. I wear makeup every day, whether I am going anywhere or not, because I'm the sort of blonde person who otherwise looks deathly ill due to blonde eyelashes, pale lips and dark (hereditary) under-eye circles. Other than the makeup, though, I'm low maintenance: no sculptured nails, pedicure or uncomfortable shoes. I shave about once a week, or more often if we're going swimming. I shop at Old Navy and Target because the clothes are cheap and comfy and somwhat "disposable," meaning if they're out of style or get pooped on one too many times, I don't feel as bad about throwing them away.

I generally feel good about my appearance when I'm with church friends, a little uneasy but okay with non-member playgroup/PTA moms (who spend more time and money on appearances than I do) but I feel like a total dog when I venture out of the suburbs and into the hip parts of Dallas.

6/10/2005 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

I'd love some advice from the Wiz, by the way. It'd be a great post!

6/10/2005 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I'm as low-maintenance as they come. I'd live in sweats if I could. And did while I wasn't working. Now I live in capris.

I never wear make up.

I go see bands play on weekends in Hollywood and just marvel (ok, more like snicker) at all the people on the sidewalks all dressed up for clubbing. Or wherever it is they're going.

6/10/2005 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

I want to one-up you on the Frump Patrol. I decided that clothes were making my life too complicated. So, when I find a shirt I like, I buy 4-6 of them (same style, different colors or patterns), wear them until they wear out, throw them out, and repeat the process. I do the same with jeans and capris.

6/10/2005 03:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

My problem is I REFUSE to go shopping and buy size ENORMOUS. So, I tell myself when I lose a few I'll go buy some clothes. Frumpy and chubby, what's not to love?

6/10/2005 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Julie -
Total threadjack here, but if you wash your jeans with vinegar (just throw it in the washing machine) it will seal the dye and prevent fading. That way you can keep it longer.

It just seems that people like you (and me) who find their favorite and stick with it, the longer they last, the better. For me, that's especially true with jeans. It's hard to find a pair I like, and I wear jeans daily.

6/10/2005 03:50:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I am 34. Over the past year as I dropped the baby #3 weight (mostly, although I still swing due to my meds I think) I have taken some care with my appearance.
Now, when I look in the mirror, something seems off.....you know? Its not that I look old, I just don't look like me as much anymore.....
So, despite my extreme frugal tendencies, I have decided that I will spend money on clothes and I will spend time on my appearance. Neither things was I willing to do 5 years ago.
So, I have, since Christmas, an almost entire new wardrobe of hip clothes.
I have discovered the long tank top. I'm tall and jeans are low rise and shirts are short and I couldn't wear any clothes! But, with a few handy long tank tops, suddenly I have choices. I can wear low rise jeans, I can buy cute shirts, and still sit down without showing 5 inches of garments!!!
I moved in August to our newer house, and my daughter started attending first grade (every day as opposed to only 9 days per month of kindergarten). So we have more of a schedule. I get up and shower and put makeup on and do my hair and put on cute new clothes. I really like the feeling.
I wear my contacts, instead of my glasses, even though it costs me money. I do my hair even though it means my kids watch Blues Clues while I do it.
I think it makes me feel more like a real person. Motherhood robs you of your identity a little too much sometimes.
And so what if my cute clothes get dirty. I can wash them. They won't last forever, but they'll go out of style just sitting in my closet waiting for something more important than a day at the park.
I'm kind of goal oriented. I picture what I want to be like, or what I want my life to be like and I go for it.
I also,since we moved to our new house, have made our bed every day for the first time ever in my life. It is really nice having a bedroom that is beautiful and has enough room for everything that needs to be in there.
I thought I just wasn't a make your bed type of person, but now I do.
Honestly my age has made a difference. When I was 25, I always had youth on my side.....but now I am losing that. What does SAHMhood mean? Does it mean that you never shower or put on nice clothes? Why does it have to mean that?
I used to wonder how a mom with a baby managed to show up at church with her hair and makeup done. Something was always more important that doing my hair and makeup.
But, now that my kids are a little older, mostly and I have a little more time, I've decided it is worth it to me.
One of the things over the past year, besides my life changes, that has affected me is the divorce of a close friend.
She goes out with friends. She dates. (She also started working a couple years ago). She takes weekend trips without her kids.
I have taken a look at my life. My husband and I for the first time have started paying a babysitter (at 6 bucks an hour) so we can date.
What does it matter if we save for retirement, if we end up divorced and fight over it anyway?
We have our friends come over and I'm so busy being mom and hostess, I'm not any fun.
I want to be fun. I remember my friends thinking I was fun.
I don't want to wait until I'm divorced and single to be fun, be a separate person from my kids, make anything but family a priority.
So, at age 34, I'm living in the present a little bit more. I'm having fun with my husband.
I don't want to get divorced and suddenly start dressing better than I did as a married woman. I don't want to get a job and start dressing better than I did as a mom.
I want to be married. I want to be a SAHM. And I want to feel good doing it, enjoy doing it, and feel like myself doing it.

6/10/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Oh, you are too, too kind. If naturally beautiful means that when I don't have make-up on I look like the walking dead, well, then thanks.

I too have the pale skin and pale eyebrows and dishwater color hair (although when I'm feeling really rich, I got blow $40 to get in colored. When I'm not feeling rich, I have roots). "Fish belly White" was an actual term used by a boy to describe the color of my skin. Yep, 10 years later, and I'm still not sure I've ever forgiven him.

DH, of course, knows better and uses terms like "Alabaster" and "Porcelein" to describe my particular shade. Smart guy.

6/10/2005 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I have really pale skin. I think it bothered me until I spent a couple years with my hair dyed dark brown (normally its light brown). I thought the look was cool.....pale skin dark hair. So I made peace with it.
Now, it would never occur to me to try to tan.
I'm white. My legs are white with veins (some of which are horrible) but I consider those to be a medical issue. Kind of like burns. If I had been scarred horribly in an accident, would I be embarrassed to show my legs? I hope not. So, my pregnancy induced, medical problem (which includes pain) of veins is nothing that I feel embarrassed about.
In fact, right now the one in my foot is paining me. I'll go put a sock on, that usually helps.
During pregnancy I had to wear the medical support hose. I would probably keep wearing it if it could actually take care of all of them. But they can't and it seems like a lot of trouble to only help some of them.

6/10/2005 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger the special one said...

JKS --
good for you,I think that it's important for us as moms to take care of ourselves. I know that when I make that extra effort to do the basics like shower every day, wear clothes that I would wear to the store ( meaning no sweats) put on a little make-up and do my hair I feel so much better that day. I can never claim to be hip, even if I were to wear something in style I just look weird, so I've become comfortable in my own clothes, jeans and a t-shirt, but I try and buy pretty t-shirst, colors that look good on me. I wasn't blessed with any fashion sense, it all went to my younger sister, ( she can wear just about anything and look cute)but I know that t-shirts and jeans look decent. I'm currently working on the losing weight thing and someday I might try capris or even *gasp* shorts!

6/10/2005 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

It makes me feel sad to hear friends say they aren't going to buy themselves any clothes (or I've heard, not going to bother with hair or makeup) until they lose weight. If your daughter got a bit chubby and outgrew her cute clothes, wouldn't you want her to feel better about herself? Would you wait until she got thin before allowing her to feel pretty? Why do we feel like it's ok to be unkind to ourselves?

JKS, I never say this, but you go, girl.

6/10/2005 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

Here are a few words or fashion advice from a mom (who has spent the last 6 years in the fashion industry - and loves comfy clothes) to a mom:

1. It's okay to wear sweatpants and all other kind of "comfy pants" --but buy a couple new pairs every year. Old Navy always has a great selection in flattering styles. Choose one in a basic color - black or grey and one in a "fashion color". If you do this, you can wear them around the house and also to the grocery store.

2. Go through all those free size XXL t-shirts that you have accumulated through the years from the charity races, girls camp, work events and get rid of all but 2 of them. And vow to only wear those two when you are deep cleaning the house. (If you happen to have sentimental attachments to more than 2 of the t-shirts--cut out the "logos" and make a quilt.) :)

3. If you followed the advice above and realize that you have no more t-shirts, go shopping for some new ones in a more appropriate size and with a more flattering cut.

4. If something has a hole in it - throw it out.

5. If something has a stain on it - make a paste out of Oxyclean and water. Smear the paste directly on the stain. Let it sit overnight. Then wash the piece of clothing one more time. If the stain is still there - throw it out.

6. Buy clothes that are the right size - no matter what kind of clothes they are. Don't just go by the size on the label. There are no sizing standards set up in the fashion industry so that basically means that every company can decide what a size 8 means. So try things on!

7. If you don't have time to try clothes on at a store (I know I never do), buy them anyway and try on at home. Find out the stores return policy so you can return what doesn't work out. I have even bought something in 3 sizes before and then returned the two that didn't fit.

8. If you feel like your style is in a slump and your wardrobe needs some serious help -- go shopping with a friend. Preferably someone who you think has some fashion sensibility and will be honest. As women, we tend to have a bit of a warped self-image. So it is nice to have someone there for a second (and usually more realistic) opinion. This second person will also help you think outside your personal style box.

9. For fancy occasions, every woman should have a basic black dress in her closet. Nothing too "fashiony". Something simple. So always keep your eye out for such a dress. You do not want to wait until you actually have an event to wear it to because by then it will be too late. Once you have this dress in your closet, update it for each occasion with newest accessories of the season.

10. A Mormon mom's best friend should be the long tank top. If you pick up a few of these, you will find that you have a whole new world of clothing opened up to you -- or maybe you will start feeling comfortable in some of the clothes you already have. Nobody likes tugging and tucking all day. There are actually a couple of UT based companies that are not only making long tank tops, but also cap sleeve camisoles that are really great. I don't know how to put up links to them though. One is Shadeclothing.com and the other is Myimageclothing.com.

Well that's all I have off the top of my head. And I really need to start cleaning my house on this fine Saturday morning. Lastly, though I want to second the comment made by Allison about waiting to lose weight to buy new clothes. Don't do it. It may seem like the frugal thing to do. Or a nice reward for losing weight, but it doesn't work like that. Clothing has the power to alter our moods and our actions. Use it for good!

6/11/2005 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Weeding the Garden said...

I will admit I am a clothes horse.. and completely obsessed with shoes.. I have way to many open toed 3 inch satin sandals.. I can't wear sweats here I would die of heat exhaustion.. Our "extra" layer is hot enough. I live in the South and the heat and humidity bad news for sweat wearers... I favor jeans, all year round, so no one is blinded by my white legs..

6/11/2005 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

You younger girls, there are a couple of things you should do now, really. Use sunscreen. My younger sisters are all sun worshippers and they all look older than me. My beautiful, but wrinkled baby sister was very insulted when a man asked if how much younger I was than her a few years back.

And buy a good moisturizer and use it a lot. I like lubraderm-lubriderm? It's not expensive, but it works pretty well and is hypoallergenic. I think.

Another thing that I do now, which I can usually afford, is I found a good hairdresser and I get a good color job a couple of times a year and keep it cut well. You don't have to do that when you're younger, but when it starts going gray, those store bought dye kits dont' do the job. You can tell the older women who have a good stylist. It's worth the money. And like I said, if you get it done well, you only have to have it done a few times a year.

I have never taken care of myself, I do look my age, but I wish I'd taken better care of my skin earlier.

Also, laugh a lot.

6/11/2005 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I wear sunscreen every day. I like the Oil of Olay moisturizer that has 15. My skin is too fair to risk to the sun, and I know that I'm the type that will never get a tan, but will still be the one who gets skin cancer. Really fair how that works, huh!

6/11/2005 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa M. said...

I could never be called treny or even cute. I have made living comfortably an art form.

I too am a SAHM. I wear *gasp* cotton pj bottoms. I love the target ones and the old navy ones. I have bright t-shirts I wear with them. THey are the capri ones, and are such a delight. Now do I wear them out? Um, I am not saying *Grin*

I am someone who struggles her way through life, and spending a lot of time on myself, hasn't been a priority since college, and I am quite content with it.

I do have a little black dress, and I do have a variety of scarves and shoes. I have one or two basic outfits that I think look really good, and an odd collection of dresses.

I expend a lot of energy on my chilis at home, and I want to be comfortable and .. "cute" for lack of a better word, for it.

I can certainly identify with your problem though.

I also agree with a good hairdresser and current cut & colour.

6/12/2005 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Carrie, I need you to help me clean out my closets. I also want one of those people who organizes your house on TV for free.

6/12/2005 08:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Rosalynde said...

Carrie (or anyone)--

I have a recurring fashion conundrum that stumps me every time: the cocktail party. I have to go to a number of these for my husband's work, and I never know what I should wear. In the past I've worn a black blouse, black-and-white knee-length pencil skirt, and black knee boots---but that feels more clubbish than cocktail party, especially with all the other women in halter dresses or spaghetti straps and stilletos. The problem, of course, modesty. I recently found a black-and-champagne short-sleeved, knee length silk dress, which I like, but it still feels a little churchy. Any suggestions for suitable yet modest cocktail attire?

6/14/2005 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

Rosalynde, I have a cute chinese silk mandarin collar dress that is modest but fancy at the same time that I have worn to my husband's office parties with heels. I saw Marisa Tomei wear one at a party once so it must be cool :-)

6/14/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...


Definitely get yourself a great/sexy pair of black shoes - thin heel and strappy or with a pointy toe (doesn't have to be stiletto, kitten heels are great and more comfortable for most cocktail parties).

I think the thing for making modest work at a cocktail party is having something in the outfit that is a little "flashy" - a purse, a brooch, big "diamond" earrings, a shirt that has sequins (even if it is a more casual style). A great look is to find a camisole with some lace and sequins at the top (I think I even saw something like this in Old Navy the other day) and wear it under a fitted white button shirt with a black skirt. Throw on those sexy shoes that you just bought and grab your silver clutch and you are out the door!

Right now is also the time to go out and pick up some "shrugs". That's what they are calling the little cropped shirts/sweaters that either tie in the front or sometimes button with one button. They are so popular right now - you can get them in just about every color and with all sorts of little trims (including sequins!). You can take these little guys and wear them over any number of strappy dresses (you just don't have the option of taking it off--but no one will know that). They are so much more flattering than a regular cardigan (which are a little matronly in my opinion) and they give you a little more freedom with the styles you can try on.

The bottom line is stay simple with the actual outfit and concentrate on the shoes, earrings and bag!!!!

6/14/2005 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger Kaimi said...


That's a question that Mardell has been asking for years. Thank you for the tips.

6/14/2005 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger Aimee "Roo" said...

i have found that when you look good on the outside, it helps you feel good on the inside. another thing? when we don't feel good on the inside, we tend to let the outside go.

i am not a mom, but i know that my mom always made sure that she looked nice even when she was in comfort clothes. i think it sends a good message to kids to see that their mom takes care of herself.

there are plenty of simple styles that are comfy, and washable, that look much better than just a big old t-shirt and pj bottoms. :)

6/15/2005 11:10:00 PM  

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