Trackpants or jeans may be your go-to, but Sydney fashion stylist and founder of Style Sense, Kim Crowley, shares her secrets for developing your personal style without compromising on practicality or breaking the bank. She explains how to feel more like ‘you’ again, the four most flattering colours in the world, plus the one mum staple we should all avoid…
After studying at the London College of Fashion, Kim Crowley has worked in the fashion industry for over twenty-one years including as a designer for several international high street brands. Now, she says she was part of the fast-fashion problem and is dedicated to being part of the solution by helping mums find and develop their unique style and shop more consciously.
“I want to help take the stigma away from fashion and help breakdown the process of dressing well so that mums, in particular, can feel good in the clothes they choose to wear.
It’s about being a bit more mindful and having a strategy about it. We know how to consume, we are very good at that, but now we have a wardrobe of clothes that don’t get worn.
“We don’t actually know how to dress ourselves, and that fascinates me.”
As a mum, Kim understands the metamorphosis we all undergo as we become a mother, “As soon as you have a child and you start pushing a pram around, you immediately feel mumsy. And before that, your body is changing, you’re wearing maternity clothes and it’s easy to feel frumpy. Also, our body shape changes when we have children. We all tend to become a bit more apple-shaped. We have to consider that because you can’t escape it, but it’s not an excuse.”
Whilst some may think that they don’t have the time money and energy to put into their appearance, Kim has this advice, “I don’t tell mums to dress up, I say, ‘dress better’. That doesn’t mean spend a fortune, it just means update a few key bits. I lived in my active wear for a long time and people would tell me to ‘dress up a bit’, but I felt like they were telling me to put something sparkly on or wear a full face of make-up—but that’s the other extreme, when in fact there’s a whole big area in the middle to play with depending on who we are, what we want to achieve and how we want to feel.”
Know where to invest and what to avoid
As for practical advice, Kim’s top tip to update your style is to invest in a new style of jeans. “A new jean shape is key because it’s an item that gets worn on high rotation for parks, playdates and those endless doctor appointments. Rather than living in your skinnies, maybe try a mom jean or opt for a cinch waist, or perhaps a wedgie fit where it’s more fitted at the hip and then parallel through the leg.”
Furthermore, “the best way to compensate for feeling mumsy is to go to the other extreme and add something with a bit of attitude. Including a leopard print purse, even inside your nappy bag, or a pair of shoes with some studs on balances out the mum label and can help you to feel more like ‘you’ again. But one of the most unflattering things we can wear is actually the black round-toed ballet flat! They don’t do anyone any favours.”
Lots of mums hold off on investing in their wardrobe until they reach their ideal weight. Kim says one of the reasons she set up her business was in response to the debilitating self-talk that women engage in. We are so cruel to ourselves and Kim adds, “We literally cut ourselves into pieces saying, ‘I like this bit; I hate this bit’ (whilst pointing at forearms, then upper arms). My male clients will just look at themselves and go, ‘Yep. I’m good’. The difference is amazing. And this way of talking to ourselves gets passed down to our children. We need to start to understand that we all have good features, and you can dress to highlight them. In fact, one of my clients said, ‘I want to dress for my body, not find a new diet’.” Isn’t that just spot on?
“Mums are martyrs. We give excuses as to why we can’t spoil ourselves; we tell ourselves it’s too indulgent. Glennon Doyle, in her book, Untamed, explains that we should not be martyrs but instead remember that we are role models to our children. We need to stop the idea that, ‘Oh, no I can’t, I’m a mum’. Actually, it’s precisely because you are a mum that you should be nice to yourself! It’s like on an aeroplane when they tell you to attend you your own oxygen mask first.
You need to look after yourself before you can care for others.
Plus, your children see that you value your self-worth and that’s the most powerful lesson you can teach them”
Discover your personal style
So how do you begin to discover your personal style and figure out what looks good on you? “Have a think about the pieces that you wear a lot and why you wear them. Then, who do you look at for inspiration? Do they have a really clean style, do they wear soft fabrics or really structured pieces? Just try and diagnose why you like what you like,” Kim says.
But what if I like lots of different things? Kim shares this wisdom, “I find it really interesting that we try and sum up personal style with labels like ‘boho’ or ‘minimal’, but that’s such a dated way of doing it. It’s actually the way we wear our clothes that’s important. We end up with a blended style like, ‘I’m classic with an edge and a little bit of boho’. It’s the way you wear your looks—whether that’s oversized, tighter fitting, structured—that’s your personal style. Mums are multifaceted and we have to move from one thing to another seamlessly so it can be hard to nail down your personal style although every single person has one. Until you have time to actually focus on this you probably don’t think there’s much unique about you, but I promise you there is!” Kim suggests getting out your favourite pieces, the ones you love to wear and feel great in, and having a look to see what style, fit and colour these pieces tend to be. Give yourself permission and time to investigate.
Colour is everything
If you really want to make a big difference, Kim says, “Colour is everything. When I was upskilling from a designer to a stylist there was this whole thing about ‘having your colours done’ and I thought, ‘Ugh, this seems really dated. I’ll just skip over it. I really rejected the idea and I didn’t want it to work. But, it was absolutely amazing; I was blown away by how different I felt when I was wearing colours that flattered me versus colours that didn’t. Clients feedback weekly about how that knowledge has changed their life”.
“The right colour makes you look like you’re wearing a tinted moisturiser, the eyes sparkle and you look like you’ve had a good night’s sleep, which as mums can be pretty transformative. I create colour wallets for mums all the time and I have a great modern way of doing it that translates to clothes. Plus, I have found the four most flattering colours so if you don’t know what your colours are, start here: Teal, Salmon, Navy and your best version of White. These four colours sit right in the middle of the colour wheel so they will look pretty good on everybody. When you are wearing the right colours you will feel better and more confident.”
“Once you have the knowledge of what colours and shapes suit you, you are empowered. You won’t ever get sold to again. You can ignore the shop assistant that tells you’ll look great in lemon yellow because you know better.”
Most of us have several garments we don’t wear. Kim says playing around and creating different outfits from what you already have is one of her favourite parts of her job. But you can do it too, just spend the time to have a proper look at what you’ve got. Kim doesn’t spend a fortune on clothes, and nor do her clients. “People who come to me for a ‘mummy-makeover’ usually just need help with the ‘middle’ of their wardrobe and filling the gaps so that their entire collection is useable, practical and stylish.”
She advises taking photos of outfits to save time and energy every morning. “There’s no thinking required. Once you know your best colours, styles and shapes, shopping can become a treasure hunt instead of an overwhelming experience that forces you to just buy what you habitually buy. We can spend half your budget and get twice as many outfits, just by being strategic and having a creative outlook.”
Excuse me while I go and play dress up…