Magpie Mail: Traditional Clothing for Older Children, NYE Wedding Guest Attire, + Fall Family Photo Wardrobe Picks.

Q: We are going to a black tie wedding on New Year’s Eve. I’m struggling to balance “wedding guest” with “full blown floor length sequins.” What is appropriate? Is red OK? Black? HELP!

A: You can absolutely wear color to a black tie wedding — my rule of thumb is just to wear something floor-length and evening-appropriate. A few of my favorite finds:

THIS ETHEREAL NEEDLE & THREAD (ON SALE!)

THIS SALONI (SPLURGE BUT SO GORGEOUS)

THIS FAME & PARTNERS

THIS ALICE MCCALL (ON SERIOUS SALE)

THIS FIRE ENGINE RED JUMPSUIT (WHICH CAN WORK BECAUSE IT IS VERY FORMAL!)

Q: Any chance you have a place with your favorite maternity clothes together? It’s my second and all my work clothes from the first time around don’t work chasing after my active 2.5 year old daughter. Now I need to start from scratch.

A: I should write a post on this specific topic, as I’m realizing that all my maternity finds have been sprinkled through a lot of posts (although I did outline my favorite maternity products in general here). My absolute must-haves:

J BRAND MAMA J JEANS (I OWNED THESE IN THREE COLORS)

DAVID LERNER MATERNITY LEGGINGS (THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST)

COTTON OLD NAVY BODYCON DRESSES IN BLACK (<<I WORE A VARIATION ON THIS SO MUCH THAT MY SISTER SUGGESTED WE BURN IT TOGETHER AFTER THE BABY CAME)

GAP MATERNITY TEES

INGRID & ISABEL MATERNITY TEES

MONROW MATERNITY DRESSES

SPANX FAUX LEATHER LEGGINGS (GAVE ME A MUCH-NEEDED FEELING OF COOLNESS/EDGE WHEN I FELT FRUMPY)

ASOS DENIM OVERSIZED SHIRT/DRESS THINGS (I WORE THIS ONE IN BLUE DENIM A LOT WITH LEGGINGS UNDERNEATH)

TUNIC TOPS FROM GAP OR INGRID & ISABEL

COSABELLA MATERNITY PAJAMAS (I BOUGHT THESE IN TWO COLORWAYS — THESE ARE ABSOLUTELY THE MOST COMFORTABLE THING FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN AND 100% WORTH THE PRICE)

My strategy was to buy a couple of high-quality pairs of jeans and leggings, black bodycon dresses, and then fairly inexpensive tops as a solid base, add a cardigan (which would work post-pregnancy) over top if necessary, and then jazz things up with fun accessories that fit no matter what. I always suggest buying a pair or two of shoes you absolutely love — maybe a new or gently used pair of Chanel ballet flats or some elegant boots? — and a couple of on-trend accessories, like a Lele Sadoughi headband, some fun earrings, or a bag you’ve been eyeing forever. They made me so happy when I was bored of wearing the same thing over and over again.

P.S. If you do need a pick-me-up towards the middle or end of your pregnancy, I always found fun and relatively affordable finds at ASOS. I like this dress with my Golden Goose sneakers and this dress with my Valentino rockstud flats. Or, this Ganni dress, which could be worn after pregnancy!

P.P.S. A great maternity-friendly dress for an evening affair.

Q: I would love if you could recommend some outfit ideas for our upcoming engagement shoot in Central Park and around the Upper East Side in October.  I can’t decide if I should do a flowy dress for some “movement” in the pictures or go more classic with a sweater, jeans, and booties.  I tend to wear more dresses in my day-to-day life, but all the dresses I have found so far don’t have sleeves, which would look a bit silly in fall pictures.  I seem to be at a loss!  Any recommendations you had would be extremely helpful!  

A: Hi! I’m hoping I get back to you just under the wire (I’ve been sitting on a lot of Magpie Mail inquiries for weeks now). I would say go with a dress! I always feel my best when I’m dressing how I like / how I feel prettiest — which, for me, is also a dress. I would look at Ulla Johnson’s fall collection. So many standout dresses in a great fall-appropriate palette, and many with sleeves that would also work with boots! They are splurge-y but I can imagine wearing them for many seasons. I love this, this, and especially this. You can get the look for less with this $118 find, which totally nails the floral Ulla vibe.

I also like this Free People dress with heeled booties and a bouncy blowout, one of the Ganni mesh dresses (I owned one in a leopard print that worked with my bump last winter!), or basically any dress from the Doen fall collection.

All of these would look fantastic with these slouchy boots!

Q: Did you use a night nurse? How did you find her?

A: No, we did not use a night nurse for either baby. It is definitely a cultural norm with my friends here in Manhattan to hire one, though — I actually can only think of one other girlfriend (Inslee!) who chose not to work with one!

With mini, it simply never crossed my mind. My mother did not use a night nurse, my sister did not use a night nurse, very few of my friends in D.C. and Chicago had used night nurses, and so I marched right into things with nary a second thought. With micro, I suppose I had a chip on my shoulder about it — “I did just fine with mini, I’ll do it on my own again!” — and despite some serious exhaustion, we’ve survived just fine.

I should note that I am in support of any decision that helps a mother feel most empowered. For many of my friends, that means a night nurse. (And I can imagine that first-time moms would take extreme comfort in the support of a night nurse who might show them the ropes and assuage their concerns about every hiccup and squirm!)

Personally, I have found comfort and confidence in being the only one who attends to the baby at night. I don’t know why — but it has helped me really get into my groove and trust my instincts. Mr. Magpie is also fiercely private and acts extremely awkward (sorry, but it’s true) when we have anyone else in the house — for example, the few times he’s been home when we are having our house cleaned or something repaired, he is fidgety with discomfort. He feels he can’t be himself!

Q: I’d be curious to know how you selected your children’s godparents. Something I’ve been contemplating lately…

A: It was a no-brainer for me — my siblings! (Both of my children have sisters and brothers-in-law as godparents.) But if I weren’t blessed with so many siblings, I would probably have thought about it in these ways: a) sift through my closest friends and figure out who is a practicing Catholic — a pre-requisite at least in the Catholic church, and b) think about which of my friends feel most closely aligned with me on matters pertaining to spirituality and parenting. I’m sorry this is horribly vague, but it’s hard for me to imagine a life without my siblings…!

Q: How do you store your baby clothes? Looking for good storage options.

A: For clothes that are too small/need to be put away, I use Ziploc vac pacs because they are the easiest way to keep clothes compressed and then stowed at the top of our closets (we are in tight quarters). I would imagine these would be great even if you have space to store overflow clothes in a garage or attic — though I should note that these are not foolproof. I find that they do lose their suction with time. But! They get the job done.

For clothes that currently fit (or will fit soon), I like to use these inexpensive fabric cubes from Target in the sand color. I line them up around the top of my closet(s). They’re brilliant because they collapse flat, so you can always keep a few spare, and I think they look pretty slick/tidy all lined up. They also weigh next to nothing so that makes it easy to get the bins down.

Q:  I am in my early 20s and started a new job in June, working in a corporate setting for the first time. I’m looking for a coat that I can wear this winter, both to work and out to fancier social events as well. The caveat – I’m allergic to wool (or technically, the oils that are found in most sheep wool). Up to this point I’ve just sucked it up and wore my down parka to any dressier winter events but I just can’t face doing that anymore! I’m just looking for a coat that is fashionable and polished. I love your style and would love to hear if you have any suggestions! 

A: Ooh, this is a tough one. Teddy coats are very in this season and could be a good fit for you — this one is so, so chic! Something like this quilted, belted topper would be elegant and versatile, though perhaps not the warmest of the bunch (depends on where you live!), and, finally Heartloom has a bunch of non-wool coats that are very chic, like this plaid style, which I adore!

Q: What are your picks for toddler rain gear?

A: Love this question and have dedicated nontrivial amounts of time to finding the best picks — shared a bunch of them here!

Q: I love the way you dress your kids, but am finding it’s hard to get that traditional style for my older children. Where would you shop?

A: I can imagine the challenge here — both in terms of supply and demand! I’m guessing your kiddos are not as into peter pan collars and want sparkly everything, and most retailers are not serving up traditional pieces at that age. I would also look at Nantucket Kids (love this jumper, this gingham dress, and their rollneck sweaters), Janie & Jack (a dress like this would be sweet), CPC Kids (mini owns several of their dresses and they’d work on older ones as well!) Boden (a kilt with a cable knit sweater!), Jacadi (love this), and Busy Bees Kids (mini owns a few of their blouses).

I would also lean hard into Polo. How cute are dresses like this and this? I also like the look of a traditional sweater like this or this with jeans in the winter, and then a polo shirt and shorts in the summer. For shoes: Supergas, which can be worn with dresses or pants alike, and Mary Janes.

Hoping your kiddo is not too old for a bow!

Q: I was hoping you could help me with something I’ve wondered for a while – what is a good gift to get for dear friends who are new mamas (not baby things, something for them!). Ideally would like to spend under $50. I’ve thought about gift cards to massages/nails etc but I worry about getting a gift card that will never be used and it feels so impersonal. I’m currently expecting my first and so I have no idea what would make a new moms happy! 

A: I know you said a gift card feels impersonal, but I received and have since gifted several other new moms gift cards to DryBar or a favorite manicure spot for a quick one hour of self-care. The hair in particular — what a joy to sit there while someone else grooms you! Especially in those early days where I never had time to blow-dry it myself…

Other things I would have loved to receive:

A PRETTY ROBE

A BASKET OF MY FAVORITE SNACKS (I LOVE GUMMY CANDIES)

A WATER BOTTLE (A FRIEND GAVE ME ONE OF THESE AND IT WAS SUCH A GOOD REMINDER TO HYDRATE…PLUS, SPORTS NOZZLE IS EASY TO DRINK WITH ONE HAND AND WON’T SPILL IF TIPPED)

A FUN NEW ACCESSORY THAT FITS EVEN WHEN IT FEELS LIKE YOU’LL NEVER GET BACK TO YOUR PRE-PREGNANCY SHAPE

A LUXE HAND CREAM

P.S. More Magpie Mail.

P.P.S. These comments were such a joy to read.

P.P.S. Do you negotiate?

8 Comments

  1. So many good recs here! I love these posts. I also wanted to let you know that I used your recommendation of a Drybar gift certificate for my new-mom sister-in-law, along with a heartfelt card, and it made her (and me) cry tears of gratitude! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    xx

    1. !!! So sweet! I’m so glad that went over well. Such an important nudge to give a new mom the space/time to take care of herself. xx

  2. HAHA! I concur with your sister’s suggestion on burning the Old Navy black dress. I wore mine REPEATEDLY but it truly was a versatile go-to. 8 days to due date and I can’t be sure I’ve seen the last of it.

    I would add a suggestion for maternity workwear– SERAPHINE!!! Every one of their dresses made me feel 100% at work through one hot summer and now, the waddling final stretch. The drape dress (made famous by Kate Middleton), anything polka dots… it can be pricey, but you could try on few items to find your size (if you can find it in person) and checking poshmark/ebay. The sizing is forgiving – a tad bigger than your pre-preg size- but comfortable fabrics, beautiful fit and worth every penny.

    Love this little corner of the internet you have built, Jen! Immensely valuable and well-written insight.

    1. Haha — the funny thing is, I still have that Old Navy dress. I was just going through all my maternity stuff debating whether or not I should keep it just in case…(AHHH). And I lingered over that one…as you say, versatile, but I’d be happy never to see it again. HA!

      Seraphine! Great suggestion! I did look there for a few more formal occasions during my first pregnancy and they have such cute styles.

      Thank you for the sweet notes! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it (and contributing to it via comment!)

      xx

  3. Love the maternity recs! I’m due late February and wondering about dresses in the winter. My other daughter was born in August and I think I wore dresses almost exclusively in the last month or so when none of my pants were very comfortable anymore. But I can’t imagine wearing tights while super pregnant! I hate them on the best of days but definitely couldn’t go bare legged in Jan-Feb. Any mamas have favorite maternity tights?

    1. I actually loved the maternity tights from LOFT. They are super opaque and inexpensive (wait for the inevitable 40% off code) and comfortable!

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