The Fashion Magpie Magpie Mail Q+A

Magpie Mail: What to Wear to a Baby Shower, What to Read Next, and Budget-Friendly Caftans.

Amidst planning for our Hamptons trip this summer (image above is my north star goal for the trip, plus a little baby at my side — swoon!) over the last weekend, I sat down and started answering a bunch of emails and direct messages and thought I’d share some of them here. Feel free to email me at jennifer@thefashionmagpie.com with your questions!

Q: What are some baby shower dress ideas for a mom-to-be?

A: I wore this dress to mine — I tend to like to buy non-maternity dresses that I can ware post-partem, but I also know that there is a threshold beyond which it’s basically impossible to make a non-maternity dress work — ha! Here are a few favorite finds:

+I love this Rachel Pally maxi. Elegant, comfortable, sweet. Could be dressed up with some pretty mules and a headband (also love this floral one and OMG — THIS LELE SADOUGHI LOOKALIKE!!!!).

+This Sleeper dress. I’ve seen a lot of women wear this brand without the belt during pregnancy and I love the look! Then it can be worn while nursing (button-down!) and after (belted). Genius! AND LINEN, which I’m currently obsessed with.

+A pretty, simple, white eyelet dress. Could be paired with any color accessory or shoe and who doesn’t like an LWD?! Or try this bell-sleeved style, also super versatile.

+If the shower is more informal, I wore this to Easter and it was so comfortable and flattering. I also was impressed with the quality of the fabric for the price. (You can see a sneak of me wearing it here.) A similar laidback vibe: this. (Note that Hatch runs REALLY big.)

+I love these loose to voluminous styles, too, which are non-maternity but would work: this fun printed shift (I almost wore the denim style to mine), this tiered midi, and this fun colorblocked swing dress.

Q: I am stumped as to what to get my husband for our 2nd wedding anniversary.  I like the idea of following the traditional wedding anniversary gifts, 2nd is cotton, but I can’t think of anything.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

A: A couple of thoughts, depending on budget:

+Custom hand-embroidered pocket square, if he’s a dapper guy.  I just love the vintage script they use!

+Monogrammed waffle robe.  I know this sounds odd/foppish, but I swear Mr. Magpie was skeptical and then has proceeded to wear this nearly every morning of his life while getting ready for work.  One of those things guys don’t think they need, but…

+New sheets — or at least new pillowcases! — and these INCREDIBLE pillows.  These changed my life.  Not even joking.  They never get hot (?!) so you never need to flip them in the middle of the night.  Pillows aren’t cotton per se, but if you wrap them in some new pillowcases…I guarantee your man will thank you.  (Also, these helped with Landon’s snoring — he doesn’t snore as much anymore!)  For the bedding, I’m a huge fan of Hill House Home.

Or you could do something more experiential, like wrap an inexpensive cotton picnic blanket (#love) or beach towel (have and love these ultra thin but absorbent microfiber towels — great for packing) and tuck in a note with plans for a little getaway to the beach or a picnic in the park or some sort of outdoor music concert?  That way, he has something cotton to unwrap, but the real gift is the experience.

Q: What are other baby names you love?

A: Ooh, I love this! I have to be careful here in the event that we have a third child at some point (!), but am going to share a couple of names that one or the other of us (and occasionally both of us) liked but ruled out for various reasons:

+For girls: Brett, Lucia (we used this as mini’s middle name, but I love it as a first name, too — it’s my great-grand-mother’s name), Ivy, June, Camila, Sawyer.

+For boys: Everett (family name), Shepherdson (family name, but we thought Shep Shoop might be a bit much — HA!), Aser (my Finnish grandfather’s name! How badass?!).

Q: Are there any look-for-less styles similar to your coming-home-from-the-hospital caftan that you’d recommend? It’s beautiful.

A: Thank you — and yes! I did a roundup of some of my favorite caftans earlier this week, though many of them are in the $100-$200 range (and some much pricier). A couple of less expensive alternatives:

+This J. Crew style with the ric rac trim! Love that mid-blue color and the loose fit.

+This is virtually identical to mine and $100 but — hurry! It’s vintage and there is only one available! (Also a shirt version on sale here.)

+This tiered maxi. No embroidery but the color and shape achieve a similar effect (and look similarly comfortable).

+This Gap kimono. It might be wearable as a dress, but certainly as a cover-up or paired with white skinnies. MAJOR!

+This gorgeous midi — love the flattering shape!

+Slightly different styles, but comparable in ethos: I love this and this.

+This boho Zara score.

+If you’re game for something shorter, this and this are VERY similar to my Frances Valentine style. (And I love this sunny yellow style!) And if you liked the Pippa Holt styles I featured earlier this week — check out this $30 steal!

+For minis: this.

Q: Will you take a maternity leave?

A: Writing this blog has never felt like work and so I anticipate I will be itching to get back to this within days of micro’s arrival, as I did within days of mini’s arrival. But I also understand that birth and motherhood can throw you for a loop, so there may be a little stretch of time where I am out of pocket, recovering and adjusting and soaking up micro. In short — the plan is to continue to post frequently, with minimal lapses here. Thanks for asking!

Q: What are some bump-friendly finds that aren’t maternity?

A: This is my forte. I have bought as few true maternity pieces as possible in both of my pregnancies. I like loose-fitting button-downs like this from Everlane, tunic popovers from J. Crew, and this pretty pink blouse from Zara and I pair them with the best maternity leggings or my J. Brand J Mama jeans, which I own in a couple of washes, including white. I also like to pair oversized sweaters (I will size up from my usual XS to an M) like this with my coated leggings. As the weather has warmed up, I have been leaning on my suite of caftans and any boxy/tunic dresses or loose/flowing maxis — pieces like this, this, this, and this. I also eyed several pieces by Sleeper — love that this can be worn before, during, after pregnancy and it accommodates nursing! Basically, I look for pieces that are longer than I normally buy (look for descriptors like “oversized,” “tunic,” “long,” “boyfriend”) because the bump means that things will look a lot shorter on you and no one wants an exposed belly and sufficiently loose/airy. Then, it’s all about buying fun flats and mules (love a good mule — no need to bend over!) and hair accessories to make even the most basic of looks feel special.

Q: I have a white floaty asymmetrical hemline midi skirt. What sort of top is best?

A: Ooh, love this look. I’d wear it with a delicate silk cami in pink, white, or black. (Also available in a variation with a scalloped neckline.) The other option would be a floaty floral top like this or this, if you’re looking to introduce a little contrast/color.

Q: I did a bunch of research and was excited about the Uppababy Cruz. I don’t think I need the Vista as we are not planning for another right away (although who knows!?) and I have heard the second seat is low to the ground and the weight limit is 35 lb. So then I started looking into umbrella strollers to have in addition to the Cruz and liked the looks of the Uppababy G-Lite. But now I am asking myself if I need two strollers, and am wondering what your take would be on getting only the BabyZen YoYo and using it as a primary stroller.
We live in a semi-urban neighborhood and only have one car. We walk a ton so I want something that handles sidewalks well and has enough under carriage space to accommodate some groceries or items if I am out running errands. We also live in an apartment and I am trying to be thoughtful about what’s going to take up space. 
We don’t air travel a ton, but will occasionally, and the YoYo just gets such great reviews! I think I remember you have experience with both the YoYo and Uppababy, so would love your thoughts if you have time. 

A: Personally, it sounds to me like you would benefit from a “full feature” stroller.  I love the Babyzen Yoyo for public transit but I use the heavy-duty Bugaboo multiple times a day STILL and will always pick it over the Yoyo if I’m just going out and about in my neighborhood.  Here’s why: it handles beautifully, glides over divots, and can make it over big curbs without jostling the baby.  It has a big basket for stowing things.  It’s sturdy.  You can hang tons of shopping bags off of it, or lug cases of water underneath it.  It reclines.  It has a sunshade that actually covers baby.  Etc.  It sounds like you also have a predominantly pedestrian lifestyle — and so I say to invest in The Big Boy and you will not be disappointed.  I feel as though our stroller is our moving home base when we’re out and about.  (And the accessories make life on the go SO easy, i.e., the clip-on cup holders, the snack tray, etc.)

These are a couple of things that would tip me in the opposite direction (i.e., go with only the Yoyo):

+If you take public transit a lot.  It sounds like you use a car or walk most of the time.  In either case, the Yoyo’s virtues are principally in its easy fold and carry-ability.  If those aren’t major concerns for you, stick with the big guy.

+If you have to walk up and down stairs to get to your apartment / don’t have an elevator.  YOYO for SURE.  I don’t even know how moms deal with a big stroller otherwise!  

+If you travel a lot. (Yoyo is treated like hand luggage on many flights!)

+If you have no space in your apartment or its hall to stow a big stroller without folding it.  I have to be honest: I always thought I’d collapse my Bugaboo when I got home, but I have never once (not once!) done it.  Too much of a pain to collapse and reassemble if I use the stroller multiple times a day.  But the Yoyo is so lightweight and easy to fold, I always fold it up the second I get home. Great for small spaces

Otherwise, personally, I would start with the Uppababy and then, when you are planning to take your first trip, consider whether it makes more sense to just check your Uppababy to bring with you.  A lot of times you can gate-check for free.  Or just see in general how often (if ever) you wish you had a travel stroller.  I truly did not need one or think about needing one until mini was around one year old and I couldn’t use the carrier anymore because she was too heavy for me.  And maybe that will give you enough time to legitimize the purchase of a second, smaller stroller — ha!

Q: Could you give a book recommendation for something similar to Conversations with Friends and Normal People? I read both and loved them — and am hoping to find something similar for our upcoming trip!

A: Ooh, this is a tough one because I personally feel Rooney is in a category of her own, especially when it comes to character design and development, which I see to be the hallmark of her work. (More thoughts on this topic here.) However, I got hints of J.D. Salinger and Hemingway from a style standpoint — her concision and focus on character positioning, movements, postures. Maybe one of their short story collections, like Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro or Salinger’s Nine Stories? For something more contemporary, I’ve heard people draw comparisons between Rooney and Emma Straub. Personally, I think the likeness is far too generous to Straub. I’ve only ever read her The Vacationers and was so-so on it, but I can see the resemblance — similar settings, a focus on familial/romantic relationships, a distinctively modern feel. It was a very easy and juicy read. And, finally, Sweetbitter. Very different setting and thematic treatment but similarly modern, dark, and tightly sketched — and also about the wanderings and disillusions of being an early twenty-something.

P.S. — I’ve started saving what I’m reading to this Instagram highlight in case you want to follow along, and I also did a roundup of trending books a few weeks back. Will do an update soon to share other reads on my radar. I’m currently reading Educated after literally everyone and her mother urged me to pick it up.

Q: Are you writing a book?

A: Be still my heart. Thank you for this over-generous question. I have written portions of a novel that has been tumbling around in my mind for over a decade, but it is slow-going and I already know that if I decided to truly write it, I would need to re-write everything from scratch — though the general shape of the plot would stay the same. So, yes, in a general sense, but with no firm plans to complete it…would you want to read portions of fiction from me if I focused on polishing them up? Or are you more interested in the kind of writing I do now — memoir-ish musings?

Q: Do you plan to breastfeed your second child? How long?

A: That’s my plan and hope, but I had to supplement mini with formula from day one and so I know that I will just need to roll with the punches. My goal with mini was to nurse (and supplement with formula) until six months, but we made it to eight months. My supply was dropping and I was still waking up in the middle of the night to feed her — and I needed to get back to a healthier sleep schedule. But I was surprisingly emotional about weaning. Honestly, I look back at breastfeeding in general and am perplexed by how emotional I was on the topic from the start. I went in to motherhood thinking I had no pre-conceived notions about breastfeeding, but then felt overwhelmed by a desire to feed her as much as I could myself. I spent the first month of her life frantically pumping, nursing, bottle-feeding in an endless and exhausting cycle. I was so intent on building up my supply and feeding her as much as I could despite the fact that literally everyone around me was saying, “Jen: fed is best. Don’t drive yourself crazy!” But I was highly motivated to figure it out and found that I really enjoyed nursing mini. I’ve already begged Mr. Magpie to remind me to keep a solid sense of perspective with micro in the event that something similar happens this go around. I am determined to make a valiant effort to breastfeed but also want to cut myself a little more slack if things aren’t working as smoothly this go around. I think my goal will again be to get to six months and evaluate what’s happening. If all is well, I’d ideally like to make it to a year, but I’m going to be flexible.

Separately, I’ve had a bunch of requests for stylish, nursing-friendly clothing. I’ll do a post on that soon, but here are some thoughts from the last go around. I can tell you I’m eyeing this caftan at the moment.

And, finally, I had a few inquiries about what breast pump I’ll be using. I ordered this one along with a spare set of parts, these microwavable sterilizing bags, and these Kiinde pouches that can be screwed directly into the pump using these adapters and then either placed in the freezer or even used to feed baby with a nipple attachment! I’m basically all about convenience where possible this time around. Poor Mr. Magpie’s hands were chapped and bleeding from washing pump parts so many times each day — UGH.

P.S. More Magpie Q+A.

P.P.S. Some of my favorite affordable finds recently (all under $100): this striped dress, these raffia heart earrings, this padded floral headband, and these cherry-print leggings.

P.P.P.S. More affordable finds.

26 Comments

  1. I love the caftan round-up! Thank you! I’m 8 days into maternity leave with my second (a girl) and I need all the loose, flowy, nursing-friendly pieces I can find. It’s HOT here in Virginia during the summer, so some sleeveless options in my (temporary?) new size are also a must.

    I love your recommendations!

    1. Congratulations!!!!

      So glad this resonated. I am on the hunt for more nursing friendly dresses/caftans in general, and will share as I find them!

      xxx

  2. Jen,

    I don’t think it needs to be said, but OF COURSE, I would read your novel. I would also devour a book of essays, literary criticism, a collection of poetry, or pretty much anything else you write.

    Also, what did you get Mr. Magpie for your paper (1st) anniversary?! Mine is in July and I really want to make it great.

    Thanks much,
    V.

    1. You are seriously the kindest. I have been carrying out that compliment from Instagram (Didion / Ephron) and I think it may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you, friend 🙂

      I actually have never followed the traditional anniversary gifts (gasp!) for Mr. Magpie. I found them too restrictive and felt I’d be buying him things he didn’t want — and there are sooo many things he does love and need, and so…I went rogue. But. A few thoughts on paper: my mind initially went to buying him a set of books you love or maybe a Kindle paperwhite (get it?) or an iPad if he doesn’t have one. I like the idea that a Kindle/iPad are “modern paper” and both are heavily used in our house. I literally cannot live without my Kindle, and the iPad is clutch for mini. Another thought would be to get him a subscription to a magazine or newspaper in line with his interests/passions. I actually think Mr. Magpie would have loved a subscription to a food or wine magazine, or to a digital one like Panna (which we do have — and love). Alternately, a piece of art to put on the wall (“paper” loosely) — check out the pieces by Sally Benedict King or Hunt Slonem (splurges) or a smaller sketch/print by Inslee or Donald Robertson.

      Let me know what you think of those!!

      xxx

    2. I’m happy to hear that! Have you read Ephron’s essay on breasts? It’s my go-to when I need a good laugh.

      I’ll admit that I gasped–albeit just a little! Those are all such good suggestions. Thank you xo.

    3. I’ve read several of Ephron’s collections of essays but am not sure if I’ve read the exact one you’re referencing — am going to look it up today! xx

  3. A few Rooney-Esque recommendations that I have recently loved (obviously no writer can scratch the exact itch of another but I found all of these to be similarly compelling in their handling of relationships, smart writing, novelty, etc)

    -Pond by Clare Louise Bennet
    -The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
    -Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
    -Anything by Queen Zadie Smith

    1. Ooh, Katherine! Thanks for these recs. Amazing. I’d not heard of several of these authors/works! xxx

  4. So many gems here! I have long been a name-obsessive and I love these options for both girls and boys … I love the unisex nature of some of your girls’ picks (Sawyer!) and the familial meaning carried by the boys’ list.

    Loved your picks for books that are similar to Sally Rooney’s — so funny about the comparison to Emma Straub. I love her ethos as a bookseller/bookstore owner, but feel that Rooney is in a class of her own when comparing writing styles! Haha. I did enjoy Modern Lovers, but Rooney’s writing is so different and much fresher, imo.

    I wanted to also echo Leah’s comment above — please take as much time off as feels comfortable for you, and know that we will be here when you return!

    xo

    1. MK — Totally agree with your assessment of Straub/Rooney. Katherine (above) had some really good recs for those in Rooney withdrawal. (Should we make #rooneywithdrawal a thing?) I’m worried now that she won’t write something for years!!! AHHH.

      xxx

    2. Ahhh, yes, I love Katherine’s recommendations! Strong co-sign on Zadie Smith, and I have Pond in my tsundoku 🙂

      I’m still reading Conversations with Friends and Normal People is next up … really enjoying Rooney’s writing style and totally think #rooneywithdrawal will be a thing! Haha! xx

    3. Thanks for the upvote on Zadie Smith! I’ve still never read anything by her and I know people LOVE her stuff.

      xx

    4. I’ve read all of her novels (and enjoyed each one) but would love to dive into her essays at some point, too. 🙂 xx

    5. MUST read her soon. Feeling embarrassed I’ve not yet gotten to her. She feels borderline canonical among our little reading club. xx

    6. No, don’t feel embarrassed! I feel like the older I get, the more books pique my interest and therefore, the more options I have. I tend to only read 25-30 books a year, anyway, and my “want to read” list on Goodreads is like 500 books strong. (haha, #nerd) — that’s two whole decades of reading material! There are always new reads to be discovered.

      But anyway, I would say that Zadie is a worthy read. My traditional favorite has been White Teeth, but I read it in 2004 — needless to say, my memory of that particular book isn’t super fresh. Swing Time, her most recent novel, was really good as well — but I don’t think I would rate any of her novels below 4 stars, fwiw. 🙂

  5. Just here to say that I love the question about if you’re writing a book or not. I find your writing to be delicious; polished, insightful and full of life, even if it’s just about a dress I should purchase. Ha! I would be thrilled to read any type of book you might write.

    1. Oh, thank you SO much. I’m so flattered 🙂 Will keep you posted as things come together. xxx

  6. Just want to encourage you to take as much time away or in a limited capacity as is best for you and your family! We all support you and will eagerly jump back in upon your return!

    1. I second (third??) this! But if you feel like jumping right back in, we won’t judge you for that either 🙂

  7. Thank you for the affordable finds at the end of this post, and in some of your mini-magpie posts – I really like how you incorporate a little something in them for those of us without kids yet.

    I like your memoir-ish musings here but would love to read one of your books someday!

    I’ve always liked Brett for a girl’s name! And, of course, month names are nice, too, so June is fun 😉

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