15 Style Shortcuts Every Working Mum Needs to Know

If you look up “high maintenance” in the dictionary, you will find my picture. It takes me forever to get ready in the morning (even though the result totally doesn’t look like it). The length of my showers probably single-handedly contributed to the summer drought. And deciding what to wear is like a rom-com fashion show montage with clothes flying out of the closet.

Things started to change as soon as I popped out my first kid. I used to iron every item I wore, every single day. Even on the weekends. I ironed my heart out (even my jeans!) to ensure wrinkle-free fashion. But once I had a little life to protect, I quickly found that the time and care I put into my wardrobe mattered WAY less to me. Some of my high strung tendencies transferred over to motherhood (Is my baby still breathing? Was that a sneeze or some sort of pre-death sound?) while others vanished (What’s a blow dryer?). But I knew I didn’t want to look like a total hag, so I started looking for hacks to make getting ready in the morning an easier task.

I made it through maternity leave looking pretty cute. At that point, my naturally curly hair still cooperated and looked styled (my second son is still grounded for bringing on hair-ruining hormones that have left me with frizzy, half wavy, half straightish hair) and my clothes matched. But when it was time to go back to work, I was all kinds of panicky. How was I going to manage to look presentable and professional when I had to try to get my kid packed up for daycare and make sure I didn’t have breast milk on my shirt? These fifteen style shortcuts saved my sanity and got me (mostly) to work on time, looking good.

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Glue Dots for Fixing Hems

No one wants to spend time dropping off and picking up clothes to be tailored to begin with. It’s such a dumb errand. And after you have kids, you want to do it even less. If it takes you longer to get your kid in and out of the car than it does to drop off or pick up your clothes, it just isn’t worth doing. Glue dots are my go-to for minor alterations. I have used them to shorten the hem of a dress. I’ve also used them for fixing part of a pants hem that came undone. While this isn’t a permanent fix, it will get you through for a while. (I don’t recommend washing the clothes with the glue dots still on them.) I’m sure the glue dots company would not suggest this use, but trust me, it’s awesome.


Oversized Scarves 

Do you remember all the disposable income you used to have before kids? Those were the good old days. After kids, my work attire went from really vibrant to a lot of black. Black works on so many levels: It’s slimming, it’s chic, and you can dress it up fairly easily. I used scarves to add some colour back in. Scarves can be really inexpensive (look for them on clearance near the end of summer) and are really versatile. They work as belts, as hair accessories, or in place of a necklace. Scarves are also the perfect way to disguise an unexpected leaky book incident…


Ooh La Lift

It took me months after the birth of my child to realise that I shouldn’t expect to feel rested again. Ever. While piling on the concealer seems like a good idea, it often gets caught in the creases and makes you look even tireder. Ooh La Lift is the world’s greatest product. It’s a liquid highlighter that brightens the under-eye area and makes your eyes seem less droopy. Use it throughout the day as needed, but definitely use this if you have a work dinner you need to go to and you don’t want to look like the dead. My kids are now seven and nine, but I still use this when needed (cough cough, after a night of too much wine…).


Create a “Capsule” Collection

If your closet is at borderline hoarder status like mine, it can take forever to figure out what to wear. Make yourself a work “capsule” collection where you keep all your work outfits in one place so there is no guesswork. Find your “look” and make it mix-and-match friendly. I hated pants, so I found a style that I was okay with and bought them in every colour I could. Then I would just wear them with different tops or blouses because I knew exactly what the fit was like. If this seems a little boring for you, add in some fun statement jewellery to add some personal style.


Cover the Muffin Top

Kids do a real number on your body. I don’t know why, but all my shirts were shorter after the birth of my first son. I didn’t want to buy a whole new wardrobe, so I started wearing tight black camisole style tank tops under my clothes. Not only did this ensure that my muffin top didn’t make an appearance if I had to reach for something, but it also made me feel like it was sucking in some of that extra baby weight. Buy a size or two smaller than you would usually wear to make sure you aren’t adding any extra bulk. It’s no waist trainer like Kim Kardashian swears by, but it made me feel a little bit more confident in my work clothes. And while my boobs shrunk after kids (thanks a lot, kids), a camisole can keep cleavage covered and appropriate for the work place.


Keratin Hair Treatments

Frizz can make your hair look totally messy. After a keratin treatment I was able to let my hair air dry and it still looked AMAZING. If you aren’t familiar with the process, they use chemicals and a straightening iron to keep your hair straight for about three months. While I wouldn’t walk in to work with wet hair, a keratin treatment not only straightens your hair, but also helps cut down on drying and styling time. The treatments can be a little pricey ($300!), but to me they are totally worth it. You can sometimes find deals on sites like Groupon, bringing the cost down to about $99.


Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is not a secret, but if you aren’t using it yet, now is the time. If you take time to do your hair (shampoo, blow dry, style), why wouldn’t you want to try to stretch all that work out as long as possible? Everybody’s hair is different, so play around with different styles on the weekend to see how you can work it into your work-day routine. A little dry shampoo at the roots will help you hide your day (or days!) old hair grease and get you out the door a little faster. Dry shampoo is also a great way to add texture to clean, dry hair.


At Home Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning can be super expensive; plus, getting your kid in and out of the car for pick up and drop off is a pain the neck. Use an at home dry cleaning product every other time. It doesn’t add much extra time to your normal laundry routine, and it will keep you from having to run that errand. Most of the kits come with scented sheets, which in a pinch can be rubbed on the inside of your clothes if they could stand to smell a little fresher. Use these sheets if you forget to get your favourite blouse cleaned before a big meeting.


Use a Service to Update your Wardrobe

There will be times when you need to add new pieces, or replace old items, in your work wardrobe and you want to streamline the time it takes to get what you need. This is when a personal shopping or stylist service can really help. With expert guidance you can be in and out of the shops with a look you love in no time at all. Try David Jones, Melbourne Central or Style with Cindy.makeup-clutter

Multi-Tasking Products

Look for products that do multiple things. Nars The Multiple (in Orgasm) is the product voted best multi-tasker in every beauty survey since it hit the market. Billed as a multi-purpose stick for eyes, cheeks, lips and body, it can add colour wherever you need it. Keep it in your handbag to highlight your cheeks for a late afternoon meeting, or add it to your lips for that unexpected office photo. Or try this Tarte Coloured Clay Bronzer. This is perfect as a bronzer, but because the compact has so many different pigments, you can also use it as a blush, highlighter or eye shadow. These are especially great if you have to travel for work.


Keep Dryer Sheets in the Car

Dryer sheets aren’t just for keeping your clothes smelling fresh. Rubbing a dryer sheet on your hair helps to tame flyaways and keep your hairstyle looking polished. Keep them in the glove box for a last minute attempt at looking professional. They DO also work great if you catch a whiff of something funky and you’ve already left your house. Baby spit up has a way of going unnoticed until you are about to walk in to your office building…


Skip the Cardigan

Cardigans are a great layering piece for drafty offices, but they can make you feel frumpy. Blazers are a better option for staying warm AND looking put together. There are all kinds of blazers on the market in tons of different styles and fabrics. Find one that is comfortable, and keep it at your desk for when you are freezing. Think of the blazer as the denim jacket of the corporate world.


Large Barrelled Curling Iron

If you have wonky hair like mine that doesn’t know if it wants to be curly or straight, a large barrelled curling iron is your new best friend. We’re talking 1½ inches or larger. Because the barrel is so large, it will help to straighten frizzy parts but also give you tons of body. I became the queen of super straight flat ironed-hair because I could do it pretty quickly. But on days when I wanted a little extra body, this was my go-to tool. This also works great for styling dirty hair since it helps straighten the parts that need a little extra attention and adds shape to yesterday’s style.


Lunchtime Nails

As a mum, there is never a perfect time to paint your nails. It never fails, the minute my nails are wet, something gets elevated to emergency status and I end up ruining all my hard work. Take a few minutes at lunch to get them painted at your local nail place. Skip the pricey and time-sucking spa manicure and ask for a polish change. You’ll get fresh nails and still be able to eat lunch.


Perfect the Ponytail

When all else fails, throw your hair back in a ponytail. The right placement on your head makes all the difference. Too high and you look like a bad nineties model. Too low and you look like a librarian. Find your sweet spot by playing around in front of the mirror for a few minutes. Even a (purposely) messy pony can work at the office. Add height to the front with a little bit of teasing, or keep it smooth with a touch of hairspray. No one will know that you ran out of time to do your hair.

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Icons: aleksandr-mansurov-ru / istock / Getty and syntika / istock / Getty