Mum Run Style

11/17/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Friends often call on me for fashion advice, which is why I started blogging on the topic two years ago. However, few style situations have stumped me like the mum run. The mum run, for those who have not been indoctrinated, is the early morning ritual of dropping off your kid(s) at school. As simple as it may sound, the school run provokes both anxiety and admonishment among moms, regardless of age, affluence or experience.

As a self-employed publicist who is new to the mum run, I am unaccustomed to facing the public in the early morning hours. Had you seen me on the schoolyard in September, this would have been obvious. Getting my girls dressed, fed, groomed and out the door leaves very little time to pull myself together.

Losing one's sense of style is one of the many sacrifices women make when they become mothers. In my pre-children days I noticed that while moms take the time to make sure their children have cute, coordinated outfits and neat hair, few give themselves the same attention. So they acquire wash-n-wear hairstyles, slip on mommy shoes and parade around in sloppy clothing when on mommy duty. I am not that mom. I turned to several friends and fellow mothers in cities across the country to find out their experiences and get tips on how to dress. Motherhood is not a fashion parade, they reported practically in unison, and then went on to dish about the style atrocities in the schoolyard. Now I have it on authority there are definite critics on this catwalk. Here is what they reported:

Angie*, a friend who works in a legal firm in Manhattan, says she could do without the smug workout moms who show up in top-to-toe Lululemon and then head to the gym together after the school run.

Just outside San Francisco, designer moms surround my friend Lisa, a public relations executive. Designer moms always look perfect with their expensive clothes and jeans, perfect hair and makeup and a designer bag to match.

Casual is king in Santa Monica, reports Meg, a new media professional. Los Angeles is filled with workout moms, designer moms and coffee dads. In LA, she says, many dads are "in-between gigs" so it is not uncommon to see them casually dressed for a stroll on Montana Avenue, Peet's coffee in tow, following the run.

"International school mums are distinctly uninterested in making the school part of their social life," reports Kate, who sends her girls to The British School of Washington, DC. She's not sure what other moms wear because they don't stick around long enough to be seen.

The only style advice came by way of Diane, a marketing executive in Maryland. She claims she has not yet mastered pulling herself together for the school run, but her sister once knew someone who did. A mum run legend! Her secret: have a daily uniform and stick to it. Planning is key - if you dress on the fly you are going to look frumpy.

Armed with information on what not to wear and the benefit of two months of school runs behind me, I believe I have pulled together the perfect mum run uniform that is fashionable without being flashy, polished, put together, and above all, conducive to punctuality!

• Go for practical and chic flats. London Sole has a great selection of ballet flats that can be worn most of the year. In cooler months, riding boots are another option. Practically all the designers do a flat boot including wallet friendly labels like Frye and Steve Madden. Steer clear of flip-flops and Uggs!

• Loose-fit, wide-legged denim trousers are far more polished than sweats and just as easy to wear. Otherwise, a dark wash skinny jean looks great paired with ballet flats and a tunic.
J Brand has a good selection of both styles.

• The top layer is the most visible, and therefore essential element of the school run uniform. In San Francisco, I wear a cashmere hooded cardigan that hits to the knee. In cooler climates, a chic coat is a must. Nobody needs to know you are wearing the tank you slept in underneath.

• Designer statement bags and schoolyards don't mix. A black Longchamp tote is stylish, practical and very French to boot! H&M, Gap and Zara all have fashionable, yet inconspicuous options.

• Basic grooming is an essential. A quick swipe of tinted moisturizer, such as Laura Mercier, goes a long way. As mother of two, I have come to rely heavily on little emergency kits I create to handle every crisis imaginable from skinned knees to hungry and cranky kids. I keep one such kit in my glove compartment that holds tinted lip balm, lint sheets, a hairbrush and Listerine Breath Strips, the latter in case I forgo the toothbrush for a few extra minutes of sleep.

* Names have been changed.