10 tips for looking your best

happy laughing mom
Photo by Lisa Whitney

Tim Gunn, one of the most reputable voices in the fashion industry, has a list of ten essential items every woman must have in her wardrobe.  They are:

  1. a basic black dress
  2. a trench coat
  3. classic dress pants
  4. a skirt
  5. a blazer
  6. a classic white shirt
  7. a day dress
  8. a cashmere sweater
  9. jeans
  10. a sweatsuit alternative

For the most part, I like this list.  I’m no fashion maven, but I agree with about 80 percent of his suggestions (not sure a cashmere sweater is terribly practical for a mom of littles).

Britt guest posted here awhile back and suggested ten essential items every mom needs in her wardrobe.  This list strikes a much more relevant chord with the mom lifestyle, while still nodding to being put together and ready to head out the door at any moment.

But what about the other stuff? Having the right clothes are important, but what about the other, tangible and intangible things that spruce up the busy mom?

From my experience, here are 10 “must haves” for feeling well and for outwardly looking your best.

woman sleeping
Photo by Tom R

1.  A good night’s sleep. We all know how important this is, and most of us never get enough, especially when we have babies.  But all of us also know how much better we feel when we get enough.  Sleep deprivation means dark circles, cloudier skin, and a lethargic attitude.  Not the prettiest ever.

2.  Plenty of water. If you grab a glass of water when you’re thirsty, you’ve waited too long.  Drink water almost nonstop, and you should be well hydrated.  Your sink will be clearer, you’ll feel fuller and be less likely to snack, and your body will function at its best.

3.  Good posture. Most women slouch.  If you’re sitting right now, make a point to straighten your back comfortably, rest your shoulders, and align your chin at a relaxed angle.  There – isn’t that better?  Good posture immediately shaves pounds of your frame, and it decreases stress to your body.  Basic, regular exercises can help improve your posture.

brushing your teeth
Photo by Susan & her 5d

4.  Taking a shower and getting groomed. Sounds crazy to actually put this on a list, but if you’re a mom with young children, you understand.  There are seasons when it’s a minor miracle to take a shower, brush your teeth, and change out of your pajamas before noon.  But doing so really does improve your mood, your productivity, and most obviously your appearance.

5.  Smiling. Is smiling your favorite? I can forget to smile – or even look pleasant – when I’m concentrating and hard at work.  But I immediately feel better when I make a concentrated effort to smile, and others – like my husband and kids – relate to me more peacefully.  You’ll look prettier, too.

6.  Know your colors. This idea sounds trite and shallow until you get the basic point.  Liking a color only does so much if it just doesn’t jive with your skin tone.  Once you know what works for you, it makes sense to stick with wearing those colors.  It doesn’t matter how well something fits, or how much you like an outfit – if it just doesn’t work for you, it’ll only work against you.  I was never a big purple fan, so I was really surprised to learn that plum and eggplant shades work well for me.  Now I wear that color all the time.  Real Simple has good advice on four colors that look good on everyone.

7.  A good haircut that frames your face and works with your hair type. We discussed this one recently in the comments section – is a good quality haircut worth the oftentimes hefty price?  Some times it is, at least a few times a year.  When you have an experienced hair stylist who works with your hair type and not against it, you’ll be much more at peace with what God has given you up top.  You may actually love your hair.

woman throwing autumn leaves
Photo by Andrejs Pidjass

8.  Getting time outside. Sunlight emits vitamin D, an essential vitamin that improves your mood (which is why Seasonal Affective Disorder is so common during the winter).  This, combined with fresh air, a break from screen time, ambient sound, and natural color all equal an ideal environment for better health.  Better health means a better outward appearance.

9.  Exercising. This is an area that simply does not come naturally to me, but I have first-hand experience with how much better I feel, look, and thrive when I get exercise.  An important note for busy moms – some is better than none.  If you struggle with perfectionism, like me, you tend to not do something at all if you can’t do it well.  But even a walk around the block works wonders to clear your head and improve your mood.  And when you’re physically working your body, it goes without saying that you feel better about your appearance.

10.  Quality down time. Another recent topic here on Simple Mom – quality down time (as opposed to just any old down time) means a better rested mom who truly loves her job.  It’s easier to smile, to sleep, and to work hard – all great ingredients for a better outward appearance.

“Make It Work” in your life

For the rest of this week, choose one of the 10 items, and make a deliberate effort to make them a regular part of your routine.  Today, if you haven’t yet, take a shower and groom yourself after you read this post (and comment below, of course!).  Or make a plan to take a walk around the block every day – you’ll knock out numbers 8, 9, and 10 at once.  Or if you feel overwhelmed by these, simply write “smile” on a sticky note, and put it over the kitchen sink – let it remind you of one of the easiest beauty secrets around.

See if these improve your mood, your interaction with your kids and husband, and how you feel about your appearance.

What would you add to the list?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Love this list! There are so many things we need but because we can’t buy them they’re often forgotten. These 10 are something anyone can and SHOULD do!

    Sarah @ Ordinary Days´s last blog post…Yeah, I’m Done With That

  2. Regarding 2. Plenty of water, be even more vigilant about this during the winter months. You may not feel thirsty with the winter air keeping you cool, but your body is under more pressure from the extra clothing and you are losing fluid through sweat and breathing.

    I personally travel with a Camelbak reservoir backpack to keep my pregnant wife and myself fully hydrated.

    Marvyn´s last blog post…Thirty Years: Old Age Starts Here

  3. Great list. I would also add be cheerful to the list. I suppose it goes along with smiling, but it goes a long way in being attractive to our spouses. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves to be cheerful, but the reminders work, even for busy moms. Like me.

    Shannon´s last blog post…Mindful purchasing: Are you eating child labor?

  4. I would love to add a quality and well-fit bra. It can make your clothes “hang” so much better on you!

    Bryssy´s last blog post…Preparing for Christmas…Progress Report

  5. A great list for sure. Now just tell us how to GET that good night’s sleep ha ha!!!

    P.S. Don’t be dissing Tim’s sweater … don’t you think the list is intended to prepare a woman to be ready for any occasion?

    Mary´s last blog post…Consider adding a taste of Savannah to your Thanksgiving menu …

    • I do… except for me, in this life stage, I immediately think, “How long will that stay clean?” I feel like by the end of the day, my shirt is covered in slobber, spit up, snot, etc.

      But you’re right, the cashmere sweater is a great idea for going out and dressing the part when you need to. Maybe I’ll look into that down the road.

  6. I’d add meaningful relationships to your list. Especially a loving girlfriend who will tell you when you need a good night’s sleep, when you’re wearing the wrong color, and when you need a new haircut. 😉

    Deidra´s last blog post…What She Said…

  7. I would add a creative outlet to the list. I feel like working your mind – whether it be crossword puzzles, a challenging piece of literature, or even play-doh (more realistic!) – is just as important as resting it.

  8. Great, great list. One I would add that seems to be the secret of every radiant woman I know, whether she is 2o or 90 – MOISTURIZE! It makes such a difference and is so easy to overlook.

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post…What to do When Parents Collide? The Battle Over the Television

  9. Love your list. My biggest struggle is the eight hours of sleep. Probably most moms do right ! Thanks.

    CarolinaMama´s last blog post…Christmas Cards Are Complete ’08

  10. Several pairs of jeans you like and feel good in. By this I mean that they should be comfortable as well as cute. It is essential to me that I always have well-fitting, attractive jeans at the ready every day.

  11. Hello!

    These are some terrific tips you’ve shared. Sure they are mostly common sense, but how often do we forget these things. I especially love the tips to smile and get groomed. They make all the difference in the world!

    Take Care,


    Trixie´s last blog post…Online Brokerage Review: First Trade

  12. I seriously have had this post brewing in my head, but that’s okay you said it better 🙂

    I think a few accessories , a smile, and a warm personality go a lot further than many give them credit for.

    Emily@remodelingthislife.com´s last blog post…Link Love: I’m Overwhelmed Edition

  13. Tweezers. Right? Just me?

  14. Geez we all need this ‘tangible’ list… but reading through it ain’t the same as actually doing it all! Maybe one at a time eh?


  15. Thank you for this post – I really needed it. I’m a pregnant mom of a 2 year old, and I’m definitely in one of those seasons when it’s hard to take care of myself. It seems like too much effort many days to shower & fix my hair, etc., and yet when I do, I feel so much better throughout the day.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Jeni´s last blog post…A Literary Expedition

  16. What a nice and encouraging list. I particularly enjoyed the advice to get outside and take a walk. Thank you. : )

  17. I have an award for you over at my blog 🙂

    BJ´s last blog post…My First Award

  18. This post is time so well. I so need these things of late. (well I’m spot on with the clothing colors. 😉 Yay!

  19. great ideas – now I’m going to go get ‘ready’ for my day!

  20. That’s a great list…I can definitely agree with all of them!

    Laine´s last blog post…Crayon Cozies

  21. Great post! Just have to say that I have an ancient cashmere sweater, bought at a thrift shop more than a decade ago, that I LOVE, and LIVE IN. It’s true that it’s in dire need of dry cleaning, and there are the beginnings of holes in the armpits, but it is so warm, soft, and comfortable – without being bulky. Probably not the vision of a cashmere sweater that Tim Gunn had, but… if you can find one at a thrift shop, it can make you *feel* like a million bucks.

  22. I agree with the exercise – I have such a wonderfull time exercising – and I am serious. I live in a rural community and one resident is a fitness instructor. Her husband is away in the military all the time and she stays connected by volunteering to teaching a body pump class 4 times a week. I started going in January. Not only have I lost all of the weight I put on with my 3 pregnancies (I am back to my pre-baby weight) I am strong, I look great in a bikini and I have made some wonderfull friends. I have something to look forward to. The class starts just as my kids have to be put to bed. My husband is completely supportive – if he wasn’t he needs to get his head checked. The class is free if you have a membership to the community center. It’s not hard to do – any community center would give the space for free if the teacher was a volunteer. Its such a great way to connect when neighbours are not near and get some endorphins flowing.

  23. Great reminders!!! I’ve gotta bookmark this post 🙂 (actually delicious it thanks to you!)

  24. Great list! When I read “cashmere sweater” I had the same thoughts you had. Bad idea at my stage in life. Right now my goal is to shower every day. With a 7 week old, 2, 3, and 5 year olds this doesn’t happen every day. As far as sleeping 8 continuous hours goes, I think that last happened in the spring of 2002. = )

    stephaniesmommybrain´s last blog post…Review: Children’s Books – Christmas 2008

  25. I would add to stop for a minute and be thankful…it’s something I’m working on. Times are tough right now, but it does me good to remember how blessed my life is.

  26. I always see the trench listed as a “must have” but to be honest I find them incredibly unflattering on my shape. I’m tall and curvy and a fitted coat with princess seaming is much better.

    Other than that, I’d like to add BROW WAX to the must haves. It’s not that expensive but helps your face look more put together without any make up at all. I get it done every couple months and tweeze to keep it up in between.

    Mama K´s last blog post…Holy Crap

  27. Okay…I haven’t seen it mentioned but I’d have to say that “sex” has to make my list. It makes me feel incredible and melts all my cares away (at least for a little while).

    Allison J´s last blog post…Favorite Moments

  28. As a first time mother of a two month old, I’ve often wondered if I was the only one who rarely changed out my pajamas before noon (or at all some days). Today is actually the first day that I showered and got dressed like a normal person in the morning!

  29. How do you always beat me to my posts 🙂 What a great list, Tsh. May I add taking a vitamin and calcium supplement to care for yourself? I think that is really important and after seeing the effects of poor bone density in my mother and grandmother, I know now how important it is to take care of myself NOW rather than later.

    Amy´s last blog post…Inspiring Moms: Kallie Wegmann from Discover Chiropractic

  30. I couldn’t agree more. It makes the world of difference for me if I can blow-dry my hair and put on the tiniest bit of makeup. Have you ever gotten into the car and shocked yourself with how badly you look in the rearview mirror? How do I get out of the house looking like that? That’s what I’m trying to avoid 🙂

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post…What Can I Make Out Of What I Have?

  31. This is an awesome and inspiring post! I love how you made each one seem so doable in a “Why not, I deserve it!” kind of way. 🙂

    Since I read that you may be thinking of a follow-up based on the forgotten “moisturizing” and maybe to include other great suggestions that you were provided, here’s my input.

    Practicing patience/grace/tolerance: Each time it comes to mind, take a moment to feel thankful or blessed for what you have or what is going on in the moment, in an “outside of yourself” or “outside of your own thoughts” way. If another person is involved, include in that moment, a special thought about how they may be feeling, etc. This is an important component on not getting too hung up on the little stuff and to remember that everyone has their own situation.

    Funny enough, during my lunch today I heard Sawyer Brown’s new song “They Just Don’t Understand” and LOVED it. That’s where my mind has been and here I am sharing the gist of its message here. 😉

    Suzanne´s last blog post…Focus Challenge – Month 9

  32. I love the wordrobe advice. I have 7 out of 10 of the items listed and they all work for me. Nothing beats a cashmere sweater paired with bootcut jeans on a lazy, chilly Friday going to the office.

    I really need to work on my posture.

    Carla´s last blog post…Emperor “Clean Coal” has no clothes

  33. I’ve been debating about getting a haircut, about being selfish at this time of year when I should be focusing my money and efforts on others. Thank you for the reminder that this will help me to feel good about myself and that’s okay during the Christmas season too. I’ll get it cut this week–thanks for the challenge! 🙂

    Lindsey´s last blog post…Schoolwork Silliness

  34. This list is great. But I’d add a pile of wonderful books in a variety of genres. These would include:

    A few great cookbooks
    Wonderful novels — best-sellers as well as classics
    Some great essay collections
    An intriguing memoir or two
    A pile of great decorating guides

    Cindy La Ferle´s last blog post…The giving season

  35. Great list! As a mom, I definitely find it hard to find time for myself because I am always put the kids and the hubby first. But when I do take a few minutes out of the day to do something simple for myself, it makes such a difference in how I feel for the day.

    Rebecca´s last blog post…Dec 5, Baby Nursery Bedding – Find Baby Nursery Bedding Sets

  36. I guess I would add eating right to the list…Especially in winter when the meals seem to get heavier and the fresh veggies are sparse.

    Aimee´s last blog post…Mulled Cider and Muddled Thoughts

  37. Taking a shower and getting groomed.

    One of my friends recently had a baby and said she always takes time to shower and groom because she refuses to be a mom who doesn’t take care of herself. Everyday my mom always made a to-do list. It helped her remember what she needed to finish that day and it would help her figure out in what order she should complete things.

    Budget Save Buy´s last blog post…Ben and Phil Were Right on the Money

  38. Thanks. I agree completely. I never realized that taking care of ourselves as a mother is just an extra step beyond taking care of ourselves before.

    I really agree with the hair cut and getting out side. I’m really good at getting a great hair cut. I LOVE it. When you feeling frumpy, fat, and tired, a fantastic hair cut changes everything. And a really good hair cut is worth every penny, becaus a great hair cut takes less time to look good when you style it. PERIOD.
    Now, the getting outside part….I really need to work on that. I want to be a good example to my son of loving the outdoors….but I just don’t get out enough. New goal….go outside everyday.

    Sara´s last blog post…Your Garland is Showing

  39. I love your list! Sleep is SO important. I would add doing something just for yourself. It’s sort of like down time, but I think it’s important to have time away from it all. It helps me recharge.

    Paula, Stuff 2b Organized´s last blog post…Wrapping Checklist

  40. What a terrific post!

    So glad you decided to share it

    Website: http://www.kidsstuffworld.com

    Stacy´s last blog post…Need a reason to smile?

  41. That’s a great list. I need to work on the sleep thing.

    I would add to this list two things:
    1. Eat well. I tend to eat too much sugar, especially when I get busy. But, when I eat nutritious-packed food, I feel better in every way.

    2. Give thanks. I have to constantly be reminded or remind myself to remember and speak of all the many things that I’m blessed with or that are going well/right in my life as the tendency is to drift toward a negative outlook or pessimistic perspective on my circumstances.

    Briana´s last blog post…Our Elfin Jam

  42. These are all simply fantastic ideas! I love the list. And I’m not sure I can think of anything worthwhile to add….perhaps taking care of your skin while outside in the sun? (i.e. sunscreen, covering, etc.) It goes along with your tip #8, but is sort of the opposite…fresh air and Vitamin D are both so important, but too much sun can be harmful. I think many people forget this and some even deliberately ‘tan’ too much. Of course that’s not a problem this time of year in the northern hemisphere!! 🙂

    Sarah H.´s last blog post…The “YIKES there are only 2 weeks until Christmas” Comprehensive Checklist

  43. I don’t think I would add anything. Your list is very well done. Thanks!

    The Acting Mom´s last blog post…Theatre Baby’s Blankets

  44. Another rockin’ post! I would add … the friend you can tell ANYTHING to … I mean ANYTHING!

    Nata-Leigh Preas´s last blog post…The First Cookie Exchange

  45. This is a great post. I will add, that making it a point to hug and kiss your husband and kids everyday lifts my spirits and puts a smile on my face. Not to mention, they feel special and everyone just gets along better

  46. I think the biggest thing that makes you look your best is an undying sense of confidence that you look good, but also in the belief that it doesn’t matter that much what you look like. It’s great to spend time and care for yourself and your looks (I definitely do), but if you’re insecure and your self-worth is wrapped up in your looks, it will all be for naught.

    I wrote about my personal experience with accepting my appearance here.

    And if you are feeling crappy, a good bra, eyebrow wax and mascara will do wonders. 😉

    Mom Unexpected´s last blog post…Reasons Why You’re Ugly And Your Kids Are Too.

  47. Fabulous list, Tsh! I have two comments. 1) Yes, smiling IS my favorite and I say that quote as much as possible, it’s a little joke my hubby and I have. Love that movie! 2) I put “shower” and “makeup” on my to-do list every day along with dishes, laundry, bathing the kids, errands, etc. It’s important to do for myself and I get a sick satisfaction from crossing it off the list. 🙂

    Jenny from Mommin’ It Up!´s last blog post…Burlington Coat Factory $100 Challenge Winners!

  48. Great post!

    Just wondering though if I am the only woman alive that doesn’t (and wouldn’t) give space to a little black dress in my wardrobe. I am blonde with pale skin and black looks awful on me. The only black items I have are yoga pants!

    All hail to the cashmere sweater though, I love mine.

    Nicki´s last blog post…Is that you Cindy Lou?

  49. The best “beauty secret” my beautiful mother ever gave me, which never fails to give me confidence and better posture, and makes my eyes sparkle all at the same time is: “always look like you’ve got a secret…” – Thanks Mommy!

  50. My husband, who also subscribes here!, has been begging me to finally get to reading this post. You think he’s giving me a hint? I don’t take good enough care of myself and I know I should.

    My posture is horrible and sitting at my computer all day doesn’t help. This is a goal I’m setting for next year. I’m sitting up straight right now, are you?!!

    And I don’t drink enough water. I don’t know if it’s bland to me or what, but I need to start chugging it!

    I love that you added the need for sun. So true here in Utah when 4 months of the year are cold, snowy, and gray!

    Great post. Thanks for making me take a few minutes and realize I need to do more for me!

    Marie @ Make and Takes´s last blog post…Swiped Any Good White Elephants This Year?

  51. I just love this list (and this blog – I just discovered it today!). I needed to see it in print, I think – as a new mom to a 3.5 month old baby, I have definitely been at the bottom of my own priority list lately. I think I’m going to print this out and follow another commentor’s advice – put shower and makeup back on my every day to-do list. Thanks for the great read, and now I look forward to perusing your archives.

    christy´s last blog post…All bundled up

  52. Sleep well, drink gallons of water and definately shower and put on a little makeup, even if it’s only a little mascara. What a difference it makes to your mood, and how you deal with others around you. After chickie was born, that was my favourite tip I ever received. Everyone told me to sleep when I got the chance, and never mind trying to be perfect. My sister, though, said to get my lazy *** going and to jump in the shower when I got a minute everyday. That routine helped snap me back to my normal life, just with baby in tow. Getting pretty makes you feel stronger, and more prepared to deal with life.

    NewfoundlandGirl´s last blog post…A little Christmas Bokeh

  53. ADELE CALLINAN says:

    its soo easy once u become a mother and wife to have one focus, looking after the children, clean, cooking, nursery run, and still be in one peice at 5.30 when hubby comes home, the first 3years has been really overwhelming. and i became very run down, with poor skin, dark cirlces, not eating properly cos there was never enough time and just exhausted and the last thing on my mind was to care what i looked like. once a former pr girl and model now is a mother of 2 and dont remember the last time i walked out the house not in my velors.

    after i caught my husband out on vigorous flirting with his colleuge i decided i needed to sort myself out, and now shower and get dressed everyday, do my hair and a bit of tinted moisturizer and perfume has done the trick for me. i now have my mother round my house every morning 7.45am-9am which gives me an hour to make an effort in the morn and she minds the children, the best thing i ever did! and she comes back between 4-5pm while i go for an evening walk with my girlfriend – keeping fit and getting to catch up with my friend which is another thing iv neglected since becoming a mum. and iv also swapped tea for water! and iv never been happier, my relationship is better than ever with my husband, mum, friends and most of all i am now the best mum i can be cos i take the time to look after me. its obvious really how can u look after anyone else if u dont look after urself?? x

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