Stylish, yet affordable

I love the mall. I used to spend hours there during a lazy weekend, browsing sales racks and people-watching. Then I had kids, though my mall rat ways weren’t automatically upended. I’d stroll my daughter along with me, and quickly learned which department stores had the nicest bathrooms for a feeding break. 

Then came toddlerdom and it was then I learned that an afternoon at the mall with a whining, climbing, racing toddler was anything but enjoyable. That, plus our ever-growing kid expenses and my bit-flabby mom body conspired against my wardrobe, turning it from stylish to whatever I could find on a quick trip to Target. 

Sick of feeling dowdy and ready to restock my closet, I asked three Twin Cities style mavens for tips on how to transform from blah-moi to hot mama—on a budget, of course! 


Tracy Morrison, fashionable St. Paul mom of three daughters and blogger at sellabitmum.com. 

• Shop online. If you’re like Tracy and love designers, sign up for “members only” sale sites. Her favorites? Gilt.com, Ruelala.com, and Ideeli.com, where “you can buy amazing fashionable designer items at a huge percentage off,” she says. She also uses coupon codes and monitors sales at Jcrew.com, garnethill.com, and anthropologie.com. If you don’t want to wait for an anthropologie sale, Morrison says shoprouche.com and modcloth.com both sell clothes with “the Anthro look for so much less.”

• Shop locally. She loves Primp and Karma, both in St. Paul, for stylish looks for great prices. She routinely finds great designer brands at local consignment stores Elite Repeat, Nu-Look, and Fashion Avenue too.

• Shop smartly. “Buy and invest in classic basics that will last season after season,” Morrison suggests. On her list? A little black dress, jeans, “go-with-everything” cardigans and “well-fitting” t-shirts. Then give your wardrobe an update with accessories or a new pair of shoes. These don’t have to be designer—she’s a huge Target fan and buys many of her shoes at the outlet site 6pm.com.


Sally McGraw, Minneapolis-based style and body image blogger at alreadypretty.com:

• Try tunics: McGraw says tunics paired with leggings, or other skinny bottoms, is a “comfy-as-PJs” alternative to the jeans and a t-shirt uniform. Plus it’s “a modern, flattering silhouette on many figures,” she said.

• Trade sneakers for flat boots: “Tall boots add sass to virtually any outfit, and flat styles are ideal for busy moms,” says McGraw, who shows off her own fabulous collection of boots on her blog. “A polished pair of flat boots will help you look sleek and chic while remaining mobile.”  

I’ll admit it: I’ve chased after toddlers in heels and have always been proudly smug about having never toppled over. But I probably looked like a fool and am lucky not to have broken a heel or an ankle. If flat is not for you, try a stacked heel rather than a stiletto for stability.

• Shop sporty vendors: McGraw suggests brands such as Horny Toad, Athleta, and Title Nine. “[They] all cater to the athletic crowd, but they also make comfortable, stylish streetwear that’s meant to take a beating,” she says, adding that their clothes are also machine washable—a must for moms. 

I love Athleta’s stretchy pencil skirts and yoga pants. The main drawback? The items can be pricey, McGraw pointed out. And I’ve noticed that sales can be few and far between. Stock up if you find a good price on your favorite items. And remember, consider price-per-wear when you are shopping. If you’ll wear an expensive item multiple times per week and it will last a while, it will end up being a better deal than buying several cheap, ill-fitting items that either don’t last, are never worn, or both.


Sasha Westin is a personal style concierge and owner of Fabuliss, a company that helps busy executives—many of them moms—put together the right looks. She also blogs at fabuliss.com. Her top three tips?

• Examine your closet. “Make a list of the clothes you have that fit well and that you like to wear. Use the list to identify gaps and bring it with you when you shop to keep you focused,” she says. This will also keep you from duplicating pieces.

• Pre-shop online. “Shop online before you shop the stores,” Westin suggests. “Use this time to determine where to spend your time when you get to the mall or shopping area and remember, you can shop online at any hour.”

I always head online before heading to the mall to print coupons. Signing up for deals from your favorite retailers will also pay off, if you can stand the high email volume.

• Don’t be shy. “Ask the store associates for help. They can help you cut down on shopping time by getting you different sizes, checking other stores for your size and helping you decide between two colors,” Westin says. Two of her favorite stores, Nordstrom and Macy’s, have free personal shoppers that can help save time and shop for pieces in your price range.


Kara McGuire is a personal finance writer and a St. Paul mother 
of three. Send comments, questions and story ideas to 
kmcguire@mnparent.com.