How do mamas with high maintenance aesthetics make it work?

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Pushba, the ultimate high maintenance mama. Photo by Lesta

I got an email a few weeks ago from a reader who wanted to hear about how mamas with high maintenance looks (goth! rockabilly! pin-up!) manage to maintain their styles after having a child. This question really resonated for me because, although I don’t have quite as high maintenance aesthetic as some, I definitely love my glittery eyeshadow and eyeliner and loud boots and pink hair.

And four months into this whole mamahood thing, I finally starting to feel like ME again, and that includes superficial things.

But my prep work is only about 10 minutes in the morning. What about the ladies with the looks that take some serious time? I asked some Offbeat Families readers and got some great answers…

  • “On my worst days, I’ll just do my lips and eyebrows, throw on sunglasses, and still somehow manage to look like I tried.” -Amelia Grace
  • “It’s second nature for me to get all ‘girled up’ … I found that I felt a lot better when I was myself: painted eyebrows, liquid liner, platform shoes and all…” -Reni Valentine
  • “I manage to put my goth look together for Special occassions, date night, parties, pictures, etc. But yeah, my mommy day to day consists of hair in a bun, black skirt, and black velvet zip up hoodie over a nursing tank.” -Hunny
  • “Shaved off the hair. So much better.” -Zoe Roy
  • “I am a Goth and always dress that way even if I am taking my son to school …. If you love the way you look, you will find the time to dress or look that way. I must admit when I first had my kids I was wondering how I would ever find the time to look the way I wanted to, but now its just routine” -Larissa Corby
  • “I didn’t feel like me when I first had my daughter, I had to rediscover my pre-baby dress sense and hair dying tendencies to get ‘me’ back! …Although I now think I might tone down the make up since toddler munchkin drew on her face with felt-tips copying me :/” -Jedgee Joy

One Offbeat Families reader, Heather Miller, sent me some great perspectives on how she keeps up her pin-up retro look:

Heather says:

When I saw your post on Facebook, I laughed a little to myself because having a high maintenance fashion aesthetic when you’re a mom is very challenging indeed. My son is nearly 11 years old now and I still find it hard to keep up the glamorous part of my “pin-up retro aesthetic” on a daily basis. With running him to and from school, activities, maintaining the household AND running my own jewelry business, I definitely cannot spend hours in front of the mirror rolling my hair and carefully applying eyelashes like the old days! Unless, of course we are heading out to paint the town at a local Rockabilly show.

I find that having a routine of when I set my hair and preparing outfits for the week (with substitutions for activities that may change) really helps. Of course, when your kids are very small, a good hair wrap and some red lipstick always does the trick in a pinch.

Also, you may want to avoid wearing your vintage best (or favorite goth clothes, etc.) when home with babies and toddlers. Stick to classic t-shirts and jeans with ballet flats. Those are less likely to be permanently damaged from spills and can be found in every shape, color and pattern to express your individual style.

I also make a point to wear at least one piece of statement jewelry every day! Even with jeans, a big retro flower ring or a mod cuff bracelet always makes you look more pulled together!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer! And now I want to hear from more of you — how do you find the time to feel like YOURSELF, no matter how high or low maintenance that may be?

Comments on How do mamas with high maintenance aesthetics make it work?

  1. I get compliments on my hair all the time, which always makes me laugh because sometimes I have not even combed it. I just throw it in a bun and toss a large flower fascinator in it, and it looks just like a "real" hair-do.

  2. For me, it’s all about the accessories. My standard day-to-day (for work and errand running) is a cardigan, cami, jeans and flats. I always wear a bow, flower, or headband and a statement necklace. Since I do hair/makeup for a living, I always have to be “on.” I make sure to wake up about 45 minutes before my son to get that done, as I have a massive amount of hair.

  3. Ohh! For me, it's all about the makeup. I spend…too much time doing my face every day(45 minutes or so). Arts and crafts are my friend during this time. I just flat iron my hair and throw it in low pigtails, toss on some jeans and a fitted tee, and away we go. I think I probably still look like a slob though. hehe

  4. The getting up early and being uber organised approach is DEFINATELY the way forward 😀

  5. Fake ponytail clipins, flower barrettes, diamondy barrettes, and I never leave the house without a bit of makeup….I get up thirty minutes earlier than I have to, to get me time…and then make the time to make myself feel better in the day (like showering, shaving my legs, coloring my hair whilst on facebook and baby is napping) If you do not make the time for yourself, then you can lose essentially what makes you you…I refuse to do that just to raise a child. I have one in college, and a newborn, and my rockabilly/rocker look has never wavered.

  6. My aesthetic is decidedly low maintenance (on a good day I might have time for make-up and a hasty flat iron before donning my jeans and a hoodie uniform – my clothes always seem to get wrecked by the end of the day anyways!). I just can't seem to manage any more. Sometimes I wish I could go back to work outside the home, just so I'd have more of an excuse to prep a bit more and afford some saucier clothes. Kudos to all the fancy mamas out there 🙂

  7. I don't have a higher maintence style, except for my hair. I've been letting it grow longer, so it's at my bra line when in a ponytail. I refuse to cut it, though, more than a trim. Because I take the time to blow dry my naturally curly hair, or to tame the curls, I keep the makeup low maintence. I do usually wear a scarf- I have a large collection. This makes me look pulled together.

  8. I am super low maintenance. no makeup, I don't necessarily even brush my hair, unless it needs it. I throw on whatever clothes are around, and this is what I've done for years! Makes it easy to be myself. I'll admit, it's nice to be out of the maternity clothes and back into clothes that are actually my style.

    • However, I am leaving my hair long, and refusing the "mom haircut", no matter how my daughter pulls on it.

  9. When I first got pregnant I was determined not to let it change my personal style, and true to that sentiment, I had FULL makeup on in all the pictures of both my childrens births (they are now 2&1/2 and 4). I will admit that early on with nightly breastfeeding and exhaustion there were days I didn't do a damn thing to my hair, but those were usually days I didn't leave the house. I found that basically if I found time or made time to keep up with my personal maintenance, I was happier overall I think being happy made me strive to be a better mom too.

  10. i have to do my hair and make-up as i always did. heavy black eyeliner/mascara, coverup, and huge hair. i cant not wear my boots and i cant not get tattooed. it wouldnt be me. i promised myself that when i was becoming a mom i would not change no matter how hard it got. i have had lazy days (those days feeling horrible about myself because i wasnt put together like i normally am), but at least 5 of the 7 days a week i get ready like i always did. i dye my hair like i always had. and i go get tattooed every now and than like i had prior. im just glad theres a thing called naps where i can run and get in my makeup/hair time when needed. and grandma time when i need tattooed! ha ha

  11. I get these kinds of questions at when I'm at tafe, but I also because I care for my younger brothers (3 and 1.5) with the same heavily gothic look for 4 of 7 days a week. I don't live at home with the 'rents, and I go out of my way to be around them.

    So I take them to daycare in corsets, I teach them how to tie their shoes by watching me lace up my boots, I give them paper and a pencil while I put on my makeup, I make a counting game for getting dressed and it goes on and on. When they were younger I just wore alot of thrift store clothing, like a black top with a cool buckle, but I wasn't bothered if it was hit with projectile vomit. The boys were at their most 'portable' between 5 months and 16 months old, so I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted, with them in tow.

  12. This morning we did a sing song sunblock before going to the park; that is, head shoulders knees and toes for all 3 of us, because we are the pale ones in the family. The boys automatically chose things that are black/have skulls on them, but if they want to wear bright yellow spongebob shirts thent hats cool aswell. I don't force my look onto them. When its who you are, you just can't stop it. Yeah, there are days when I walk around without make up on, but I still feel good on the inside because my skirt has that cute lace detail on it, or my hair is this awesome shade of red, or I don't mind not having makeup on today because I had my eyelashes tinted and it gives a naturally dark look without actually doing anything to the face.

    Its not easy, but once its started, just keep bulldozing through it! Children LOVE routine, and if you make it normal for them, it becomes normal for you.

  13. I really need to get back into some sort of beauty regime. I can't remember the last time I wore one pair of my hundreds of pre-baby earrings.

  14. It's easy once you get into the routine.
    I wake up an hour before everyone else, so have a shower, take my curlers out, quickly pin them up into a pinup style, curl my fringe in about a minute, do my makeup, get dressed, throw on an apron and get cooking breakfast.
    I've been doing that same routine since I was 17, {albeit without the husband and child}, so I can do it quickly and well. Do it everyday and soon you're pretty damn good at it.

    Then take the girl to school, kiss my man goodbye, do the housework, cook dinner, read, maybe short nap, wake up, refresh makeup, re-pin hair, go get the girl, kiss man hello, serve dinner, showers, teeth brushed, bed.

    It only gets difficult when I have a new addition to my latest tattoo venture.
    Then more often than not I'm stuck in the bathroom at 6 am wailing "Josh! Come help me put my bra on! My arm's all sticky and I can't bend it around because it huuurrtttssss!!!"

  15. I always try to make it work. However, my son has recently started primary school and ever since his first day, i have endured endless trouble from the other moms.
    On his very first day I walked him to the gate of the school yard and instantly i was met by a chorus of audible whispers and even outright taunts by some of the parents, including the very original “It’s the Addams family…”
    I didnt really care that much, but when i was summonned by the HEADMISTRESS to be asked to tone it down, i was so furious! I kept calm but oh, i was fuming!

    I mean, I’m a good mom! I look after my kids, i just happen to do it in corsets and long skirts. So what?
    Grr…

  16. While I have not personally experienced this yes, I am gearing up with tips for when I am introduced to the time demands of motherhood.
    Some of the options I have discovered sound like they would take a lot of time and guesswork out of still feeling put together.
    1.) Get your eyebrows and LASHES dyed by a professional. Usually, an average salon charges about 30-35 to do both at once. Think about it, eyebrows match your hair and lashes are always dark even when you don’t/can’t use mascara. No tear smudges or poked eyes! and you can sleep in it, wash in it, swim in it…
    2.) Look into permanent make-up. I know, I know, lots of scary things come to mind (Namely Michael Jackson). I have done a lot of research into this field though and work with at least two women who have full coverage & love it! Me personally, my style is very very minimal on everything but eyes so I would just get top lid, skinny line, well blended. You can always enhance or downplay from there, and thanks to Kat Von D, you can always cover up those little tattoos if you need to with a bit of foundation.
    http://www.bestsemipermanentmakeup.co.uk/images/eyes_before_after.jpg This is good, unretouched example of how far this technology has come.
    You would be surprised how many women have permanent makeup nowadays! It’s really up to you whether you so subtle or full. All I have to say is make sure you get a credible person, speak to former clients if possible, look over a full portfolio and make any other clear-headed choices you would with a normal tattoo.
    In Oklahoma, I have found that there is a lady out of a local college who is there for dentistry and working her way through with her experience in this field for half-price.
    I’m sure there are similar deals in other states.

    As to hair, I think Ariel really shut it down when she introduced us to tips-only. Whether your look is a natural ombre or punk-shocking neon, keeping on the ends is definitely less hassle.

    • This article is quite old, but I must tell you that I considered permanent makeup because of your comment, and recently had my eyeliner (top and bottom) done. I’m not a mother yet, but I’m 29 and have been married for 3 years so I feel this is the next step for me. I also recently got braces, and this is a lot of maintenance with the flossing and appointments and all, so I was looking to remove one step from my routine. I’ve been wearing eyeliner since the 7th grade, and permanent eyeliner has put an end to 17 years of raccoon eyes. My technician told me I need to get this re-done every year because of fading, but since I wear sunglasses when it’s sunny outside, never tan (I’m goth), almost never swim, never go in a sauna or jacuzzi, and don’t plan on using additional eye makeup makeup I’d have to rub off every night, so I think I can stretch it to 5 years. Some websites even say 7 or 10.

      To answer the question of the person who asked if it hurts: no more than getting a tattoo on a sensitive spot like the ankle. Your eyes are closed so you don’t see the needle approaching your eye.

      I paid $569 (Canadian) for the whole procedure, taxes included. My touch-up session in 3 week is free. Touch-ups in the coming years, if needed, will be half-price.

      I would never have considered it had I never read your comment, and I would recommend it to all the busy working ladies out there who can afford it, mama or not!

  17. Love this article. It’s been a year since I had my daughter and I am just now finding the time to take care of my appearance again. It feels great.

  18. It can be hard but, if you have a routine in place it can be done. I have five kids and just rediscovered being me again.

  19. I got my eyeliner and lip liner/ color tattooed on. However, I didn’t have a high maintenance look to begin with.

  20. I’ve always had pretty high-maintenance hair and I like it that way. It’s bright colors and I’ve had some pretty far out haircuts. When I realized I just didn’t have the time to plug in the flatiron and actually use it because I was too busy redirecting a mobile baby out of the toilet I was so over it and shaved it down really short. Now I rock a bright colored mohawk and it’s so much easier without losing the edge.

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