Holly Hester, a blogger and 43-year-old mom from Sebastopol, has declared 2013 the year she breaks free from the "sweat pants prison" and discovers her fashion style. And she's taking the general public along for the journey.
While Hester acknowledges she's never been a style guru, she can't deny the dive her fashion sense took when she began raising a family.
"When I had kids, I felt like my stuff was just getting attacked," Hester recalled, now maintaining a brood that includes three children ages 3, 7 and 9. "Anything nice was just thrown up on or pooped on. Suddenly, all their sticky hands were ruining my shirts and pants. I just stopped caring about how I looked," she said, repeating a sentiment many moms feel when kids become their entire focus and style takes a far back seat.
But even as Hester gave up on making an effort in her appearance, it was her kids who kick-started the journey she would find herself on in 2013.
On Hester's birthday last year, she was leafing through a closet full of the mundane, trying to choose something to wear before they all went out to dinner. While she couldn't find anything, her daughter did - an old bridesmaid's dress.
"I can't wear that," Hester explained to her daughter, but she was quickly shut down. "It's better than anything else you have to wear," was her daughter's retort.
Hester ended up wearing the bridesmaid dress to dinner. And it sparked the beginning of a revolution. What if she could find her style, and challenge other moms to do the same?
Drawing inspiration from style books, Hester set forth. Her goal was simple - to look her best every single day for the entire year of 2013. She created 12 different styles, giving each month a theme to dress towards. She added to her wardrobe on the cheap by shopping at thrift stores or perusing the sales racks, and even borrowed clothes from friends. And then she wrote daily about her style on her blog, My Year of Fabulous (myyearoffabulous.com), sharing what she happened to be wearing that day and the inspiration behind the look.
The past several months have introduced style themes like rock 'n' roll, Euro chic, the 1960s mod look, and bohemian. And this month, Hester takes out the perfect white gloves and pearls for a theme of "American Classic," slipping on the appearance of a mom who's well-bred and refined and even creating the character.
While Hester has had fun experimenting with different looks and writing humorously about it in her blog, she admits that she isn't always stylishly successful.
"It's all part of the experiment," Hester said with a laugh. "Before January, I would have been afraid. I thought people would think I'd be putting on airs." She quickly discovered that the opposite was true. The more she dressed up for every day occasions, the more other moms would give her positive feedback.
Hester also admits that she isn't always inspired to put effort into her appearance, and the project has forced her to keep going even when she'd rather dive right back into the "mom jeans."
"I have to push myself each morning to put together an outfit," she admitted. "A lot of girls spend their childhoods playing dress-up and gaining an understanding of what fashion is and what looks good on them, while I spent my childhood trying to squirt root beer out my nose."
Through the past few months of testing styles and making up for her lack of fashion sense, Hester's hope is to inspire a revolution among moms who stop caring about their appearance, believing it won't matter.
"Don't wait to start dressing better," she advised, cautioning against waiting until you achieve the perfect body, or until the kids stop using your shirt as Kleenex. "Caring about your appearance again will remind you that you're not just a mom, but a woman. A whole person. A force all unto yourself.
"So burn those mom jeans, take your hair out of that ponytail and throw those big white sneakers out the window of your mini-van," Hester urged. "Believe me, your self-esteem will thank you."
(Crissi Langwell blogs about families at her blog, The Village, village.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)