Quality looking summer clothing for stay at home mom in HOT weather
May 12, 2016 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Hi everyone, I am trying to figure out where to shop. I am an average sized woman, 5, 4" and I work part time in a school and have three young kids. I need things that coordinate and can more or less go between work and home...although I am in the stage where things get stained often!! I just tried stitch fix. I was so disappointed! The quality didn't seem to be great, the items looked like not great quality, one dress was way too long, three shirts looked like maternity on me, and one was polyester, which is awful in HOT, HOT weather where I live. I have no time to shop, but I don't want to go buy boxy looking clothing. I would like clothing that fits, and I can't figure out where to get this. I am spending way too much money shopping online and guessing just to have to pay all of the shipping fees to order and return! I have seen people recommend Boden, but others say sizes are inconsistent. I'm not a huge fan of JCrew. Thanks so much!!
posted by tangomija to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and an addition....I want to look put together and very comfortable, but not wearing a full lululemon outfit!
posted by tangomija at 3:42 PM on May 12, 2016

Perhaps Lands End? They went slightly downmarket after acquisition by Sears a few years ago, but I've heard that they're recovering. They're pretty good on using natural fibers.
posted by praemunire at 3:47 PM on May 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

One thing nice about Boden, if you're interested in the styles, is that they put the finished dimensions of the garment on their website. Click "size guide" for the item. I've been satisfied with Boden's quality in the past, and one time I wasn't they sent me a free new one.
posted by stowaway at 3:50 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe look for stores that offer free shipping and free returns like Nordstrom?
posted by cecic at 3:53 PM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Uniqlo, maybe? They have nice fabrics especially for hot weather. They do a lot of washable, neutral basics. Yes, you pay shipping, but I typically order a lot of things (and send a ton back) and consider it the cost of having the luxury of not leaving the house to try stuff on. I love their Airism bra camisoles, and just bought a bunch of fancier t-shirts for summer. Oh, and they are cheap. Like really cheap for the quality.
posted by nanook at 4:12 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're not able to shop in person, I'd definitely recommend getting your measurements taken and then shopping based on size guidelines/charts, which include measurements, rather than sizes themselves. Sizing is inconsistent all over the place, even within, say, different washes of the same cut of jeans (I'm looking at you, Old Navy).

If you're on a tight budget, the aforementioned Old Navy and Kohl's have some decent, very affordable natural-fiber dresses, shorts, and shirts right now. It can take a little digging at the store to find the good stuff.

If you want things custom-fit and are willing to pay a little extra for it, I can't say enough for Eshakti. You can order items customized to your measurements and select different necklines, sleeves, and lengths. And you can filter on the website for natural fabrics only. They've expanded their shirts and pants/shorts offerings lately, though I haven't tried them (I'm too obsessed with dresses!). They do a lot of fun prints but plenty of basic, mix-and-matchable solids, as well. It's not cheap, but it's good quality clothing that will last, and depending on what fabrics/styles you get, a lot of it is timeless.
posted by adastra at 4:24 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have also been satisfied with Boden's quality, and they do free shipping/free returns offers pretty regularly if you sign up for emails or get the catalog by mail. I agree the sizing can be inconsistent, but they do try to make it as transparent as possible, as per stowaway above. The reviews from other customers are usually very helpful.

The thing about them that sounds like a good fit for you is that they typically offer a lot of the same items in many different colors and prints, and popular items come back season after season. So if you find a piece that really works on you, you can get several.

L.L. Bean Signature might be something else to try. Not the most exciting or trendy styles, but classics are ok sometimes. I've been happy with the quality of the items I've bought from them (boots, a camp dress, and a sweater).
posted by slenderloris at 4:28 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone!
That's a great idea to get my measurements....Where do I do that? If I get it done in a store, am I obligated to buy stuff?
I'm 9 months postpartum also, so I'm definitely changing sizes by the day...and then will go back up after I stop nursing!!! GRRR. That's why I want comfortable clothing. I'm so embarassed to admit it, but I wear anything with an elastic waist and don't like jeans! Makes me sound like an old lady..so I do my best to dress stylishly so hopefully no one will notice the elastic waist :-)
posted by tangomija at 4:42 PM on May 12, 2016

Seconding shopping on sites that have free returns, like Amazon and Nordstrom. There's also a service called Shoprunner where you pay an annual fee and get free shipping and returns on a number of sites. You could also try online shopping at stores that have brick and mortar locations near you -- buy a ton of things that could potentially work and return most of them in person so you can minimize your shopping trips and save on returns.

Unlike you, I am not average sized, but my shopping strategy may work for you anyway: if you can invest time in one long shopping trip, go to as many stores as you can and try to find at least one brand and size that consistently fits you. If, for instance, you figure out that you can wear Banana Republic Size 8 off the rack, then you can easily shop Banana Republic online and be reasonably confident that the clothes you order will fit.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:15 PM on May 12, 2016

FWIW, I've never had measurements taken in a regular clothing store --- only lingerie boutiques and tailor shops. I think you can do a good enough job yourself with a seamstress tape as long as you don't give in to the temptation to cinch it tighter than it should be.

It sounds like athleisure wear and maxi skirts are where you want to be right now. Check out Athleta and Title Nine for the former (they have more regular daywear than lululemon IMO), and Old Navy/Target/etc. for the latter.
posted by slenderloris at 5:19 PM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been happy with the quality and comfort of everything I've ordered from Athleta - free shipping if you order enough, I think free returns, and they have a good selection of non-athletic clothes. I wear my joggers to work all the time.

(I am also a 5'4" average sized-ish lady.)
posted by asphericalcow at 5:28 PM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

What about Columbia? I love their stuff. It's pretty durable and light and they have a whole line dedicated to feeling cooler in hot weather. Regarding measurements you can do this at home pretty easily. I had my husband help me and there's guides on the Internet for how to measure everything properly.
posted by FireFountain at 5:52 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

That's a great idea to get my measurements....Where do I do that?

It's actually easy to get a tape measure and do it yourself. And - a lot of the catalogs and online catalogs will tell you exactly how to do it, if you look at their "size guide" - there's usually a picture showing you what they mean when they say "bust" and "hips" and whatever, and so you can just take a tape measure, wrap it around yourself where they say to, and write down the numbers.

Those are actually all pretty standard measurements, by the way, so you may just want to do this yourself - it's good information to know anyway, and easy enough to do on your own.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:53 PM on May 12, 2016

Also I should add Columbia has free shipping for members and membership is free.
posted by FireFountain at 5:54 PM on May 12, 2016

What about Lularoe? Me--and many of my teacher-friends with small kids--are fans of this brand. The only drawback is you have to find a seller, usually through Facebook.
posted by Hop123 at 5:57 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you buy a dressmaker's tape measure, it's easy enough to measure yourself (and I think those soft measuring tapes are nice to have around anyway, so). And I am a huge fan of online shopping by measurements (like ... it really takes a lot of the anxiety out of what size I am. I just go buy the chart and I don't feel bad about myself).

BUT! This is a huge but and a problem I've run into. Not all online stores have accurate size charts. Some just have a general one that doesn't translate between brands. And that's annoying as hell.

Mango may be a bit hit or miss, but they do have a lot of stylishly plain basics and are good at putting together outfits. Much of it isn't super fitted but it's not boxy either. (I find their size chart to be pretty accurate. I exclusively shop their sales & there are good deals in the Outlet side, too). For instance, not knowing you or your style, this T-shirt and these pants seem cute and easy. And that was an outfit Mango put together.

I think both Target & Kohl's are good, although much more work to go through & I question some of the size charts (they seem to be more general, sadly).
posted by darksong at 6:01 PM on May 12, 2016

How about BR or Loft? I am 38, average size, 5'4", wear 6 or 8 typically, and those are my go-tos for casual.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:13 PM on May 12, 2016

I like Eddie Bauer for summer clothes. I'm 5'2" and live in famously-muggy Washington DC. Granted it's been a few years since I shopped there but I recall they have a lot of comfy casuals and I've always found their clothes to hold up well to wear and tear. If your price point is a little lower I'd go Old Navy and buy a size up from what you usually wear - they run large.
posted by capricorn at 6:22 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've also had good luck with eShakti and Boden, as well as Gaia Conceptions (their stuff is well made to size, tough, stretchy, and lasts *forever* - my scoop neck shirt is surviving my toddler constantly yanking down the neckline to breastfeed!).

I've heard good things about Ureshii Design, but haven't tried them yet. They're also made to size, and have a detailed guide on how to measure yourself - super handy!
posted by jrobin276 at 6:25 PM on May 12, 2016

I (mother, anti-polyester snob) would check out places that are big on 'quality basics' like Grana and Everlane. I was looking at, for example, this super-plain silk tank dress and since I don't have issues with machine-washing silk, I thought, damn, if I had the spare cash, I'd just buy one in every colour I like and that would be my summer uniform; I wouldn't think about clothes all summer beyond just 'Lilac or navy?'

LL Bean Signature and Boden both make nice shirtdresses. Simple dresses in linen, cotton, or silk are, I think, the easiest "I am reasonably put together" hot weather garments. Eileen Fisher is queen of the simple linen shift -- but not cheap -- but something to stalk down on eBay or look at as an "investment piece," as I am still wearing an Eileen Fisher linen shift I bought in 1998. (The fabric's a bit more sheer than it originally was, but it hasn't faded or visibly worn -- !)

Occasionally Zara can be useful for cheap simple cotton dresses, especially t-shirt dresses, of reasonable quality.

I once explained to a grandma who was surprised I was letting my then-young kid get curry and tomato on me that, nowadays, you just spray it with Oxi-Clean spray when you get home and don't worry about it; better stain removers had revolutionised mothering, I was sure... (The powder kind has its uses but if you can use the spray on a stain quickly enough it's got a crazy success rate.)

("Lularoe" is a pyramid marketing scheme -- the most important product is the "downline," not the clothing, and the clothing is terrible-looking and I kinda doubt you'll find the quality you're looking for through on something hawked via MLM pests/dupes on social media.)
posted by kmennie at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Loft (and its more casual sister, Lou & Grey). An increasing chunk of my casual work wardrobe is from Loft. Their stuff is comfortable, cute, easy-care, decent quality, and often natural fiber. I've found the sizing to be pretty consistent, and they often have comfy stretchy elastic-waist skirts that don't look frumpy. They have ridiculous sales online all the time, and if you get stuff on sale the value is unbeatable.

(Also seconding avoiding Lularoe. I like some of their stuff, but kmennie is right, plus their sizing can be inconsistent.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:06 PM on May 12, 2016

I live in Singapore where it is sweltering hot. Same job scope and my sizes are changing. Cotton On and uniqlo make up 90% of my wardrobe for price, because the t-shirts are cheap enough I don't weep when I destroy or change size on them. I have one great wrap dress for fancy occasions currently.

I live in either a sleeveless pullover dress from uniqlo that I bought in a whim (which reminds me to go and order another several before they change the design) or t-shirt and jeans/long denim shorts. Lightweight denim is very comfortable and jeans in a dark color are just idiot proof for dressing up with a nice top or throw a cotton cardigan over it.

Levis denim is heavy. Uniqlo has proper light denim, it feels like a thin denim shirt. Chinos would also work, or a skirt with pockets, but you basically want two plain bottom pieces you rotate endlessly during the week.

If you suit tunic tops, leggings and tunics are so great, size adaptable and comfortable. I am too short and busty for most of them but I have two tunic+ legging outfits that miraculously work and would go that way if I could reliably find tunics with visible waists.

Also think about your boobs. If you're nursing and a recurrent problem is that everything looks unflattering up top, you may have a bra that is shaping your boobs in a lumpy way. Nursing bras often give a sports bra profile under clothes or fit funny. Hot Milk in NZ made such great nursing bras I wore mine after finishing breastfeeding, and they ship worldwide, US free.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:07 PM on May 12, 2016

Lands end. Love them!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:09 PM on May 12, 2016

I am a stay at home mom in a very hot climate (Phoenix) and my favorite store for good quality stuff at a reasonable price is Nordstrom Rack. I can get a shirt for the same price as one from Target but that is waaaaay nicer quality.
posted by celtalitha at 12:09 AM on May 13, 2016

Oh! Also my weight has been fluctuating a lot too, so my favorite trend right now is those loose printed pants with the stretchy waists, that look like fancy pajama pants. Pair with a plain black tank top and nice flat sandals and bam, super comfy fashionable outfit.
posted by celtalitha at 12:11 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you might like BetaBrand. I live in a cooler place and have really been eyeing their dress pants yoga pants, but they have versatile dresses, too. Hmm, studying their options, it might be a bit more "work" than "home," but it might be worth a quick glance.
posted by salvia at 12:22 AM on May 13, 2016

About measurements: I'd suggest getting someone else to do it for you (like a friend or spouse). It's much easier to measure someone else than it is to measure yourself, especially if you have no experience taking measurements.
posted by mchorn at 6:48 AM on May 13, 2016

I'd also like to put in a suggestion to have stuff tailored. This can rescue items that are otherwise nice but the fit is off -- a boxy top, for example, or a pair of trousers that fits in the hips but not the waist.

If you're interested, you could even learn to do some basic tailoring yourself -- there are tons of video and photo tutorials on the internet, and it's often a lot simpler than it might seem. I can't do much more than sew in a line with a machine, and I've still successfully done a European hem on jeans, taken in jeans at the waist, and nipped in the waist on boxy t-shirts. The last one is ridiculously simple: lay boxy shirt inside out on the floor/table, lay a well-fitting shirt on top of it, and trace around the well-fitting shirt with chalk or pencil or washable marker. Then sew on the traced line.
posted by snowmentality at 3:22 PM on May 13, 2016

Uniqlo is amazing with cool-feeling, breathable clothes. They are (in my experience) well-built basics and if you have a cool palette in your wardrobe that will go nicely.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:01 PM on May 13, 2016

For real comfort in sticky heat, polyester is superior to cotton.

Outrage! scorn! contempt! But cotton is natural!

Cotton is absorbent. It soaks up perspiration, and then... it stays wet.

Modern athletic polyester is manufactured like a tiny Jack's beanstalk-- a twisty spiral ladder. Sweat drops go racing up the ladder, reach the sky, and just evaporate. Clothing itself, and your body, remain dry and cool.

Of course, you need to check the labels and look for the words dry, moisture-management, or wick. Old Skool Polyester is like wearing a plastic garbage bag.
posted by ohshenandoah at 9:15 PM on May 13, 2016

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