What do I wear so I don’t look like a mom or a church lady?

My husband, “Buck,” is interviewing in another state for a great new job. They offered to fly him in but he turned them down, explaining that his wife would be driving up with him. (Driving takes just as much time as flight time plus waiting in the airport, plus I want to see where we would potentially be moving.) They then offered to set me up with a realtor to check out the area while my husband interviews. There was talk of dinner as well.

What on earth do I wear?

I have not had to do the corporate wife thing much over the years. Early in our marriage there were big Christmas parties and an annual beach day at Buck’s boss’s vacation home. Over the years those spouse-included perks have fallen to the wayside in favor of smaller, employee-only gatherings which are cheaper. I have not had to go to a corporate thing in 12 years or so.

In the meantime, my wardrobe has evolved to what I would describe as “stay-at-home mom chic.” I have been buying for comfort and cost for years. My dressy clothes are best described as “church lady.” I do have some more up-to-date things but sense that they are too casual and/or too churchy. I want a look that is sleek and sophisticated. I am afraid I will guess wrong and be too dressy or too mommy-frumpy or just too . . . something. This is really, really important to Buck, and to our family. Please advise.

I’m wary of the phrase “stay-at-home-mom chic.” The word “mom” should never be involved in a description of your personal style. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I should let you know that my heart gets a-pounding at a Sale sign in the window of the Lilly Pulitzer store, and when I go to the mall I basically make a beeline for J.Crew, buy everything in sight, and then go home and delightedly try on my new clothes for my poor bewildered husband who usually says something like, “Well, honey, you like nice, but that looks like everything else you own.” So I’m not exactly Anna Wintour, you know?
Figuring out what to wear is fairly easy if you just wear simple things that look nice on you, and that are comfortable but not in the yoga-pants-and-a-hoodie kind of way. For real estate shopping, I would wear a cute top or t-shirt, jeans with real shoes (not sneakers or flip-flops or Ugg boots) and a well-fitting jacket or blazer. For dinner I would wear a wrap dress and boots or plain heels (nothing glittery or with a clear heel because your personal style should never say “stripper” or “hooker” unless you actually are a hooker or stripper). And I would bring along a pair of plain trousers in a neutral color that’s not black, with a sleeveless blouse in a nice, subtle color, plus a cardigan. You could wear this to dinner or looking for houses, depending on where you’re going. Any of these things can be dressed up or down with jewelry. And you’ll definitely seem like a mess if you get dressed and leave the hotel thinking, “I’m not sure if this is appropriate oh my God if I’m wearing the wrong thing they’re not going to hire him and he’ll hate me and leave me and instead of buying a new house I’ll be living in a cardboard box wearing orange juice cartons on my feet instead of shoes,” instead of, “I look hot.”
I don’t think you should sound so sad and discouraged when you talk about your clothes. I also feel a little scared when you say you’re buying your clothes based on comfort. This brings to mind some terrible images that involve elastic-waisted pants and t-shirts from the Loungewear section at Target. Being a mom doesn’t mean you have to spend your days looking like you just woke up or you’re about to go jogging. You’re still the same cute girl you were before you had kids. Dress like it.

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