Q&A: clothes for moms of toddlers

Amy writes:

"I need help with clothes.  My clothes.  I am living with a 15 month old who is living it up for all she's worth.  It's great and I don't care a whit that her clothes are permanently stained with ground in mud, cherry juice, smashed blueberries or tomato sauce.  We clean up hands and faces throughout the day, but otherwise I let her muck about in the same clothes all day adding on layers of grime (unless it's really really bad and we have to go somewhere respectable).  Maybe that's my mistake.... It seems impossible for me to avoid having her add layers of grime to MY clothes.   I'm a SAHM, and I live in jeans and washable shirts, but frankly, it ain't all coming clean anymore.  I am on the verge of buying all black shirts and a new pair of jeans (which would be my toddler-free 'good' jeans).  My husband says I will regret going all black because I won't be able to avoid white spots from yogurt and such (but vanilla yogurt isn't staining my clothes so I don't really care so much), and everyone will think I'm a nut for doing it. Once upon a time I was a fairly stylish dresser before the baby arrived.  I've given up hope of looking like anything but a Mommy for a few more years at least, but what the heck to Moms of toddlers do about their own clothes???  I hope there is another way short of multiple costume changes during the day...."

I never have this problem, because I live in New York and therefore I wear all black.

OK, not really. I do have this problem, which makes me wonder why I don't (always) wear all black. Because you're right--even if the yogurt makes a temporary white blotch, it washes out easily. And you don't notice any of the other stains. (And if you did get something like mustard that causes your black to discolor slightly, you could always color over the stain with a black Sharpie like you did back in high school.) And people won't think you're a nut--they'll think you're an aging punk, a rabid Johnny Cash fan, or a transplanted New Yorker who hasn't figured out yet that the rest of the world wears color.

Or you could buy a bunch of darker, but not black, clothes in the colors most likely not to come out--dark pinks and reds and purples and browns.

I think it's a good idea to have a few things that are kid-free clothes (aside from work clothes or fancy clothes) so that you can go to your book club or out for a casual meal with friends without looking like you've spilled your wine before you even walk in the door. So go ahead and get the kid-free jeans just so you have them when you need them.

You could also go hardcore on the stain removal. I have a friend who can get any stain out of any piece of clothing. But she spends a significant amount of her life in the laundry room. I'm not willing to do that, so I stick with my basic arsenal of Bac-Out (for berry, wine, poop, and tomato stains), Zout (for chocolate, ink, oil and chemical stains), and Shout Gel with the scrub head (the best thing to get tempera paint out of corduroy). If one of those three doesn't work, I consider myself beaten and wear those clothes as bottom layers in the winter.

You could spray your clothes with Scotchguard before you wear them, but then you wouldn't want those clothes close to your body or your daughter (and the chemicals you'd inhale while doing the spraying would stay in your body for years). So it's probably safer to resign yourself to wearing darker clothes for the next two years and designate some of your clothing to be worn only when you're not with your daughter. Unless someone else has an idea that doesn't involve hours of scrubbing stains, toxic chemicals, or a full-body stain-protector condom.