Help, Please: Arlene Matthews of Kit This

Chief correspondent and new mom SuChin Pak finds out how other moms parent

help please!

There comes a time in a woman’s life when fashion becomes practical — I call it motherhood. It’s just that as you get older, you start to appreciate how a certain Comme des Garçons skirt can make a white T-shirt look chic — five days in a row. Your style becomes less about what everyone else is wearing and more about what you wear for your life. Arlene Matthews, mom and creative director of Kit This, a personal and commercial styling business dedicated to the 30- to 50-year-old set, shares tips for growing up your look, dressing kids, and finding style even when you prefer sweats. — SuChin Pak

Your business is targeted toward 30- to 50-year-old women. How is that demographic different?
Women in their 30s through 50s are busy with work and family. They are also dealing with body changes. They still want (and need) to look stylish and make a good impression, but they really have no role models and nowhere to look for help.

How do you define style?
I define style as wearing what you love and loving what you wear. I believe that a woman’s wardrobe should be multifunctional and that if you wear clothes you love, clothes that fit, and clothes that are age appropriate, you’ll be stylish.

Since my son was born a year ago, I’ve been living in sweats. I’m ready to re-enter the land of the living. Help.
My first tip (always) is to have a great set of go-to shoes. It can be one pretty stiletto and one fabulous flat for running around. A great shoe makes all the difference in your look and how you walk and feel. Another tip is updating your staples (jeans, tees, blazers) with a fashion-forward brand like Acne or Rachel Comey. Or, if you love your basics, add new staples (a maxi, kaftan, slouchy khaki or pant) to update those pieces.

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Where do you find inspiration?
I look for inspiration pretty much everywhere, but probably the most surprising place is on kids’ TV shows. If there is one on, I will usually stop and watch for a moment. I love the color and pattern combinations that kids can pull off.

One piece a woman in her 30s should never wear: a cheap shoe.

One piece every woman in her 30s should own: a great piece of vintage designer. It could be a top, a pant, a knit, a dress. Think Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Sonia Rykiel. So much style and quality for a fraction of the (designer) price.

Has your style evolved since having kids?
I think my style evolved more with age than with kids. I have very few rules and much more fun with fashion now in my 40s than before, but my core style is still very minimalist.

Rule you never break: wearing yoga gear outside of yoga.

Go-to lazy-day outfit: a pair of camouflage pants (that I confiscated from my son’s closet) and a cashmere V-neck sweater. The cashmere sweater turns into a Sophomore tee in the spring/summer.

Your “Woah, I’m a parent” moment: Ha! I have many, many woah moments. The last one was this past summer dropping my son at freshman orientation.

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Your kids are older now. What’s the greatest lesson they’ve taught you? To be in the present moment. It all goes by way too quickly.

Your kid(s) are writing a book about you, what’s the title? Repinned. (Yes, I am on Pinterest that much.)

Parenting habit you swore you would never do, but now do frequently: My parents were huge worrywarts, and I swore I would not be like that. Unfortunately, I’m finding my worrying gets worse the older they get.

Do you have fashion rules for your kids?
It’s pretty much anything goes, except back to the workout wear. It’s strictly for sports practice and working out.

I try to achieve work/life balance by: shutting down my laptop when the kids get home.

Don’t forget to: schedule something for yourself that you love to do, do something purely about you. A little self-care.

Say no to: feeling guilty.

Say yes to: a spontaneous dance break.

Favorite online shop: At the moment it’s Creatures of Comfort.

Bookmarked websites: Quite a number of them, but I’ll stick to the fashion ones. Tales of Endearment, Le Catch, Apartment 34, Stop It Right Now, Decade Diary, Atlantis Home, Kingdom of Style, Park & Cube, Simply Olive, Fashion Gone Rogue, The Shiny Squirrel, Vain & Vapid, Gretchen Jones NYC, Beklina, and a whole lot of various street style sites.

Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest?
Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr — in that order.

help please!

Photos: Julia Stotz for DailyCandy