Australian fashion stylist Sheree Commerford is a creative force to be reckoned with. Not only is she the founder and director of Captain and the Gypsy Kid (her ode to “style inspired by small folk”), but she’s also a mom to two adorable children, Sugar and Captain. Our fascination with her beautiful family and chic home is bordering on obsession—take a look for yourself. So we asked the effervescent and insanely hip Sydneysider for a few tips on how to navigate style from woman to mom, the clothing she always gets compliments on (it’s not what you think), and her money-saving tips for looking chic on a budget. Scroll below to see what she had to say.
So many of my memories are connected to a piece of clothing. From my ABBA T-shirt (that I proudly wore at the age of 5 on a camping holiday to Brooms Head, Australia) to the matching homemade poppy-printed white-cotton sundresses my mother used to make for my sister and me (even though we’re five years apart in age). In fact, I would feel very comfortable saying that some of my first real memories are from when I first discovered fashion, and it all began in my parents’ wardrobe. I would spend countless hours shaping clothes (that were way too long and big for me) into something that made sense to who I was.
The pieces I gravitated to back then (such as my father’s farming overalls and my mother’s ’70s cream ruffled silk blouse) have actually formed the basis of my personal style today.
Did it change when I became a mother? I don’t think so. I follow a theory that spending too much time in front of the mirror is neither good for your style nor your soul, so I was well equipped by the time kids and work became the same equation. The one thing that has an effect is age, and it has slowly influenced and evolved my style each year. It’s small and subtle, but everything is a little grown-up now. Quality is at the forefront, and I think more and more about where my clothes come from and how they’re made.
This body is not what she used to be, so my style is graciously making this realization an easier transition, if you know what I mean.
Don’t Just Follow Trends
I’m a big believer that always looking toward seasonal trends or what designers dictate as fashionable will make you detour from your true self. Don’t get me wrong—I am the first to be a follower of my favorite designers and am very inspired by what each new season brings, but what I am trying to say is that it’s not law. Great style to me is very unique and personal, and it is hard to connect to that if you follow looks straight off the catwalk or from a designer lookbook. Experiment and have fun by interpreting things in your own way.
Feel Good Before Looking Good
For me, this really goes hand in hand, but if you think you look great but you feel terrible with what you are wearing, then trust your instinct and head back to the wardrobe. One thing’s for sure: If you do not feel good about yourself, this season’s Gucci suit will not make an ounce of difference in how you take on the world that day.
I follow a theory that spending too much time in front of the mirror is neither good for your style nor your soul.
There Are No Rules
Times are changing, have changed, and will keep changing. And lucky for us, as women, the days of suits in the boardroom, dresses in the parlor, and negligee in the bedroom are over. We refuse to be defined by the many hats we wear (no pun intended), so why should our personal style be any different? Goddammit, let’s mix that sexy underwear with that suit, and let’s wear that suit to school drop-off. Hell, wear some Nikes and smart-looking leisurewear to the boardroom—whatever works in your life, because you’re the one living it.
It’s Okay to Not Care
As working mums, we don’t have much time to stand in front of the mirror trying on a million outfits till we get it right. Also, if you’re a new mum, a mum-to-be, or just enjoying the winter, there is a good chance your body is changing constantly, and getting dressed in a hurry can be frustrating and stressful. I find investing in a number of “safe” pieces that can you ride you through the storm, such as a classic white dress shirt, a well-cut black blazer, pants, and a coat.
The pieces I get the most comments about are nearly always vintage—usually bought at a flea market starting anywhere as low as $5.
Find Your “Thing”
So everyone has their “thing.” They might not know it yet, but they do. That thing is, as a general rule, what truly suits you and tells the story of who you are. That thing is usually called style. For example, I have always worn big skirts and overalls. I wear them because they hide the parts I’m not so fussed about, at the same time highlighting the parts I like. They allow me to be creative and unique by constantly reinventing how I wear them or where I wear them, and they feel authentically me because they are low-maintenance and practical for how I work and live.
This, in a way, has become my “thing,” my style. Have you ever thought about yours and how it works in with the life you are living? It sounds crazy, but if you write down five trademark looks or pieces of clothing you always wear, or a particular way you wear them, you will learn more about your style and how you are expressing yourself, which is something we tend to lose as busy mums.
Money Can’t Buy You Style
I know that when it comes to working mums, the majority—if not all—of our income goes to the family. I have to say I am very lucky that my job gives me access to clothing I would never otherwise afford, but even a majority of the time, I tend to choose vintage over designer. The pieces I get the most comments about are nearly always vintage—usually bought at a flea market starting anywhere as low as $5. What I am trying to say is that to look great and to be yourself, don’t be fooled into thinking you have to spend next month’s mortgage.
Below are some tips to affording your “thing.”
My Money-Saving Tips
Borrow: Buying something for one event can be daunting, so borrow something fabulous from a friend. Remember: It’s only one night.
Swap: If you have worn something a few times and you feel like it is on high rotation with the same work/social crowd, then swap with a friend for something new.
Sales: If you’re strategic and vigilant (best way is to sign up to all the retailers and designers you like) you can buy your dream wardrobe at anything from 50 to 80% off in the same season it was delivered. Times have changed.
Hire: I have never done this before, but I know it is gaining huge momentum: hiring clothing and accessories for a particular event. Sites that reached my ears are GlamCorner and Rent the Runway.
Has your style changed since you’ve become a mom? Why or why not? Sound off in the comment section below, and be sure to check out Commerford’s blog Captain and the Gypsy Kid for more of her stylish work and family adventures.