Notes on Personal Style from the Mommyhood - Girl of Cardigan

Mom Jeans is a collection of thoughts on personal style from mothers of young children all around the world. Some are fashionistas, some would call themselves the furthest thing from fashionable – all of them are wildly beautiful, and all of them inspire me. Enjoy!

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style - Girl of Cardigan

Leisha Otieno, I live with my husband and two sons (and 8 months pregnant with a little girl!) in a tiny town in northwestern Tanzania.  I work part-time for a small nonprofit which partners with East African ministries doing child sponsorship, which is usually from home, but occasionally involves multiple days of 6-10 hour bus rides to our partners’ sites. (  You can follow my crazy life at

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style with Leisha


I half expect Clinton and Stacey from What Not to Wear to jump out at me any time!  I have never felt confident making “style” decisions, and always thought of clothes as primarily utilitarian, especially since moving to East Africa.  All women’s clothes here are either second-hand (think Goodwill’s reject bins on a sheet in a crowded market) or tailor-made (requiring a really good tailor and really good taste).  This situation more-or-less equals my nightmare.

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style with Leisha - Girl of Cardigan


Well, my utilitarian style is definitely a plus in a maternal/work from home life, especially because I spend very little on clothing each year (on average less than $50).  Pregnancy, however, definitely causes me problems.  I live in a culture where pregnancy is not discussed in polite conversation and pregnant women dress extremely modestly to hide any “bump-age.”  I’ve been given pregnancy gowns by very well-meaning friends, but I cannot stand to wear them, since they’re essentially elaborately embroidered muu-muus.  Nothing makes one feel fatter than being eight months pregnant wearing a brightly colored tent!

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style with Leisha - Girl of Cardigan


In my attempts to walk the line between being culturally appropriately modest and pragmatic, I tend to go for a flowy and loose-fitting layer over a layer of snug cotton, jersey or spandex.  My very favorite item is a mid-thigh length black cardigan without closures, so it kind of sways around and disguises the baby bump while matching almost anything!  It’s also sufficiently versatile to pair with a skirt for business meetings or with trousers for dinner in a hotel.  I recently sewed myself a maxi skirt with a spandex “baby band” waistband which is ideal for climbing in and out of buses.  Five years ago I bought a five pack of white men’s v-neck undershirts, which I wear often, usually over an Old Navy stretch cotton tank, of which I own one in nearly every color.  When at home (most of the time) I wear jeans nearly all the time–I have a pair of Old Navy “The Flirt” style jeans and a pair of thrift store find Michael Kors jeans which are comfortable and flattering.  I work with many churches and live on the compound of a church, so if I leave the house, I have to cover the jeans with a fabric wrap skirt called a “khanga.”  On those rare nights out when I want to feel pretty and delicate despite my size and limited wardrobe, I douse myself in Elizabeth Arden Green Tea perfume.  Finally, I always finish my outfits with slip-on, locally made flat sandals…who wants to bend over that huge belly to fasten shoes?

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Girl of Cardigan