Refinery29 is proud to partner with Stitch Fix — a personal styling service that delivers pieces handpicked by stylists straight to your door — to celebrate modern mothers’ unique journeys as they transition back to work, and the ways in which their style evolves as they navigate their busy lives.
Southern California-based multihyphenate Melissa Sonico is constantly surprising herself with fresh forms of inspiration, even if she doesn’t realize it’s happening. It’s like a chicken and egg situation — because consuming intriguing ideas and imagery spurs new inventive output, which then offers another level of inspiration to do it all over again.
Her talent in regularly distilling the stimuli around her is no surprise considering her prolific job titles: fiction writer, professor, vintage dealer, jewelry designer, and most importantly, mother of Harrison, 4, and Johanna (or “Jo Jo”), 5 months.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in English, Sonico kicked off her multifaceted career as a music journalist, which still influences her work and effortless flower-child-by-way-of-Silverlake aesthetic. During the nascent years of what we now refer to as “content-creating” in the mid-aughts, Sonico began sharing her fashion, photography, and literary interests through different iterations of blogs, which led to her building a thriving social media presence. But she can trace it all back to her magazine roots. “Doing print journalism helped me transition into blogging about myself in a format that was more tailored to an audience, even if it was only my friends at first,” she says.
Take the guessing out of getting dressed by creating a seasonal capsule wardrobe: Choose pieces in plaid, check, mustard, or burgundy for a foundation of neutrals with an autumnal twist.Layne Cross, stitch fix stylist
Today, along with overseeing her all-encompassing website, which also houses her fiction writing and her handmade mixed-media jewelry designs — vintage-inspired clay disc earrings, sculptural necklaces, and minimalist barrettes that she started making in 2014 — Sonico expresses her own personal style and shares aspirational snippets of her idyllic SoCal lifestyle to nearly 80,000 followers on Instagram.
“Before I had Harrison, I was wearing a lot of very loose oversized things, but once I had him, I started wearing more fitted pieces. That wasn’t a typical thing for me,” she explains. “I’m usually more neutrals and basics: whites, creams, browns. Overall, my style is very casual and very minimal, especially having kids. I gravitate toward whites, even though they get messy with kids — I don’t really mind having a stain on my shirt.”
Sonico, who recently earned her MFA in creative writing for short fiction, also finds that her approach to her dressing and own literary efforts share a similar ethos. “My stories are a slice of life — what you might think is mundane — and trying to find the extraordinary out of that. It’s like that with my fashion, too,” she explains. “It’s taking these seemingly simple basic pieces and making them into something a little bit more special.”
Sonico’s love of vintage and skill for thrifting also pushes her to pinpoint that special, unique storytelling element in piles of discards. She turned her knack for finding vintage gems into a now-defunct online shop in 2010, and she still sells her meticulously sourced pieces on Instagram and in pop-ups, but only when she has the time — which is understandably limited.
“It’s a lot harder now just having kids,” she admits. “I have to be in the right mindset, and on top of that, my kids have to be accommodating, so we have to just be in sync.”
And when they are in sync, it pays off — her children make appearances on her social media and their presence encourages her to stay creatively motivated. As it turns out, she’s been able to impart her impeccable fashion instincts onto her children. “A lot of times, they end up in the same color palette as me. So it’s easy to throw outfits together for all of us,” Sonico explains.
Of course, Sonico needs to incorporate functionality to seamlessly — and chicly — cater to her responsibilities as a mother. “I typically wear a blouse — something that’s flowy for nursing — and jeans,” she says. “I also really like pleated tailored pants. They’re very easy and they look really put-together. I also like wrap dresses because they’re easy to nurse in.”
Donning her many metaphorical hats, she’s also found herself needing to adjust her outfits based on the office environment. “A lot of times, I would be mistaken for a student,” says Sonico, who now teaches college English composition online but previously instructed in classrooms. So she challenged herself to sartorially convey authority and professionalism, while incorporating aspects of her personality to connect with students — and feel confident in the process.
Don’t underestimate the power of a great pair of black pants: When crafted in a modern silhouette, like a cropped straight leg or extreme wide leg, they can add instant polish to your everyday look. Try pairing them with a chunky knit or a graphic tee.Lanye Cross, Stitch Fix Stylist
“I didn’t change it too much,” Sonico says. Her ideal outfit: a vintage-inspired silk blouse in a “beachy tone,” trousers, and her favorite canvas skater kicks. “It would look very put-together and polished but also have my style in there.”
Working from home these days allows Sonico the flexibility to multitask her many projects and spend time with the kids. But that also necessitates making an extra effort to join collaborative spaces, whether sliding into the DMs of people who pique her interest on Instagram or partnering with fellow creatives. It’s for this reason she appreciates Stitch Fix and the pieces that are handpicked by her stylist.
“The clothes transition nicely from being at home to going to a meeting with my dean or prospective collaborations for my Instagram,” she says, calling out the tailored trousers and the blouses (perfect for nursing Johanna) as her favorites. “I love that my items are a bit different from what I’d choose for myself, but they work with the rest of my wardrobe. Doing this shoot really makes me want to experiment a little more.”
But throughout her creative evolution, Sonico is adamant about remaining true to herself. Her one piece of advice to new parents who are struggling to stay inspired while also juggling a number of responsibilities? Be comfortable.
“If I was wearing something that I wasn’t sure about while I was working, that’s all I would be thinking about, This doesn’t look great; I don’t feel comfortable,” Sonico explains. “You want to feel comfortable and not have to think about your clothes while you’re wearing them.”
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