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Reality Check: Fashion-Conscious Mama?

Q. Some of the more fashion-conscious mothers at my kindergartner's school made jokey comments about my clothes, and now I feel pressured to dress up more for morning dropoff. Should I?

A. Between fixing the lunches, making beds, and coaxing a halfway decent breakfast down my kids' throats, the last thing on my mind is putting on a faceful of Maybelline and slipping into couture first thing in the morning. Shoot, everyone should be thankful I'm not showing up at the school in a bathrobe, rollers, and slippers.

This is what my friends and I tried to explain to an acquaintance recently when, during a girls' night out, she suggested that too many of us moms let ourselves go for the sake of the kids. "If you cared about yourself, you'd put on some makeup, a little perfume, and fix your hair so you feel good," she said. My friends and I looked at her like she had 12 heads, and then argued her down  -- "Who's going to get all decked out just to buy bananas and diapers at Kroger?"

But later, alone, I had to admit that I do carry myself differently when I have on a cute top and a little lip gloss, and perhaps it wouldn't hurt every once in a while to remind my friends and my husband  -- and especially myself  -- that when I feel like it, I clean up good.

The key words here, though, are "when I feel like it." And that should be your mantra. No need to keep up with Barbie. Jeans or skirt, heels or sneakers, follow your own dress code.