Reader Homa dropped this one in the suggestion box:
My problem is that I still wear maternity shirts 6 months after my second baby. My old stuff is just short somehow. So my big plan is that I want anything new I get to be the start of a new style for me. But where to begin? Chasing kids in skirts won’t work but maybe my jeans + tee routine must go? I would love to start shopping for clothes online but don’t know where to start. I also know I need to pay more but can’t bring myself to buy a shirt over $10. I just feel frumpy and unpretty. I star your posts in google reader but want to really implement your ideas but I feel like I’m starting from scratch.
I’m going to keep this a bit more general and talk about post-partum style and body image. I’m also going to give you a crapload of caveats:
I’m not a parent. I don’t know what it’s like to deal with a post-partum body or the accompanying emotions. But many of my very close friends are parents, many of my wonderful readers are parents, and I consulted them all while assembling the advice that has gone into this post. I realize that the post-partum period is intense and challenging and – perhaps more importantly – different for every woman. So, as always, take everything here with a grain of salt. I trust you to use your judgment, take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.
Now, let’s dig in! You’ve brought home your darling infant, spent a few months recovering and adjusting to this immense and amazing change in your life and family structure, and are starting to feel like it’s time to leave the PJs behind. How do you proceed?
WHAT TO AVOID
Gnashing teeth, moaning, beating chest with fists, etc.: This will be a trying time, no question about it. You will be tired, feel frustrated by your body, and wonder if you’ll ever feel normal again. Do your best to ask for help when you need it, remember to breathe, and cut yourself some slack. Also cut your body some slack.
Crash diets and insane exercise routines: Your physical systems are in serious flux, even after you’ve given birth. Punishing your body with unreasonable food restrictions or loads of strenuous exercise will just tax your system further. Be patient, be gentle, be reasonable with your body.
Setting a time limit for getting back into your pre-pregnancy wardrobe: Every woman is different, every woman’s post-partum period is different. If you give yourself nine months to fit into your old clothes and don’t make that goal, you’ve just manufactured an unnecessary failure. Let your body change organically.
WHAT TO EMBRACE
The knowledge that your body has changed to accommodate its new role: You may feel like a stranger in your own body for a while. But as you become familiar with this new terrain, remember that any changes to your body have happened to make parenting, mothering, nurturing easier for you and for your baby. Your body is now the body of a mother.
The fact that every woman’s body takes a different amount of time to recover from pregnancy: Do not compare your recovery, weight loss, or body bounce-back time to anyone else’s. I know that sounds impossible, but TRY. You are a unique organism with unique chemistry and genes. What happens to the bodies of your peers is irrelevant to you. Period.
The possibility that your body is now a totally different shape: Some bodies return to their pre-pregnancy state, some change forever. You may look and feel differently, but try to remember that anything new about your physical form is natural, and will help you be a fabulous parent.
Cotton, spandex, and flat shoes: More on that in a moment.
STYLE TIPS FOR WOMEN WHO ARE NURSING
Invest in nursing tanks: Regardless of season, good cotton nursing tanks make great underlayers. Wear them with a short-sleeved camp shirt in summer, with a cozy cardigan in winter. Tanks offer coverage but easy access, and are the easiest nursing pieces to layer in multiple ways.
Seek out one-button cardigans: They’re rare beasts, but well worth hunting. One-button cardis add style and structure without impeding access.
Avoid synthetic fabrics: They may irritate the baby’s skin, not to mention yours. Stick to soft, natural fibers as much as possible.
Beware of scarves and jewelry: Nursing necklaces aside, most around-the-neck adornments are tough during the nursing stage. They get messy, they get pulled on, they get broken. Adorn in other ways.
TIPS THAT APPLY REGARDLESS OF NURSING
Utilize your second trimester maternity clothes: You probably want to set ALL of your maternity clothing on fire, but try to restrain yourself. While you’re deep in body-limbo, buying new duds may be frustrating. Spring for a few fun shoes and accent pieces, but use your second trimester duds as base layers.
Use – or if you don’t have one, buy – a belly band: Here you go.
Hit up thrift stores: Again, now is NOT the time to spring for a spendy new wardrobe. Scour thrift and consignment stores for trendy and seasonal accents on the cheap.
Play with patterns, especially on top: Even if you’re a solids girl at heart, now might be the time to start exploring florals, geometrics, and abstracts. Your body is in flux and may have a few lumps and bumps in unexpected places. Instead of squeezing into shapewear or beating yourself up, try not worrying about it. Patterned tops and dresses distract and downplay.
Consider your figure-flattery priorities:
- Empire-waist tops and dresses will mask your midsection, but may also make your torso appear short.
Best for: Gals who want to downplay their bellies and aren’t as worried about proportional balance, tall women
- Blouson-style tops with elastic bottom bands will give your belly some room, but may also draw attention to your hips.
Best for: Athletic and boyish figures, gals who want attention drawn to hips and bum
- Wide-legged pants are often comfy, but may make you look big all over.
Best for: Days when comfort is top priority
Embrace the tunic/legging formula: Leggings and jeggings offer comfort and sleekness, tunics offer comfort and style. That’s a double dose of comfort, people!
Cultivate a wardrobe of flat shoes: Ballet flats, sandals, and boots. Make sure you’ve got every category covered. And be sure to invest in a couple of high-quality, sinfully comfortable pairs. Don’t get your entire post-partum shoe wardrobe from Target. Promise me.
Consider a stylish, easy-to-care-for haircut: Your hair may be going through some changes right now, too, so this may be impossible. But if your locks are relatively stable, now may be the time to chop them. You will have limited time and energy resources for the foreseeable future. A wash-and-go ‘do will give you more time for other, potentially more important tasks.
MORE STYLE RESOURCES
Again, not a parent. But here are some amazing resources from bloggers who ARE!
You Look Fab’s forum thread on postpartum dressing (older, but still relevant): Always chock full of suggestions from Angie’s readers
Image is the Bravado! Design Original Nursing Tank, available at Target.
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