Clothing rules that change the game for women
Adult women often find themselves bouncing from a "normal" setting to gaining the "Freshman 15" to pregnancy to postpartum and then often back again, wondering what is the definition of normal anymore. Dressing ourselves can be not only difficult, but stressful and expensive. Even if you aren't pregnant, you might find your size changing often due to hormone fluctuation. Our bodies are not like men's bodies. Our bodies were designed to host a lot of change. What if the clothing we purchased reflected this and could encourage a healthy perspective and enable us to embrace the unique features of these temples God has given us? What if our clothing could be a source of stability for our ever-changing bodies?
There are three principles of style to which I give some attention, and three specific clothing items that help me put these theories into practice.
Clothing as art / There is great power for women in seeing clothing as artistic expression, which shifts our perspective away from looking at what we wear as simply something to make our bodies look good or better or different. When you can look in the dressing room mirror and see the beauty of the piece you're wearing, and forget about that part of your body you have a hard time with, actually thinking wow I look good in this, it's a beautiful and perspective-shifting experience. I think people often assume that fast fashion is the only way to show artistic expression in clothing. If you're hoping to turn your closet into something like a beautifully curated art gallery, slow fashion is your friend. If you're inspired by the arcade scene, go for fast fashion, which will keep things flashy and interesting for a time. This may sound harsh, but how and where you shop has a cumulative affect on your life and your wardrobe. More Monet, less clipart. Unlike your choice of scent for your bathroom hand soap, clothing as art does not mean constant change on a whim. Building a carefully curated wardrobe takes time. Eventually you get there and it's worth the wait. Having a wardrobe that is not only functional, but visually pleasing, is a really awesome thing.
Proportion / There are different rules of proportion with clothing, but you're allowed to break them if you like. So I guess maybe they're not rules, but more like... options. I love the loose top + fitted bottoms look, but you can go the opposite route with a fitted top + loose bottoms. If you're wondering how to make a fitted top look flattering postpartum, you can mimic the fitted-on-top look with something cropped or simply a close-fitting loose top. Basically what I'm saying is that a fitted top does not actually have to hug every curve. It just needs to have a closer fit than the bottoms you pair it with. Some throw these rules out the window and pair same + same and it looks totally amazing. Find your rules of proportion and stick with them. I know mine, but I have friends who do it different ways. I have noticed that I don't really bounce around with different proportion options, although I might get there eventually. I like the loose top + fitted bottoms look on me, even though I love the other looks on other people. Find what you feel comfortable and beautiful in and stick with it. It may seem like you can't go wrong here, but you can, unfortunately. The wrong kind of fabrics, and ill-fitting clothing mess everything up. Make sure your clothing fits, and all will be well. Pay attention to shoulder seams, and know your measurements if you're shopping online. Embracing unusual silhouettes can help you if you find that your body frequently fluctuates in size.
I thought it might be helpful to gather up some examples of different proportions. Note that some of what makes these outfits work is the way the body is divided visually into thirds, focusing on the natural waist. Some may be able to compile a wardrobe using a variety of proportions, but if you're just starting out, I recommend sticking to one, and branching out later if you want.
loose top +fitted bottoms
Fabric / Fabric is important. A fact I touched on briefly above. Clingy knits, though at first seem like a good choice, are very rarely going to feel good or turn into timeless wardrobe choices. I like linen-knit blends for tees, and heavy-weight knits for dresses. Something with a bit of structure, even with knits, is going to go the distance for you. Other flattering, and durable fabrics are denim, linen and cotton. You can conquer the world (or at least the grocery shopping, my arch nemesis) with durable fabrics that keep their shape.
When planning your postpartum wardrobe, identifying what type of clothing makes you feel confident, comfortable, and most like yourself is key. Some call this finding your "uniform."
When we do not have clothes that fit our bodies, our style and our needs (squatting in the sand with kids or sitting at a desk and going to client meetings), it can and often does affect how we feel and our ability to meet the tasks of our day with confidence and without hindrance. Do you have a uniform? Jeans are my jam, you guys, and I realized recently that one of the reasons pregnancy is hard for me is because I always go a size up in pants. Since I try to severely limit my maternity-specific clothing collection and because trying to wear something with a waist is basically hopeless during pregnancy anyway, it means... no jeans, and I just can't deal. It's okay though, because I know where that extra fat is going when the baby arrives (Chalk that one up under coolest facts ever). Last week I decided to use the rest of my birthday money to purchase a pair of high-rise boyfriend jeans in a size larger than my normal size. I wore them around the house all morning (totally unzipped with a belly band, of course) and I was in heaven. I realized that having these jeans is going to do so much to boost my morale postpartum, because I know that squeezing into my non-maternity jeans is not going to be the emotionally reassuring morning ritual for which I am looking.
After Bruno's arrival 4 years ago, I began changing what type of clothing I looked for and purchased. I stopped buying and wearing fitted shirts, and embraced button-down styles. And now, as we await the arrival of this next baby in September, my closet is ready for the postpartum phase. These following three items will not only prove to be excellent wardrobe staples for the every-woman, but are my keys to postpartum and breastfeeding clothing success.
Loose tees and tanks / This is not the time to be self-conscious about your mid-section. For most women, our waistlines take a number of months to look not-pregnant again. This can be difficult to deal with mentally, but by wearing loose tops, you can feel not only comfortable, but confident and just a wee bit "normal" despite all the crazy things through which your body is still going. These tops also lift easily to nurse without getting stretched out beyond recognition.
Buttoned style tops in a boyfriend fit / Forego anything with darts or that looks tapered. These will likely tug at your mid-section.
High-waisted jeans / The first time you put a pair of 9" rise jeans on, it's a bit weird, but after a few wears, you realize what a good thing you've been missing. Our moms were right to be alarmed and off-put at the low rise styles we were digging in high school. They just are not flattering. They dig into your waist and actually create a muffin-top on even thin women, perpetuating our self-deprecation and mental abuse of our female bodies. Emphasizing your natural waist is always going to be flattering. Try a high-rise style, or at least mid-rise, and see what you feel comfortable in. Gone will be the days wondering if your crack is showing at the playground. Gone will be the days of hiking up your pants every 5 seconds. You'll be shocked at the amazing silhouette these denim all stars give your body. Mysteriously, choosing pants or skirts with a high rise are still effective at drawing attention to your natural waist even when you're covering it up with a loose top.
For your buttoned and knit needs, visit Everlane. I can't recommend this company enough. They also have some really fabulous dresses that would be great if you're looking for breastfeeding-friendly styles.
The best part about these three items is that they are clothes you can and will want to wear even when your body returns to normal. Not breastfeeding anymore? Had your last baby? No problem, these clothes will still flatter and look stylish, because they're just normal clothes. No one should have to store an enormous bin of clothes that are only useful for a few months. Yes, sometimes maternity specific clothing is necessary, but there's a lot you can do to make the bulk of your wardrobe work for nearly any stage or season of life, and feel great throughout.
Hit me up with your best ideas and tips. I'd love to hear how you make your wardrobe go the distance.
Photo c/o Joanna Christine