Dress Code: What To Wear When You're An Exhausted New Mom

Illustration for article titled Dress Code: What To Wear When Youre An Exhausted New Mom

Today, I ran across an item on post-natal anxiety. And it wasn't even talking about clothes! But we are: Because even during this most exhausting of all times, occasionally you do still need to get dressed. And you have questions.

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This is one I keep hearing: how to look human/adult/even relatively chic...when it's all you can do to catch 20 minutes' sleep, feed yourself and deal with the thousand and one anxieties of a total life change and caring for a new human being. For most moms, getting dressed is not a high priority - nor should it be. Unless you have a full-time stylist or someone dolling you up for a magazine shoot, this is one time when you should not need to even consider what you're wearing, so Rule 1: Go easy on yourself. Live in sweats if you want.

Thing is, you might not want to wear comfy pants all the time. And at the same time, you're not going to want to wear maternity...or be able to wear your old clothes right away, even if you wanted to. I talked to all my friends with kids and babies — the ones who said they just needed to feel more like themselves sometimes, even if they were at home with babies; the one who runs a boutique and needed to "look like she cared about clothes" when she dropped into work; those who were back in the office; and the others, who occasionally just wanted to leave the house in something other than sweats. Here were a few constants:

  • Be comfortable. If it's not comfy, you're not going to want to wear it.
  • Go cheap. No one wants to invest in clothes that you won't fit in a few months - not to mention things that will be spattered with milk, baby food, spit-up and in which you need to be able to change a diaper. Old Navy is a name that comes up in any such discussion, but I also have it on good authority that other good options - with websites - are H&M, American Apparel, and, yes, Forever21 (although size up there!) One new mother I know got everything at thrift stores and on eBay - but she's one of these superwomen with amazing energy and you shouldn't feel bad if you can't imagine the trip, let alone the energy to rummage and come up with a creative outfit. (That said, she does look awesome in her repurposed art smocks, oversized button-downs and caftans.)
  • Patterns are your friend! For above-mentioned reasons. Plus, babies like to look at them.
  • Access, access, access. If you're nursing, this is non-negotiable. In any event, a V-neck looks good. And no need to spring for all "nursing" tops - anything accessible will work just as well, without the price tag.
  • Empire waists are flattering Even if they are reminiscent of maternity, empire waists are still comfortable and easy when your chest and stomach are in mother-mode.
  • When it comes to pants, higher waists are more comfortable. While some women I know preferred to avoid jeans and trousers altogether ("who needs it?" in the words of one), those who didn't like a higher-rise. In the words of another, "anything without a goddamn baby panel is a relief."
  • Button-downs. One of my friends says she "basically, lived in my partner's shirts." You can also buy men's button-downs, or economical women's blouses a little bigger than usual - always cool over leggings, pants and skirts.
  • Jersey is nice. Cheap, washable, stretchy, adaptable - what's not to like? Jersey high-waisted skirts are especially versatile.
  • Don't Toss All the Maternity. You may never want to look at it again, but some pieces are versatile: Empire and A-lines are still an easy shape, and wrap-tops and dresses are workhorses.
  • Shoes must be comfortable. You're on your feet. You're carrying a baby. Wear something comfortable. Geox shoes are a respectable-looking option that feels like a sneaker. And plenty of lines you may have consigned to "dowdy" territory - like Naturalizer and Aerosoles - have some seriously good-looking options that are still eminently walkable.
  • Sweater coats: controversial. People were weirdly divided over the sweater-coat. Several women mentioned them as easy necessities. Another called them out for special scorn, saying they "made her feel like a mom." (The word "despise" was actually used.) So, you know, this one's up to you. For what it's worth, I think they look pretty cute.
  • And remember: you just had a baby. Don't worry about it too much. People know you were pregnant: there's the proof. You don't need to look like a Kardashian, encase yourself in Spanx (unless you want to, of course) or be in heels.
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Illustration for article titled Dress Code: What To Wear When Youre An Exhausted New Mom
Illustration for article titled Dress Code: What To Wear When Youre An Exhausted New Mom

And I look forward to hearing more from those of you who've mastered postpartum style!

For all of our handy Dress Code guides, go here.

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DISCUSSION

This is a general observation on these sorts of posts.

Are there, like, thrift stores in NYC? Because there's a lot of talk like they're some impossible, wasteland-y crapshoot that take a lot of work.

Where I live in the midwest, I can get to at least 5 different chains, 7 different branches of a major thrift store within 20 minutes (this accessibility, and the vastness of my stores, really couldn't happen in NYC. Space and roads are a midwestern advantage, I know).

But I feel like any discussion of thrifting is often talked about as very niche-y. Caftans? Smocks? (Or maybe those are just maternal word choices, in which case nevermind.)

I am very picky about things looking cheap. (I will wear "tacky" and "ridiculous," but never mall-cheap, you know?) The only way I can maintain that kind of wardrobe is to rarely shop at Old Navy (only for jeans and very basics) and the ilk. F21 looks way, way too cheap for me while still too pricey.

But at the same time, I hardly spend anything on clothing because I thrift it all. Certainly I wear enough hip-looking young people niche-y clothes, but I also have to dress professionally, and my nice clothing is a lot nicer than Old Navy, and mostly I thrift it.

I've bought YSL, Calvin Klein, Dior, new cashmere, Free People, ODR, all kinds of things...for $5 tops. Because these places mass-price everything. Brand new target-designer brands, Old Navy, all these kinds of things. Without fail, and I never pay more than a few dollars for everything. Very little work involved. At least there's no mall-trek. It's kind of, just, how it's done around here.

(Also, I hate new mall-grade shoes, they always always look really chintzy. I have gotten lots of vintage Brazilian leather heels for $3, the ones those new styles are modeled after.)

And, no sweatshop concerns. Granted, I'm a very easy size. But the attitude I get from Jezebel sometimes is that you can't look nice and thrift? Is this just a symptom of the city? Is it a bad climate for cheap and nice thrift? From what I know about, like Ann Arbor, I can imagine. Thrift in the cities is like "captialize on hipster youths' parents' credit cards and their desire to seem original" or whatever, and it's $15 ugly sweater kind of thing.