The following guest post is by Miriam Levine.
For as long as I can remember, my wardrobe represented my stage in life. When I packed up to go to college, I filled large duffel bags with skinny jeans and baggy cotton sweaters from the Gap. I lived in slip-on suede moccasins throughout all seasons and occasionally dressed up in a slinky printed dress for a frat party.
When I prepared to intern at a hedge fund in Midtown Manhattan, my mother took me to Ann Taylor to buy my summer uniform. Not LOFT, but the real Ann Taylor store on Madison Avenue, which had a strong new car smell that filled the four-story space. During that outing we bought three pantsuits: charcoal grey, navy with pinstripes and classic black. When I arrived at my internship I realized that there wasn’t one woman wearing a pantsuit. I quickly revamped my look and began arriving in shift dresses or button down shirts with the black slacks from my suit.
Following my college graduation, I worked for a family foundation. There I donned black pants with silk blouses. When I returned to school to get my MBA it was back to the dark wash jeans and baggy sweaters from my college years. But this time instead of the Gap, I went to Bloomingdales for an upgrade.
And then I got pregnant. Pregnant women are faced with two options: form-fitting polyester that hugs the burgeoning belly, or shapeless sacks. I opted for the baggy style. I embraced tunics with leggings and tent dresses. I was also the largest during the winter months so my puffy maternity coat resembled a sleeping bag.
After I gave birth and started losing weight, I needed an item of clothing that would prove I hadn’t transformed into a frumpy mom. As soon as I was down to my original size, I bought white jeans with ripped knees. These were my “I still got it” jeans.
And because I was breastfeeding my son, my breasts grew from a C cup to a “large” in nursing bras. The tops that I looked forward to returning to following my pregnancy still wouldn’t work. And I needed easy access shirts where I could discretely nurse my son without having to get completely naked. This challenge was more difficult than I had anticipated. Clothing specifically made for nursing women were completely unflattering with obvious flaps directly in front of the nipples. I couldn’t possibly wear those items out in public.
So began my hunt to find the perfect wardrobe for this stage of my life: the working from home, under 30, nursing mother. This is what I discovered from my experience as well as talking to other moms:
- Wrap dresses can be your friend. When you need to dress up for a party or special occasion, wrap dresses can look stylish, can hide some extra poundage and can provide an effortless opening for your boobs.
- There’s no reason you can’t wear leggings. Leggings get a bad rep for being the lazy mom’s go-to, complete with a messy ponytail, ratty t-shirt and spit-up all over your face. The truth is that leggings can be a comfortable and chic part of your regular wardrobe as long as you eliminate the disheveled look by running a comb through your hair and wearing a sweater or tunic that covers your butt.
- Sneakers, ballet flats and warm boots in the winter can all be in rotation. I never wanted to be that mom wearing sneakers, but admittedly I now wear Nikes every single day. When you’re walking miles with a stroller, sometimes you have to be practical.
- The No Make-Up Make-Up Look. You don’t want to look overdone with thick, cakey foundation, bright red lips and eyelashes that reach the solar system. But you also don’t want the dark under-eye circles and washed out ghostly look that haunts most new moms for the first few months (or years, I’ve been told.) Find a tinted moisturizer that matches your skin-tone, a rosy lip balm and good concealer. That should do the trick on most days.
Although it’s hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I now don a “mom uniform,” it actually has had a liberating effect. I now have my outfits already pre-selected for the day and I don’t have to stress about what to wear during the already-hectic mornings. Caving in and giving myself permission to wear leggings has enabled me to devote more time and energy to more important things – like getting that spit-up out of my hair.
Miriam Levine is a freelance writer based in New York City, where she lives with her husband and 8 month-old son. She received her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s degree in American History.