This is the way to do it, ladies (source)
Part One – Pregnant? Pop On A Nice Linen Suit!
Pregnancy can mean many things to many people. It’s a life-affirming (and life-giving) experience, an inconvenient result of a birth-control glitch, a terrifying and bewildering meander through a vagina that has been given such a drastic refurbishment that Kevin McCloud wants to film the third trimester and subsequent birth for Grand Designs. It could be none of those things. It might even be all three.
Pregnancy is great, because it usually results in the miracle of birth, but it can also be downright uncomfortable, inconvenient and unpleasant. There is no way that I can be emphatic enough in print, so perhaps imagine me saying this sipping a cosmo in a Manhattan bar or at the kitchen table, wearing an apron, swinging around a flour-covered rolling pin for emphasis – it’s ok to feel this way. It’s perfectly normal.
It’s ok to not like being pregnant. A pregnant family member is happy that she’s having a baby, but tells me that she hates the physical discomfort of being pregnant. She just hates it. That’s just as healthy as loving it (though, obviously, not as much fun).
There are lots of reasons to hate being pregnant, the general upheaval and need for intense spurts of concentration and organisation while a little person does a jog on your bladder notwithstanding. One of the most asked questions I get, style-wise, is ‘how do I dress for my pregnancy without, y’know, looking like I live in a baby bubble?’
Gentle reader, I have no idea. I do however, have baby-bearing friends and family with wildly conflicting opinions, so you can take their word as Gospel. They have my stamp of approval and several gold stars for effort.
My Mother. My mother worked through all of her pregnancies and, when I asked her what she wore, the answer was ‘a nice linen suit’. Clearly, what you should take away from this is that my mother is impossibly high-maintenance when it comes to gestation, because not only was she pregnant and working full-time, but she also had to worry about sweat stains and the most wrinkle-prone fabric known to womankind. So, don’t listen to her.
My Best Friend. Because my best friend is some kind of super-spy, she didn’t reveal to the world that she was pregnant until almost seven months along. This, she accomplished with floaty, diaphanous tops, low v-necks, skinny jeans and surreptitiously sipping lucozade at the pub and pretending that there was vodka in it. This method involves downright denial of your pregnancy. So, don’t listen to her either.
Facebook friends. I put a call out on Facebook and got one piece of excellent advice from a fellow blogger. Adapt to survive. Buy bump bands for your jeans, then progress to maternity skinny jeans. Wear what you normally wear; as long as it covers your bump comfortably, you should be fine. Maybe you should listen to this person (her name is Sinead, for future reference). Unfortunately, this advice may not be relevant if you struggle to pull on your socks, never mind a pair of pants.
What this wildly conflicting advice teaches me is that there is no one way to dress for pregnancy. Like the experience itself, it’s different for every person. Do what’s right for you – even if what’s right is an impossibly uncrinkled linen suit.
Mummy Tummy is the least of Michelle Duggar’s problems – sorry, blessings. Isn’t that right Michelle?
Part Two: I Was NOT Informed About Mummy Tummy. NOT COOL.
There are some things that the general public are just not told about pregnancy and labour. As a childless person, I am all too easily shocked by the perfectly natural occurrences that are par for the course. I almost choked on my tea and vanilla slice when a friend informed me blithely (and foolishly, for she was about to get sprayed with crumbs) that a baby can poop inside its mother if distressed during labour. It is, apparently, very common.
The image was too much for me – yet I and most of the pub-going population are totally desensitised to the sight of men urinating and brawling in the street. Go figure. For people who have yet to experience pregnancy, it’s a fog populated with obstacles made up mostly of misconceptions and ignorance.
Take for example, the body after labour. Many women assume, post labour, that the woman’s pregnancy belly will magically deflate. It won’t be the same, of course, but it will go down. Right? Wrong. Pregnancy tum isn’t so much like a balloon with no air but more like an air mattress with a pinprick leak; it’s not as firm, but it still holds it shape. Flattening it totally takes concerted effort.
So, what do you wear when you’re back from the hospital, baba in tow, looking almost exactly like you did when you went in a few days earlier? Pajamas are totally acceptable. You want to wear that onesie? You have everyone’s blessing.
It is a moment of divine horror that every new mother dreads; giving birth, then meeting a friend a few days later, only to have him or her ask when you’re due. It is not unlike the moment of utter, crushing disappointment I experienced in the optician’s last week when someone confused my mother and I. Someone thought that I was my mother’s mother. Therefore, someone thought that I was my own grandmother. It is a sublime irony that that moment took place in Specsavers.
For the first time in months, you may wish to hide your bump. Elastic shapewear can be incredibly helpful in that regard. It will change with your body as your bump goes down. It is also useful if you overindulge on all that red wine, shellfish and unpasteurised cheese that you’ve been missing out on for the past few months.
Feel free to play with proportions. Waisted belts and pencil skirts will give the illusion of an hourglass shape. Big shoulders make excellent pillows for tired newborns and will help to balance you out.
Everything from the breasts up should be emphasised if you want to play down your stomach. Your cleavage is going to be utterly bananas – take advantage of that with low cut tops. Slouchy burnout tees from Zara, ASOS or Alexander Wang will look good, be easy to clean and will show a hint of cleavage without popping it on a shelf for everyone to gawk at (although if that’s what you like, that’s cool too).
When mummy tummy is at it’s worst (directly after giving birth) you’ll probably be at your most disinterested when it comes to this sort of thing – and that’s totally ok. Great, even. Remember, every new mother is beautiful. And pajamas are always a viable option.
I fully support your right as a mother to dress like Shauna Sand. No, I really do.
Part Three: This Is The REST Of Your Life, Yo
So, the battle is over, but the war has just begun. You’ve gone through pregnancy, you’ve given birth and enough time has passed for you to begin to regain some sense of equilibrium. Maybe you’re back at work. Maybe you’re on an extended maternity leave. Maybe you’re not at work at all – well, work that results in a paycheque every month.
Motherhood is a job. Like all low-paying jobs, you’ll have to wear a uniform that you don’t particularly love and would never normally dream of wearing outside the house. Function takes precedence over fashion. This is a point that was personally hammered home yesterday when I went to hold my best friend’s son, a feat only achieved after I scraped back my hair and took off my sunglasses and necklace (granted, the necklace was a particularly pointy, threatening-looking spike and crystal creation).
Through research, interviews and observation of pregnant women and mothers for this series of columns, I’ve come to two conclusions. 1) I never, ever want to have children because 2) it requires a level of self-sacrifice and commitment that renders every outside decision that doesn’t impact on a child almost totally irrelevant. Why care about wardrobe dilemmas when you have a child to look after?
The answer is this; women sacrifice almost everything to be mothers, but they don’t have to sacrifice themselves. Clothing helps people to assert their identities. If you’re a mother who feels bad about wanting to dress as you did pre-pregnancy, I am begging you, please don’t beat yourself up. You’re still you. You have every right to be you. Sacrifice is OK. Subjugation is not.
Now that you’re on the road to mom-hood, how do you assimilate the new need for practicality into your wardrobe without becoming a cliche?
1) Don’t be a Mumsnet Mum. Mumsnet is great for advice, support and information. If, however, you are the type of competitive person who wants to be a better mum than everyone else instead of the best mum that you’re capable of being, then don’t go there. Your wardrobe will quickly fill up with organic, unbleached cotton tops, vegan burlap sacks and other deeply unattractive things that you’ll never wear because (surprise, surprise) you secretly hate them.
2) Don’t be deliberately downtrodden. Motherhood can be overwhelming and it’s OK not to look your best. On the flipside, there is no correlation between looking nice and being a selfish mother. If you look tired, that’s to be expected. If you look made-up, it does not necessarily compute that you’re using your precious infant nurturing time to slick on some lipstick. If you have the time and the want to get a blowdry, do it. Don’t deprive yourself just because you think that someone might judge you badly for it – these sanctimonious people are obviously morons.
3) It’s OK, nay amazing, to be you. Life does not stop when you have a baby. If you still want to get that tattoo sleeve or buy that minidress, do it. You don’t necessarily have to start wearing breathable cotton tops – just buy a large array of detergents. You can still wear studs if that’s your thing – just don’t wear them around your neck. Burlap is only good for holding large sacks of vegetables – you may feel like that, but you’re not. And white was always very overrated anyway.