"Congratulations! When are you due?"
"Mommy, how come your belly looks so OLD and WRINKLY and PREGNANT?"
The first comment is from a nurse when I went for a doctor's visit several weeks after giving birth. The second is from my daughter, who happily has no clue as to why this sort of comment might make Mommy feel less than totally amazing.
I've tried over the years to develop a magic body image "bubble of peace", in which I dress for and embrace whatever size and shape I am at the moment, avoid incessantly comparing myself to others, and shut out impossibly Photoshopped and personal-trained skinny celebrity imagery. But sometimes it is harder than others and I really have to pull out the Joan photos and the pictures of some beautiful real-life moms and gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes to calm myself down. This is one of those times.
If you read this blog regularly, you might be wondering: what's with all the baby clothes and doll-making lately, Mikhaela? Where are the vintage patterns, fitted cardigans and otherwise body-conscious garments you used to sew for yourself?
Readers, eight weeks out from having my gorgeous little baby boy, I am in a serious postpartum style and body-image funk. I realized this week I really need to Do Something to Feel a Little Fancy or I might just sink under Mom Frump Lake never to be seen again. In fact, the photo at the top of this post IS me post-partum... with my previous baby, in 2010. Er...
Every day I feel like I wear the same thing: too-loose maternity top + too-loose maternity leggings/jeans + me-made wool socks + ugly old sneakers. I'm carrying diapering stuff in a disintegrating 10-year-old backpack. The only pretty accessories I'm wearing are my wraps and ring slings...
Luckily this guy is so cute hopefully no one is noticing.
Anyway. Right after D was born, I mostly lived in stretchy nursing nightgown/dresses (see one of my most popular blog posts ever: "Easy Access: Nursing Nightgowns that Double As Dresses"). You can't see my belly in this photo, but I still look rather pregnant.
And really, I still feel pregnant-looking today, and it is bumming me out. I feel silly feeling bad about the same belly I was so excited about when I was pregnant, but I have even been congratulated a few times on my pregnancy and it HURT (though I was with my baby at the time, so I was also PUZZLED).
I've lost over 32 pounds since giving birth, but I gained a whole lot more than that, and things are just CHANGED in various ways — my bust and waist are both 4" larger than pre-pregnancy (though my hips are just 2" larger), I have a 3-months-pregnant-looking tummy, and everything is just more, I don't know. Squishy? And I'm not going to get into nursing bras here (that's a whole post of its own!) but I'm currently rocking a 34I (as opposed to my previous 32E).
So rather than sitting around in milk-covered old maternity clothes and feeling sorry for myself, I think I need to take some thrifty body-im-limbo wardrobe rebuilding action. Here's my little plan so far:
1. Stop wearing maternity clothes. Just STOP.
I think I am at the point now where it is no longer cool or working for me. I may still live in leggings and stretchy skirts and knit tops for a while, but I would like them to be actually fitted and not baggy around the middle. I've sold most of my nicer maternity clothes on eBay and given away or donated the rest.
2. Assess my pre-pregnancy items and TNT sewing patterns for fit & nursing friendliness
"One size fits sizes 2-12. Seriously." So goes the taglineon a pretty Gala wrap dress from Karina I was ogling for inspiration the other day. It's way out of my budget but just the sort of thing I need to make or buy right now — nursing-friendly, super-stretchy, a bright and distracting print, fitted and curve-hugging, but not too tight around the belly.
Luckily I have always been a fan of knits, stretchy things, wrap styles and surplice tops. A few of my me-made dresses have necklines too high and tight for a breastfeeding mom, but most are just fine. As far as TNT items I hope to sew again, I think I might do a few variations on my McCall's 6070 dress, maybe a top version too. I don't look like this in it right now, but it totally still works on me:
And I think I can play around with versions of my beloved Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top, which somehow still fits as well:
My me-made handknit sweaters are holding up just fine, and hopefully I can finish up my Hetty cardigan by Andi Satterlund in time for Me Made May... here's where I left her:
As for fabrics to make tops and dresses in, I have plenty of ITY and rayon jerseys waiting in the stash:
From Spandex House:
3. Fill major wardrobe holes.
The biggest gaps are in the jeans/legging, shoe and nursing top categories. As much as I'd love to try my hands at a pair of high-waisted Gingers, I'm not going to sew fitted jeans while my body is still so much in flux, so I hunted down some cheap second-hand shapewear jeggings and leggings on eBay from Spanx and Yummie Tummie—we'll see how they fit.
I'm not sure what to do about shoes right now. I somehow seem to have destroyed most of my comfortable flats by walking them to death while pregnant.
I picked up some nursing tops on deep deep sale from BOOB nursingwear, thrifted a few non-nursing tops and camisoles that work just as well for that purpose, and hope to sew some for the Small Human Being Sew-Along.
4. Embrace shapewear.
I've always had a few shapewear items to wear under special occasion dresses, but I think at least for now I might start wearing such things on a more daily basis. (That's more vintage style anyway, isn't it? Right?)
5. Never talk myself down or talk about weight in front of my daughter.
Which is apparently working, given her comments referenced at top. I felt like I was going to cry, but she was just genuinely curious—my squishy post-baby belly was just interesting to her.
6. Get fancied up for the camera
This always helps, and is one of the reasons I love Me Made May. Just the act of PLANNING what I am going to wear knowing that blog readers will be watching and putting on a tad of makeup instead of just throwing on WHATEVER... well, it helps. (Edited to add — speaking of photos, how awesome does this mother of three look in her bikini, with her squishy belly and stretch marks? Maybe a smile is the best accessory here!)
(By the way — if I had the budget, I would totally book a session with retro pinup style photographers Shameless Photo—they do hair, makeup and wardrobe as part of their packages and their photos are just amazing!)
Anyway, that's my tentative "fight the new-mom frump" plan. So: what do YOU wear when nothing fits?
P.S. Back in my pre-mom cartoonist days, I used to draw a sarcastic regular series about body image called "Your Yucky Body." One installment I did was about the rise of the "Mommy Job", a popular package of post-partum plastic surgery. I think nowadays this cartoon maybe feels a bit judgmental to me of women who choose to have plastic surgery, but I think my real point was more about how women are made to feel ashamed if they don't somehow "bounce back" and have flat stretch-mark-less bikini bodies weeks after giving birth: