I never expected pregnancy to force me to face my own vanity in the way it did.
Since our daughter is a summer baby, I spent months in oversized loose-fitting dresses hoping I would “bounce back” by fall. The truth is I never did bounce back. My hips are permanently wider and my upper arms are bigger. Even after I stopped breastfeeding, I stayed at LEAST a cup size larger. By the fall, I had to swallow my pride and go up a pant size. I tossed away my old jeans and what felt like part of my old life.
While I constantly reminded other women that body changes are normal and that “bouncing back” is an awful societal pressure, I had a hard time convincing myself of the same thing.
It wasn’t so much the new way I looked. I was able to get used to my new body eventually. The biggest blow to my self-esteem was getting dressed in the morning. I used to love getting dressed.
After spending months in unflattering, boring maternity clothes (Sorry Target, but your maternity section really needs to be more than, like, twelve items. Signed, every mom ever.) I wanted to look cute again.
I was sick of wearing my husband’s t-shirts, but I also didn’t want to buy a whole new closet. It took years and years to curate the perfect wardrobe: second-hand finds, brands that no longer exist, colors I felt confident in. I collected fun patterns, materials, and fits that were flattering and comfortable.
And every once in a while, there was that devastating moment when the dress you bought after your honeymoon, your first dress as a wife, can’t close. When that favorite cocktail dress won’t make it past your butt. When your favorite work button-down is now not so safe for work.
While working in the wedding industry, I came to know a seamstress, Jennifer at S&F Sewing. She did my wedding dress, and I’ve sent all my friends to her for their wedding dresses. She makes clothes from scratch, fixes upholstery, and so much more.
I figured if she can get fabric to fit around a couch cushion, surely she could find something to fit around me.
After our daughter turned one and I came to peace with my body, I did a closet exam. I pulled out everything that almost fit, things that would be perfect if one small thing changed. I packed them up and dropped them off at the seamstress.
We walked through each item, I tried them on, we shared ideas, I told her my concerns, and we spent an hour or so chatting about clothes. As a mom herself, Jennifer understood the struggles I faced with my body. She reminded me every time that I am beautiful, I am a great mom, and I have wonderful taste.
There are no words to explain how I felt instantly beautiful again when my honeymoon dress closed, when my arms fit back into the sleeves and I didn’t have to lose 15 pounds to do it.
We added sleeves to an old favorite set because I became insecure in sleeveless tops. We added zippers to dresses that buttoned, so I could get dressed or undressed easily and avoid any slips in public with a grabby toddler. She even brought in the waist for a few items to show off my hips. And I did not like my new hips one bit until I saw how she fitted a dress for me.
Seeing the clothes I spent so long loving and longing for back on my body gave me a whole new perspective. I don’t need a whole new closet, just an update to what’s already there. I needed to take what exists and make it work for me now.
As new moms, we compare so much of our life to how things used to be. We give up so much of ourselves to step into a new role. I think most of us feel a little lost at times about who we are now.
My clothes made me feel like me again. For the first time in a year or more, I didn’t open my closet doors anticipating disappointment. I knew what was in there would fit.
Originally published July 2021.
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