I used to have a very specific wardrobe. A corporate uniform of suits, pencil skirts, shell tops and button-down shirts saw me through the week. The modern day armour of the business woman. Of course, they became completely impractical as a new mother staying at home with my baby. I had to search for a different kind of style.
I did not find it easy.
A great deal of my identity was caught up in those tailored pieces. The identity of a proud and chic business woman. The transition to constantly casual wasn’t something I felt comfortable with. It didn’t feel like me.
I was prepared to feel differently when my babies arrived. I was told about the fierce love that would shrink everything else. But I wasn’t so prepared to lose myself. I didn’t know that pre-baby Robyna would shrink also. As soon as my first son was placed in my arms, the doctors, midwives and nurses all called me “mummy”. Exclusively. I liked the new title. I was proud to hear it. I was proud to be it. But I wasn’t prepared to have it take over and dwarf every other aspect of my personality, every achievement to date and every article of my clothing.
It might sound trite to tie fashion and identity so closely together. But it’s so human. From my primary school uniform to my high school tie to the clothes I wore as a young professional, I had become used to clothes identifying me. Placing me somewhere. Once I become a stay at home mother those boundaries disappeared. Aside from ensuring easy access to my child’s food source, there was no reason to dress a specific way. I found myself with a role I wasn’t quite sure of, a body that felt foreign and a wardrobe full of clothes that seemed to mock me.
My lovely friend, Bron, calls this the “fashion wilderness”. The place new mothers often find themselves. With no pressure to dress a certain way, there are endless routes to take. There is the assortment of yoga pants and sweatshirts, but that didn’t feel like me. There is the “yummy mummy” active-wear path but that didn’t feel like me either. So I made a decision. I decided that no rules could either leave me bewildered in the wilderness or I could, finally, just dress however the hell I wanted.
The lack of boundaries actually led to freedom. Now, if I want to wear something mad in my hair, just for the fun of it, I do. If I feel like being dressy for no other reason than the dishes, I do. Motherhood finally forced me dress exclusively for myself.
But how do you do it? How do you pull yourself from bewildered and boundary-less to fabulous and confident?
Here’s what worked for me:
1. Re-define your wardrobe. Take everything out of your wardrobe that you no longer wear. Be ruthless. No-one needs to be taunted by skinny jeans that will realistically never fit again. Put things that you might wear down the track, but don’t suit your life right now, in storage.
2. Re-purpose your clothes. See if anything you wore in your pre-mum life might be re-purposed. Button down shirts are great for breastfeeding and look cute with shorts. Suit jackets can look great with jeans and casual skirts.
3. Accessorise like crazy. You might not feel like buying clothes for a changing body. That’s fair enough. Invest it some other feel good fashion – like accessories and shoes. Scarves and necklaces can truly change an outfit. Learn the art of the accessory.
4. Find your new uniform. For some, that’s tights and great tunics. For others it’s jeans, a cute singlet and jackets. I’m a personal fan of the maxi dress. Find a formula that works and rock it.
5. Steal other people’s ideas. Use Instagram and Pinterest to style-stalk looks you love. Here are some great boards for mums: Chic Mum Style | Steele My Style | Hipster Mum: Mum Style | Breastfeeding and nursing style
6. Learn to dress for you. Learn to be okay with spending some time on yourself. We hear it so often but it’s a real mind shift to allow yourself to value that time. It’s so easy to think “Why bother? It’s just the baby who is going to see me”. Seriously, you should bother. Bother because you, just you — not your job or your peers — are worth spending time on.
How do you negotiate the fashion wilderness that comes along with babies?
Try some of these ideas:
- 13 Places You Probably Haven’t Thought of Shopping
- 21 Style Tips From Celebrity Mamas
- 10 Small Changes That’ll Get You Out of Your Style Rut
Images: Robyna May