“I walked around the house wearing the comforter off our bed—as a clothing item—more often than I would like to admit.”
“My son is eight months old. It took me until last month to finally find time to get a haircut!”
“Most of the time I was sitting at home in my underwear and a tank top.”
This is some of the feedback I received from Facebook friends when I posed a question about their experiences with postpartum style.
Writing about style in the postpartum period initially struck me as a bit frivolous. After all, new mothers have more important priorities, right? Like learning to care for a newborn, making sure that nursing is off to a good start, and dealing with sleep deprivation. Talking about personal style seems a little silly in the face of these huge life changes.
However, I know from personal experience that matters of style were important to me in the postpartum period. I encountered a variety of challenges that many mothers are familiar with—a difficult C-section recovery, breastfeeding challenges, a colicky baby—things that I kept telling myself were “more important” than the problem of what I was wearing.
But what I was wearing—or no longer able to wear—weighed heavily on my mind. I felt selfish for secretly caring about my (bedraggled) appearance: “Taking care of Lydia is more important than trying to look presentable!” I would admonish myself as I pulled on my maternity jeans and frumpy black nursing tank for the fifth time that week.
“This period of life does not have to be spent in sweats, nor does it have to be spent with a muffin top and a bad sense of self,” writes Alison Gary on her style website, Wardrobe Oxygen (wardrobeoxygen.com). “Clothing shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself, clothing shouldn’t stress you out. Clothing should be the armor to get yourself through this period.”
So put down the comforter, pick up a properly fitting pair of jeans, and read on for more style tips from a variety of mothers who’ve been there.
Plan for nursing
Sure that turtleneck sweater dress is cute, but what if you need to pump or breastfeed? This is the challenge that keeps many new moms lounging around in tank tops and yoga pants during their maternity leaves.
It can pay to think ahead when preparing for the postpartum period. If you’re planning to breastfeed, go through your wardrobe and set aside all the nursing-friendly items—wrap dresses, deep v-neck shirts and sweaters, drape-y cardigans and stretchy tanks, for example. One experienced mom highly recommends a circle scarf, which she uses as a stylish nursing cover. Hers is from American Apparel, but they’re available from a variety of other brands, too.
You will probably also want to purchase a couple good nursing bras. You might want to wait until after you deliver your baby, since you won’t know what size works for you until your milk comes in. Many mothers complain about the lack of support that most nursing bras provide, so do your research and ask your friends for recommendations. I’ve heard good things about Anita brand nursing bras, available on Amazon and at Nordstrom.
After you have a baby, your body just isn’t the same. That’s not to say that you’ll never fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans again—you just probably won’t two weeks after giving birth. Give yourself a break and don’t try to fit into the clothes you were wearing back when you did yoga fives time a week.
Meanwhile, you might want to pick up some foundational “support” items for the short-term—belly wraps or shaping camisoles, for example, can give you a feeling of extra support when you’re body is recovering from birth and nine months of pregnancy. One local mom highly recommends the Blanqi Body Styler, a support garment designed for pregnancy but also used by many women postpartum.
Keep it simple
Consider narrowing down your wardrobe, at least for the short term. A few pairs of jeans and leggings that fit are better than a closet full of too-small hip huggers and work pants. Long, flow-y tunics with leggings are go-to postpartum look that many mothers rely on—it’s comfortable, it’s forgiving to your midsection, and it can still look pulled together.
“Keep it simple, keep it quality, keep it comfortable, yet keep it well fitting, and having some style,” says Alison Gary. “These pieces will be your suit of armor—your way of meeting up with old friends and not feeling like a schlep, to attend that first board meeting after maternity leave, to feel more you when leaving the house.”
Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband,
Nick, and daughter, Lydia. Send questions or comments to