You have exactly five minutes to get ready in the morning and nothing seems to fit right. You don’t know how much your body will change after this (so how do you shop?). How the heck do you manage to look (and feel) hot? The answer is the right clothes! Here’s your wardrobe strategy.
While you can make do with a lot of what you have, clothing rental services are a great way to supplement your wardrobe without paying for a totally new one in this in-between phase. Rent the Runway recently introduced maternity and postpartum-friendly clothing into its subscription services. Both the standard subscription and the unlimited subscription give you four new pieces a month, but with unlimited, you can swap them out as you like and keep them for as long as you want. You might just actually find a pair of work pants you like in the process.
A brand-new-mom's body is in a state of transition that can be tough to dress. “It’s the fourth trimester! You’ve gone from having a glorious excuse of a stomach to a deflated basketball,” says Amy Tara Koch, author of Bump It Up, who also writes Five Minute Fixes, a fashion blog for moms. “Moms can be so self-conscious during those first few months.” And as comfy as they may be, sweatpants only make you look worse.
Instead, Koch recommends wearing tops and dresses that drape over and away from your tummy, rather than fitting tightly. “Ruching and gathers are great details to look for,” she says. “The fabric should cascade over your body, so it doesn’t cling.” T-shirt dresses, Empire-waist dresses, tunics and tops with ruching are all great options.
Stay away from big clothes all over, though — instead of a wide-leg pant, pair a billowy top with leggings or tailored pants, which will keep you looking longer and leaner.
The key to looking put-together is the right accessories. “Use your accessories as tools,” says Koch. She recommends longer necklaces — either beaded or chains with pendants — which end at your cleavage or lower, which can create an elongating illusion, making you look slimmer. Wear dangly earrings, instead of studs, since they brighten and bring attention to your face (instead of any body parts you may not want in the spotlight right now).
Gauze, silk or cotton scarves are also stylish accessories that can add a pop of color to a plain black (slimming!) top. Choose longer styles that end at the top of your thigh; this will hide your stomach.
Also, note that you don’t have to go dowdy when it comes to your underthings. There are a lot of really stylish (even sexy!) nursing bras on the market, and nursing tanks can make you feel less weird about breastfeeding in public, since they keep your tummy covered. It’s important to get good undergarments that flatter you and don’t restrict your clothing choices.
Don’t Shy Away From Shapewear
Shapewear such as Spanx is great to wear for special occasions while you’re still losing the baby weight, since it can hold in your stomach and hips and make you look smoother. Some shapewear companies now even make pieces of clothing such as leggings, pencil skirts and tank tops so you don’t even need special underthings. “Just make sure there’s not a huge amount of compression,” says Koch. “It can be uncomfortable and unhealthy.”
Know Which Maternity Pieces to Ditch
There may be a few things you bought while you were pregnant that you’ll want to continue to wear. A flowy, black jersey dress could be cinched at the waist with a belt and look stylish after pregnancy. Empire-waist tops and some wrap dresses may still look good on you, too. But certain things, like maternity jeans and pencil skirts with adjustable waistbands should get donated to charity or passed to a pregnant pal. They’ll just make you look and feel pregnant and frumpy.
See the Tailor
Once you’ve passed the in-between stage, bring some of your favorite pieces to a tailor to make sure they fit your properly. “When you get pregnant, your rib cage expands and your boobs get bigger,” says Koch. “A tailor can take in clothing under the armpit on both sides, as long as there are seams there.” Anything will look better on you if it fits you well.
New Clothes Should Flatter
Investing in some new clothing? Pay special attention to how well it flatters you. “Two very big considerations are hemline and neckline,” says Koch. “It doesn’t have to be deep or plunging, but a V-neck or scoop neck that shows some skin elongates the neck. And decolletage is very sexy on a new mother.”
She also recommends avoiding a calf- or mid-calf-length skirt (unless you’re very tall), since it can make you look shorter. Instead, look for hemlines that hit at or above the knee, or maxi skirts. Mid-rise pants and jeans tend to be more flattering than low-rise — and can keep you from exposing your tummy if you’re self-conscious.
“Effortless style is all about having a uniform,” says Koch. “Jackie Kennedy, Princess Grace, Michelle Obama — women known for looking great just repeat the same silhouettes again and again. You need to figure out what it is that looks good on you. Get a few outfits in those silhouettes, and then get accessories to switch in to make it look like you’ve got more variety.”
Also, go for heels — we know you’re carrying baby around and you don’t want to be teetering and tumbling, but ankle booties with a low-stacked heel, kitten heels or wedges that are about two and a half inches, will really make you look taller and make you feel more glamorous.
What to Avoid
“You want to stay away from bulk,” says Koch. “Avoid chunky fabrics or pieces with a ton of gathered fabric.” She also suggests avoiding big prints and metallic or shiny items, which add weight. If you really want to be comfortable, step away from the sweatpants (“They make 5 pounds look like 20,” says Koch) and wear a great pair of leggings, a T-shirt dress and some ballet flats.
It’s also a good idea to avoid trendy pieces or things you’re unsure how to wear. “High-waisted pants can be flattering on a lot of people, but most people don’t know what to wear with them,” says Koch. So if it’s not in your comfort zone, or you can’t figure out the right pieces to put with it, skip it.
Face it, getting ready in the morning now is nothing like what it was like pre-baby. You’ve got no time to sort through your closet, and you might have a ton of items that just don’t work now. As much as you’d like to hold on to those things you rarely wear, they’ll just slow you down. “Most women can do a lot more with a smaller, mightier wardrobe,” says Koch. So purge.
Keep the things you know look good on you — go back to those uniforms — and give the rest away, or put it in storage. That way, you won’t get sidetracked by all that stuff you won’t fit into or you don’t really like that much anyhow.
Then, organize it, so it’s easy to find exactly what you need when you need it. Find ways to keep your accessories right in the closet — use tie racks and hooks — so you can see everything all at once while you’re choosing your outfit.