Saturday, July 29, 2017

Why Style Matters to Stay-at-Home Moms, Part 2: How to Reinvigorate Your Wardrobe

(Read Part 1 here)

I didn't want to feel frazzled, frumpy, or overwhelmed any longer. I didn't like smelling and feeling like breastmilk in the early postpartum days. I wanted to regain a sense of fun and outward beauty. 


I realized that I couldn't control all of the various trials that come with newborn life-but I could control how I clothed myself. And clothes affect how we feel, how we act, and how others perceive us. So, I decided to intentionally examine my wardrobe. While there are some very thorough regimes out there to give your wardrobe a makeover, I didn't have the time or the energy to spend several hours a week making mood boards and meticulously analyzing each item in my closet. After all, my main focus was on keeping myself and my newborn baby alive and well! Intentionally working with our wardrobes doesn't have to be complicated, and we shouldn't be intimidated by it. Here's the simple way I went about this process in those early months of newborn life:  




1. Determine your preferred style and style inspirations.


While you could read helpful books on style, like The Curated Closet, if you simply don't have the time because you're managing a household, children, a job, etc., then don't pressure yourself into thinking that you need to work through a style book before sifting through your closet. Simply look around and note what styles you enjoy. You can look to celebrity figures, characters in movies or books, or history books (Verily Magazine has a great article about a woman who wears an Audrey Hepburn-inspired wardrobe here). Once you have a general idea of your preferred style, give it a name and note any major characteristics.


This skirt is from a hippie store that I visited during my freshman year
of college! I bought this top from a thrift store when I was pregnant,
because it fit well with my big belly. Since it's very comfortable,
and I love how it drapes, I still wear it at least once a week!
As I thought about what clothes work well with my lifestyle and what I enjoy, I found myself gravitating towards 1960s fashion. I love the full skirts of the early 1960s (holdovers from the 1950s), and I also really love the earth tones, ethnic touches, and anti-fashion of the hippies at the end of the decade. I have labeled my style: "1960s-inspired casual feminine elegance." Flowy skirts and creative, quirky prints and designs are two of the main components in my style. 


2. Select an hour or two when your baby is napping (and any older children you have are happily occupied) and empty your closet and dresser. 


Pull clothes off hangers, empty the drawers, and put everything on your bed. If you have a hugely packed closet, and this task seems daunting, do specific sections of this process over the course of a few days. For example, empty your hangers one day, and work through your drawers the next day. You only will be working at this for an hour or two while your kids are busy, so don't overload yourself.


Top is a nursing tank from a thrift store, sweater was a hand-me-down, and
skirt was purchased at a flea market in Austria. Using a pin that was given to me years ago,
I cinched in the sweater to better define my waist and add visual interest to the outfit. 
When my baby was napping one day, I emptied out all of my drawers and my entire closet onto my bed. Seeing all of my clothes laid out in front of me was extremely eye-opening. I had items I didn't remember owning! I wasn't sure if some of the items would even fit my postpartum body, and I still had some maternity clothes tossed in the mix, too. Putting every piece of clothing I owned in front of me was freeing; instead of being controlled by whatever clothes happened to be in my closet, I was going to control what I was picking off of the hangers each day. 


3. Sort the clothing items into four different piles: "Currently fits & love it," "maternity for storage," "a few favorites for storage," and "donate."


Critically examine each item of clothing, but don't take too long analyzing each piece. Try on everything, so that you can see what truly fits and what doesn't fit. The question was once presented to me of, "What about all the clothes that you can't wear right now because your weight is fluctuating?" I know that particularly in the postpartum time, a woman's body does shift and change in various ways. However, I also know that many women hold onto clothes that are too small, hoping to lose weight, but they aren't able to fit into those clothes for years (if ever). Because you want to have a wardrobe that works for you in your current state, I highly recommend that you keep in circulation only those clothes that fit you well. If there are a few items that you love which don't fit right now, but which you hope will fit in a few months, put those in the pile of "favorites for storage." Also, if there are any items that are torn beyond repair, horribly stained, or worn out, throw those into the rag bag or a garbage can. 


I'm continually reevaluating my wardrobe and adding little touches
that can better express my quirky style and overall "look."
For example, I paired this thrifted dress with a chunky belt
and added a delicate cross necklace.  
 I want to be up front with y'all: I like to keep everything. I don't buy clothes often, and I tend to wear the clothes I have for years and years. When I graduated college, I finally donated some dresses that I had been wearing since the beginning of high school. Critically going through my clothes during the postpartum period was very good, for it helped me see that my wardrobe is not a "once and done" type of thing. Rather, my wardrobe needs to reflect my current state of life and needs so that it can effectively work for me. If I've had a certain top or skirt for 8 years-even if it still fits-but it doesn't reflect my current style or state in life, I need to get rid of it. In the postpartum period, I knew that I would be breastfeeding for as long as my baby needed to, so I made sure that every single item in my closet was breastfeeding-friendly. A couple of non-breastfeeding friendly dresses went into the "favorites for storage" pile, but everything else got donated. 


4. Determine if you need any key items and buy them as needed. 


Once you've gone through your closet and donated bags of clothes, hopefully you have a better idea of what you actually own that fits you currently. Knowing this, you can pinpoint any major items that you would wear regularly. For example, if your style inspiration is Joanna Gaines, but you've found that you don't own any quality jeans that fit, you should consider investing in a pair. Or, if you tend to lean towards menswear-inspired women's clothes, but don't own a button-down shirt or blazer, you can be on the lookout for those items. Shop intentionally, and buy only what you really love, what really fits, and what helps complete your wardrobe (Verily Magazine has some great shopping tips here).


When I went through my initial postpartum closet purge, I was able to see that, while I technically had "enough" clothing items to pick from, I'd benefit from one or two more breastfeeding-friendly dresses. With a solid image of my preferred style in mind, I went to a thrift store and found two dresses that fit well with the rest of my wardrobe. More recently, I determined that since many of my cardigans are well-used and need to be retired, I would benefit from a denim jacket to add structure to my outfits (and to wear with tank tops or thin-strapped dresses). Knowing what I needed, I was able to dart in and out of stores and withstand the temptation to buy all of the cute clothes in sight-because I knew that I only needed one jacket to complete my wardrobe, nothing more. 


Working through these steps really helped me bring new life into my closet. I found that owning fewer items of clothing that worked well together, fit me, and were suited towards my lifestyle was so freeing. Instead of frantically trying to figure out what still fit and what could look good together in the morning, I discovered that I could easily pick out a few items that I knew fit and looked good. To be perfectly honest, though, there are occasionally days when I struggle to pull myself out of bed and in the fog of exhaustion just thrown on a t-shirt and sweats. But these days are rare--and overall, my improved relationship with my wardrobe has brought a lot more joy and sparkle into my days. 


For those of you who think that stay-at-home motherhood=frumpy, I ask you to consider this: You are beautiful, and your clothing should reflect your inner beauty. Through your clothes, you can add to the beauty in your home, you can help improve your attitude and self-esteem, and you can have a lot of fun. Even if you've never considered yourself to be "into" fashion, why not give this process a try and see how it impacts your life and attitude? 

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