Saturday, October 17, 2015

How to Dress Yourself and Grow a Baby at the Same Time

Hola bitches! Whoops, now that we're expecting babies / baking buns in our ovens / exploring the mystical path of motherhood, I guess we have to trade the word "bitches" for something more G-rated. So: Hola, gestaters!

By this point in your journey towards birth, you may have gained five or ten or forty pounds. I offer no judgement on the number, on your general shape—some lucky bitches gestaters only gain like, thirteen pounds all the way through and we can still see their abs well into their eighth month. (Those women are stone-cold freaks, though.) Full disclosure: I'm six months along and I've gained nineteen pounds, mostly in the baby zone (tits and stomach). I've gone up about four bra sizes. I wear a special belt to keep the weight of belly from cranking on my back. According to my midwife, my abs—my hard-earned abs!—are slowly being separated down the middle line by the sheer force of my uterus growing out. (This is the same midwife who, when I told her I was feeling very pregnant that day, looked at my stomach and said slowly, "Well, it sort of just looks like you had a big lunch." CUE FEELINGS.)

Since your body is changing, you will be forced to get new clothes. In my experience, maternity clothes are both different from, and better than, just sizing up. Sizing up often means that, while the garment fits over your belly, it's sloppy elsewhere: too-long straps, gaping underarm holes, bumster pant rises. I hate to admit it, but maternity clothes just fit better. They're designed to fit over the basketball your partner has shoved under your shirt.

But they're also stupid expensive and often designed as though the average age of Canada's first-time mother is 55, not 29. Some fashionistas recommend embracing your inner Golden Girl during your pregnancy, and just rolling with brightly coloured muumuus. Counter-point: I feel uncomfortable in colours brighter than navy. Throwing a weight gain and a shape change into the mix wasn't exactly inspiring me to break out the teals and aquamarines.

I've staunchly stuck to, and expanded on, my wardrobe of grays, blacks, white, black, red, and more black. For reference, here's a list of maternity things I've acquired over the last six months:
  • gray skinny pants *
  • black wide-leg pants *
  • cheaply made pair of black leggings *
  • insanely beautiful pair of black leggings **
  • spangly black party dress **
  • dotted grey cocktail dress *
  • black pencil skirt **
  • black denim skirt **
  • black poofy skirt **
  • black tank top *
  • green-khaki tank top *
  • black 3/4-length sleeve top *
  • plum tunic *
  • gray short sleeve sweatshirt **
  • gray v-neck baseball-style sweatshirt **
  • black swingy sweatshirt **
  • white maternity/baby-wearing parka *
This is in addition to a bunch of things that I've just kept wearing well into pregnancy, including a mesh tank top, a sheer blouse, an extremely tight black sweater, several long shirts/minidresses, and a pair of leggings that I kept from my fat days, because I liked the pattern and knew that, at some point, they would be resurrected in their bump-accommodatingly largeness. I've also co-opted my husband's sweatpants, and have been wearing a fur-topped toque pretty much everywhere. (I was led to believe I would be sweaty as a pregnant person, but I'm freezing.)

So what are all those asterisks? Well, the single star is something that I bought second-hand, either from a mom who was selling something she no longer needed, or from a used-clothing store like Value Village or the Salvation Army. The double star was something that was given to me free of charge—most often from my own mom, but also from friend-moms who were like "ENOUGH of these belly panels I need real jeans again!"

I provide these items to you, not as a shopping list, but as a reminder of two things:

1. It is totally possible to dress yourself on the cheap during this period. There are a few things that I need to complete this wardrobe—some maternity tights, a cozy hoodie, and maybe a couple more tank tops—but for the most part, I'm there. Second-hand maternity clothes tend to be in fairly great shape, because most women only wear them for a few months. And, in addition to checking the usual VV/Sally Anne places, second-hand and consignment shops devoted to outfitting your kids will often also have a maternity-clothes section. I scored a $140 shirt for six bucks from one these places, and I'm still not entirely over it. Trolling parents buy-and-trade groups are also a great place to pick up deals, as is Kijiji: witness my $500 maternity coat, which I snagged for a cool Borden. I think the total cost of this wardrobe has been about $300. While half of it came for free, I think it could be done for under $500 even if you had to buy it all.

2. I love showing off my bump. Maybe even flaunting it! As a well-endowed woman who has struggled to accept my weight and shape for most of my adult life, being visibly, obviously pregnant has been crazy empowering. A pregnant belly isn't like a fat stomach (shut up, I didn't know this!): it's hard and firm and well-defined with the outlines of your kidlet's growth pod. Of course, your mileage may vary. Some women gain weight all over, some gain very little, and some may not even show for a while, especially if they started out on the heavier side. But for me, this stomach is something I'm proud of! I like wearing tight clothes and showing off my kid.  (#thatmom)

But I still am not drawn to toucan prints and sunset colours. I love black and grey for the same reason that I love mesh and tight clothes: I feel most like my primal self when I wear those things. During a time that is often primal, and often confusing (hello, hormones!), the comfort of a power-outfit can be a touchstone. Finding things that reflected who I am, even as I change, has become important to me.

Thinking hard about my own fashion narrative throughout the years has been a great creative exercise, and a terrific way to figure out the self I want to project in the world. I can be so many different people—post-apocalyptic farm girl; sharp-eyed gallery curator; cozy-kitchen'ed baker-maker; gauzy-eyed lavender-and-hops farmer; all-black witchy mama; thick-muscled fitspo pinup; and so on, and so on. Each of those facets of myself, or those personas to which I aspire, gives me strength and courage in the world. I love my post-apocalyptic farm girl style for its natural fibers and self-reliant air; I love my witchy-mama vibe for its mystery and all-black colour scheme. Plus, fashion is fun, and pregnancy is often not fun. Finding a fun outlet in which to be pregnant is a kind of take-back-the-night moment for me, in between all the morning sickness and backaches and acid reflux.

These moments—these nine months, actually—are moments of transition, between focusing on myself to focusing on my wee family. After the baby is born, my clothing choices may cease to matter at all, or drop way down on my priority list. They may go from from form-fitting to forgiving, or from fashionable to utilitarian. But there is absolutely no reason I can't be a well-dressed bitch until then.

Image via Nettie Wakefield