I think most moms would agree that their first year as a parent wasn't exactly sartorially stellar. With the needs of a baby being your first priority, you often find yourself amazed that you've managed to get dressed at all, never mind that you're wearing the same sweatshirt and leggings for the fourth (fifth?) day in a row, and you haven't washed your hair in a week. After my daughter was born last January, I continued to dress as if I was pregnant: think loose, roomy tops, sweats with elastic waists, and baggy coats that could easily snuggle her while I carried her around in a Baby Bjorn. Ironically, while my personal style was devolving, so to speak, my husband's was reaching new, luxurious heights.
As a magazine editor who has recently crossed the aisle into the world of fashion glossies, his closet has seen an influx of a wealth of designer duds that would make any fashionista -- woman or man -- jealous: sleek wool suits from A.P.C, J. Lindeberg cashmere cardigans and more pairs of shoes than any man should admit to having. Frankly, it was all a bit much to take. Here I was looking (and feeling) sloppy, spending my days covered in milk and smashed avocado, while he left the house every morning looking like he stepped out of the pages of GQ. For the record: I adore my husband. And I love that his sense of style is so right-on: He's the guy my friends' boyfriends call when they need advice on what to wear to their wedding, or where to find the perfect shirt/tie/fill-in-the-blank.
But it seemed particularly cruel to have one's own spouse be the source of so much style angst. Even though he insisted that I looked great, and that he found me just as alluring in my mom-wear as he did in my pre-baby wardrobe (which was filled with silk blouses, pretty dresses and jeans that did not involve elastic panels), I couldn't help but wonder, as Carrie Bradshaw was so fond of saying, if this was a pivotal moment in my life. Was this a blip on the radar screen of my personal identity, or was it an indication that I was two steps away from mom jeans? Since I'd left my job at a women's fashion magazine to become a full-time freelance writer when my daughter was born, I had no real reason to get dressed in anything other than leisure wear every day. Days could pass where the only person I saw was the mailman and my next-door neighbor, so the motivation to take that extra step was hard to summon. But I knew somewhere deep inside that if I just pulled myself together, just a tiny bit, I'd feel more like myself, more like the stylish person I was before pregnancy ballooned me to epic roundness, before my husband's sense of style made me feel depressingly dowdy.
I started by buying some stylish soft pants from the Gap, which I reasoned looked more chic then the dingy lycra leggings I'd been wearing, but were still ultra-comfy. Then I ordered a pair of fun leopard brogues, which were flat and comfortable, but totally on-trend. I remembered reading a story about some chic French stylist in Vogue who said that once she became a mom she developed a daily uniform that made dressing so much easier, as everything in her closet worked together, eliminating any guesswork. Smart, right? Since I was still nursing, I needed buttons for easy boob access, so I decided on some soft chambray shirts from J.Crew and Rag & Bone, which looked hipster-y and casual, but weren't too precious to wear around the baby. Since my husband is slim, I snuck a few of his shirts into the mix as well. Wearing my new look out one afternoon, a friend complimented me on how I always managed to look "casual but stylish." Success! I felt like maybe, just maybe, I was getting my swerve back. I also re-discovered the miraculous effects of a little bit of blush and concealer (bless you, Laura Mercier), and that a swipe of Chanel lipstick can instantly make you feel glamorous, even if you've only had four hours of sleep and your hair is matted with rice-cracker goop. All in all, the few small changes I made felt like they'd turned the tide a bit, which did wonders for my confidence.
Are there still days when I backslide, and find myself cooking dinner in my pajamas? Yes. And I still feel a pang of jealousy every now and then about my husband's closet, and his days, which are far more glamorous than mine. But I feel vastly more like myself, both inside and out, than I did in those first fuzzy months of new motherhood. And when my daughter, now ten months old, smiles at me, or feeds me a big clump of cheddar cheese from her high chair, I can't help but think I'd take a lifetime of wearing mom jeans in exchange for her unbridled adoration. I just wouldn't let anyone take any pictures.