Embracing Your Body After Baby: How to Dress When You’re Postpartum

  • 6695

The lyrics of an early noughties Britney Spears song drift through my mind as I stare at my new postpartum frame in the full-length mirror. I’m not a girl / Not yet a woman / All I need is time / A moment that is mine / While I’m in-between.

In the first few weeks after giving birth to my daughter, my body seemed to evolve on a daily basis—shrinking, shedding water, developing an impressive double-D decolletage—after which it settled into a semi-permanent state of in-between. While I was lucky enough to recover from my delivery fairly quickly, a genetic anomaly (i.e., Emily Ratajkowski in a postnatal sexy cardi) I’m not. Fifteen stubborn pounds have taken up indefinite residence on my body, converging in the form of a jello-like floaty around my abdominal area that appears to have no plans of departing. After weeks of attempting to evict it through a variety of restrictive measures, I’ve been forced to come to terms with the fact there is nothing I can do but wait and let nature take its course. For now, I’m in a transitional stage: no longer pregnant, not yet my old self. Like Britney, all I need is time.

And yet, I want to shop. Between the pandemic and the pregnancy, I have invested a record low into my wardrobe over the past year, channeling all of my consumer energy into strollers, swaddles, and every overpriced baby gimmick under the sun. Meanwhile, my closet is practically frozen in the pre-pandemic era of yesteryear (i.e., 2019): stacks of jeans mock me from the top shelf with their teeny-tiny glory while dresses and skirts hang, untouched, waiting for a coming-out party that is not yet on the calendar. The only active sections are the pajama drawer and my burgeoning leggings collection, which seems to have tripled over the past years. (Luckily, I now live in Los Angeles, the capital of athleisure.)

I yearn to go out and buy myself a new wardrobe–or, rather, five pairs of high-waisted jeans–but the pragmatist in me will not stand for it. And so, I reach out to a few fellow new mothers to see how they are navigating this sartorially perplexing time. As it turns out, my deep desire for buttons and zippers is not uncommon. “I can’t wait for the day to not see an elastic waistband,” says Vogue Mexico & Latin America European Editor Eugenia Gonzalez. Having given birth to her second child seven months ago, she still hasn’t done much shopping for her postnatal frame. “Postpartum, I feel that my body is not mine. It takes me a long time to get it back,” she says, noting that it took her almost ten months to feel like herself after the birth of her first child. She was far better prepared the second time around: instead of stressing about weight loss, she took care of her mental and physical health by eating postpartum-specific meals (as inspired by Heng Ou’s The First Forty Days), which she found to be a game-changer. “I felt an immense difference than after my first birth. I never got baby blues, no depression, not even crying. Hormonally, I felt really balanced.”

She also found quarantine to be oddly calming during this time, giving her the space to “cocoon and live the moment” while healing from a painful C-section delivery. This made way for an easy uniform of leggings and sweaters, as well as J.W. Anderson ribbed skirts and Mon&Pau suede trousers for when she had to leave the house. (“Both so soft… like putting on a big hug!”) Instead of overhauling her wardrobe, she treated herself to things that made her feel good, including new beauty products, a piece by Ana Khouri, and a Hill House Home Nap Dress, the epitome of stay-at-home bliss. On that note, new bedsheets were in order. “Somehow, my bed became my haven this time around.”

Lola Rykiel, designer of Pompom Paris who also gave birth via C-section seven months ago, recounts a similar recovery journey. “I felt like my body had gone through a war, and the best I could do was to rest with my baby,” she says, adding that the process was made easier by the surge of love and gratitude she experienced when she met her daughter. While she found the most joy in shopping for baby clothes (“I officially transferred my personal budget to Bonpoint”) she did build herself a luxurious capsule wardrobe that felt as special as her pre-pregnancy one. On the roster: oversized velour pieces and ultra-supportive Caresse leggings from Pompom Paris, crepe dresses, silk separates, and colorful coats from Agnès B, and one-of-a-kind postnatal pieces created for her mother by her late grandmother, designer Sonia Rykiel. She also allowed herself to be spoiled by her husband with some special treasures, like a beautiful Repossi ring and a pink sequin-covered Chanel bag (“not so diaper friendly”).

As a French woman, she admits to feeling the added pressure to “snap back” to her pre-pregnancy frame, but she tried to shun it at all cost. “I had to acknowledge that, if my body needs more time, I have to allow this process. There are a lot of elements at play, including hormones that need time to readjust. We have to trust nature and time.” She also busts the myth that French women just “snap back,” explaining that it’s usually either a case of good genes or abundant effort. Rather than holding themselves up to unrealistic standards, she advises new mothers to be kind to themselves and channel their energy into spending time with their babies. And, if your body never goes back to exactly the way it was, so be it. “I gave birth to another human, how am I supposed to look like someone who never did?”

“I think the majority of women feel strange about their bodies during this time–we have to relearn to love them,” says model Maxey Greene, who gave birth to her son four months ago. She recalls the transition to motherhood as the beginning of a whole new relationship with her body. “There’s something so magical about becoming a mom. For the first time, my body didn’t exist for appearances, but it existed solely for nourishment. I started looking at it in a whole new way and being so incredibly thankful that it was able to do what it needed to do.” She celebrated this newfound gratitude by splurging on some luxe loungewear pieces that felt both comfortable and indulgent, like a silk pajama set from Lunya (nursing friendly and washable silk!), cashmere lounge pants from Henning, and the infamous Nap dress. Although she can’t wait to wear jeans again (a common denominator between all new mothers), she doesn’t really strive to get back to her “old self” anytime soon, if ever. “I feel like a completely new woman since having my son. And I love the woman I’m becoming.” Like Rykiel, she encourages women to accept their newly changed frames as a beautiful thing and to enjoy each moment of their new journey. “Give yourself grace—you’re not going to have a clue what you’re doing, but it’s going to be worth it. Laugh as much as you can. It gets easier!”

This inevitably makes me reflect on my own energy over the past two months: the dieting, the endless to-do lists, the incessant chase after a former version of myself, manifested through a race against the scale—is this the kind of woman I’m becoming? And, more importantly, is this the kind of example I want to set for my daughter?

Since self-gratitude is clearly in order, I give in to my denim desires and stock up on some Pistola jeans two sizes up from my old one. My fiancé presents me with a spa package that I happily take him up on, throwing in an excellent haircut for good measure. A few pieces from my friend’s jewelry brand Rendor, a couple of new dresses from the La Ligne sample sale, and I’m excited to get dressed again. My fiancé and I go to dinner and have one of those long wine-fueled evenings that whisks me back to a time when we first started dating—two years but also a lifetime ago when conversations revolved around hopes and dreams—except now, one of ours has come true. Perhaps, this is not the in-between at all. Maybe, this is the beginning of a whole new me.

The Low-Key Baby-Bag

For the mom who can’t get herself to buy a diaper bag, this Isabel Marant tote holds all your baby arsenal and fits in the stroller basket. 

Isabel Marant Yenky tote

$145

SHOPBOP

The Transitional Bra

A pretty maternity bra is akin to a unicorn, which is why I’m grateful to have discovered Lively. The Busty Bralette is perfect if you need extra coverage.

Lively the Busty maternity bralette

$35

LIVELY

The Luxury PJ

My friends got me an Eberjey Gisele PJ set for my baby shower and I wore it every day for the next four months. I’m planning on sending a pair to every pregnant friend for the foreseeable future.

Eberjey Gisele long pj’s set

$120

EBERJEY

The Mom’s Night Out Dress

I love La Ligne dresses—they are flattering and can be worn by day or dressed up for those rare baby-free nights out.

La Ligne Isabelle dress

$395

LA LIGNE

The Comfort Forever Dress

Both my friends Eugenia Gonzalez and Maxey Greene found comfort in a nap dress.

Hill House Home the Ellie Nap dress

$125

HILL HOUSE HOME

The Low Maintenance Silk

Per Greene, this set of PJs is nursing-friendly and washable.

Lunya washable silk tee set

$198

THE SLEEP CODE

The Bling Ring

While I’m not a big proponent of push gifts, I have been fantasizing about something from the Repossi Serti Inversé collection ever since I first saw it. Feel free to forward this to my fiancé!

Repossi pink-gold Serti Inversé ring

$9,150

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE

The Second Skin Legging

The Belly Bandit Mother Tucker leggings were an absolute lifesaver in the first month after giving birth. Not only do they provide much-needed support, but they feature a custom compression technology that helps reduce swelling. 

Mother Tucker postpartum compression support leggings

$80

BELLY BANDIT

The Chic Courier 

The Artipoppe Zeitgeist carrier is practically the Aston Martin of carriers: beautiful, functional, and comes in every luxe fabric and print possible. 

Artipoppe Zeitgeist Baby Yin Yang 1970 baby carrier

$790

ARTIPOPPE

The Strongest Link

Even when the jeans don’t fit, the jewelry does! Rendor makes the coolest costume pieces at an affordable price point. 

Rendor Alex bracelet

$85

RENDOR

The Made in Mexico

Recreo San Miguel makes beautiful ponchos and dresses that feel both luxe and forgiving. Each piece is handmade by artisans—and fellow mothers—in San Miguel and around the world!

Recreo San Miguel lightweight basket weave Whitney poncho

$445

RECREO SAN MIGUEL

Recreo San Miguel cotton-poplin wrap Coro shirtdress

$425

RECREO SAN MIGUEL

The Everyday Jacket

It is my core belief that great jackets fix moods. I have been living in the Pistola Elsa Western jacket—the pockets are indispensable and it’s oversize enough for in-public nursing. 

Pistola Elsa western jacket in Austin

$148

PISTOLA

The Post-Baby Jean

All I had to do was purchase my favorite go-to pair, a couple of sizes up. 

Pistola Bobbie high-rise wide-leg crossover jeans in Nelson

$138

PISTOLA

The Go-To Legging

Lola Rykiel recommends these dance-inspired black leggings of her own design. 

Pompom Paris Caresse leggings

$301

POMPOM PARIS