Can I still be a ‘Yummy Mummy’ in Maternity Clothes?

It isn’t about maternity clothes, but about identity and self-esteem via alexandrasacksmd.com

ELLE UK — Jan 2018

When British journalist Hannah Swerling called me from across the pond to discuss a January 2018 Elle UK feature on the fashion of a “yummy mummy,” I initially thought she had the wrong number, because it’s not exactly in my wheelhouse. Over the course of our fascinating two hour conversation, we talked about her matrescence experience, and how, since having her second baby, she has been thinking about fashion and the connotation of a matronly decline in sex appeal.

Together, we hit on this: women’s feelings about maternity clothes and postpartum fashion are anything but surface and superficial. Sure, there are real questions about wardrobe (What do I wear to work when I can’t find a suit that buttons up? How can I feel sexy going out when what I wore for my hourglass shape no longer fits my “B” shaped body?) But Hannah helped me go deeper to realize that at the core of many pregnant and postpartum women’s concerns is a profound existential question about their self and personal aesthetics: how can I still feel like the same old me in these new clothes?

This isn’t only about liking or not liking maternity clothes…

The psychological question underlying these fashion dilemmas isn’t about maternity clothes, but about identity and self-esteem, particularly as it relates to feelings of youth and sex-appeal that Hannah worried would recede once she entered her “mum” phase.

This isn’t only about liking or not liking maternity clothes; it’s about what it feels like when your body and fashion are no longer familiar in the most basic of ways. Yes, some women love how maternity clothes make them feel (I’ve never felt sexier than with my pregnancy boobs and curves! Finally, I can walk around not worrying about people judging me for not being thinner.) But other women find themselves feeling disconnected from their usual way of dressing that is an aspect of self-expression that once reinforced their identity.

I know many women who have had fun with the creativity of the fashion challenge that pregnancy provides. Others have told me that their regular wardrobe is boxy, flowy, or stretchy enough that they didn’t have to make too many edits to their closet. My friend Ariane Goldman is so inspired by the beautiful shape of the pregnant body that she started Hatch, her own maternity fashion line that glamazons can’t get enough of (and that she intentionally styles to be worn by non-pregnant bodies, so that you don’t have to toss them after those 9 months.)

Finding the right clothes is no profound endeavor, but the psychological impact of continuing to feel good about your appearance is profoundly essential to preserve your self-esteem.

I know other women who have told me stories about the frustrating, expensive, and all around downer of dealing with dressing in pregnancy and the postpartum. As June, a woman 3 months postpartum with her first baby, shared:

“My experience with maternity clothes was a bag of hand-me-downs, none which felt like ‘me,’, so I rejected maternity clothing for a while. I got creative wearing my normal sweaters open, combining leggings and belts with the same big chunky necklaces I always wear. Figuring out how to find the stretchy version of my normal look was really helpful for my self esteem — it definitely helped my mood that I could still look a little like me during my pregnancy.”

By reflecting on how important her style was to her identity and the positive feelings she normally derived from her outfits, and continuing to dress like “her,” June was able to feel more in control of her overall sense of self. Finding the right clothes was no profound endeavor, but for her, the psychological impact of continuing to feel good about her appearance was profoundly essential to preserve her self-esteem.

It’s important to figure out what makes you feel confident and well to keep up your physical and psychological self care during your pregnancy and the postpartum

For June it was her clothes, but for another woman it was continuing to style her hair despite feeling exhausted during pregnancy. For another, letting go of her blow-dry was essential, and she felt great about getting a lower-maintenance haircut. Another woman told me that she would feel sexy even when she’s wearing a tent, as long as she’s keeping up with her bikini waxes. Every woman is different, and it’s important to figure out what makes you feel confident and well to keep up your physical and psychological self care during your pregnancy and the postpartum.

Beyoncé, in full goddess pose, proudly celebrating her legs, full breasts, and pregnant belly, all the while looking sexy as hell in maternity-sized lingerie

At the end of my conversation with Hannah, we touched on motherhood and sex appeal. Naturally, that led to a discussion of Beyoncé’s iconic pregnancy photo, which was the most “liked” Instagram image of 2017. Sure, people everywhere love Beyoncé, so her popularity has much to do with that and can be said to be entirely unrelated to motherhood. But this picture was her pregnancy announcement — in full goddess pose, proudly celebrating her legs, full breasts, and pregnant belly, all the while looking sexy as hell in maternity-sized lingerie.

Beyoncé was owning her sex appeal in her pregnancy announcement — telling us that she’s a feminist, powerfully celebratory of her hotness, and proud-fully growing two babies in her body. She was saying: I’m the opposite of a mum declining in style and sex appeal. Hannah and I had a blast deconstructing this photo, and her writing on this topic (and really, most things Beyoncé related) brings a smile to my face:

“It goes without saying that wherever Beyoncé leads, I will follow. And Dr Sacks is right. Few of us will ever look like her, but it’s great that the images she sends out into the world — and the subsequent gazillion likes and shares — are part of the new story we’re telling about motherhood.”

We recommend:

Our friend Rob Haskell, opened up this truth in his Serena Williams’ Vogue cover: even superheroes and super moms have to deal with pregnancy and postpartum stuff. Make sure to check out this amazing Fortnight lingerie photoshoot by Lily Cummings with model Jessica Lewis while pregnant.

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