Modern Parent
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Modern Parent

The Cure To My Baby Blues Was Getting Dressed Again

You are what you wear, and you are better than sweatpants

The writer, Ashley, & her son, Cy

Dressing up and putting makeup on has always been fun for me. Therapeutic, even. Being in the fashion industry was largely wrapped around playing dress-up, experimenting with varying shades of lipstick, and trying on different personas in the wake of giving others that blissful, look-good-feel-good confidence.

As I got older and transitioned from selling expensive clothes to wealthy, 50-something women to freelance writing in trendy coffee shops, I realized getting dressed with intention was more than an enjoyable morning routine — it was my way of armoring up for the day.

Oversize sunglasses were a statement to the world that I was in charge of my day. High heels were my way of saying, “I’m a lady, but a fierce one.” Bold, colorful outfits like dolman-sleeve kimonos and boyfriend jeans and patterned, swingy shirt dresses with big hats were my signal to everyone that I was fun, playful, confident, and approachable.

And then I had a baby, and suddenly I didn’t understand who I was anymore. Going from bodycon dresses and sequin skirts to oversize t-shirts and boxers was a pretty dramatic (overnight) shift. At the ripe and naive age of 26, motherhood terrified me for many reasons — the main one being a loss of identity.

I Didn’t Fit The Mommy Style Mold.

When I became a mom, dressing the way I used to felt wrong suddenly. Too young, too immature, too loud, too “out there,” nowhere near good enough to fit the effortless yet sophisticated look of mom. It felt as if there was some unspoken rule that I was now only permitted to wear jeans and white blouses with trendy sneakers to signal to the world that “I am a mom and only mom now” — the same, basic outfit we see on cleaning commercials with thin, smiling mothers spinning around the kitchen Swiffering.

“I could feel it in my bones that I didn’t fit the traditional mommy style mold.”

I could feel it in my bones that I didn’t fit the traditional mommy style mold. My mental health had been destroyed from an entire year of stay-at-home-mom life wearing nothing but boxers and t-shirts — the only thing I felt worthy of wearing as a breastfeeding, milk-pumping machine which no longer had the reprieve of outside work, and therefore, an identity outside of the mother.

I stopped doing my hair and makeup because what was the point? No one saw me other than the grocery store clerk, my doorman, and occasionally the pediatrician.

I was embarrassed, no, ashamed, to even look at myself in the mirror during that time. I didn’t recognize her anymore, and I didn’t know how to get her back. But deep down inside of me, there was a fight left to retrieve the old me — the fun, confident, ambitious me.

Photo by Marcus Loke on Unsplash

The Only Person Stressing Me Out Was Me

After a few agonizing years of trying to figure my new self out, I came to the conclusion that the only person stressing me out about this was me. Early motherhood is a time of intense and unpredictable transitions. Something women rarely talk about is how becoming a mom affects your style, which inadvertently affects your self-esteem and overall wellbeing.

So, I started putting mascara on again. Game-changer. I began adorning myself in publicly acceptable outfits like joggers and cool t-shirts, the shift in my confidence felt instantly. I let myself express who I was through my clothing instead of hiding it out of fear of what other people thought of my green and white polka dot jumpsuit. I started respecting myself again by showing up for the day instead of dreading it, and it completely turned my life (and my perspective) around.

Now, I give myself full permission to wear what feels natural and authentic to me, not to the preppy preschool mom with the Range Rover and iced coffee. Now that I’ve witnessed how amazing it feels to step into your authenticity (stylistically speaking and otherwise), I want to empower other women who feel lost in their identities. I want to reassure them that the difficult phase they’re in is not forever and that there is a way to come out better, stronger, and more confident.

This is the reason I’m launching a clothing brand. To remind me — and all women who have lost themselves in motherhood, work transitions, moves, and other life changes — that getting dressed is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Prioritizing your style is the same thing as prioritizing your workouts every day. If you stop cold turkey, you’re going to feel (and see) the negative side effects that come with it.

Getting dressed again was the simple cure I didn’t know I needed until I started prioritizing myself — and my style — again.

I am currently pregnant with my second baby, I now know how to prevent those feelings of overwhelming sadness and loneliness by simply doing more of what makes me me, which is getting dressed every day.

And. Call it superstition or mom’s intuition — I can tell I’m going to be more mindset strong than ever as I prepare to become a mom again because this time, it’s a girl.

Thank you for reading.

Ashley is a writer based in Connecticut, currently working on a memoir centering on the motherhood identity crisis. She is a huge advocate for mental health and believes our weirdness is what makes us great.

Keep up with her on Instagram here, and sign up for her Happiness Hacks newsletter here.

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Ashley Alt

Ashley Alt

Life is better when we laugh. I write about the importance of mental health & believe our weirdness is what makes us great. https://ashleyalt.substack.com/

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