This past weekend I spoke at an event where I discussed closet organization and using that to hone your personal style. I pretty much shared what I have shared before on this blog; at the end of my talk I opened the floor to questions and a woman asked one I that I actually receive quite often.
This woman was a mom, recently had a child, and reminded me of myself four years ago. I remember right around the time that maternity leave was up, standing in my closet hyperventilating, sobbing, laughing like a lunatic, feeling completely overwhelmed. Before me were clothes that may never fit again, clothes that kind of fit, clothes that fit but I hated, maternity clothes that I shouldn’t wear but were safe and comfortable, and a bunch of clothes for a different person – the person I was before I became a mother.
I told this woman to do exactly what I did. I told Karl to take the baby, I turned on some music really loud so I couldn't hear Emerson, locked the bedroom door, and tore everything out of the closet. I threw it all on the bed, and then went through everything, piece by piece. I started big, just deciding, would I be caught dead in public wearing this? If the answer was no, it was tossed into a box. It was amazing how much was purged with that simple and obvious question.
The thing is, life is crazy and busy and hectic. When you’re running on little sleep, living in a strange body, and having to care for lives other than your own, what you wear is very far down on the priorities list. Some days, you feel you deserve a medal just for remembering to put on pants before leaving the house. But it’s hard to get back to feeling like yourself and accepting this new body and life when each time you look in the mirror you feel miserable.
Next think, would you want to wear this if you bumped into an old friend? Don’t make it an ex boyfriend or anything stressful like that, make it a nice girl you went to high school with or an ex coworker. Someone who liked you and wasn’t a raving fashionista. Just putting a face to the public will help you purge more, especially those “make it work” garments like maternity jeans and stretched-out knits.
As you continue, paring down more and more you may have a minor panic attack thinking that you won’t have anything left to wear. Consider doing what I did – stop before you get to that point, but note what you can already tell you need. I bought two wrap dresses, a pair of ankle boots with a low heel, and a couple sweaters and knit tops that would let me nurse but didn’t look like maternity. I spent about $200, and that is all I spent for a while. Then as the body kept shifting, I would take a moment to reassess the wardrobe, and reassess again.
One thing I brought up this weekend in my talk is that you don’t need a huge wardrobe. In fact, a pared down closet makes it easier to dress every day. No one is keeping a tally of how many times you wore that blue cardigan or those black pants. It is better to wear the same black pants every day than mixing it up with pieces that don’t fit, don’t flatter, and make you curse your reflection.
The goal right now is not to become a fashion maven, but to like yourself and your reflection again. Only go as far as you feel comfortable, but don’t give up. Keep addressing the situation, not because you’re a hot mess, but because you deserve to feel good. Whatever the situation in your life that got you to this point, it does not own you, it does not define you. You are a complex, fabulous, deserving human being. You have earned the right to feel beautiful on a daily basis – you ARE beautiful. You are a better caretaker when you first care for yourself. You are a better role model to your children if you have confidence and feel good about yourself . You deserve to take a couple hours one day a few times a month to lock yourself in your bedroom and reassess your wardrobe. Join forces with fellow parents for a sit swap to achieve this, maybe even take a sick day at work and don’t let anyone know. But take a bit of time for yourself. This investment will reap the rewards tenfold over the next year with your style, and your self image.
Alison Gary is the author of Wardrobe Oxygen, she is a 30-something working mom located in the suburbs of DC.