Oh, how life comes 'round and makes you laugh at your younger self. My younger self assumed so many things about who I would become. Mother? Check. Magazine editor? Check. Writer? Check. Married? Check. And, uh, uncheck. (That's a story for another day.)
Another thing I was absolutely certain about was that I would never, ever wear Eileen Fisher.
I used to walk by Eileen Fisher stores in the mall, with barely a glance at all those draped sweaters and linen skirts. Eileen Fisher looked boring. It screamed of midlife and midsection to me: Come, cover your spongy body parts with fine, natural-hued clothing. We will soothe you into not noticing your age. I was never going to dress like a mom—albeit a fancy mom wrapped in fine fibers. I was going to dress with style and fashion and vibrancy, with a look-at-me intention.
And yet, time marches on to its own drum, not really giving a hoot if we are listening to its unstoppable beat. And for a long, long time, I had a job that practically required me to look fabulous at all times (I was a magazine editor, though I never quite achieved the stature of Devil Wears Prada). I wore five-inch heels almost every day (four inches on the slow days), and could walk in them with aplomb. I had a closet filled with bright, jewel-tone colors, all the better for my appearances on TV. Getting dressed was the best part of the day. Or maybe it was lunchtime, when everyone in the cafeteria could see my amazing outfit. (Well, maybe it was a little like Devil Wears Prada.)
But then I had a son.
I managed to keep up a good front for a long time. I still dressed to the nines every weekday, so at first the transformation wasn't obvious. Sure, on my maternity leave, I wore the same three t-shirts and one pair of pants for basically three months, but everyone knows those months don't count. On the weekends, I would slip into the pants from my first trimester. Just until I lose the baby weight, I assured myself. My son had reflux, which meant that after a painstakingly slow feeding (he had some sucking issues, too), he would often vomit up the entire contents of his stomach. So I stayed in those same three t-shirts from maternity leave.
I could feel something draining right out of me along with my hopes of ever being well-rested again. I didn't give a crap what I was wearing.
This was a terrifying thought. One that was totally new to me.
I tried to resist, but on weekends the inevitable the progression took hold: I bought a pair of clogs. I started becoming really focused on the perfect pair of cargo pants, that would still look cool, but tolerate the many indignities and semi-liquid fluids that make up motherhood. I stopped wearing makeup. The instant bun spun up quickly with my fingers and day-old hair became my go-to hair-do.
But was I becoming a Glamour magazine Don't?
Truth is, I didn't care. There were hundreds of tasks and joys to be attended to while Zack was young, and wasting any time getting dressed seemed silly. Besides, all those clothes would be waiting for me when Zack was older.
But then Zack got older, and instead of getting back into those clothes on the weekend, I started working from home, so I even stopped getting dressed on the weekdays. I wore jeans every single day. And clogs. And Birkenstocks. (Dear god, when did I start wearing Birkenstocks? And loving them?) And collecting…. cardigans.
Yes, I know, cardigans are "in fashion." But they were also worn by Mister Rogers. Something he put on after he took off his happy outside shoes and slipped into sneakers when he got home. You see my point.
At least I wasn't wearing yoga pants every day, I comforted myself.
I went on a business trip, leaving Zack at home, and found myself with a few extra hours on my hands. I decided to go to a mall because, well, I could barely remember the last time I actually went shopping in an actual store. And I wanted some white jeans. My other pair had, uh, gotten a little tight in the waist. I was practically dizzy from that oh-so-recognizable mall smell—something like cinnamon and cotton and cardboard boxes, with a touch of industrial floor cleaner—and so happy to be by myself. I started drifting past the familiar stores, and a pretty white linen dress caught my eyes. I took a closer look.
It was at Eileen Fisher. Oh no. At first I was going to just keep walking by the store, on principle alone, but then the dress spoke to me. I'm pretty, and easy. I took a step inside the store, with the intent of just seeing how much the dress cost, knowing it would be too expensive for something I couldn't really have much use for. I saw drapey knits. Slouchy sweaters. Easy pullovers.
I wasn't slouchy; I was just sloppy.
I realized then that Eileen Fisher is the Muzak of clothes: you don't really pay too much attention to it, but then one day after you've stepped of life's elevator into motherhood, you find yourself humming along. I had been seduced by Eileen Fisher's siren song: you can be sensible and pretty at the same time. And we will make you forgive your body.
I found a pair of white jeans that fit just right—not too tight, not too "mom jean"—and completed my first-ever Eileen Fisher purchase. As I walked out of the store, feeling humbled and hopeful at the same time, I stopped and admired an army-green skirt. It had a fold-over waistband. Just like yoga pants.
I might not like the truth of it, but something tells me I'll be back.
Stacy Morrison is editor of BlogHerMoms, as well as a writer, author (Falling Apart In One Piece, a memoir of divorce and acceptance) and a former magazine editor (Redbook, Marie Claire, Modern Bride). She writes at fillingintheblanks.com and fallingapartinonepiece.com.
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