How to Dress When Running on Empty, According to Moms Who Know

My clock reads 8:44 a.m. My eyes shift to my ensemble. Old varsity sweatpants with a drawstring that’s worked overtime staring at me. And because it’s been cold lately, my dress is still firmly on my arms, a gag gift a friend gave me years ago on the BravoTV website, although it’s very comfortable. My frizzy hair is held back with a claw clip, which doesn’t help as much as I’ve convinced myself it does.

This isn’t the start of a Diablo Cody movie or an alternate Cathy cartoon, but rather a very typical morning in my new world. After giving birth to a daughter in 2021, my mornings have been…more hectic than before. For a few months, I had no idea when the morning started. When you wake up every two hours, is the sun rising or are you in the simulation? Eventually, bedtimes were established, stomachs were full, and life found a way to a beautiful status quo. But taking care of another life meant that mine would remain on hold. Uncut hair, chipped nails and T-shirts still dirty from the day before.

But one morning I woke up with a new sense of motivation. It’s amazing what a night’s sleep will do for you. The energy that hit me was like a long lost friend. I welcomed her with open arms and decided to start pulling myself together once my feet hit the ground.

I would no longer drink coffee in my dressing gown, but I would dress and get dressed again. And like everything I do, it was just that – for me, me and me.

Importantly, I was excited to dress for myself. My body was “back” (never gone, never really came back, the ideology that you lose something or get it back over fitness is crude and boring, but that’s another story) and I had the energy of care again. First, the time allotted was the most important factor. Which meant, gurgling, waking up before the baby. I absolutely, unequivocally adore sleep. I like to sleep. I think it’s one of the best things in the world. But knowing that I wanted to start my day with some time to myself meant less time to doze off.

Whether it was fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans or buying a new size, I was adamant about wearing jeans. During my pregnancy, I hated maternity jeans and loved being back in denim, regardless of the number stamped on the inside label. I may have been in the minority, but it was nice to be in regular pants, because I felt like I was living in leggings for 10 long months.

Willie B. Thomas via Getty Images

Sound familiar?

But I wanted to talk with other moms, whom I found on Facebook groups, about what makes them feel better when they might be empty. Being a new mom is a terrifying and exhausting task, but in this groggy state there are other women willing and able to share advice, stories and words of wisdom. I’ve asked other new moms (and some veteran moms) how they avoid feeling grumpy when their environment can interfere with their well-being.

It seemed an overwhelming number of women agreed: comfort is key. Adriana mentioned a sartorial importance: pockets. “Leggings with pockets. Pockets are very important, I have my phone in a [hand] and a bottle in the other or whatever I need.

Stephanie mentioned uniformity to make mornings easier: “Buy versatile living room sets and have them ready for the week. It’s like I’m back in school with a uniform. I totally agree.

When tackling style, some moms had some insightful tips. Lindsey said: “I worked for a couple of celebrity moms in New York when I was in my twenties and their secret was to size up instead of trying to cram you into a too-tight size. Outside of this mindset reframing, I’m still layered: a cardigan with a tank top underneath and a scarf with loose boyfriend jeans and sneakers is my favorite. I always hide a few pairs of earrings in my car when I’m so tired and forget to put them on at home. Blair credited “the French tuck” for changing up her morning routine, and “putting on a pair of earrings made me feel a little healthier after giving birth.”

Of course, being kind to yourself is the first step in dressing for all moms. Leah pointed out: “One of the most important things for me was not to focus too much on the fit of my pre-pregnancy clothes. Even when I lost weight, my body was different after having a baby. When I kept trying to fit my new post-baby body into my old pre-baby clothes, I kept getting discouraged. There’s nothing wrong with ditching the old stuff and making room for new stuff that comfortably fits your new body. Whether you lose weight or gain more after having a baby, I just try to remember what my body is doing for me and what it has done to bring a healthy baby into this world, and to be grateful for all he has done and continues to do for me at any size.

Finally, speed and efficiency are of extreme importance for new mothers, especially those who have breastfed. “Mornings are crazy, so having a side drawer for ‘quick and comfortable holds’ is essential,” mentioned Tiffany, a mother of two under 4. Ariel added: “For me, the most important factor is ‘are you breastfeeding or not?’ If you are, EVERY outfit should have easy access to breasts. Nursing tops are fine, but I usually choose a button up or tank top with a sweater over it. Nothing like putting on a basic t-shirt and then in a panic needing to pull the shirt up over your chest from the bottom and having your belly out. I did it several times [and it’s ] just not [my favorite] move.”

Motherhood is extremely overwhelming but oddly perfect. Currently, I can’t help but say “a year ago today…” and time travel to the year before, when I had a tiny baby compared to the pterodactyl that ate turkey on the floor today. Emotions, hormones, and feelings are the equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting, but living in a world where other moms openly and happily share their experiences or are there to help you―even as a stranger―is worth its weight. Golden. Especially at the end of the day when I read encouraging words with my jeans unbuttoned because they just couldn’t hold together anymore.


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