My first child was born at the beginning of winter. My maternity leave was spent mostly in the dark, the sunlight barely making an appearance. So I swore I would have my next child in the summer, and my son was born right before the 4th of July. 12 weeks later, when my leave ended, it was late September, and though it was still warm I couldn’t start showing up to the office in sundresses that accommodated my fourth trimester body. I just had to employ some back-to-work clothing hacks to save my postpartum ass. And belly. Oh, and definitely my postpartum boobs.
In my humble (but completely right, by the way) opinion, it should be socially acceptable for all postpartum women to wear whatever the hell they want, for as many years as they want, after giving birth. I had so much on my mind while I was pregnant, and then as a new mom, that worrying about what I had to wear if I had to go outside, let alone return to an overly-air conditioned midtown office, was completely overwhelming. I had to figure out a way to keep things simple, all the while looking put together enough to "fit in" with my business casual co-workers.
I'm sorry, and while that might sound like a small task, that is an insurmountable request to make of a brand new, completely overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and exhausted new mother. So with just a few of these simple back-to-work clothing hacks, I was able to bridge the wardrobe gap between my pre-baby and postpartum body:
While not everyone can get away with this, I work in TV and we pride ourselves on being slovenly (or anti-corporate, which isn’t really true since I work for a publicly traded company). I don’t have to dress for the job I want, because I already have it and it doesn’t require me to shop at Brooks Brothers.
Button-down shirts provided easy access for pumping, which I was doing twice a day when I went back to work. Dresses, on the other hand, proved to be cumbersome, since I had to lift them up or pull them down entirely too much to feel good about what was happening. So, yeah, button-downs were lifesavers.
While button-down shirts weren’t really my style, I love me some blazers. They make an ironic t-shirt feel more grown-up, and ups my sophistication game when I was feeling like the flustered, scattered, exhausted new mom that I was most days after my leave ended.
Any & All Material That Stretches
Anything with an unforgiving waistband was tossed aside once I entered my second trimester. When I went back to work, I still wasn’t ready for those button-fly pants, either, so they remained "on the side" for a significant amount of time. Leggings were my BFFs. Free-flowing pull-on pants in rayon or viscose were my go-to bottoms. I was able to get through a work week with only three pairs of pants that actually fit me at that time, and I honestly didn’t care.
Flats Or Sneakers
Shlepping my breast pump to and from work every day on the subway would have been that much more torturous in anything higher than a 1-inch heel. I stowed a ton of shoes at the office, and wore comfy Working Girl footwear for my commute. I also didn’t make many plans to go out after work.
As a New Yorker, my closet is mostly black and gray. That's was a problem when I was postpartum, only because spit-up shows up way too easily on my somber-toned work clothes. Any mess my baby may have dribbled on me before I left for work would be practically unnoticeable amidst a patterned top, though. I don’t love floral prints, but they definitely camouflaged bodily fluids pretty well.
They accommodated my oversized boobs and almost sort of looked like regular shirts. I was careful not to wear two nursing tops on consecutive work days because, well, that diagonal overlay of fabric across the chest is a dead-giveaway that I was still wearing maternity(ish) clothes. But, like the button downs, these made it easy for me pump at work and not feel too exposed.
Shorter than a dress, but dressier than a t-shirt, tunics made me so happy. They are still part of my wardrobe staples, six years postpartum. They skim the body and don’t let me fret about any lumps or straining waistbands I may catch in the mirror when I look at myself and my fourth trimester figure.
(I bet you didn’t know that the fourth trimester can last six or more years postpartum, but it’s totally true.)
The "Office" Cardigan
My office is freezing. I guess it’s to make sure we don’t nod off or something? In the summer my toes freeze in sandals, so I always keep items to layer on. I have a loose, hip-length, black cardigan that pretty much goes with anything. It kept me warm, and served as a cover-up when I was late to a pumping session and started to leak through my shirt. Good times!
Cheap Basics In Temporary Sizes
I wasn’t yet at my pre-pregnancy weight, or shape, when I returned to work from maternity leave. As a result, I needed to buy a few items just to fill in the gaps of my wardrobe to make it through the work week. I didn’t need them to last, so I spent as little as possible on a couple of shirts, a skirt, and a pair of black pants that fit my body at that moment. I didn’t know if I’d stay that size, or lose the rest of the weight, but I couldn’t stress about it. The maternity clothes were too big. I just had to get dressed for that particular day, and trying to tug on too-small clothes really f*cked with my confidence. So I sized up and passed the clothes on when they no longer fit (except for the ones I am still wearing, because I like food).