I’m generally pretty low maintenance when it comes to my wardrobe choices. I wear a lot of jeans and t-shirts or long tops and leggings — it's my go-to look, I guess, since I spend my days working, writing, baking, and chasing after my kids. Ever since their respective arrivals, my style has faded into the background. I tend to put my kids first and let my self-care slide, which is abundantly clear when you look at my hodgepodge closet full of maternity and pre-baby choices. These days I don't have a particular reason to get dressed up every day, but I miss the feeling of having something to look forward in terms of my outfit choices. Sure, maybe that didn't mean I wore dresses every day, but I did have a pre-baby wardrobe that was filled with pencil skirts and slacks and button ups. Part of me missed the fun that came with getting ready to go somewhere (even if that place was to an office).
Since I’ve been pregnant or postpartum for more than five years, my outfit options have been sorely neglected. I refuse to buy “in-between” sizes, so I either squeeze myself into ill-fitting old clothes or sport maternity pieces that could pass for regular styles. Despite my less-than-stellar closet, there are a few items from my pre-baby days that still fit quite nicely, including a couple of little black dresses I rarely ever wear.
Frankly, I’m not sure why I stopped wearing them. They look good and they make me feel great, so, I decided to resurrect my LBDs from the far end of my closet and wearing dresses only for a week. I was curious not only to see how people would react to seeing me in a more traditional, feminine look, but I wondered how people would treat me if I wore a dress round the clock.
I Was Catcalled
On the first day of my LBD experiment, I took my son to the public library downtown. We didn’t have to park more than a block away, but even in that short trip, I was catcalled. I ignored it and was grateful my son didn’t seem to notice that the yelling was directed at us, or more specifically, me. I felt super uncomfortable, not to mention angry at the fact that anyone would catcall a woman walking with her child. It took away my sense of safety, and ruined an otherwise wonderful walk with my son.
I usually dress very casually when I am out alone with my kids, to the point where I feel invisible walking down the street (you know, with the exception of the three loud children hanging off of me). I may not feel like I look my best, but there is a feeling of safety derived from flying under the radar. I don't need to explain the multitude of ways that women are mistreated on a daily basis in our society, but that feeling has multiple for me tenfold ever since the birth of my children. Someone treating me like an object in the middle of the day when I was just trying to get from point A to point B with my son was unnerving and unsettling.
I loved the way I looked in my little black dress, but I didn’t love the attention it garnered from uncouth strangers. I wasn’t trying to look sexy. I was out to spend time with my kids and I felt comfortable. However, wearing something that flattered my figure and made me look more feminine suddenly put my body up for public commentary. Not cool.
I Took Better Care Of Myself
I loved not having to worry about what I was going to wear every morning. And on day two of this experiment, I figured that because I'd just be wearing a dress every day that my morning routine would be fairly simple. Wrong. I found myself wanting to “up my game” to match my dress. I did my hair and makeup in the morning. I shaved regularly (it’s more of a rarity than I’d like to admit). I even found myself eating better and working out.
Wearing a dress (especially one that I felt so comfortable in) upped my confidence, which created a domino effect in how I was taking care of myself. I felt better because I was wearing something I felt so fantastically good in, which made me want to do my hair and makeup, which made me feel even better, and made me want to make more choices to make me feel my best.
It was an unexpected perk to something as simple as having a nice outfit picked out to wear each morning.
I Felt Like A 1950s Housewife
Something about wearing a dress and heels most days really channeled my inner 1950s housewife. I got the kids dressed a little sharper in the mornings and made breakfast without feeling overwhelmed (cereal counts, you guys). I felt like I stayed on top of my to-do list most days. I even made bread. Like, three loaves of bread.
I worried at first that feeling like a '50s housewife would bother me, but because this experiment took place on my own terms, it was interesting to try out life in this way for a day. I spent a little bit more time looking after "housewifely" things on day three, but I was also thankful that I had other things — like my work and my hobbies — to turn to once I was done baking (and tasting) all that delicious bread.
I think putting on a dress first thing in the morning and looking ready for the day made me get moving faster, which set me up for more successful days. I don’t have the same sort of "oomph" in my step when I spend most of the morning in sweatpants. Just the act of getting dressed (I realize that I could've been wearing anything, not solely dresses) suddenly gave my mornings purpose. Even if I didn't exactly have somewhere to be (except wherever my kids needed me), I felt like I did.
People Paid More Attention To Me ...
Everyone who knew me definitely noticed my change in style. I received compliments on how nice I looked from my husband, my friends, my parents, moms at school, my mother-in-law, even my kids. My husband was definitely the most thrilled about my new look, which made me feel a little guilty for how often I wear sweatpants and baggy shirts around the house. But I realized something else, too: I felt really good about what I was wearing.
As a stay-at-home mom, I’m all about comfort, but sometimes I think I get a little too attached to comfort. These dresses weren’t restricting or uncomfortable. I was still able to do all the housecleaning and play dominoes on the floor and load the kids in and out of the car without feeling hindered. It probably wouldn’t kill me to wear non-lounge clothes more often.
I felt more confident and sexy in my little black dress, which made me more receptive to my husband’s compliments. He compliments me often, even when I am wearing torn jeans and maternity t-shirts, but if I don’t feel good about myself, I tend to brush off those comments. Seeing myself all done up reminded me of the parts of myself I often overlook now that I'm busy taking care of three little humans day after day. It reminded me just how good I feel when I take care of myself and put myself first.
... And They Treated Me Differently
Strangers (other than the catcaller) were much nicer than usual when I was wearing my little black dress. Cashiers seemed friendlier. Random people struck up conversations while I was at the grocery store or the discovery museum with my kids. My look seemed to make me more approachable, and I enjoyed chatting with new people.
I was carrying myself with more confidence and looking people in the eye, so I didn’t feel caught off guard when I was approached. I felt ready to meet new people. Life as a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) can get lonely, so connecting with people when I was out really made my day.
My Look Made Me Feel More Confident
One of the biggest changes I noticed wasn’t from other people. It was rooted in how I felt about myself. I felt out of my comfort zone at first, but for the rest of the week I felt much more confident. I carried myself with better posture and stride. I felt more mastery when I was working. Looking more put together really did change the way I interacted with the world, and I felt much more outgoing than my normally introverted self.
I noticed as I walked down the street that my shoulders were straight, and that I was looking ahead instead of at the ground in front of me. I felt the swell of confidence I used to have before kids, and it was a welcome trait.
What I Realized From Wearing A Dress Every Day
Wearing an LBD didn’t seem like it would be a big deal, but it taught me a lot about how I view myself. Since becoming a mother, I’ve opted to pay a lot less attention to how I present myself, and subsequently, how I care for myself. I realized I no longer saw myself as the type of person who wears dresses without an occasion (or pants for that matter). I hadn’t noticed how closely linked that mindset was to the way I interacted with the world until I experienced how much better I felt when I dressed well.
“Comfortable” clothes had become my go-to because they were most practical, but my week of little black dresses showed me that wasn’t necessarily true. I was still able to do everything I normally did while wearing a dress. Wearing something that makes you feel good about yourself is a far better choice than pigeon-holing yourself into a wardrobe based purely on comfort. Who’d have thought that my confidence was just one LBD away.
Images Courtesy of Gemma Hartley (7)