Courtesy of Hollie Burgess

No, Seriously — How Do You Dress Your Postpartum Body?

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Before I got pregnant, I was pretty confident in my fashion choices. I knew what worked for my shape, and I knew what items in my wardrobe made me feel good. and the things that I wore made me feel good. Stretchy but tight-fitting skinny jeans were a favorite, as were bright colors, floral prints, and comfortable dresses. I was happy to wear clothes that fit my body and showed off my shape.

But I never really considered that my body would change so dramatically postpartum, to the point where I'd need to develop my own postpartum style. I was totally aware that there would be sleepless nights and diaper changes, but no one told me that after I had a baby, I would have to dress for what literally feels like a whole new body. I’m not talking stretch marks or extra weight — I’m talking about an actual change of body shape and how my clothes fit (or don’t fit, as the case may be).

My belly hangs further down now, which means my jeans are looser around my waist, but tighter on my lower belly. My dresses feel like they hang off me, instead of nipping in where they used to. My hips feel wider and my breasts don’t know what they are doing — one day they're swollen, and the next day they're tiny. I had to come up with a whole new wardrobe, and I didn't even know where to begin.

During pregnancy, it wasn't so difficult to get dressed. I was still able to wear the things I loved, like fancy dresses and bright tops. My confidence was high, and I felt proud to be pregnant. Towards the very end of my pregnancy, as my belly got bigger, I had little choice but to opt for leggings and super-stretchy tops. It became my version of a pregnancy uniform: as labor drew closer, I donned the same waterfall cardigan, white T-shirt, and Spandex leggings every day. They were the only things that fit well and made me feel comfortable. Plus, I could wrap the cardigan around my bump to make me feel like I was protecting my baby.

After having my son, I knew that I’d still be wearing my pregnancy uniform for a few days. After all, things take time to get back to where they were, right? I needed time to recover physically (and mentally) from childbirth, so my first priority was comfort.

I used my pre-baby self as my own source of style inspiration.

But by the time I was three weeks postpartum, I started to realize that nothing in my wardrobe felt the same and everything made me feel rubbish. My pregnancy uniform felt like it was two sizes too big, and it totally swallowed me up. Even my favorite ripped skinny jeans were uncomfortable around the waist. I was not happy. All of my go-to outfits felt wrong, and they looked out-of-place on my body. My pre-pregnancy shape no longer existed.

Courtesy of Hollie Burgess

It took a few more weeks for me to decide that something had to give. I didn’t want to leave the house because I felt like I had nothing to wear, and then I felt like a bad mother for not taking my son out for fresh air. I sat on my bed and looked at my clothes. There had to be something that would help me feel like me again.

I thought about what kind of clothes I loved before getting pregnant, what patterns and cuts and styles had always caught my eye. I scrolled through my Instagram to look at the pictures I’ve posted in the past when I was feeling good about myself, like the below photo of me in a floral dress from Jameela Jamil's size-inclusive collection. I used my pre-baby self as my own source of style inspiration. It felt strange, but it worked.

For me, the key thing was zooming in on something I knew I loved to wear and finding a cut that allowed me to feel comfortable, but wouldn't hide away my body. I've always loved a good floral print, so I found a long line floral shirt with an asymmetric hem from the plus-size clothing line Yours, pairing it with leggings, ballet flats, and a fur vest. The shirt was lightweight and skimmed over my hips, which made for a flattering cut. I went for a longer length and sized up to make it feel less restrictive.

I lived in my long-length floral shirt for a bit, and my ripped jeans and old pregnancy leggings tag-teamed for a while. Instead of wearing close-fitting tops, I opted for roomy shirts with colorful prints, like this blue embroidered button-down from Quiz Clothing's Curve line, so I didn't feel like I was hiding away without constantly having to pull things down or adjust the hem of my shirt.

Button-downs were also a good option because they're usually a little less fitted than other tops. They give you space to accessorize with a necklace, or unbutton at a moment's notice if you're breastfeeding.

I've tried not to let my postpartum style struggles affect my confidence. Yes, my body has changed, but that doesn't mean I need to throw my old wardrobe out the window. It just means that I now have the fun and exciting challenge of finding new pieces to integrate into my existing wardrobe, or just using my old pieces a little differently.

I also realize that I have to give myself a break. After all, I had another human inside my body for nine months, so obviously my body isn't going to stay exactly the same. Slowly, very slowly, I know I'll start feeling like my old self again.