Style Q+A: Postpartum Style - What pre-baby clothes do you keep or toss?

 All photos in this blog post by photographer:  Stephanie Sunderland

All photos in this blog post by photographer: Stephanie Sunderland

Hey girl! I have a blog post Q+A for you if you’re in need of something to write about. We just moved and while we have lots of living space now, we’ve downgraded on closet space. I know some stuff needs to go, but I’ve basically spent the last 3 years pregnant or breastfeeding so there are lots of things I haven’t worn in 3 years because they didn’t fit or I don’t want to ruin them. I don’t want to get rid of stuff I may wear again, but I also don’t want to be that “all my clothes went out of style while I was busy having kids” meme. I tried the reverse hanger trick, but again... stuff that I used to wear often either hasn’t fit or I didn’t want it to be ruined with baby fluids so I didn’t feel like that was an accurate portrayal of what I actually do wear in a “normal” year. Any general tips on how to figure out what to keep or what to toss when you’re in a weird place like that? Do I just keep everything?

Katie - I so hear you. Every time we go through a life change, our clothes get a major case of FOMO. We want to hang on to everything because we never know when we will get to a place where we can wear it again.

This is true whether you are hanging on to clothes from college, high school, years traveling abroad, or, like you Katie, when your body, and very much your lifestyle, has changed drastically.

I am a huge believer in re-wearing clothing, mixing and matching, and stretching a wardrobe - but I’m also in favor of letting go of things that no longer serve you. This is not to say to toss out special pieces that you love or that have sentimental value, or that you know you love wearing when you get back to your pre-baby weight, but to evaluate where you are in life, right now and take action to have your closet reflect your reality.

This all important lifestyle question is one I always go over with my clients first because that drives home what clothes you are buying and why. No mom wants a silk top she has to dry clean or is afraid of wearing because she knows it’s gonna be covered in playdough or probably poop (real life right moms?).

To figure out where you are in life and what clothes you should keep or toss, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What do I spend the majority of my time doing? This could be working from home, it could be working at a fitness studio, it could be in meetings with clients, traveling, you name it. It could even be a split of two things: say you work part-time and take care of your kids part time. Just write down what is your reality (not what you want your reality to be) and all the places you go / things you need to do.
  2. What type of clothing do I need to easily run my life? Again, this will vary based on the above. If you work in retail, it is probably some cute, comfy flats and boots. If you are a mom, it will be clothes that can be throw in the washer/dryer. If you are still breastfeeding, it may mean loose, flowy tops for ease of access and lots of leggings (no judgements!). You can include certain styles (i.e. maxi dresses, cardigans, etc.)  you like as well. Write this down in a list format so you can check it off.
  3. What pieces are currently in my closet that no longer serve me? This is a little woo for a style consult - but clothes are just clothes and most can easily be replaced or updated. You will feel an immense sense of relief by getting rid of pieces you know you don’t wear or will never wear which will open up space for new pieces that will work for you, your lifestyle, your style, and your budget.

Give yourself permission to let go and choose to welcome change.

Fact: women’s bodies change after pregnancy. All of my post-pregnant friends can attest - in some way, shape or form, your body changes once those kids come. If you have clothing in your closet that doesn’t fit or feels weird when you put it on, let it go. You will NEVER, ever gravitate towards wearing that piece if that’s the feeling it gives you. And if you take a close look at it, you can probably admit that you haven’t worn it in years and it just hangs in your closet, not being worn.

Fact: your lifestyle changes after kids. Where you used to go out and dance until midnight, you are now probably (trying) to be in bed by 7 PM. Those sequined party skirts? You probably aren’t wearing them so much. Those “going-out tops” - no more. It is okay to keep special pieces for fun things - but, as much as they can, you probably want them to do double duty in for your life - something you can wear with the kids and then swap out accessories or shoes for a date night. Resist the urge to keep something because you *may* wear it again - even if you do get back to that pre-baby weight, your body has most likely made subtle shifts, meaning it still won’t fit as it should, it probably doesn’t work for your new lifestyle, and more than likely, it will be reflecting the old YOU.

Fact: your style can, and probably should, change after kids. Clothes you had in your 20s, college, or even young adulthood, should probably be very different from the clothes you have now as a mother with children. This is not to say you can’t wear what you like and have a distinctive style - but your body and life has changed - it makes sense that your clothes and style should evolve as well.

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At the end of the day, dress for the body + life + style you have NOW. If you have clothes you love wearing, they fit, they work for your life, and you feel great in them, rock ‘em. If you need a revamp, just do it.

So now. The big question. HOW do you do this??

  1. Do a closet cleanse. Set aside 1-2 hours (have your partner take the kids, get ‘em to daycare) and pull out all the pieces from your closet. Try them on. If they don’t fit, if you feel less than a 10 in something, if you are always adjusting it to be comfortable - put it in the get rid of pile. Put back into your closet those pieces that work for you now and will still work for you later.
  2. Make a list. Now that you’ve cleaned out, what do you need to add back in to help you easily and successfully run your life? Start with the basics and get specific with things -  example: a black, v-neck t-shirt; cute sneakers; casual jacket - this can go a long way towards getting you pieces that work for you.
  3. Shop. You know that list we made? Hunt the items down one by one - Nordstrom is my go-to for busy moms: order several sizes online, get free shipping, try it on at home, free returns. No malls, no traffic, have a clothes party while your kids are napping (hopefully!).

What to do with those clothes that no longer represent you:

  • Take them to a resale / consignment store to try for cash or credit.
  • Donate them to charity and take that tax write off!
  • Invite your friends to come “shop” your closet and have at the items you are getting rid of! Fact: This is great karma. Simply take the rest to charity and call it a day.

I’ve broken things down here step by step, but if the whole process feels overwhelming, which it very well can, it may be beneficial to hire a personal stylist who can give you an outside, objective perspective on what pieces you should keep + toss. I also recommend a personal stylist over an organizer as they will approach your closet clean with your life + style in mind.