Supporting the journey of motherhood, in style

Dressing Me After Having You: 6 Things That Surprised Me About Postpartum Fashion

When Bella Brennan became a mum, she didn’t anticipate the wild ride of postpartum fashion, but here’s what she’s learned along the way.

Bella Brennan is a Sydney-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience in publishing and digital media. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her two little girls, Edie and Tilly. You can find out more about her here.

 

Having a baby blows up everything we thought we knew about ourselves – and that extends to our wardrobe, how we dress, and what we feel comfortable in. While everyone’s postpartum fashion journey is different, I’ve been genuinely surprised by my own style evolution. Two daughters and four years into this mumming gig, I feel like I’ve only just started to semi-nail my style again (depending on how much sleep I get the night before, otherwise it’s activewear and Uggies for the win).

When I welcomed my first child in 2019, I went through a major style crisis. I look back on a lot of my outfits from that period and cringe. But hey, let’s cut Past Bella some slack. She was exhausted and going through the biggest learning curve of her life looking stylish wasn’t exactly high on the priority list.

By the time I had my second daughter, we had just come out of the pandemic and like many people, I lent hard into dopamine dressing, embracing colour, prints and sparkles with abandon. I knew this was my last baby and when I returned to work at a new job, I used this as an opportunity to claw back some identity and cohesion in my wardrobe. I did a massive spring clean and parted ways with the items that I had outgrown (both physically and mentally).

Enter Bella 2.0. These days, I am more bold, more daring, and more joyful in the way I dress. I don’t think twice about taking risks and experimenting with trends. But it took me a long time to get here. So, if you’re a new mama or mama-to-be in your own style crisis, fear not! You’ll get your style mojo back again, I promise.

Here’s how I found mine as well as the most surprising things I’ve learned about postpartum dressing along the way…

Going braless after babies because, YOLO!

Boobs are the ultimate shape-shifters during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond. From the second you fall pregnant, it’s on. I lost count of how many new bras I had to buy during my pregnancy, and that was before my milk even came in. Then, once you finish breastfeeding, you can kiss goodbye to your pert puppies and say hello to deflated airbags.

But something strange happened to me after I had two kids. After years of being a big-busted person, post-kids my boobs shrunk dramatically in size. But I honestly didn’t care about their shape, geography, or cup size, and instead embraced it and started going braless. It’s been liberating.

From wearing bodysuits with incy-wincy spaghetti straps to rocking backless tops I usually would have avoided because it required far too much boobmin (aka boob admin), I’ve released the hounds and I’m never going back.

 

Refusing to throw out my maternity undies from Kmart (IYKYK)

‘Ladies, don’t forget to stock up on black, high-waisted underwear from Kmart. And when you’re done having babies, do your partner and your sex life a favour and throw them out.’ This is what the midwife in my birthing class told us during her presentation about what to pack in our hospital bags. I followed her instructions and stocked up on the iconic granny undies from Kmart, but I ignored the rest of her advice.

And look, I must admit I’ve parted with the very threadbare ones. But I’ve kept a handful. Not out of sentimentality, but sheer comfort. They’re stretchy and soft and sit high above my C-section scar. It’s like wearing a warm hug, in underwear form. Praise be to the Kmart undies, I say.

And I can confirm that they haven’t damaged my sex life in the slightest… that’s what kids are for.

 

Trying to dress during that weird ‘who-the-hell-am-I?’ in-between phase

Is there a more sartorially challenging time than when you’ve just given birth and your body is constantly changing almost week-to-week? Your pre-baby clothes don’t fit you, you don’t know if there’s any point going shopping because whatever you buy now probably won’t fit you long-term, but you still need to dress your person. Throw in a tender C-section scar, compression socks, and a belly band that you need to wear 24-7 and you can’t help but feel like some kind of hot mess mum Halloween character.

I often look back at this period of my life and barely recognise myself and what I’m wearing. Shortly after I had my first daughter in 2019, I remember panic-buying a few frumpy wrap dresses and wearing some pieces from my maternity wardrobe but feeling so far from me. I missed my pre-baby wardrobe and style but had no idea who or what this new version of me wanted to be.

 

Functional fashion was my go-to… until it absolutely wasn’t anymore

What’s the point of wearing nice clothes when they’re just going to be spewed on (reflux babies, am I right)? For the first few months after having a baby, I lived in variations of pyjamas, activewear, or pyjamas with a sprinkling of activewear. This aesthetic is also known as ‘goblin mode’ and serves a very important part of the postpartum period when you’re simply in survival mode and getting out the door is a gold meal-worthy achievement.

Then, one day, I simply couldn't stand the sight of another pair of black activewear leggings and wanted to set them all alight. With COVID making elevated loungewear and chic matching sets more than acceptable, I realised that this was my sweet spot and my new, off-duty mum uniform for those days when I wanted something a little more pulled together than boring old activewear.

 

Small bag rebellion

While baby bags have a time and a place (and there are some super chic ones out there), there is nothing that makes a mum giddier than going out with a teeny, tiny bag that can only hold your lippy and phone. It feels like a subtle act of rebellion. ‘Look at me leaving the house without the kitchen sink and not one single snack or nappy!’

A small bag signals that not only are you off the parenting clock, but you’re doing something just for you. Whether that’s going out for dinner, catching a gig, or meeting up with a friend, I never was a ‘bag’ enthusiast per se, but since having kids, I’ve gradually started to build up a curated collection of petite purses (most recently, I added The Minnie from the Chloe Fisher x Prene collab to the gang. Swoon!) that are just for me. They represent me being me, not mum. Not snack bitch. Not bum wiper. Just a human moving through the world, footloose and child-free.

 

Finally getting my style mojo back

There’s nothing like having kids to make you not give a crap about what other people think of you. Whether it’s dealing with a body-throwing level of tantrum in the middle of Woolies, or getting shat all over at the beach thanks to a haphazard swim nappy, the silver lining of the inevitable public humiliations that are par for the course of raising little humans means you really, truly give less fucks. Or, as I like to call it, GLF.

For me, this GLF attitude has trickled down into the choices I make with my clothes now, too. I dress for what makes me happy. I dress for joy and to know that when I look in the mirror, my outfit will make me smile. Bright, bold, wide-legged pants? Sure, why the hell not? A Y2K-inspired off-the-shoulder top (sans bra, natch)? Sign me up. A figure-hugging, backless wedding dress? You bet I did.

Also, there's no greater compliment in the world than the one I receive from my daughter when she vibes with my look. "WOW! I love your dress, Mummy! You look like a birdie,” she’ll exclaim with such genuine conviction I could melt into a puddle. This isn't a backhanded compliment; it's simply the way a four-year-old's mind works when they see their mummy in a swirly-printed Rixo number.

Emerging from 'goblin mode' and rediscovering my style mojo has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of postpartum dressing and I can’t wait to keep exploring it and burning the rule book one outrageous fit at a time. ‘Mumsy’ dressing is whatever you make of it and life is too damn short not to burn your bra.

 

By Bella Brennan

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