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This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week we have two topics. This entry is about the topic "Ensemble."

These are sad days for my wardrobe. I am fully aware that I look like a "before" picture, slumping around town in V-neck shirts and capris. These days, my nicest clothes are the items without noticeable stains or too many wrinkles.

In case you're considering an emergency call to the producers of "What Not to Wear," I've got some shocking news of my own to relate: I wasn't always such a mess. Until my pregnancy weight gain about two years ago, I had an entire wardrobe of stylish fitted jackets, colorful tops, and straight-leg jeans designed to flatter my pear-shaped body. These days, the show's producers could feature me in a special episode: "When Busy Mothers Let Themselves Go."

Before I was sleep-deprived and scatter-brained, I lived by the motto of dressing for the career and life you want. When I went out, I was careful to put together a flattering ensemble, appropriate for the occasion. The clothes I deemed "comfy but too casual" were set aside in a special drawer designated "around the house only." Each time I left the house, I selected from among a collection of colorful handbags. These days, my red Asian-print diaper bag is my perpetual carry-all, except on our all-too-infrequent Date Nights.

I never thought I'd be one of those mothers who wore shapeless shirts and practical shoes, too distracted to put on makeup, spending their entire clothing budget on cute kiddie outfits. Now, I long for an invisibility cloak to hide my fashion crimes. "Don't look at me yet," I want to scream, as I keep hoping to shrink back into the clothes which I know await me in storage bags.

It gives me some comfort to know I'm not alone. I'm a card-carrying member of the League of Fashion-Challenged Moms. Whether carrying an extra five pounds or nearly 50, we run fingers through our unwashed hair, living for the future. It's not just moms, either: anyone walking around in a "before" body can relate. We wear our clothes like disguises, feeling awkward and frustrated in our flesh-suits. We wince at our reflections, wishing this part were smaller, this part rounder; longing for a change of one sort or another -- a prettier package to carry our brains around in.

Some years ago, writer and spiritual thinker Deepak Chopra said it was a depressing idea, reducing a human being to a consumer, as if we were all ravenous mouths and demanding eyes, bent on using up everything. So I try to remind myself that worrying about my appearance is a surface consideration; my soul is what I should nurture. But until somebody figures out a work-around, there's no escaping the mind-body duality. Chopra might not understand, but sometimes the body just wants to look pretty.

As these ideas rolled around in my head, I pushed my son's stroller through the sweltering heat. Across the street, I noticed a curvaceous plus-sized woman in a wine-colored top, wearing a broad black belt to highlight the smallest part of her waist. She grooved through the heat in lightweight pants that barely grazed the top of her metallic ballet slippers. On an impulse, I called out to her: "You're beautiful!" For a second, she looked confused, perhaps wondering why that sweaty mother in the shapeless floral top was calling to her. Then, she smiled. I smiled, too, thinking, "That could be me."

Maybe it's time to stop shoving all my hopes into storage bags. Next weekend, I'll ask my husband to watch our toddler while I go clothes shopping. It's time to stop living as a "before" picture.

Much gratitude to my beta reader, roina_arwen, who provided some valuable editing services.

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( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 9th, 2012 01:41 pm (UTC)
I try to do that several times a week -- greet a random stranger with a compliment on how they look or something I find impressive that they are doing. My rule requires it to be an honest compliment -- but some people still look at me as if I was selling used cars. Taking a compliment is a learned skill == just say "thank you."
No other response needed.
Jul. 10th, 2012 12:10 am (UTC)
It's a kind thing you do and probably much appreciated.
(no subject) - millysdaughter - Jul. 10th, 2012 04:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Jul. 10th, 2012 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 9th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
Post pregnancy isn't the only thing that causes one to go into the wardrobe slump. After I hit menopause my body changed and no amount of dieting or exercise could change it. So it took me a couple of years to get used to the new me. It's hard but you can get style back! Promise! Hugs.
Jul. 10th, 2012 12:09 am (UTC)
Thanks; I can always use the support. I went to a doctor several months ago and had all sort of tests to rule out any metabolic problems. Everything came back normal, which means that I've probably just got to eliminate the bad habits I reverted to in pregnancy.
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
It's always fun to work with you - great job!
Jul. 10th, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
Thanks. Your help is always welcome.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 10th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
Thanks! It's a good thing to aspire towards. Always very nice to see someone demonstrating you don't need the "perfect" body to look wonderful.
Jul. 9th, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
sometimes the body just wants to look pretty.

This is very true!
Jul. 10th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
Glad you agree. I do sometimes think I'd be rather happy to be a brain in a jar, though, provided that I'd have some way of moving around.
Jul. 9th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
I hear you. I recently went through my closet and I realized I don't own anything that hasn't been marked (scarred, more like!) by motherhood. Sometimes, it's really depressing. Other times, honestly, I just don't care. I want to be one of those people that looks nice and feels good in my clothes, I do. But the reality is that I don't have much time to think about it. Someday, though, I suppose I'll have more time to focus on myself. For now, I'm going to have to just suck it up and wear my child-scarred clothes.
Jul. 10th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
That's a good term for it, "scarred clothes." The last time I decided to get myself some nice clothes, my brand-new antique pink top got a rust-colored stain on it when my son ran into a window and got a nosebleed! Of course, at the time, I wasn't thinking a thing about the shirt but only about comforting him and stopping the bleeding.
Jul. 10th, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
I don't have a baby, but I have put on weight and that means more comfy clothes for me. Which is sad... I wish I could wear pretty, fitted outfits again. I'm slowly realizing I'm the only one stopping myself from buying cute clothes...

I need to go clothes shopping too. Nice entry!
Jul. 10th, 2012 07:19 am (UTC)
Thanks! It's funny how we get in our own way, isn't it? I think a lot of women who consider themselves to be intellectual feel like they ought to be above such things. Maybe that's part of it. Or maybe it's just the reluctance to brave the fitting rooms!
Jul. 10th, 2012 01:54 am (UTC)
You are by far not alone. I have no idea how to lose this baby weight when I've no time to exercise. It's hard to find nice clothes to fit this body.

Edited at 2012-07-10 01:54 am (UTC)
Jul. 10th, 2012 02:21 am (UTC)
My main problem is late-night snacking when I'm trying to keep my energy up in order to finish my transcription work. It's good to know I'm not alone!
Jul. 10th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC)
I know this well, for quite a few months, I actually had a tag in my LJ where I would wear clothes and have my flist weigh in. Then I cleared out my damn closet and tried again. Worth it.
Jul. 10th, 2012 02:49 am (UTC)
That sounds like a great idea! Maybe I'll do something similar. The public accountability (and support) might help. I'll concede that I ought to get more clothes for the body I currently have, but I'm not yet ready to give up on the old clothes.
Jul. 10th, 2012 06:14 am (UTC)
"Don't look at me yet," I want to scream, as I keep hoping to shrink back into the clothes which I know await me in storage bags.
Hoo boy, can I relate to this. Except my baby is now almost 13 years old. :( I lost the weight from the first child, but only had about four months before I was pregnant with the second. And yes, I have a lot of clothes that are either waiting for my return or are a hopeless part of entrenched denial. *cringes*

On an impulse, I called out to her: "You're beautiful!"
What a nice thought! We so rarely think of ourselves as beautiful, instead of lacking in this, that, or a million other ways. How wonderful to be told so, from someone with no motivation other than just wanting to let you know. :)
Jul. 10th, 2012 07:21 am (UTC)
Thirteen years! That sounds a lot like what happened with my mom. But my sister and I were glad she kept those clothes around, because we used to raid her closets when we were younger and living at home.

It wasn't even a conscious thought to call out to her, but I felt moved to do so. Who knows, maybe she needed to hear it. I remember once a little girl said that to me on a bad day, and it made me feel like a goddess.
Jul. 10th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
I have to make a conscious choice to buy stylish... otherwise I just end up buying t-shirts that fit a little better and calling it a day.
Jul. 10th, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)
Me, too. Especially anything with tie-dye on it, although I've more or less broken that habit.
Jul. 10th, 2012 02:12 pm (UTC)
"Chopra might not understand, but sometimes the body just wants to look pretty."

Augh, yes! And it's so frustrating to have other things you care about as much or more than looking good...but then it makes such a difference in how one feels to be dressed flatteringly :)
Jul. 10th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
It really does! Today I wore a black-and-white sleeveless top over a black cami with brand-new cropped jeans I bought yesterday. It's amazing how much of a difference it made with my mood when I was out with the little guy at Storytime and the grocery store.
Jul. 10th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
This was very interesting to read and relate to. I recently semi-purged my storage closet of many clothes I never even wear anymore. I still have way more than I need.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 11th, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
Glad you found something interesting in it. I'm curious: what were you wearing at the time that the plumber came by? You should ask your co-workers what about you looks "student-y." Then you can keep your eye out for things that might move you in the direction you want to go.

It's funny how many assumptions people make based on appearance. Not fair, certainly, but it is a fact. I really need to stop looking like the "frazzled mommy." Somehow, I think I'll feel more together if I look that way.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - alycewilson - Jul. 11th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 12th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
Good for you. You have to do what feels right and good to you and for you. So good on you for letting yourself go get some new clothes that will make you feel good.
Jul. 12th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
I definitely will! Thanks for commenting.
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