Finding Your Style — After Baby


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Shirts stained with spit-up, too-snug pants, blouses with buttons bursting from their seams — any new mom can tell you about the challenges of dressing for the "fourth trimester." Not only has your body experienced massive changes, but this new little person in your life makes taking a shower seem as accomplishable as scaling Mount Everest.

It's important, however, for new moms to recapture their sense of style and, in turn, a sense of themselves. Postpartum can be a time of massive hormone swings, and the thought of trying to squeeze into skinny jeans can bring even the steeliest mother to tears. But before you make yoga pants your daily uniform, check out our experts' advice for revamping your wardrobe to look  — and feel — great. (Pictured above, The mom of 7-month-old twins Carter and Bryant, Sarah Hunt keeps fashion at the forefront by donning a jean jacket over her outfit — an easy way to add a little color. Armed with tips from Charlotte stylist Whitney Hamlin, Hunt also likes to trade flats for boots, incorporate fun jewelry, slip on a maxi dress, and add colorful accessories like beach bags, bangles and clutches. Photo courtesy of Donna Jernigan of Moments by Donna)

Expect body changes

Although you hear time and time again, "It takes nine months to put the weight on, you should expect nine months to take it off," it can still be difficult for new moms to accept that their body looks vastly different than it did before having a baby.

"Postpartum body changes can be hard to adjust to," says Dr. Melanie Schwartz, an OB-GYN in Winston-Salem. "Most women are not back into their pre-pregnancy clothes for six months."

Chest size can increase (especially if breastfeeding) or decrease (if not breastfeeding, or after completion), hair loss is common, and even foot size can change. Schwartz encourages women to give their new bodies a break.

"These are normal changes that most all women experience, and it is not realistic to expect to return to normal overnight," she says. "Respect your body and the amazing job it has just performed."

Professionals 'weigh in'

The perpetually pulled-together Michele Little, president and CEO of One Chic Mama in the Triangle, reminds moms to take comfort in the fact that every woman deals with feelings of insecurity.

"After my first shower at home I was scared to look at my body in the mirror, but when I did, I was flooded with gratitude for the beautiful baby my body had produced," she says.

Whitley Hamlin, a Charlotte stylist and writer of "The Queen City Style" blog, struggled with her post-baby body. Shortly after giving birth, she headed to Target to purchase some great loungewear, inexpensive workout clothes and running shoes. After Hamlin's doctor said she could exercise and felt well-enough rested, the pieces helped motivate her to resume a fitness routine.

Opt for stylish comfort

Because of the changes your body has experienced, you may be shopping for new pieces for your wardrobe. Comfort is important, but you can be comfortable without sacrificing style. Little suggests taking a soft approach to fashion.

"Some of my favorite go-to pieces are layers. I would layer a nylon tank under just about all my tops because it created a sleeker line and the fabric didn't highlight my extra weight," she says. "Wearing tops that have ruching on the sides or down the middle is key in disguising a tummy, and wearing pants and skirts that have some stretch, while still helping you to look chic, is essential as your body shifts."

Hamlin recommends items with stretch and woven materials. "A wrap dress is the most universally flattering, and it's comfortable," she says. Hamlin wore her maternity clothes for months after her son was born, and then relied on a Bella Band (an expander that covers your belly and can give your shirts extra length).

Focus on accessories and details

Hamlin and Little hail accessories as postpartum lifesavers. "Accessories are huge, and when you take the time to wear a little bling it makes you feel more put-together and adds a shot of style," Little says. She recommends starting with a diaper bag you love. "You're going to be carrying it a lot, so why not opt for one that's chic and stylish?"

Jewelry can bring light to your face, Little says, which is especially helpful when you're sporting unattractive-but-unavoidable dark under-eye circles. Highlighting a well-deserved pedicure with fun flats or sandals can do wonders.

"Accessories are such a fun way to really define your own personal style," Hamlin says. "I so try to subscribe to the whole 'less is more' thing, but what can I say, more is more!"

She recommends a killer scarf and stylish sunglasses — another great way to camouflage signs of late-night feedings. "It doesn't matter who you are, or how much or little you spend here, there is nothing more chic than a gorgeous silk scarf tied around your crown and an oversized pair of sunglasses."

Simplify work outfits

Many new mothers will head back to the workforce, and dealing with child care and logistics can be stressful. Little and Hamlin emphasize that you have a lot to deal with already — it's most important to take it easy on yourself.

Start by picking clothes that you feel comfortable wearing, even if they aren't necessarily the ones you fit into before pregnancy. Now might be the time to ditch the high heels (at least temporarily), since balancing a baby carrier while tottering into a child care facility may add another challenge in your morning routine.

Moms who are pumping at work may want to invest in a high-quality nursing bra. Also, Little suggests taking pictures of outfits that work together ahead of time, so you don't have to stress on harried mornings.

"Wear only what you love, because you need every little boost you can get," Little advises.

Amy Salvatore Reiss is a freelance writer and mother of two in Davidson. The best postpartum investment she made was a fabulous Coach diaper bag, which she used long after the toddler stage.

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