When I announced to my friends that I had started a fashion blog to say they were surprised was an understatement. In fact, I think some are still laughing. You see I am not a huge trend follower, actually, once something becomes a trend I usually avoid it on principle. I look for comfort and function first, and I am far too stingy to buy clothes that I won’t wear in a few months because they won’t match the current look. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to feel attractive or stylish. Nor do I underestimate the role of clothes as a statement regarding how I want the rest of the world to see me as a human being.
I have yet to meet a woman who is a perfect off the peg size. I for one am below average height, with a very short upper body, high waist and diddy legs. The worst part is my very small but wide feet. When the rest of the women in the world pick shoes based on what looks good, I have to decide on what won’t give me blisters, so any attempt to hide my short stature, or get away with wearing regular length trousers using a pair of killer heels is usually scuppered. So the shops that I used were the ones with a petite section and styles of trousers that either fell from the hips (Next) or were more generous on the waist (M&S). As for dresses, they were usually a no go as the section needing altering (upper torso) is the most complicated part to change.
During the course of my adult life I developed a style that that I liked (even if no-one else did). My wide shoulders are, in fact, quite slimming. Wonderbras were no good to me, but I could get the same affect from a v-shaped neckline and strappy dresses are the easiest to alter for me. When I got married I considered a style that would last, and, as I have a passing resemblance to Audrey Hepburn (on a dark night), I chose to use her Breakfast at Tiffany’s as the basis for my look.
Then I fell pregnant and all the rules that worked before were suddenly null and void. I paid extra for a pair of petite maternity trousers ordered online and was sent a pair of normal length jeans with bottoms rolled up. Confident, sophisticated women of the world do not walk around in rolled up trousers. Tops were huge tent-like affairs with virtually no variety. I did not want my glorious bosoms, which were becoming more glorious by the day, to be hidden by high necklines and acres of flowing fabric. The ‘funny’ t-shirts that wanted to use to share the ‘I am not fat, I am pregnant’ message should have been labelled ‘patronising’. Thank goodness I work for a company with a casual dress code as I would not have had the patience to put up with this twice over with a working wardrobe as well.
So moving onto breastfeeding, what is different? Well, retailers seem to be as short-sighted and stuck in a rut as they are with maternity clothes. The biggest and most frequently cited complaint is that the vast majority of nursing wear is dual purpose maternity clothes. Retailers and manufacturers justify this by saying this extends the potential usage of maternity wear. But our research at Can I Breastfeed in it, UK, shows the women who agree are outnumbered by more than 2 to 1 by women who want separate clothing. I’m one of them. You can cope with a reduced wardrobe of three trousers, using the one-being-washed-one-being-dried-and-one-being-worn principle. These will then get saved until you, hopefully, fall pregnant again. But when the little one comes, do not expect to be able to wear any item of clothing twice without washing it. The wash-dry-wear cycle now includes baby clothes (obviously), muslins (for the little baby spillages), towels (for the big baby spillages), sheets (both the cot and the one time you put him down on your bed for half a minute), your clothes (no-one ever told me how much my boobs could leak) and this gets worse as your baby starts to move and eat a more varied diet. So, in short I need far more clothes now and they need to be easy care. I’m lucky that this fits with my function over fashion attitude. But like everything, just because one style of nursing top suits me doesn’t mean it suits everyone. Most clothes can only be purchased online so it can be very hit and miss if retailers don’t make it clear what the design features are.
The next point is that my waist returned to normal within weeks of giving birth. So while many nursing tops do have nice details to hide the access to feed, and in turn highlight your bosom, I do not need so much fabric around my waist that people are wondering if I have fallen pregnant again. It can be very difficult to feel attractive in the days when being a mother is all consuming, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel like the attractive woman you always have been. I remember going out and buying a formal dress, without any reason, other than I knew one day I would need it for the confidence to say yes to an invitation.
So, with so many purpose made clothes failing to meet my needs, I started looking at everyday clothes, and with the help of the ‘Can I Breastfeed In It? UK’ Facebook group I began to see the styles I favoured now becoming available to me again. Wrap tops give me the necklines I prefer. A strap dress can be pulled down, but combined with a crop top or bolero it can still be discrete.
This of course can go too far. Women in the group talk about pulling clothes on mannequins to see if there is easy access to the nipples. It is the strangest feeling, though, looking at other women, and assessing their outfits and deciding whether or not they can breastfeed in it. I have never been this interested in undressing other women with my eyes.