Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Some 30 Year Old Clothing Wisdom I Wish I Had in My 20’s

*Internet Disclaimer: This is ME writing to ME. I cannot assume or guarantee this will apply to everyone, but I do think it may help someone other than me. But maybe it won’t and it’s just a letter to myself. That’s ok with me. I hope it’s ok with you.*

And if you’ve just found my blog, you should know I think too much and tend to make long blog posts from short subject matter. Buckle up ;)

I’ve made major mistakes over my adult life with clothes. Most of which boils down to just plain buying too many clothes.
I really wish I could go back in time and talk to my-younger-self to inform me of some better ideas.

My biggest downfall when shopping was that I would buy things thinking that owning them would make their usage necessary in my life. I would buy clothes for events and circumstances I would never encounter -- but the clothes were so cute, I told myself that surely if they lived in my closet, I would suddenly live a life that requires them. Never happened.

I also used shopping as retail therapy. If I was sad, shopping was a great distraction and high. If I was bored shopping filled the time. If I was happy, shopping was a fun way to celebrate. And if I had lost weight, oh how much more thrilling any of that was because now I was fitting clothes differently, and since more looked good on, more needed to come home!

I was good at finding deals. And I LOVE thrifting. But over time those deal and “steals" still add up. I wasted a lot of money.

And in doing so, I wound up with way too many clothes for the amount of time I have to wear them. Add in the fact I was shopping for lifestyles I didn’t live, tons of my clothes were essentially dress up clothes that I never wear out of the house, because I have no reason to.

I wish I could go back in time and tell myself a game changing concept.

I wish I could zap in from the future (which is now) and tell me in the past:

“Lydia, someday you will have babies.”

(I’m guessing you know where I’m going with this. But I may have a curve ball to throw in as well.)

(By the way, I’m writing to myself, who has been pregnant three times, and am a stay at home mom. So this is heavy on that body shifting info. And I don’t need career clothing. But even if you adopt children and your body shape doesn’t change, children will effect what you wear. And even if you never have any children, I think the take away point about shopping at the end would benefit anyone. I may be wrong. But I think it’s a good plan on the whole.)

“Lydia, someday you will have babies.”

“SO...Someday those clothes you are spending all this money are gonna wind up in a garbage bag headed to Good Will or Salvation Army.

Let me tell you all the reasons why you won’t be keeping your clothes from your younger years:

1)  80% (approximately) of them are not going to fit you after baby. Now, before you freak out, Lydia, a lot of the clothes won’t fit you because you eventually wind up losing more than your first pregnancy weight. However, you should know that pregnancy just totally changes all the nuances of your body. And once again, before you freak out, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just that the smallest change can really affect the way clothes fit. So maybe your waist is a bit different of a shape, but your thighs are smaller, and your chest is bigger. Nothing fits the same. Please just don’t bother getting attached to these sizes, they mean nothing. After (not immediately after -- months and hard work after) your first baby you can wear smaller sized jeans, but the ones you owned pre-baby still will be too tight in some places, and are really loose in others. It’s weird. But the point is -- just know and accept that this is coming. Don’t buy into that whole “back in my pre-pregnancy jeans, and faster than anyone else” mentality. Who cares. Just walk into pregnancy knowing you will be buying cute jeans again in your future, you don’t need to wear these jeans forever. (Normal non-moms don’t wear the same pants forever either.) The immediate post-pregnancy state is scary the first time around. But I promise, I like my body more than I ever did before having kids (and this current Lydia talking is sporting a postpartum belly after baby #3, who’s super cute and is 2 months old.)
any perfect fits -- including any tailoring you do to your clothes (either DIY, or by a professional) should not be seen as a long term investment. Just something for now. Those people giving fashion advice and recommending tailor fittings -- they are not taking this baby business into account, they are just talking current fit stuff.

2) You’ll find out you can’t just wear anything around a baby. Things you never considered before now come into play.

  • Some fabrics are too fancy --- dry clean only= not worth it. 
  • Some fabrics stain too easy -- white is hard to wear (especially once baby is eating solids - and making enormous messes.) And it’s not just white -- some fabrics take a beating better than others.
  • Some fabrics show wetness more than others  -- at first you’ll just be wet with everything -- drool, spit-up, snot, pee, milk, sweat. If your fabric changes color drastically when wet you won’t want to wear it in public lest you get highly embarrassed (sometimes leaky boobs or diapers betray you.)
  • Embellishments like sequins and beads, even just a small amount, can be a problem. I had a sweater with a cute embellished shoulder  -- I found out that you can’t burp a baby over that -- it will be uncomfortable to their belly, and your sequins will be coated in spit up. And what if baby ate one? (Yes, you will think things like that. And it will be a big deal once the baby is yours.)
  • Sometimes other weird things apply. Like I had one shirt with a print that was so interesting to baby that she would pinch me (hard) all day trying to grab it. Every time I wore it. (And it was only that shirt.) I eventually admitted defeat and got rid of it.  

3) You are going to need outfits you can nurse in easily. If you’ve never nursed a baby, most your clothes will likely be either impossible to nurse in (lots of dresses land here) or just way too hard to nurse in. Also... back to the clothes not fitting you -- your boobs will be huge -- shirts that were ok before, are now way more revealing than you intended them to be.

4) Comfort. Ok, I know there is the stereotype of becoming a mom and succumbing to bad fashion in the name of comfort. And I know you personally want to avoid that like the plague. So this is me saying, you can, and you will, make it through motherhood without becoming “gross". But comfort actually does become much more important than it used to be to you. Initially when you’ve just had a baby your body hurts -- you have to wear comfortable things. But besides that small time frame, your entire lifestyle is different now. It makes sense to dress for that instead of fight it.

  • You will be getting entirely less sleep and your postpartum body is tired and depleted from pregnancy. - when you are exhausted comfortable clothes are soothing, uncomfortable clothes are maddening. 
  • You will be moving your body in ways you are not used to, pretty much all day and night -- comfortable clothes are clothes that don’t restrict or pinch you while you do that.
  • Speaking of moving in new ways, carrying a baby (in hands or carseat) is easier done in flats. 
  • Your hormones are a furnace of change, comfortable clothes breath because you will be sweaty for no other reason than being alive.
  •  A postpartum body is not shaped in the shape that most clothes are designed for. Trying to wear normal clothes right now will just pinch and pull. It’s ok to give yourself the grace to wear things you wouldn’t have worn before without guilt. You can be confident this is only a phase. And you will need to get used to life being lived in phases now, babies and children are notorious for “phases.”
Anyway -- most your old clothes don’t feel that great under all these circumstances. Even if they look good, and can be nursed in, and are baby-friendly there is a good chance you won’t feel up to wearing them all day long because they aren’t comfortable enough.

Getting dressed is just a whole new ball game.

Basically…. 90-98% of what you (Lydia) buy in your early twenties will be completely obsolete by your mid twenties and beyond. Because even if it passes ALL the tests, you will find you are veering towards different styles now (less trendy, more subdued and versatile.)

(And here’s my curve ball)
Here is what I desperately wish you would do, anytime you want to shop:

Place $20-40 in a jar, or a bank account and save it.
If you want to shop really bad, stick $100 in the jar.
Because guess what?
When you have your first babies, your husband is going to be in school and money is going to be tight. And maternity clothes are actually rather expensive.
And despite the idea that you’ve always held about pregnant women being gorgeous -- you won’t actually feel gorgeous while you are pregnant. (I know because I am you. And I’ve lived it.) So being limited on what you can buy during this time makes it a lot harder. (Spoiler Alert: Your bra size winds up being crazy and costing a fortune to buy off the rack. Sorta accidentally phunny there.)
So if you save your money now, putting it aside for maternity and postpartum clothes, you can give yourself the guilt free pleasure of feeling pretty while pregnant and freshly mothering. Or at least being able to afford clothes, anyway.

Then after you put your money in a jar. Go do something fun that isn’t shopping. Like master photography. Learn some new sewing techniques. Buy thrift store furniture, make it over and sell it. (That’s fun and makes some money.) Read some more books. (Art history -- interior design stuff -- that really floats your boat. And it will come in handy when you have your own house someday.) Learn to cook. (Spoiler alter -- you’re gonna wanna look into allergy free recipes.)
Something that invests into yourself, not takes from your wallet and fills empty space that doesn’t need to be filled. (Closet space.) Shopping will never make you a better person. Clothes don’t make your life something that it isn’t. (Yes dressing well can improve your mood, and dressing appropriately can help get you hired, but I’m not talking about that. You were taking the idea to an extreme, buying clothes for a extra dressy wedding you weren’t expecting to be invited to because no one you knew was even close to getting married, thinking if you owned that dress you’d magically have somewhere to wear it to.) But if instead of shopping you invest into yourself you can make your life better and something it isn’t yet.

If you want to invest in your wardrobe, here’s a better way to do it. Study fashion. Get some books (start with the Library) and read up on body shapes and how to flatter them. (FYI, even though I’ve told you your body changes after babies -- the general body shape you have still remains true (Lydia).  You are an hourglass body shape before and after baby. It’s just changed enough to mess with clothing sizes.) Study up on fashion trends over the decades. (Mainly because that’s interesting and fun.) Learn about designers. And just spend time looking at magazines and even just people-watching to try and pin point your actual style (not just stuff you think looks cute, because you think everything is cute in it’s own way. Which is fine, but you can’t own it all. And it doesn’t all look good on you.) I wish Pinterest and more of the internet was around for you in your younger days-- but you’ll have to wait on that one.
Don’t use this information to shop, but to learn. This information can save you from just impulse buying everything and anything, and help you buy things you will actually hang on to.

Remember when you want to impulse buy something (because it’s “just so cute” or “such a great deal”)  that you will very likely be giving it away in a garbage bag to Goodwill in the near (near-ish) future. You don’t actually like throwing money away, remember!

This goes for shoes, accessories, jewelry, and make up as well. These can be somewhat easier to transition into post-baby world. But they still have reasons they won’t work. Pregnancy can change your shoe size. (Somehow my feet were smaller after baby #1. And they seem to be slightly bigger after Baby #3.) And carrying around babies changes what you want to wear on your feet (I’m looking at you high heels or things you can’t chase toddlers in.) Accessories aren’t at the forefront of your busy mind anymore. Jewelry can really get in the way with grabby baby hands. And the time you spend applying makeup now is 5 mins on a good day. You aren’t gonna care about turquoise eye shadow anymore. It’s fast powder foundation, blush, eyeliner and mascara. And your hair goes up -- babies pull hair from day one.

So with all that in mind, please don’t try and figure out the “right” way to shop so you can use it as your future self --  Just take the money you would have spent on this stuff and save it.This is an entirely more helpful way to live. I promise this will benefit you more than you can foresee at the moment.”

So that’s what I, 30-somethings Lydia want to say to 20-somethings Lydia about clothes.
I wish I had shopped and spent less, saved and learned more.
And if I had know what a capsule wardrobe was back then -- implementing one would have been awesome!

Right now, post Baby #3:
I’m back on the capsule wardrobe wagon. (I hadn’t really left it, but it’s a different beast right now 2 months after baby.) So I hope to actually blog some more about that. I hope to show you what I’m wearing and why. (I had thought I would do that during my pregnancy -- but too sick -- it didn’t happen. I’m hoping to have more follow through this time.)

I’ve gone through and majorly cut down the amount of clothing I have, and it feels awesome. It makes my closet feel like a curated store instead of a messy confusing pile of things that don’t work.
I wish I could have started this concept of less is more, long ago.
And I wish I could have forseen what was the right way to spend money on clothes based on how my body’s future shifts would play into things.
So I might try and blog more tips on that stuff. But it may apply less to everyone, and more towards people who have my similar shape.

But the main point of this post, for anyone, is if you hope to be pregnant someday you’d be doing yourself a big favor by putting aside money, ahead of time, for that temporary wardrobe you will need. (You need a temporary wardrobe after baby is here too!) Or if you adopt, and don’t need maternity clothes -- you’ll have money to buy clothes to replace the ones that got covered in ketchup, finger paint and dirt. Mom wardrobes have to be more disposable.
     So if you want to be a mom, be realistic about what you are spending on clothes as a young adult. You really don’t need tons of stuff now, and saving instead of buying is going to be an investment in your future.

Even if you don’t wind up gong down the motherhood path, I don’t think you’d really miss the random clothes piling up that you don’t use. Or mind the pile of money you saved yourself. It’s not a bad game plan either way.


  1. I am looking forward to your future wardrobe and style tips! I am short and have an hourglass shape as well, so your tips should be very relevant :-) We've been hoping to get pregnant for a while now, so I've started thinking about how well new clothing might work post-partum or just with a baby around, but since I haven't had any children yet it's a little difficult to know what to expect.

    1. You know, even after two pregnancies, I tried to shop for a couple things to wear postpartum the third go around, and all but one was an epic fail. And the one was a “Meh. This will probably work better next year.” (The boobs got bigger the third time, than the second time, but not as big as the first -- always keeping me on my toes!) I would have done better to save the money and shopped with baby in tow (as hard as that can be, you’ll have better clothing results.) (It helps to bring a second adult, with free hands,shopping.)
      But I hope the future posts can aim you better in the stores when the time comes.

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