It’s Mother’s Day this weekend, but if you’re a mum you already know that cos you’re busy putting in your specific pancake order (maple syrup, butter and whipped cream) for Sunday morning, to be delivered no earlier than TEN AM.
One (of the four billion) thing(s) they don’t tell you about being a mum is how much your personal style can (and will) change post-baby: you may end up with an entirely new fashion identity. It could even be guy called Merl, who favours bark-brown slacks and sensible sandals. Who knows.
I thought I was sartorially prepared for being a mum. I figured being a stay at home writer (‘dressing for comfort but courageously foregoing fleece for denim’) meant I’d be a gun at it.
And I was TOTALLY right!! Man am I the friggen best. The end.
Just kidding, I have way more bragging to do first.
But seriously, I was astonishingly wrong. The Newborn Days were the first fashion slap in the face. Huge, messy boobs jammed into daggy bras, tracksuit pants, Air Max, a hoody and a pair of bleary, shell-shocked eyes was my go-to look, and I gave zero toots about it. I’d stuffed all my maternity slops into a cupboard when I first got home from the hospital, then dejectedly got half of them back out again because, um, they fit, and were comfortable, and I didn’t care if I spilled meatballs on them. (Just so you know what brand of optimistic you’re dealing with here, I packed my old jeans in my hospital bag. I did not wear them home.)
At around 10 weeks, (of my son’s life/of eating cake twice a day/no exercise or even walking because of a fractured pubis) some work events forced me out of the fog. I’d squeeze and Spanx myself into a bright, fun dress that seemed right, like something I would wear, then tear straight back into my soft clothes to express milk and watch Survivor. When my Son was five months old, I did a series of national pop-up events for my skin care company, Go-To and realised that the problem was not the nine outfits I tried on for each one, but that I had no idea how to dress this new busty, materbity-bra-ed, wide-hipped frame I’d been given. All my old stuff (preppy, fitted shirts, high-waisted skirts and novelty sweaters) didn’t fit, and the cute, colourful young woman I used to dress as seemed wrong now, somehow. I was having a clothing identity crisis as a symptom of my new role in life, and was alarmingly judgey of all my old clothes. (Too tight! Too short! Too busty! Too non-motherly!)
Sonny was about a year old before I started to understand The New Me. I was acutely aware that couldn’t rely on the old me, or my old clothes, because not only did none of them ‘spark joy’ anymore, or fit well, I wanted to start fresh, with a zingy new look that made me feel happy, and like ‘me’, whoever that was now. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you look like shit, you will feel like shit, and after the dark newborn days, (dark sartorially and sleep-wise; thrillingly happy heart/family/pastry wise), and the not-fit-not-feel-or-look-right days, I decided to start over, and dress for how I wanted to feel: happy, polished and colourful.
I started investing in beautiful clothing again, shaking off the ‘Don’t spend good cash on clothes that won’t fit in a few months’ mantra that plagues all women in their baby-making years, to create a wardrobe that was simple, meaningful; a practical blend of casual and stylish, designer and chain store.
After all, I wasn’t only a mum. Or a stay at home writer pig. I was a godamn proper grown up career lady woman with a successful skin care business! An author with a new book about to come out! Associate producer on the TV show being created from my novel! A mid-level chainsaw juggler! A terrific lipstick-applier! It was time I started dressing like it.
My KEY wardrobe rules are:
- To spend cash on beautiful flats cos I will wear them 500x more than heels
- Collars always dress things up
- Layers indicate a level of thoughtfulness and effort even if it’s entirely faked (eg: shirt under jumper/blouse under trench)
- A few good jackets will do a LOT of heavy lifting (specifically: a leather biker jacket, a lightweight trench, a classic blazer)
- Colour and patterns makes everything better, my mood especially
- Flashy, fun earrings and necklaces are Holy Outfit Transformers
- If you buy it, it has to spark joy, as per Marie Kondo’s now ubiquitous don’t-accrue-so-much-shit philosophy
As an ambassador for Westfield’s new #ownyourstory campaign, I was asked to show my personal (mum/business lady/work-from-home-r) style using some of the shiny new AW16 clothes and accessories in-store. It was FUN.
My story? I’m a woman who is just as likely to be tearing around a park after a toddler and schlepping around Coles buying milk and salt and vinegar chips (my secret shame) or sitting at her laptop for six hours straight in her home office… as she is to be popping onto the set of TV production set of The Wrong Girl, or attending an interstate meeting for the day, or heading in to see her publisher to discuss her idea for a book about a sexy, angry teen vampire who attended a wizard school called Fogwarts and had a secret billionaire lover who was into S&M. I need something casual, but with some zing. Easily transformable, and with a punch of polish.
The Getting Sh*t Done Look
The light grey coat is stylish, warm and practical, the tote is tan and oxblood, two uber-neutrals, and fits a laptop and a nappy roll easily, the sunglasses are big and make me feel more fabulous than I have any right to, and the orangey lipstick brightens up my face and my mood immensely.
A jumper over a collared shirt or dress always looks fun, fresh and a bit dressy/efforty. I love adding at least one pattern into block colours.
Look at this happy woman! She got ready in 15 minutes!
Boxfresh trainers are beautiful, magical things that mean you can wear nice dresses, or fancy slacks but still be comfortable.
Shop and steal the look RIGHT HERE, you cute time-poor monsters: Ravishing Rampling Coat from Jac + Jack at David Jones, cute, playful gingham dress from Country Road, blindingly white sneakers from Witchery, bigass sunglasses from Karen Walker, handy tote from Country Road, jumper my own, from Country Road.
Anyway. So that’s my everyday look. But when I need to be a little bit fancy, well, then I go to the…
A Little Bit Fancy Look
This look takes me from a day time meeting (with brogues) to evening (with heels) should my husband and I decide to steal off to a show or dinner. I friggen love a good day-to-nighter; and each element of this outfit can be worn with a million other things. This pleases me.
A glitzy earring quickly dresses things up, and makes a boring hairstyle irrelevant.
I love a shirt or blouse all done up. Big fan. Add a blazer with pushed up sleeves if you remember, (some skin is important with all that chest covered up) and you’re cooked.
High-waisted pants have always flattered me more than low-waisties.
(It definitely took shedding some baby weight before I felt good in them again. Oh, high-waisted anything can be so cruel.)
Steal and shop the look right here: Fancy spotty pants from CUE, silky, slinky blouse from CUE, tuxedo jacket my own, from Country Road, earrings from CUE, clutch bag from Olga Berg at David Jones, heels my own, ivy from Simon my neighbor.
Head to Westfield to find out more about #ownyourstory and shop the HECK out of some very nicely edited looks and stories, actually.
And hey. If you’re a new mum, and you’re feeling like you’ve lost your fasho mojo and identity, IT WILL RETURN. It will! And likely in a whole new form, like mine did. An exciting new form that is more streamline, practical and confident. It just takes time, like a good roast, or getting to anywhere from Australia.
For now, just pop on a swipe of bright lipstick, and your favourite black jacket and off you trot, you beautiful bastard. Happy Mother’s Day!
I g-damn love you Zoe, this couldn’t have come at a better time for me! After two kids and breastfeeding for two years, I have absolutely NO IDEA what’s in fashion, what I like, how to wear anything. I hate shopping when I used to love it. You’re a gem, thanks so much for guidance and pep talk x
Need me that CR bag!
Ps. You look beaut 🙂
Zoë, you look amazing! I love the way you rock the collars and always want to do the same, but I end up with makeup all over mine. I recall you saying years ago that you should take your makeup well below your neck, but now I live in fear, collarless and sad. Do you maybe have any hot tips? PS Thank you for Properly Clean – it’s made everything better x
Lara, hi! Collars + makeup can be tricky… I rely on patterns for just this reason. Try using a diluted amount of product on sponge to take the makeup down the neck, or JUST using foundation, sparingly where you need it on the face (so it’s not a huge shade difference to your neck anyway) would be my tip.
Ah, bless people like you. I’m a brand new mum (one month old!!) and I just wear the same 3 shirts and loose pants and I can’t recall how a decent outfit works anymore You have made me feel better – cue emotional moment.
You are so spot on This really resonated with me. But I’m still struggling coz I’ve gained so much weight how do you hide a gut????
I did a double take thought you were Yasmin Sewell
As a fellow unstable pelvis sufferer I take my hat off to you for all your hard work getting back into shape.
Thanks Kate… I attribute time, osteo and pilates to getting right. THAT SAID, I am still sore in hip a lot of the time. But it’s manageable. Get a good osteo would be my advice… preggos and post-preggos!
Jesus you’re a babe ZFB.
And smart. Thanks for the light bulb moment.
That wardrobe doesn’t belong to me anymore because I’m a different me! Derrrr!
Yes! It’s remarkable how simple it is upon reflection, huh.
Pre-mum me was a size 10 with lots of dry-clean-only things from Country Road and Cue. All the fancy dresses! Silk shirts and linen skirts! And then I got pregnant, none of my tailored clothes fit and I got very into Ripe Maternity — who knew there were sub-$100 dresses that I could just chuck into the washing machine and hang to dry?! Once I stopped breastfeeding I found my true love in Metalicus, especially their semi-tailored stuff, with lots of Saba cardigans and a few Gorman things in the mix. I am never ever going back to dry-clean-only!
Hate dry clean. Has ruined just as many clothes I have. I now reserve dry cleaning for a VERY few items, like my mink and ruby-encrusted cloak and my leather chaps.
Looks like your beautiful curls have finally made a comeback! You look amazing!
You look 10/10. This post is as chic as Sonny (I love him). Anyway, I’m current completing my BA of creative writing at RMIT, and for one of my assignments I am required to engage with an online writing community. Obvy I’ve chosen you. Ps. Please let me know if you’re looking for some extra reading, my non-fiction is super funny (my mum thinks so), or maybe you’re in the market for an intern or best friend. X
currently* (strong proofreading skills)
Zoe, I am totally starting to feel like such a fan girl. I hope we never bump into each other in Melbourne streets because I will blush my little GoTo mositurised face off. Well done for being inspirational, this mum of three who has no current dress sense, some direction.
I love it! You have totally wordified what I have felt since having my first. After #3 arrived I just decided, blow it, I’m buying stuff! Gimme all the clothes and shoes and earrings and what not (particularly the what nots!). I feel like I am finally starting to develop a wardrobe that I feel good in again, but it’s not full of trendy pieces – there’s a lot more tailored classics, with a few blingy, ‘I know who I am’ pieces thrown in for good measure. I want to look like a woman who is happy with myself, not someone who is trying to look 20 when I’m edging towards 40! Getting a haircut really helps too.
Yes! We know who we are know, I think that’s a bigass part of it.
I resonate with this so much! I had such an identity crisis after having kids. And it took me years to realise that my clothes were not ‘me’ any more. Funnily enough, my boobs disappeared so your pre-baby wardrobe sounds perfect to my post baby ears. Let me know if you need a destash 😉
First time I’ve read your blog Zoe and what a great article – and you look brilliant. Totally agree how transformative having a child is and finding yourself amongst your all encompassing new role is difficult. My son is 3 now and I’ve found my style, body everything has changed- and largely for the better. New mums hang in there!
Gorgeous Zo. One thing I have trouble finding these days is a nice, well fitted pair of jeans (that don’t cost a bomb). Would love to know any brands you love in the lady jean department! xx
Zara is my pick
Yes, I live in Zara and Topshop denim.
Hi zoe! I’m trying to find those fantastic black heels you wore in the second picture, none of the words in the caption section seem to help tracking them. Thank you also for putting into words how many of us feel and think after having a bub, I’m currently 9 weeks away from number two and trying to rejig my last attempt to get the mumma is casual and cool look right for this time – I wish it was so much easier but as you said in your piece most of the time I just want to be hanging at the house in trackies and my husband’s jumper – afraid to open the door in case someone sees me haha.
They are my own, because the ones I loaned were too big. Ack! They are classic Christian Louboutin, but there are far cheaper and more comfortable point-toe shoes out there, trust me. Try Zara, or Nine West.
I heart this post a million times! I loved reading this while I sit around in my dressing gown, looking after my 7 week old. Each day I look at my tops and try and pick the most respectable one to wear – i.e. the one with the least amount of milk/vomit stains on it!! You are spot on with the maternity clothes as well – I’m still wearing them even though I had delusions of fitting into my old jeans after the birth (yeah right!) Your post made me hopeful that I’ll be wearing nice clothes again, in the not to distant feature I hope:)
You are fabulous Zoe! I have a 2 year old and a nearly 11 month old, and I have completely lost self love and worth. Sometimes I feel like a shadow of my former self. My biggest issue for clothing is I have nearly zero budget, and a hubby who cannot understand the need to buy clothes at all. You give me hope xx
try opshops or clothing swaps. I’ve organised a swap party in the past with a bunch of friends. It’s a fun day and a great way to get some new clothing inspiration.
Ohh, Jodie. Hang in there! And Kmart, Big W and Target are killing it at the moment for affordable little fashion updates…?
Ah, the post-natal slops… I’m just about to slip back into those comfy, slapdash “outfits”. But I’m definitely getting a pair of those Witchery sneakers; they may be the one thing that will avert peeps from goggling at my vomity clothes and unwashed hair.
Zoe please PLEASE tell me how you got all that volume in your hair!! I have very fine hair like you and I can NEVER get it to look like that! Updated hair routine??
Hello, I was just wondering what did you use on your body/baby bump as a moisturiser when you were pregnant??
Brilliant. Just brilliant. Everything spot on. I never had any style, but I certainly felt the change in what I wanted to wear afterwards. I have only just managed to find a bra that I enjoy wearing with my new floppy non-boobs, and now I’m looking into finding a fashion for me. And, quite frankly, thinking about stealing yours. Because I think it might be mine too 🙂 Except for the glorious heels (unfortunately i’m a chunky shoe wearer now, because of knee terribles). Gotta find all this stuff at the op shops though … so if you’re ever planning on dropping them off somewhere, give me a heads up, OK?
Like every other new Mumma who commented on this, I read this through a combination of tears and also many ‘ah-ha!’ moments.
I literally have no idea who I am anymore and my wardrobe reflects that- this new Mumma needs a new wardrobe that makes her feel good, not shit!
So much love for you ZFB
You have wonderful style! But I swear it’s your big smile that is your true finishing touch. Your outfits wouldn’t pop if you were a misery guts…….
In my before kids life I was a law librarian – I will let you picture those outfits. My husband did too and was so sad when he found out I wasn’t a porn star after I took out my hair, glasses came off and my library card got stashed away. Then I had my kids and I think I spent about 10 months in a voluminous tshirt and mumble pants. We seriously barely went anywhere “nice” and I had to go buy something to wear and stood in the middle of Millers of all places crying my eyes out. Because…..Millers. I didn’t know what I was meant to dress like.
Not only do you get all the hard parts about being a parent, you get confidence that you have to dig out of you and it’s not the same confidence you have when you learn to drive or get a new home….it’s the I made a person confidence and with that brings the spirit to give everything a go.
I now dress like Lucille Ball and Mrs C from Happy Days and I friggin love my frocks! I think a loved Mum is a loving Mum and taking the time to slap yourself together makes it all worthwhile. I love your blog and your awesomeness. x