there’s something about getting dressed. i never realized how much time i put into the process of outfit selection until i had a baby. suddenly not only the amount of time that i had each morning but the amount of time i had alone became non-existent. the pressure of having someone in the room while getting dressed, asking for your attention can make putting together an outfit feel impossible. i believe this to be the culprit behind moms in sweatpants everywhere. getting dressed is a luxury that many women don’t have. the thing is that i always felt that it was a luxury, and one that i enjoyed even when i drove myself crazy with indecision or self-loathing over what i saw in the mirror.
giving up getting dressed was part of a loss of identity that came with motherhood for me, and looking back it’s interesting how much is involved in losing and re-finding yourself after giving birth. postpartum bodies are soft and stretched and re-arranged and things are out of place. some of them (okay most of them) never go back. pre-pregnancy clothes rarely fit after birth and you spend so much time nursing and dealing with baby fluids and insomnia that it feels pointless to get dressed anyway. the newborn phase, the first year even, is this sort of liminal period between your pre-baby self and your new self. emotionally and physically. it’s only within the last year or so that i’ve started to feel not like my old self again but like my new self. i have always thought a lot about clothes, but having a baby made me realize how much i identify through clothes.
there was a period where i didn’t know what to wear, where i reached for things that i could hide in. this is something that i have always done, at times where i felt particularly bloated or depressed or even when i had to be in business meetings or work situations where i felt i needed to be…shielded or protected in some way. my son having autism has made it really clear when i do this. having to deal with different therapists, case workers and doctors on a daily basis has made me stop to think about what i am wearing. days where i deal with a difficult person or where i feel particularly vulnerable i dress in those ways: ways where i can hide or appear blank. days where my son has no therapy or days where i get a break, i dress differently.
what women wear when they feel like shit is something that interests me a lot. as does what women buy or consume when they feel like shit. there are periods where i buy things that i don’t even particularly like, because i feel some need to disappear: to disappear into a uniform of blankness. of baggy tent dresses made of crappy stretchy synthetic non-fabrics and elastic waists and cheap acrylic sweaters that are shapeless. or something incredibly trendy that has no practical use in my life because i want to feel present or relevant or cool again.
i find the cycles that we go through of cleaning out our closets and then not just re-filling but over-filling them again really interesting. this year i have been trying to pay closer attention to those cycles. because i certainly have cycles of cleaning out my closet, vowing a life of minimal conscious dressing and then i have times where i just want to hit the mall. lose myself in 3 floors of tightly packed brightly colored items. times where i feel a real need to have more stuff, and times where that “gotta have it” feeling overcomes me. and that is a feeling that i enjoy. i’m trying not to beat myself up so much over those times, the times where i want to get rid of everything and the times where i want to buy everything. and to realize that those times are tied to moods which are most certainly fleeting. they come and they go.
part of connecting to myself as the woman that i am now: 3 years after having a baby, after leaving my career and committing to a life of caregiving, has been spending some time in my closet. being at a point where i can take a little time to get dressed has felt like getting something back that was lost. taking the time to stand in my little closet and dig around and pull things out and try them on does feel luxurious, and fun and exciting, even when it’s disappointing.