It’s the beginning of the year, and one of my favorite things to do is to take advantage of holiday sales and give my wardrobe a refresh. I work from home, so the bulk of my wardrobe comprises leggings and sweats, but every so often, they need updating. One of my intentions for this year is to go out of the house more often and have clothes that are appropriate for doing so, and I realized that part of my wardrobe was severely lacking.
Curating a wardrobe as a mom has always been one of my biggest challenges. Once I came out, it felt even harder. I’m a femme, and I love to lean into that, but with a young kid, it was simply not practical. Wearing dresses in the summer is my go-to, but it didn’t make sense if I was going to be running behind a toddler on the jungle gym or playing with sidewalk chalk or water balloons. Even as he got older, it became harder to figure out what that balance looks like. I need things like pockets to hold small toys, tissues, or hand sanitizer. I may be a femme, but I don’t always love carrying a purse. I got cargo shorts a couple summers ago, and I was mad at myself for not getting a pair when my kid was a toddler.
I’m not kidding when I say that my mom style has changed at least four times since I was pregnant.
Being pregnant is the fucking worst when it comes to creating a sense of style and having to buy clothes. Your body is constantly changing, which creates logistical challenges. But as other queer moms have pointed out, maternity clothing is excessively and aggressively femme. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I never bought a single piece of maternity branded clothing. It felt like a waste of money, and I was broke. Maternity clothing is so expensive, and there’s no way to know if you’re going to wear it more than once, or for very long. I honestly think it makes more financial sense to invest in pieces that are a size or two bigger than your normal size for when your body starts to grow. Plus, you’ll have clothes you can wear as your body continues to change postpartum.
Since I have a September baby, I spent most of my time pregnant in warm weather. I was able to get through by wearing things with elastic waistbands and stretchy clothes like leggings. Dresses were also a lifesaver, especially at the end when my belly was round and low. However, I did also buy a couple pairs of shorts a few sizes up that would sit until my belly comfortably. If you have pants without an elastic waistband and you want to wear them longer, there are different kinds of extenders to accommodate a growing belly. One option works by attaching it to the button on your pants, and then the other is more of an elastic insert. You can also get a belly band that goes over your pants and just looks like you’re layering shirts.
Overalls and shortalls are also great for pregnancy and postpartum. They can accommodate a growing belly well, you can wear them with any kind of shirt, and they’re a queer fashion staple! Of course, they may be a pain if you have to constantly pee, but that’s a minor detail honestly.
As the mom of an infant and then a toddler, things that were stretchy were imperative to be able to run behind a toddling tornado. I wore a lot of t-shirts and leggings in breathable fabrics that could withstand frequent washing. Babies are gross little creatures — they puke and poop on you, they spill stuff. You don’t want to be wearing something that you’re afraid of getting dirty. They know, and they will take that opportunity to destroy it.
My kid was a preschooler when I started working from home, so I stuck with the stretchy soft clothes. Leggings became my default; I only wore jeans on the rare occasions that I went out without him. I came out around this time, and I had a hard time trying to find the balance between my mom wardrobe and signaling myself as a single queer woman. I wore a lot of flannels and overalls. One of my biggest challenges was finding clothes that made me feel sexy and confident for when I went out on dates. I had gotten used to being frumpy and not caring much about what I wore. Since I breastfed my son for almost four years and had been single since he was a baby, I spent so many years not feeling connected to my body. It made figuring out clothes more challenging than it had been before.
It was a process, but over time, I found pieces that made me feel good about my body. A lot of the time, it was still leggings and a cute top, but I’d pair them with a flowy kimono top or a cute faux leather jacket. I wasn’t straying too far from the comfort I had come to enjoy, but they made me feel sexy and not like a pillow person.
When the pandemic started, I lost any and all fashion sense. I fully adopted what I call “soft clothes,” sweatpants, hoodies, jumpsuits made out of that same material. With nowhere to go, what was the point of looking like anything other than a slug? Even though I go outside more now, I still largely live that soft clothes life, especially if I’m just taking my kid to school or running errands. Who needs to look nice to go buy toilet paper at Target?
My partner and I don’t get the opportunity to go out often, but I’m realizing that I don’t want to continue looking like a slug all the time, even if I don’t have anywhere fancy to go. Now that my kid is older, I don’t have to wear clothes that are the most practical for me as a mom. One of the benefits of having an older kid is that I can really start to separate the mom version of me from the overall version of me. As I find my way back to myself, and figure out what a queer mom in her late thirties wears, I’m finding ways to combine comfort with fashion. I don’t have to give up wearing sweatpants, but joggers are a little more sleek, and I can pair them with a sweater or my faux leather jacket and boots just as easily as a hoodie and my Uggs. High-rise pants are my friend, and I mainly shop at Old Navy because they carry clothes specifically tailored for tall folks, which has changed my life.
Admittedly, I’m still trying to figure out how my queerness factors into my mom style. I have all the staples: flannels, a faux leather jacket, several jumpsuits, and more pairs of overalls than a 37-year-old woman probably should.
I know that in another couple of years, as I reach the next phase of motherhood and life that my style will expand yet again. That’s the thing about getting older. There are a few things I know I just won’t do (I’m looking at you low rise jeans), but I’m very curious about who I’m going to be then, and how it’s going to look.
Let’s talk about clothes. How do you figure out your style as a queer mom?
Queer Mom Chronicles is a column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes.