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Queer Mom Chronicles: Let’s Talk Mom Fashion

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. 

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 125 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. Thanks for this! As a genderqueer, masc of center presenting newly pregnant person, I’m struggling to figure out how to preserve my style and keep dysphoria at bay once my belly really starts growing. Anybody have any tips or tricks?

    • I would second what Sa’iyda said about buying shirts that are sizes up instead of maternity wear. With my first pregnancy, I wore a lot of oversized crew-neck boxy sweatshirts with the sleeves rolled up and canvas joggers with elastic waistbands.

      My second pregnancy my body changed much more, and the previous pregnancy outfits no longer fit. I moved to leggings with oversized solid tees and oversized long-sleeved button ups (mostly flannels) that I wore open as cardigans. Baseball caps or beanies are also a great way to express masculinity while the rest of your body changes!

      My biggest tip is to get slide on shoes for the final trimester. Bending over to tie shoes sucks. I got hefty brown leather clogs that I still wear today, and in the summer months I wore my 13-year-old thick-strapped chacos with the back strap down.

      The biggest mom style inspo for me has been the mother in Seven Silly Eaters (a goofy kids book about children who are too demanding, but the mama is a domestic badass who plays cello!).

      Good luck and congrats!

    • Sizing up truly saved my ass as someone who is not super femme and was very pregnant. Agreed that leggings and big buttondowns/t-shirts are a good way of still feeling good and being comfortable. If you don’t want to buy traditional maternity, LuLuLemon Align leggings can often be worn through an entire pregnancy and are often available secondhand for cheaper than new. Hair also I think is underestimated in personal style – it doesn’t have a bump!

    • This is so tough! I just gave birth to my second a few months ago, and am now in that uncomfortable stage where none of my maternity clothes fit but none of my old clothes fit either, which is fun. The struggle is ongoing. Just buying a size or two up wouldn’t have worked for me, since I tend to gain a LOT of weight when pregnant, and it’s basically all belly.

      What I did, and what sort-of worked for me:

      -avoided mirror. This is an underrated tactic, honestly. Take a few pictures to have as mementoes, check yourself out when you’re feeling good, but you do not need to look in the full-length mirror three times a day. You really don’t.

      -looked for “boyfriend style” maternity jeans on Poshmark. Normally I live in men’s straight cut jeans, but even if I’d sized up that wasn’t going to be practical for long. $10 got me a pair of pants that at the very least wasn’t skin tight or flared.

      -Once I found a shirt that I felt comfortable in, I just went ahead and bought six of them in different colors and never wore anything else. For me, this was ribbed tank tops from Old Navy, but it might be something else for you! But if you do find something, just go ahead and splurge on it, because you will be wearing these clothes not only for longer than you think but during a time in your life that is already difficult and uncomfortable. Do what you can for yourself and don’t feel bad about it.

      -got a good, short haircut and maintained it. As other people have noted, this can help a lot.

      Good luck! If nothing else, this period where your body is changing SO much will be over sooner than you think, and then you’ll have plenty of time to evaluate your new normal and settle in to your own skin again.

      • Boyfriend style for maternity pants is key! Totally forgot but that’s how I got some good maternity cargo pants – Gap Maternity has some good options often used. ThredUp has super cheap sales quite often.

  2. This is so real. One of the big things for me with my evolving “mom-style” has also been the overlap with not working an office job anymore – so much of my wardrobe was me trying to just find something that felt both “me” and also office-appropriate, but they’re just not things I reach for outside of the office. Right now I’m trying to really push myself (7 months postpartum) to explore into what could be both functional (leggings) and also feel brighter/more me (colourful leggings? carpenter pants? snarkier graphic tees/tanks?). A big mission currently is trying to find nursing friendly bras that aren’t nursing bras – I’m eyeing up Free Label but it’s a big investment so if anyone has recommendations for supportive but stretchy bras that can get pulled around, let me know!

    • have you considered bralettes if you don’t want a traditional nursing bra? they come in a variety of styles now and are pretty stretchy! or a wirefree bra; i have a few from Target that would likely be easy to nurse in.

      if you want a slight upgrade, i highly recommend joggers! they’re slightly more pant-like than leggings, but they’re still sweats, so they’re stretchy and comfy. you can never have too many snarky tees imo!

      • I’ve never been able to quite nail joggers on me – they always seem to pull more sweats! Super open to bralettes, that’s what I’m in most of the time now when it’s not nursing gear. Toeing the line between enough support and enough stretch is just ending up trickier than I thought.

    • Cross-front style bralettes worked great for me! Super easy to pull off to one side. They are relatively popular so you can find them in a lot of brands/style variations, including more supportive versions that actually accommodate bigger boobs better than other bralette styles (I’m 38DD for reference).

  3. I realize it’s not necessarily helpful, but this post makes me grateful all over again that while I was pregnant I was working at a school where a ton of people had kids of various ages and I basically inherited a bunch of maternity clothes and then passed them on in turn. They weren’t really my style per se, but pants were the main issue for most of my pregnancy, so having some that were work-acceptable and relatively non-descript was a life saver.

    The comment above about nursing bras is also somewhat amusing to me bc some of the nursing sports bras and tanks I got I ended up keeping and still use as just regular bras now that my kid is 7. It helps that I was lucky that my breasts never got all that big and are now back to a similarish size to where they were pre-baby.

    My biggest struggle right now is needing professional pants that I like, that fit, and are comfortable. I work at a university, so they don’t need to be super formal, but the yoga pants and joggers I adopted during online instruction don’t cut it for in-person teaching. And the dress pants I have from ages ago really don’t fit right and the hems are super bedraggled from wearing them too long, but I just really hate shopping for pants, and honestly have no idea where to go to find something acceptable. 😕 At least I’ve found nerdy/silky tops that I like that feel pretty gender affirming? 🤷

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