Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dressing My Body, Heart, and Mind (OOTD)

I love pretty clothes. (Newsflash, right?) I always have, but it occurred to me recently, that for the first time in my life, I really have a fairly healthy relationship with them. When I was younger (in my late teens and the first half of my 20s), my clothes sort of dictated my consumption in a much more proscribed way. I had set, static, outfit-stylings I wanted to assemble and wear, and I would go out in search of those items to be able to do it. This is not to say I wouldn't remix my clothing items, but I don't think I was nearly as intentional (or creative) about making my clothes work for me back then, as I am now.

Later on, in the time between my first pregnancy and my second pregnancy, a span of about four years, I carried a few extra pounds - not a lot, but as you other petite women probably know, when you're short, 5 lbs can make a real difference on your frame. While pregnant with Rowan, I'd gained a lot of weight. I'd started at about 107 lbs and by the time I was in my 9th month, I was somewhere in the range of 145 lbs. By the time Rowan was a year old, I'd shed most of it, but not all. The last five pounds just seemed stuck, and wouldn't budge. And physically, I fell into a slump. I was unhappy with the changes my pregnancy had wrought in my body - the extra body fat, the poochy belly, the less-than-taut skin. I confess, those years weren't my best, in terms of clothes. I didn't feel good about the way my body looked, and as a result, I became pretty lazy about dressing too. I got really good at wearing a few different renditions of the "mom uniform" that I owned: cropped pants/capris, t-shirt, and hoodie. (For those of you who are mothers, you know the outfit I'm talking about. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, go visit your local craft supply store (e.g. Michael's) on a Saturday, when the store is packed with women and their children and look at the moms. You'll see what I'm getting at.) Even though I was still working full time, my outfits were thrown together with minimal effort and very little style. I still remember a good friend and coworker of mine tactfully suggesting I not wear the same nude-colored ballet flats with every outfit. I remember looking down at my feet and nodding in agreement with her - they definitely did nothing to help the outfit I was wearing that day, but I seem to remember not caring. This is not to say that I had stopped liking pretty clothing. It's that I had stopped thinking the pretty clothing was something I could or should wear.

Something changed after I had Kate, and I'm not really sure what it was. I just remember that the Anthropologie store in La Jolla's UTC had just opened and that Fashion Valley was scheduled to open shortly. And I remember thinking, "I've always loved Anthropologie's clothes and style, but never felt I could really pull them off before. But what the hell...maybe I can. I think I will." 

So, I did. I walked into the store, and bought a dress. Then sometime later, I went back, and bought a sweater. And that was followed by another dress. Then Kathryn found and introduced me to the Anthro blogging community, and well...haha, the rest, as they say, is history.

Why do I bring this up? Because I think there are people who think I've always been "stylish," and that's why I'm able to get away with wearing the clothes I wear. But that's really just a half-truth. I've always loved and been attracted to pretty things and gorgeous clothing. And for most of my adult life (excepting the handful of years after Rowan's birth), I've always made an attempt to dress well. But it isn't until now, as a woman in her mid-30s, with two children, that I feel that I've finally grown into my style aesthetic. This is not to say, that I always get it right. I still have days when I put on an outfit that I realize in retrospect was a complete disaster (I don't blog those). But I also think that regardless of whether an outfit is a hit or a miss, I finally own it. And it's helped me. I feel more confident. I feel more comfortable (even in dresses with octopi painted on them and 4" heels!). And I'm actually in better shape now, than I've been in years.

This time last year, I was six months out from giving birth to Kate, and I was wearing a size 6. I bought pretty clothes in a size six, and went ahead and wore them - and felt pretty in them, despite the fact that I was 2 sizes bigger than my pre-pregnancy weight. And the pounds started to slide off. Soon, I was buying a size four. Then, a two. Now, 18 months out, I'm in a zero.

And I'm back to the weight I was before I had Rowan. Those few pounds that had seemed so permanent just a couple years ago? Gone.

I've been trying to figure out what's different this time, and I'm not really certain. Why is it, when I'm five years older and working a much more sedentary job now than I was back then, that I was able to "get my body back," so much more easily? I don't feel that I've really changed my eating or exercising habits - at least, not consciously. I've only come up with two major differences: 1) I've drastically decreased my soda intake (back then, I was consuming lots of diet coke) and have taken up coffee instead (though I add lots of cream and sugar to it - I'm a lightweight in terms of coffee drinking) and 2) I feel better about the way I look and dress.

We know that our mental and emotional states are closely linked with our physical condition and vice versa. Could it be, that even for something as seemingly superficial as this - as how happy I feel in the clothes I'm wearing - there is a sympathetic response from my physical self? That when I created a positive emotional and mental story in my mind about my appearance, my body found a way to align itself with it?


Sweater: Halogen Pleat-Shouldered Cardigan, Nordstrom (similar here and here)
Dress: Marine Mural Dress, Anthropologie
Shoes: Miu Miu Suede Covered Platform Pumps (similar here and here and here)

Whatever it is, I'll take it and be grateful for it. 

(Disclaimer: I just want to clarify that I do not consider myself to be any sort of ideal physical standard. Far from it. I just feel more than less happy and comfortable in my own skin.)

Thanks for reading!


  1. Carol you look GORGEOUS in these pictures. I just adore that dress, you just wonderful. Ready to pop along to the nearest wedding and turn the grooms head I think, lol.

    I put on a stack of weight when I was at university, as soon as I left and started eating like a normal person rather than a boozed-up student it started to fall off with little or no exercise on my part. As I started to feel better about myself and dress better the more weight I lost, maybe subconsciously I'd see that delicious Yorkie bar and think nah, not worth it so in many ways I think you are spot on :) x

  2. I feel the same way. During my 20's I dressed in staple solid top, pants/jeans and boots. I was uncomfortable and needed to lose 10 lbs. My momentum worked differently though because I lost the 10 pounds and felt a lot better so I wanted to dress better...I wanted to wear the things I always admired on other people. I think it's interesting that you dressed better first and then lost the weight- I think you probably look great at any size - any chance your going to sell any of your size 4 clothes :)

    I like the octopus dress with heels- it's a great way to "adult-ize" the outfit!

  3. You look fantastic Carol! I can really relate to what you wrote here because my sense of style didn't really start to solidify until about a year and a half ago. Like you, I've always loved pretty clothes and I've gone through periods of dressing well and periods of not so great style. ;-) I'm going to save your post and re-read it after having my baby later this year to remind me that I can still keep my style even if it takes me awhile to lose the baby weight. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I think the dress looks amazing on you. My style didn't really start until the start of college. I was a mess in high school and before because I was still trying to find my style

    Now I'm busting out in patterns and colours!

  5. Really great post. I always loved getting dressed and wearing pretty clothes, but after the birth of my second son, it has been hard to get out of yoga pants. I spend a majority of my days at home with a 2 1/2 and 6 mth spit up is my normal accessory. I am also still 10-15lbs heavier, after two births. It is an interesting thought, dressing affecting your mood/body image. I agree, completely. I hate spending money on pretty new clothes at this size...but I also hate not having pretty larger size clothes.
    Thanks for sharing. It is good to remember that I am only 6 months out...and the weight (and post-pregnancy body) is not here forever.

  6. What a fantastic, fantastic post. I can't imagine you as a size 6. And to hear that you've been able to shed those last few pesky pounds is very heartening indeed. I've been struggling to lose the weight I suddenly put on last year, and it's been on my mind constantly, from the second I wake up to the second I go to bed, yet I don't *do* much about it, physically or mentally. I think I'll make a change today.

  7. What an awesome, thought provoking post :) You look absolutely beautiful in that dress, cardi, heels combo too. I read the part about the uniform of moms and thought... oh crap, I do that sometimes and I'm not even a mom. I blogged a few weeks ago about how easy it is to fall into a slump and what a difference dressing up can make in how you feel about yourself and how you present yourself to the world and its so true... you explained it much better than me though! Happy weekend!

  8. You look lovely in this dress! I love reading your posts about balancing family life with work and other obligations. I'm pregnant with my 2nd and have been feeling so unhappy about my clothing options. I don't want to spend a lot on maternity wear because I'd rather treat myself to clothes in my regular size when I drop the pregnancy weight, but that seems so far off!! Anyhow, I really enjoy reading about how you've arrived at your style, which seems effortless, by the way.

  9. I think that being happy in one's own skin *is* a pretty ideal physical standard.

  10. Carol--I love the way you write, so honest and reflective...I know exactly what you are talking about...It's great to feel content in a world that constantly tells us we are not good enough.

    And you are beautiful and I love that dress!

  11. You look gorgeous and confident and crazy tall! Yay for heels.
    I don't know if it's an age thing, but I've certainly become more comfortable in my skin at the mid-30's mark (just before it all starts heading downhill, dangit!) and so while I've always dressed-up, it just feels better now. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to accept your body changing through pregnancy and after...

    I am also mad obsessed with wearing heels now, so I find it hard to wear flats without feeling something is lacking. That's probably the biggest change in personal style- but then there's still Converse, cause then I just feel 'cool'!

  12. I can TOTALLY relate to this, especially the 5ft tall and teetering towards 150 when preggers - YIKES, I don't even know how I didn't tip over, lol. I gained 50lbs all three times and felt like I totally started over with my wardrobe after Graham. In a house full of boys, I am loving all the girly goodness in my closet right now :) I used to think Anthro was intimidating and only bought occassion pieces, now I'm happy to wear it just because. You look GORGEOUS in that dress and the heels are awesome - you look phenomenal!

  13. Oh my gosh, I know exactly what you mean. I had my baby 9 months ago and I've always been petite and about 112 lbs without much effort. The last 5 lbs are killing me. I've never, ever fretted about my weight but I feel so awful about it and wonder if I'll ever get back. The irony is that I've never eaten better or exercised so religiously in my life. I never knew how much the number on a scale could take on a psyche. This is the first time I've ever talked about it (or written...) because most women have more to lose than 5 lbs and would probably get mad at me for bringing it up.

    I have tried to make an effort to look nice but still the number on the scale is making me crazy and really affecting my self esteem :/

  14. btw, I just saw your post on Roxy's EA blog. And I was jumping up and down. NPR?!? I am a superrrrrrrrrrr FAN.
    and thanks for sharing, after I had my 2 girls my body weight fluctuated and now I'm back to my weight before I had Bella. I think when you're a mommy and you're constantly running around - to work, to take the kids to school, picking up after them etc, it's a workout in itself.

  15. You look amazing and think a lot of things change your mind changes. I hope I get back to my pp weight but I seem to be stuck right now ugh. I never knew you were in SD (are you) I also love your style

  16. Great post! I really enjoyed reading about your fashion journey. The Marine Mural dress is one of my favorites. I love it with the green cardi!

  17. You look so lovely and your confidence shines through. That is beautiful! I am sure you looked great at all sizes because of it.

    Finding that courage to try new silhouettes and styles, dressing up "just because" and really feeling good about myself are all things that I had to grow into, so I really relate to what you wrote.

  18. Carol
    What a great story. I know what you mean by mom uniform(LOL) Which where we are is also trackpants. You look great and it is true that you can be a mom and be stylish!

  19. this dress is so cute and i adore it on you. and i actually really appreciate hearing this story from you. i've been thinking about having kids within the next year or so and have been frightened about the changes it would wreak on my body. it's good to know that you can get your body back and that stylish clothes do actually help. :)

    cute and little

  20. This was such a lovely post, thank you for sharing. I'm at that point in my life when thoughts of having a baby seem to be on my mind quite frequently but I wonder how it will change/affect what I've been able to find about myself. I felt so superficial thinking this but did wonder about how it will affect my weight, my personal style, basically little traits that I'm familiar with. It was really refreshing to read about your journey with personal style, balancing work and life, and feeling like yourself again.

    The outfit is just beautiful and you look so happy and young in each picture!

    Also, there's a giveaway happening on my blog, come visit!

  21. Even though you have no idea who I am, I feel like a kindred spirit. I went through a similar weight issue. 5' 100 lbs to 165lbs during my first pregnancy. Only after my last child, she's the same age as Kate, have I been able to fit into that size 0 again. I have learned to dress better and feel more confident and the main reason is because of blogs like Pretty Things. My first daughter has only known me as slim and "stylish", in her eyes, but she does not realize that it has been a long road for me to get here. She doesn't know that there was a time I lived in overalls and how I looked was the last thing on my mind. I struggle sometimes with her obsession over pretty things at such a young age, when I only had my nose in a book at the same age! :)

    Sorry for the long comment. As always I enjoy seeing your OTTD. I love the green sweater on you!

  22. This was a lovely post, Carol! I really admire that you're one of those moms that care for how you look and not let your kids overtake you and how you feel as a woman. I think it's important for your daughter to see you as a beautiful, strong, and body confident mom. I aspire to be like you someday as a mom!

  23. wow! i woulda had no idea that you hadn't been into fashion and dressing up your whole life. it seems like such a natural part of you and something that makes you super happy.

    i remember ages and ages ago, when i wanted to wear rave clothes that i was really apprehensive about pulling the look off. transitioning from stuff-my-mom-bought-me to dressing how i wanted to dress was a thrill. your anthro story kinda reminded me of that :)

  24. There is one point I think you need to reconsider. Being "fashionable" is very subjective, and one person's view of good fashion is different from another. I don't think it's fair for anyone to assume that a mom dressed in jeans and a hoodie is unfashionable and uncomfortable in their body. Some people dress that way because they like the style of it, and can feel very sexy no matter what they wear. In my opinion, it takes a much better body to pull of a pair of jeans and a t-shirt than a dress with a poofy skirt and a sweater on top. As women, we all struggle with weight issues, especially as moms who put so much into our kids and families that we put ourselves last. We should be supporting each other, instead of putting each other down. While this may be your opinion of the "mom outfit" I think this would have been just as effective a post without taking the dig at other people.

  25. I love this post. So genuine and smart, and relatable. I struggle every day about how feel on my insides, based on what I think I'm seeing on the outside. Such a tiresome and ugly circle, and I'm so pleased to see someone have gone through something similar and come out for the better. And you look fabulous in your OOTD. The dress fits perfectly, and I'm quite (read: extremely) jealous of those heels!

  26. @Anonymous, 2/13, 5:36 PM - Thanks for your comment. I agree that fashion is very subjective. For instance, my friend Pinguino, who commented above, and I have hugely differing style sensibilities, but I would never presume to think that she is any less or more "fashionable" than I am. In fact, I love the way she dresses and enjoy the way she styles herself tremendously! I also agree that what someone is wearing and what someone feels about their body has no connection or causal link - there are plenty of women who wear the most on-trend or designer clothes and have horrible body image. Conversely, as you say, there are plenty of people who dress for convenience, coverage, etc, because they like to or for any other of a number of reasons, who are very happy and comfortable in their own bodies.

    That being said, I was speaking of my own personal experience and perspective, which I know is one that is shared by other women, about a specific time in my life when I was struggling with my own body image and it was reflected in what I was wearing. It was not meant to be a dig at other women or comment on their motivations/feelings about what they're wearing. Rather, it was meant to encourage moms not to feel limited by their roles as mothers or the changes their motherhood has wrought on their bodies, if that's what they're feeling. If it's not, that's awesome, and more power to them.

  27. I don't think it was the best way to encourage moms when you tell your readers to go to stores (eg Michaels) and see what you mean as "pretty lazy about dressing".

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  29. Love this post! I think one of the reasons I love you and Kathryn so much is because you are so easy to identify with. I think this post was encouraging and uplifting!

  30. Thanks everyone, for your kind words and positive feedback.

    @Anonymous - I think there's a miscommunication here, caused in part by the sequence of sentences I used.

    The "mom uniform" I referred to is simply what a lot of mom's (including myself) wear (for any number of reasons). That I've commonly seen this outfit worn at craft stores (when I was shopping for supplies for myself and my child, like so many other parents) is a fact, but without the value judgment you seem to think I'm making. That said, I apologize if my lack of clarity may have hurt anyone's feelings.

    Referring specifically to the set of statements you've highlighted, I said that when I was lazy about the way I dressed, I routinely wore the "mom uniform". That does not imply the statement's converse: that those who wear the "mom uniform" are necessarily being lazy about the way they dress (and I'm certainly not implying that they're lazy in general!). It also does not imply the statement's inverse: that when I'm not being lazy about how I dress, I won't wear the mom uniform. There are plenty of times when I conscientiously rock capris and a hoodie (or jeans and a t-shirt)! It's a casual look that works pretty well for a lot of people, which probably explains why so many women embrace it.

  31. I really liked this post. I think you hit on an important subject, which is the idea that dressing nicely can make us feel great about ourselves, and that feeling great about ourselves can help our bodies to come to their natural weight. While I agree with anonymous that wearing a casual outfit is not a signal that you don't care about yourself or your appearance, I also agree with you, Carol, that you didn't say that---it seems like you were talking about what the "mom uniform" meant for you specifically, which was that you were sort of checking out.

    Regardless, you look lovely as always! I'm glad you were able to rock a size six and feel fabulous in it.