I look at myself in the mirror and recognize the shoulders I always tried to hide because they seemed oversize for my body. As my eyes gaze south, I notice enlarged breasts that some women might treasure but I can’t seem to get used to, seemingly out of proportion with the rest of my petite body. While stretching my sore neck, opening my palms, and extending my arms, my eyes wander down to my rounded belly, which has been expanding for the past 29 weeks to accommodate my first baby. My body has felt different for seven months. Today for the first time that I can really see, it looks different as well.
My closet has always been a reflection of my persona and my outlook on the world. In my teen years, baggy clothes dominated my wardrobe. I found loose T-shirts and wide-legged jeans (trendy ones at that) to be soothing, leaving room for my brain to deal with youthful stress without having to suffer the discomfort of a more tight-fitting outfit. I chose cool boyfriend jeans over the classic, crispy white skinny pants you see everywhere at the strike of Memorial Day; sack-like dresses over Herve Leger bodysuits; loose camisoles over skintight T-shirts. Sure, I wanted to look hip, but what I really cared about was comfort. Sitting in school all day I didn’t want to be bothered by an outfit that required constant adjusting. I treasured comfort above all else.
As the years rolled by my perspective shifted. I realized that I could combine my propensity for looser garments—which I always thought packed more character than a pair of skinny jeans—with my desire to look more “ladylike” and accentuate the parts of my body I most felt comfortable with. So occasionally a tighter piece boasting some sort of hip detail would make its way into my closet: bedazzled high-waisted skinny jeans, skintight rompers with giant sleeves, a body-hugging fuschia evening gown. As middle school made way for high school, wide-legged jeans were stuffed behind thigh-hugging polka dot pants. As high school made way for college and eventually my first magazine internship, those same cotton pants began sharing closet space with short skirts (and the frilly blouses that I would tuck in to accentuate my legs and body).
My changing fashion sense wasn’t lost on those around me, especially when these non-baggy clothes made their way into my life. “Look at that,” my best friend would remark, the first to notice my predilection for the looser stuff while growing up. “Your jeans have gotten skinnier and tighter as the years have gone by.”
Reaching the end of my 20s, I finally developed an aesthetic that felt truly comfortable: a mix of looser and tighter clothes peppered with accent pieces that I deemed mostly “me,” such as sequined dresses to sparkling shoes and limited-edition bags decorated with paint splatters. What eventually became clear to me was that my fashion choices were heavily dictated by gaining mastery of and comfort with my body. I’ve had these arms and legs and breasts and shoulders and everything in between for close to three decades and I was now an expert in all its crevices. I knew my body, so I knew how I wanted to dress it.
As I turned 29, Perry—my now-husband—came along. Then came love, then came marriage, and now comes baby—alongside a slew of other brand new realizations.
When you’re dealing with the physical changes brought on by pregnancy, a growing belly isn’t the only obvious concern. There is a wider morphing process (literally) that takes place: hips expand, feet swell, breasts blow up and the entire shape of one’s physique alters. Just when my fashion choices felt solidified in my expertise of my own body, that body changed on me. How could I now dress a body I hardly knew? How could I pick out a garment meant to sit on an organism that was constantly changing in ways I couldn’t control?
I ultimately had to give myself over to nature—what other choice did I really have? My body was transforming to welcome a child, and I felt nothing but gratitude for that miracle. My body is now home to what feels like my heart, my child.
So at 25 weeks when my regular jeans no longer would do, I closed the door to my carefully curated closet and realized that not only would I have to buy new clothes that actually fit me properly but that I'd have to take a crash course in this new body of my mine to figure out how to reconcile my fashion preferences with my new playground. Same old rules wouldn't do: goodbye high-waisted, flowy skirts with tucked in shirts. Hello, maternity section.
At the start of my quest, I drifted towards the sorts of outfits that I would wear when not pregnant, though this time around, I was finding them in the maternity aisle: loose dresses, wide-legged jeans (with an elastic waistband, of course), and soft rompers. I imagined that virtually hiding my bump would allow me to deceive others, and myself, into thinking that the shape of my body had actually remained intact. I was wrong.
As I moved into and out of a variety of clothes, from loose shirts to elastic jumpsuits tight all over, it occurred to me that the most tight-fitting fashion pieces, the ones that actually enhanced the parts of my body that were new—mainly my tummy—were the ones that looked best on me: The mass protruding from where my abs used to be added a story to my body that was visible from the outside. Showing off that story, that belly, says more about me than a cool but presently ill-fitting flowy skirt might ever convey. In an odd way, wearing tighter garments makes me look and feel more like a grown-ass woman. Used to dressing a petite frame, I am now dealing with body parts that I myself deem more adult-like. In short, I feel…sexier? Skintight is my new modus operandi, and even more surprisingly I’m actually enjoying it.
A reinvention of sorts has taken place in my closet. I still treasure everything that’s in there (at a distance, at least for the time being) but as I store clothes away to make room for maternity overalls (my new go-tos) and dresses so tight that I sometimes feel naked while wearing them, I’m excited to try on new skins and revel in the surprise involved in trying something out that tells a story about my body that I wasn’t able to tell until now. The main attraction: my round, growing belly. My baby is all I can think about, and my outfits reflect that by highlighting its current home. After all, having to stay away from gin and wine for close to a year demands the discovery of new sorts of excitement, right?
Ever since my style evolved past “as long as it’s comfortable,” thoughts about what to wear and how to wear it and the kind of story I’m telling with those choices have dominated my getting-ready routine. Sure, my outfits don’t define who I am and hardly present a full tale about me in all my depth and breadth, but they are the beginning of the story.
And right now this is the story my clothes are helping me narrate: I am pregnant and indescribably happy about it, and I’ve got a new belly to show that off.
“Look at me!,” my new, skintight clothes are virtually screaming. “I’m having a baby, and I am loving how that looks.”