Making peace with my clothing identity

This past weekend, my husband’s employer had a big dinner event for all employees.  Though he’s worked for this company for two and a half years, this was the first time we have been able to go to the dinner.  I was a bit apprehensive thanks to my introverted nature.  However, I also realized I was apprehensive about what to wear.

I love working from home.  I love being home with my children.  But, lately these things have combined to leave me feeling more than a bit sheltered (dare I say “frumpy?”).  I spend most of my days in yoga pants, jeans and pajamas.  I seldom conduct article interviews in person, so even for work, I can get away with being casual.  In fact, as I’m typing this, I’m sitting in my PJs on the couch and just finished sending off a few e-mails to article sources.  They never know the difference.  Combine all of this with the fact that I’ve spent two years either wearing maternity clothes or being stuck in my house on bedrest, with a newborn or having surgery then saying I’m out of touch is bit of an understatement.

When I realized we were going to be able to go to the dinner this year, I knew I needed to figure out what to wear.  I have quite a few dress clothes in my summer wardrobe, but my winter wardrobe is definitely more casual.  I needed to go shopping.  During our snowstorm, I spent one evening looking online to get some ideas.  I put down the lid of my laptop feeling more than discouraged.  I came across one retailer’s site that asked me questions about my style.  Um.  What style?  I like comfortable.  I like easy-to-wash so I don’t have to worry when messy hands touch me.  I had no clue how to answer the questions.  I felt out of sorts about fashion in a way I hadn’t before.

When our weather finally cleared enough, I took my chance on a Saturday afternoon when I was able to go shopping BY MYSELF!  (Trying on clothes with a 4-year-old and 11-month-old in tow is laughable at best.)  I had no clue what to get.  I had no clue what I was looking for.  I hoped my in-person shopping trip went better than my online excursion.

I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t especially care what other people think of what I’m wearing or what the current style is.  I find things I like and that work for me and that’s what I go with.  This doesn’t mean I don’t care about my appearance, because I certainly do.  I’m also the kind of woman who does her hair and wears makeup daily, even on days I don’t leave the house.  Go to Walmart without makeup?  Um, no.  Just not what I do.  But, for the first time, I felt flustered and a bit overwhelmed to think of going shopping and picking out something that would be appropriate.  What did I know about appropriate?  And what would fit?  Two babies in four years results in bodily changes, even for a body that wasn’t exactly svelte to begin with.

Once I got into the store, though, I did OK.  I looked through racks.  I made internal comments about things.  I found things I liked.  I found things I didn’t.  I found things outside of my comfort zone and inside of it.  I tried on armloads of items.  I found some sizes I thought would work were too big.  And I found others I thought would work that were too small.  (Yay for women’s clothes sizes…)  I finally settled on a nice blouse that fit well and didn’t show a bunch of cleavage and wasn’t tightly fitted, yet somehow still looked pretty womanly.  I also decided I should probably try on some black pants.  I have a favorite pair of dress pants that serve me well.  As I thought about it, though, I remember buying them while I was in grad school — circa 2001.  Yeah.  An update was needed.

My outfit came together pretty nicely.  I found myself worrying over small things like tweezing my eyebrows just right, what color of nail polish to wear and trimming my bangs.  And you know what happened on Saturday at the dinner?  Not a darn thing.  I fit in just fine.  There were women dressed in things more dressy than I was and more casual than I was.  In my head, all of them wear professional clothes for a living.  But, in reality, I’m guessing there were at least some like me who dress up well but don’t spend as much time in dress clothes these days.  And that’s OK.  I also found that nobody really cared what I was wearing.  And they certainly didn’t notice my nail polish color.

My husband appreciated how I looked and I appreciated the chance to see him in a tie.  (We even go to a church with casual dress, so we don’t often dress up that much.)  But, you know who really noticed my little extras?  My children.  When we picked them up from my in-laws’ house, my daughter noticed my purple sparkly nails right off the bat.  Then she noticed the nice bracelet I was wearing.  My son checked out my nail polish and tried yanking on my necklace.  I haven’t worn a necklace much since he’s been old enough to grab at it.  They are the ones who notice everything about me.  They don’t care a lick if I’m wearing pants from a decade ago or pants I just bought.  They just care that I’m around and they can wrap their arms around me.

And then we came home.  I took off the nice bracelet and necklace.  I changed into my yoga pants.  I was again the Stacey I am most of the time.  I continue to be that Stacey.  I am casual right now.  And that is 100 percent OK.  But, I know I can gussy up pretty nicely still as well.  I also know that the people who’s opinions really matter to me — my husband and my children — are happy with me no matter what I’m wearing.  They love me gussied up and they love me in my PJs when I get out of bed and haven’t even begun to tame my hair.  I’m still the same person no matter what I wear.  Being out of touch a bit with being home so much is also OK.  This is my season of life right now.  I may not always have the most up-to-date wardrobe right now.  I may wear long-sleeved T-Shirts more than blouses, but that’s OK.  I’ve had days of dressing up more.  And I may have those days again.  But right now, it’s OK to be casual.  It’s OK to be me.  And it can be fun to dress up sometimes and remember that other than a mom, I’m still a woman.

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