A New Mom's Ultimate Back-To-Work Wardrobe

Photographed by Eva K. Salvi.
"Text me before you get here so I can be sure I'm awake...and have a shirt on," is a sentence I've actually uttered to friends and relatives over the past three months. Yep, I've been on maternity leave, a bliss-soaked 12 weeks of getting to know my new baby, my new body, and my new truth: I do not know what day it is, I have not slept, and clothing myself is a needless roadblock to the eight-to-12(?!) daily feedings my daughter demands. Plus, I'm tired as fuck. Returning to work and its attendant clothes-wearing will be a challenge, but it has to be possible.

Maternity dressing is a $2 billion industry, with everything from leggings to swimwear tweaked to accommodate a singular physical change — that bump. But the truth is, that part is pretty easy. Throw on a tight tee or belly-hugging maxi and you're set, ready to revel in your own wobbly largesse. Postpartum dressing is the real challenge. You need clothes that are comfortable on a frame that's still redefining itself, and all those bump-lovers from your third trimester expect suddenly to see no evidence of you ever having been with child.

Other requirements are that the outfits take as close to zero thought to put together as possible, are somewhat forgiving of weight fluctuations, very forgiving of stains, and facilitate at-work pumping, should you choose to breast-feed — which is already a big enough pain without a three-arms-required hook-and-eye-closing top to take off and put back on between meetings. Also, after several months of all things stretchy, you want to wear something that fits, with an aesthetic that says you're still a human woman and an able part of the clothes-wearing public.

But (and here's the real wrench in this whole project): Life insurance and college savings and an honest-to-god contingency budget are way more important uses of your hard-earned cash than a whole new wardrobe. You want to look good and feel refreshed without spending like a Trump to do so — or cutting back on your near-daily Amazon Prime orders of random baby accoutrements. It's like an Escher drawing of fashion challenges, and where clothing stores should be allocating their cleverest design staff. But since they don't, I'm attempting to check all these boxes and get ready for a drop-dead re-entry all by my damn self, with the items ahead — and if I can do it, so can you.
Advertisement
1 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of & Other Stories.
Your Everyday Shoe
You probably haven't worn heels since that one time in the second trimester when you wanted to prove what a chic pregnant lady you were, which was so awful you had to buy an emergency pair of flip flops and box of doughnuts just to get through the day. Try a lower heel for a gentle re-entry — and one that matches a lot of your stuff so you don’t have to buy 10 pairs of shoes.
2 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of J. Crew.
A Button-Up Shirt
Annoying reality of your life right now: You may have to consider easy access for pumping when outfit-planning. I'm even willing to bet this painterly print has you covered in the event of a wayward drip.
Advertisement
3 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Warehouse.
A Matching Set
Instant outfit. Zero brainpower required.
4 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Topshop.
A Shirt (Alas, They Are Necessary)
With a nipped waist and a loose fit around the belly, this wrap top is the new peplum — and thus is perfect for camouflaging whatever stomach situation you’ve got going on.
5 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Finery London.
An Out-The-Door Dress
Aw, did little cutie puke on your first outfit of the day? Throw this on and leave the house. FAST.
6 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of BlankNYC.
Really Good Jeans
You might think you can’t wear jeans anymore, but news flash: You just can’t wear your old jeans. Get over it and get a new pair that fits you really well, at exactly whatever size you are right now. They will look — and make you feel — amazing. You may fit back into your pre-preggo pairs soon enough, but why waste potential jeans-wearing time waiting?
7 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Zara.
A Big, Huge Bag
Because carrying a mini-cooler full of breast milk home from work every day is so chic. (And don't forget this. And one of these. And some of these. And maybe a little of this.)
8 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Everlane.
Better-Than-A Sweatshirt Sweater
For those days when a sweatshirt really feels like the best you can do, go with this instead (and maybe a swipe of undereye concealer), and no one will ever know. Also, while you were gone, turtlenecks became really important fashion things (the more you know).
9 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Ayr.
The Instant Boss
Whatever outfit you’ve managed to put together (maternity leggings and a white tee?), tossing a neat blazer or vest on top makes it a look — and a work-appropriate one, at that.
Advertisement

More from Shopping

Watch

R29 Original Series