Shopping for Self-Confidence. I’ll Take a Large.

A call from the office Thursday insisting I fly to Los Angeles in 36 hours for an emergency project generated two immediate responses, in the following order

1 I’m going to miss Thalia
2 I have nothing to wear.

I’m not sure which was more traumatic at the time.

Maternity clothes shopping is no one’s favorite pastime but I could argue it’s tougher on those of us in stylish metropolitan areas who don’t qualify for the “cute skinny girl with bump” category. As easy as it is to hide in my apartment day after day in the same pair of Liz Lange for Target jeans that promote plumber’s butt any time I bend forward at more than a 15-degree angle, I am expected to step up just a bit more at the office.

The office that is in L.A.

The L.A. in which one cannot show too much skin, wear too much white, or have boobs that are too prenatally perky–which is hardly a problem considering women above a size 4 are virtually invisible there. Or perhaps they’re hiding in their apartments too?

Sigh.

Hi. I don’t look like this. I don’t even think she’s pregnant.

My last pregnancy, as I’ve noted here before, heaved my weight upwards into numbers I never could have imagined seeing between my toes on the scale. For the first time in my mostly thin life, I found myself saving the Lane Bryant coupons I get in the mail and tossing the Barney’s Co-op ones. At seven months pregnant, I found myself with an invitation to a somewhat fancy, artsy event. I hauled my spreading ass all the way from Brooklyn to the maternity boutique up in nosebleed territory of Madison Avenue. The young blond saleswoman–childless saleswoman–steered her skinny girl glaze downward along my body, stopping at my minivan-sized booty and sneered, “I don’t know that we’ll have anything that will fit you here.”

Indeed it was hard to tell which jutted from my frame more, my belly or my ass, but still.

The following hour I spent in the dressing room, determined to find something, anything, that would prove her wrong, all while fighting back tears as I questioned every you’re glowing!-type compliment given by friends and family over the previous weeks. They were liars, all of them. In the end, I was just the fat pregnant woman who would never fit into the straight-legged Theory pants and gauzy Dianne Von Furstenberg tops. I was the woman who, at the benefit, would overhear the whispers in the ladies’ room: You can tell she’s having a girl because…

Good thing she has that long sweater to minimize those gargantuan hips.

I might have left the store sobbing openly if it weren’t for the fortuitous arrival of a thin young girl, hardly old enough to procreate by uptown Manhattan standards. She had no belly at all, and yet she hauled dozens of items into the dressing room, squealing with delight at cute outfit after cute outfit.

“How pregnant are you, exactly?” I asked her.

“Oh just five weeks. But isn’t it so fun shopping for all the clothes? I couldn’t wait!”

I was too shocked to be upset anymore. I bought an ill-fitting strappy black dress to spite the salesgirl and stomped out of the store, chin up.

Then I returned it two days later for the one thing in the store that didn’t make me cry when I got home and tried it on again–an exorbitantly priced diaper bag. I borrowed an outfit for the benefit and arrived smothered in flowy black nylon. I felt like Mrs. Roper, surrounded by a roomful of Chrissies.

And I spent my remaining months in the same three ugly XL tee-shirts and two circus tent skirts simply so I wouldn’t have to face an unforgiving maternity sales rack again.

This Friday, I somehow managed to dig up that crumpled sales credit from April, 2005. And so I took a deep breath and headed out towards my car determined to use the credit if only for a trendy, L.A.-approved t-shirt or two.

I talked myself down from the anxiety attack I was having behind the wheel, the clammy hands, the loose bowels. The entire way up the FDR drive from Brooklyn I mentally worked my way through an escape plan: The moment things get uncomfortable, I run right out of there and head straight back home to my ill-fitting jeans and boxy, SAMH tops. I’ll just never take off my long leather duster once I get to L.A. Ever. I won’t socialize after work and I’ll minimize walks around the hallways. I’ll blame it on sciatica. I’ll blame it on morning sickness. I’ll blame it on…

“You’ll take a medium in that,” the smiling saleswoman whispered over my shoulder as I examined a basic black, 36 DDD-masquerading cotton top.

“Oh I’m not so sure about that,” I laughed. “I would think a large. At least here.”

“Try the medium,” she said with a wink. “I’ll start a room for you.”

One medium turned into two mediums. Five mediums. A few larges. A few extra-larges. The sizes didn’t matter. In fact this time around, I found myself laughing at the clothes that didn’t fit instead of crying about them.

Where is the arm fat? Where is the justice?

What a difference a couple of years, a kind saleswoman, and an iota of self-confidence makes. Not to mention a handful of garments that don’t rip at the seams when I try to button them. The single tee shirt I intended to buy turned into a whole shopping bag full of cotton-and-lycra-blend treasures. The saleswoman even talked me into a booty skirt (indeed!) and dusty orange top, a radical departure from my standby brown, black and grey winter wardrobe. For the first time, I now had a wardrobe I could proudly wear beyond the supermarket.

I left smiling.

It’s so shallow, isn’t it?

Don’t answer, because I know it is; it’s shallow that a bright pink bag full of overpriced maternity clothes that will get six months wear, tops, could make me feel so good. Or that the silent approval of a total stranger working in a boutique could alter my attitude about an entire business trip.

I want to tell you that I’m content with who I am, that I embrace my once and future state as a curvy, bouncy, bosomed, wiggly and dimpled in the wrong places, fertility goddess. And yet, I’d be lying. Blame advertising. Blame my ego. Blame Linday Lohan or society at large or the size zero editors clicking their Jimmy Choos across the polished marble floors of the Conde Nast Building. I accept it, but it doesn’t mean I’m content with it. I know there are so many women bigger than I am, who struggle with this their whole lives and not just in nine month spurts. Surely I’m among the more fortunate in the world. But it doesn’t make it easier when I look in the mirror.

Sometimes clothes do make the woman. Especially when there’s a whole lot of woman to clothe.

So call me shallow when I tell you that this morning, when I woke up far too early in a strange Manhattan Beach hotel room and opened a suitcase that didn’t contain that worn, outdated pair of butt-baring maternity jeans,

I was utterly happy.

I may even go out to dinner tonight after work.

Like they’ll ever let me out of work.

{54 Comments}

54 thoughts on “Shopping for Self-Confidence. I’ll Take a Large.”

  1. I completely understand. I bought tons of overpriced mat clothes which are now in a bin waiting for pregnancy #2 (not yet, thanks). I felt a little guilty over the money, but I really wanted to look great at work, and it was also the last time (ever?) I’d have extra money for a while so why not spoil myself? When I go back in 4-ish months, I’ll have to buy new work clothes for my non-prego newly squishy gigantor-boobed self. Here we go again.Have a blast in LA!

  2. Oh I so relate to your pregnancy posts! I too am quite thin when non-pg, although I sport lovely (NOT!) 34DD knockers when skinny and 34H, yes – H – when nursing. And when I’m pregnant, I’m an ox. Nothing fits. I spend my entire pregnancy in XL t-shirts and one pair of ill-fitting jeans. It’s horrible, I’ve done it 3 times, and I never EVER want to do it again. And I don’t plan to. Sorry, I’m rambling, but I just want to say, I feel your pain. And congrats on your pregnancy wardrobe!!! ENJOY!

  3. I gained over 50 lbs with my first pregnancy and know what you mean about feeling just ‘too big’, although I had the fortune of not having to frequent cities with such an emphasis on looks. Heck, your Target jeans would be fashionable out here! LOLI’m so glad you had a good experience this time at the store. I hate snootiness more than just about anything. And, you’d be beautiful no matter what your size. Seriously. Have a good time in LA! Hope they let you out to play.

  4. Not even at the end of my third pregnancy, I measured 48 inches around what used to be my waist. I was nearly as round as I am tall.I gained 50 lbs with every pregnancy (and lost it all after a year or so). I became an authority in celebrity moms who didn’t fit the skinny/bump mold: Catherine Zeta-Jones, 50 lbs., Kate Hudson, 50+lbs.My third was a surprise. (Surprise! The mini-pill doesn’t work!) I had given away all my maternity clothes and knew I would never wear anything from this last pregancy again. I bypassed the mall, and went straight to the chi-chi maternity boutique, where among other things, I bought the first pair of jeans I ever owned that cost more than fifty bucks. The bill seemed huge and unjustifiable. But I swear those clothes got me through, mentally and emotionally, as much as practically.

  5. Confession: I stopped reading after you said you were flying to LA because I just have to know two things.1.How long are you going to be in LA?2.Will you have time to meet for lunch or coffee?(I’m sorry. I’m a little in love with you. I had to ask.)

  6. I spent my pregnancy frantically washing my two pair of ill-fitting cheap maternity-jeans and two slightly better-fitting maternity tees. My husband kept saying, “But you’ll only wear them for six months!” Yeah, but I would have liked clothes I feel and look good in nonetheless.Yours was a wise decision. And hurray for a nice saleswoman. So they do exist after all!

  7. Having met your sunny, awesomely-cleavaged self, I have a hard time picturing you feeling anything other than confident and pretty. But I suppose that comes with the double-X chromosome. Anyway, shallow or not, how wonderful that you can feel good about yourself (and my money is on you looking spectacular).

  8. Maybe not so shallow…It just feels good to treat yourself well, and feels good when others encourage you to treat yourself well (even if they are out to get your money…a smile and a medium over a large go a long way). For me, right now, it means getting a damn haircut, and maybe even *gasp* shape my eyebrows. Something I have NEVER done before. But I am coming to a point where I’m tired of seeming tired (even if I am), if you know what I mean. Enjoy it, girlfriend. You deserve it. That dusty orange top sounds divine!

  9. Not shallow. Human. Especially considering how we are “supposed” to look.I am 20 pounds heavier two years after the baby than I’ve ever been in all my life. I am MISERABLE.This is inspiring, and I am so happy that you are happy. Wear it in good health!

  10. I kick myself sometimes when I let the “kind” salesgirl make my day, but sometimes our egos need just a little boost, even if it comes from a stranger. After 15 years of marriage, D. barely notices what I wear anymore, let alone mention if something makes me look “cute.” So I’ll take it where I can get it! ;)

  11. I heartily disagree with you. That’s not a bit shallow. That skinny little thang in the fitting room last time around? Shallow, and clueless to boot. Wanting to find something that fits right, something you can feel good about wearing? Normal. Human. It’s a part of human nature to want to fit in with other humans; that’s practically the definition of being a social species.So I’m glad you were able to find clothes that are appropriate for your business trip and also make you feel great. That’s a wonderful thing, and a long way from shallow.

  12. I would never call you shallow, because when we are pregnant (no matter how big)we need all the help we can get to make us feel good. I think the first is the worst, you dont know what to expect.I was slightly happier with my second pregnancy and wore more fitted shirts. I wish we had more maternity boutiques here instead of just Target, Mimi and Motherhood. Have fun shaking your baby makin self in your new clothes.

  13. Oh dear, WHY do all maternity jeans have to feel like they are about to fall off? We all think our ass couldn’t be any bigger and it makes NO sense that the jeans won’t stay up. I found the perfect solution – the belly band. It’s basically a tight tubetop that you wear over the top of your pants around your hips, and it saved me from plumber butt or a drooping crotch. It cost some ridiculous amount, but was the most important component of my pregnancy wardrobe. Go treat yourself fast if you don’t own one already!http://www.bellaband.com/

  14. HA! I feel there is nothing shallow about wanting a few nice pieces of clothing to mask elephant cankles and a huge neck. Blurghhhh. Unfortunately, I was working when I bought all these cute clothes and now have no need. So I just bought three of the same pairs of maternity yoga pants from Old Navy online. LAME-O. We’re going to Miami in Feb. and I’m already freaking out about what I will wear. Luckily, I have pregnancy to blame for the bulging belly and dimply thighs as I strut my jiggly stuff on the beach. Vavoom.

  15. Oh YAY! That is great news, and everybody needs and deserves a lift when you’re making a new person. By the way….size 12 (ok, 14) here in So Cal. You’re right about size 4s and LA; they banish us to the valleys.

  16. Love the post and I can really relate. I’m due in March and have been THIS big. I’m sure having a nice salesgirl helped out tremendously. I, myself hate to shop and think now I always will. I’ve had some bad moments getting shirts and stuff with the salesgal just looking at me and stating what size I got and looking at me again. UGH. I would love a nice outfit and instead stick with oversized tshirts and of course those yucky maternity jeans. I really miss those m. jeans that had the huge belly of elastic instead of the ones now that are only about an inch of elastic. So uncomfortable and they like to fall below the belly. Ikk. Hope you have fun at your event.

  17. I hated shopping for clothes when I was pregnant! Good luck on your trip.< HREF="http://www.themagicalrockinghorse.com/" REL="nofollow">Kids Furniture Crazy<>

  18. I don’t know where they find those maternity models. I certainly didn’t look anything like them. I’m pretty sure we are the normal ones.

  19. Absolutely normal to feel better in a great outfit. I can totally relate. I haven’t gotten anywhere near my pre-prego weight since my last baby a year ago, and I want nothing more out of life right now than a great fitting pair of jeans. That’s all I ask. A great fitting pair of jeans. Is it too much to ask?

  20. Dude, I bought my maternity clothes at Sears in the Maternity Plus section! How lame am I? Pretty lame, but the fact that I wasn’t wearing sweat pants and a tube top is what separated me from the rest of the town.I’ve actually struggled with weight issues all of my life and it’s taken me 30 years to come to the conclusion that just because I’m 5’0″ tall does not mean that my ideal weight is 102 pounds. And society sucks. I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how Kate Winslet is fat.

  21. Feeling you sister. I don’t have to get super dressed up for work, thank god. I think that might throw me right over the edge. But truly, having three or four great outfits while your body is turning into something out of Charlie and the Chocolate factory is a really good thing and I don’t think it’s shallow in the least. And if you’ve found tops that truly mask the ginormous boobs, you have to share the brand, I need some of those badly.

  22. I love it! Power to the curvy people. I totally get that. And it’s so not shallow. It’s essential. You’re hauling your prego butt across the country, at least it can be wearing some great threads!

  23. I love shopping for maternity clothes. They are nearly always stretchy and forgiving and meant to flatter (whether they do or not is a personal matter) and while I wear them my abdomen is stretched taught and firm so for THOSE nine months, I do not feel compelled to suck in my gut. It’s liberating. The rest of the time clothes shopping sucks, but give me maternity clothes stores and their clerks (excepting your skinny non-mother girl there) over the bitch-brigade so often found in fashion houses.I bet you look great and I’m glad you’re feeling better about it!

  24. Oh, I was so afraid, but then I dared to read on. I’m so glad this has a happy ending. Anything to make you feel good … any way to be good to yourself while you’re pregnant, that’s what I say. Good luck in LA!

  25. You are not shallow. You are looking for a little control over a completely outrageous situation — a body morphing beyond recognition. Clothes can help reclaim that body. And if orange is it, orange is it!

  26. I don’t think it’s THAT shallow to want decent, comfortable work clothes that fit, that don’t fall off your ass every time you bend over, that don’t resemble a hospital gown or a mumu, and that aren’t covered in a bright pink floral pattern that looked bad in 1950. That’s seriously all I wanted to find when I was pregnant. And I had the hardest time finding clothes that met those basic criteria. Even though I was a size six/small when I began my pregnancy, and I gained a perfectly normal amount of weight during (something like 35-40 lbs, so a little bit more than the doctor tells you too, but not much), I wasn’t one of those magazine cover mamas, either. My ass, which has always been a size larger than the rest of my body, at that point probably needed its own zip code. But as real-life pregnant women go I suppose you could say I was on the smallish side. And it didn’t seem to help me find clothes I could wear to work.You already have to give up so much of yourself during pregnancy. You give up certain medicines, and alcohol, and certain foods. You give up your comfort. You give up your sanity. You give up good sleep. You give up a good margin of your bladder control. As you show more and more, everyone around you starts to see your physical body not as an extension of yourself, but as a vessel for another human being, and they start to treat you differently. I don’t think, under these circumstances, that a couple of stylish outfits that might actually prompt someone to talk for five minutes about your sense of style instead of your due date is really too much to ask for.

  27. Maternity clothes- Too Much MoneyFeeling pretty good about your pregnant body- PricelessA few great maternity outfits are worth their weight in gold.HEY, wanna hook up while you’re here??

  28. Ugh I can totally relate. When I was preggo I had to buy a MATERNITY WORK SUIT. Uhm, blazers don’t look good on 8 month preggos. And they’re not cheap. $300 and one-wear later, it’s balled up on my closet floor. My advice- go to Old Navy. They have cheap, flexible maternity clothes that are somewhat trendy and you don’t have to worry about non-preggo annoying salespeople staring at you.

  29. I don’t think it’s shallow – it’s about feeling comfortable and confident about yourself/your body – what’s wrong with that? Glad you found something.Oh, how I remember maternity clothes shopping. I was always hugely pregnant in the warmer months – so it was really fun trying on shorts. WHY THE PREGNANT CELLULITE??? WHY? I lived in capris. And pg swimsuits? HA HA HA!!! I actually bought one the last go round.

  30. Oh, I feel your pain…I remember wearing the cute blue sweater that I got for Christmas, and having to lie to my 2 year old niece when she asked me why I was crying…I couldn’t admit to her that I looked exactly like an eggplant. Blech. Except for the baby part, pregnancy blows.

  31. I continued teaching until I was seven months pregnant. There is no hell greater than being fat and hot and sweaty and badly dressed day after day in rooms full of tiny eighteen year old undergraduate girls wearing miniskirts (it was a summer course). If there *is* a greater hell for thirty-something pregnant women, it would, I’m guessing, be LA, so I’m thrilled that you found a get-out-of-hell free wardrobe.

  32. Being pregnant in LA is horrible. I was so glad my early months when I just looked fat ponchos were in but as the summer came I just hated myself more and more..until I shopped. Have fun in the SouthBay.

  33. Oy vey, the ups and downs of it all. I’m shaped like you — ie big ass boobs — and 14 weeks pregnant (looks like 20 weeks, as I am 5’0″) with #2. I came to check your previous boobie rant post to see if any good bras got mentioned by your commenters. I will pay top dollar right now for something that lifts, separates, and does not bruise my rib cage. I feel like I can’t look anything but matronly with these things melons in a shirt. Plus, it’s uncomfortable. Apparently I was so excited the first time, I didn’t care about this. I hope you will reveal some specific items so that I can copy you. Give us links, lady.

  34. so been there. those pictures crack me up. those women have never ever ever seen a fat cell or a pregnancy in their lives. And who the hell could get skinny jeans over swollen ankles anyway?I bet you look more gorgeous than you realize.

  35. There is one upside to the fact that you are going to LA in January. Having just been there last week, I can attest that everyone there thinks it is freezing (67 degrees! why was there no freeze warning on the radio?) and is wearing way too much clothing. If you can stand it, you can wear a ton of clothes and no one will think that is odd. So at least you don’t have to worry about needing to show too much skin.

  36. A teeny tiny picture of you would be nice. HINT!I am Pro buying maternity clothes in large quantities. (heh.) Hey, whatever it takes to feel good.

  37. What a fabulous shopping trip!It’s not shallow at all (says she, before she prepares to defend her past spending). I felt so much better when I found color and styles (more or less) like what I usually wore – I was still *me* instead of trying to pretend I was a floral dress gal.I even found track pants and workout clothes that took me to month 9 in ballet class!

  38. I feel your pain. Sort of. I’m not currently pregnant, but I am fat. And the other day my fat self was at the mall when I saw not one but two skinny pregnant chicks. One of them had twin preschoolers to boot! I exercised two hours a day while I was preggers (Tae Bo, running, etc.) up until 3 days before giving birth, and I still didn’t look like those two chicks. Anyway, before I rant some more … Try to have fun in LA. After all, it’s LA–how cool is that!

  39. Where were you when I was pregnant? God, I hated being pregnant. I had an eating disorder for five years, and forced weight gain was very, very difficult for me. I’ve since learned that clothes that fit correctly can make any shape look good. I now blame the clothes. :)

  40. Great post! I don’t think you’re shallow at all. Pregnant or not, any woman loves how the right new clothes can make her feel and look great! Glad you scored some good finds!

  41. Hey, it’s all about self-confidence, and looking good can give us that, whether it comes from clothes or makeup or surgery, or whatever. This is a pretty good ticket to that, if that’s all it takes. You rock that orange, woman!

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