My five-piece capsule wardrobe

While prepping for our What I Wore Wednesday event tomorrow, I realized just how predictable my outfits have become. For the last month or so, I’ve been wearing the same thing on repeat, always, all the time.

At three months postpartum, the Venn diagram of clothes that I own, clothes that fit my postpartum body, and clothes that work with breastfeeding has an overlap of … maybe 5%. My closet is full of clothes that almost fit. 

Add in clothes that are clean (Levi is a veritable volcano), and that figure drops even further.

To keep myself from feeling the closet rage every morning, I picked up a couple of low-investment items that work for this current body and its current needs, and as it turns out, the benefits of working with a greatly reduced closet are palpable. After years of over-thinking how I might create a highly edited capsule or uniform-based wardrobe, I stumbled my way into one. It’s made entirely of dresses and it’s rocking my world.

Dresses are my jam right now for a few reasons:

  • Breastfeeding. Wrap dresses or forgiving necklines feel much easier than pulling my shirt up, and I don’t own (or want to own) any double layer / fancy breastfeeding clothes. I just can’t be bothered to care or spend that much, especially right now when breastfeeding in public feels like an act of rebellion.
  • Babywearing. A dress is simply the easiest outfit for going to the bathroom while babywearing.
  • No decision fatigue. In the morning, I just make one decision, usually further limited by what’s clean. That means it’s often no decision. Is this how Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs felt every day? No wonder they are drunk on their own power.
  • Layering potential. I hear it may someday cool down. When that happens, I’m ready. I have cardigans, jackets, boots, tights, and scarves, all at the ready.

My five dress capsule wardrobe

1. prAna berry dress

Technically this is two dresses because I own two identical Berry dresses. I wish I had ten of them, so I could only wear this dress every day for the rest of my life. This is the most perfect dress I’ve ever owned.

Off the rack, the Berry dress works for breastfeeding in a pinch, but the neckline was starting to fray after so much yanking, so I took mine to a seamstress and had a hidden zip added into the neckline. As someone for whom the activation energy for actually getting something altered has proven insurmountable in the past, I am pleased to the point of smugness with this life hack.

Berry dresses are no longer in stock at prAna, but you can still find them on super sale at random retailers.

2. Tart maternity wrap dress

Since this is a maternity dress, the wrap overlap is really generous, meaning your toddler can yank and you can squat and you probably won’t flash anyone.

Look at all that extra fabric! 

The pattern is also custom engineered to hide spit up. It’s kind of amazing that way. I’m feeling pretty ready to retire this dress, but since it’s functionally perfect I’m keeping it around for the time being.  If I were ever to get pregnant again, the only maternity clothes I’d buy would be Tart dresses. Just don’t pay full price: there are plenty of used ones available for cheap on Poshmark, and they always go on sale; the one I have is currently 50% off at Nordstrom

3. This dress from Target

This dress is light, cheap, easy, and if cooler weather ever comes to Austin, the colors will work well for winter layering up, too.

There’s a hook and eye clasp at the neckline that makes it perfect for breastfeeding, and there are pockets. Done and done. 

4. Pact wrap dress.

This dress is the happy result of bleary-eyed late-night nursing and a well-timed Facebook ad. I like that it’s organic cotton, and the price point is appealing, especially with the discounts they always seem to be offering on social. The dress is easy and works well for nursing, and goes with all my sneakers. I find synthetic fabrics are much more my jam right now; cotton just doesn’t camouflage spit up or sweat, but this one is helping to offset my guilt about buying some fast fashion from Target. 

BONUS: my house dress

This This $20 dress is technically a nightgown but it’s more or less my at-home loungewear. (It’s on my list of postpartum faves, too.) I literally wear it all day every day when I’m at home. It’s easy access for nursing, has enough coverage to wear while walking the dog, and is super comfortable no matter what size you are. I wore it as my swimsuit cover up, nightgown, even as a dress, during my final weeks of pregnancy. I probably need a duplicate of this, too, for while I’m nursing.


That’s it! Five dresses, in regular rotation, plus my house dress. Thanks to the double trouble of rampant humidity and high volume spit up, I have to do laundry about every 2-3 days, but it’s worth it to not expend so much futile energy every morning bemoaning my still too-tight pants.

Any other dresses you love that I should add to my rotation? Please, please share!

No matter what you’re wearing, jump in on #WIWW (What I Wore Wednesday) on 10/10 for a chance to win an item of your choice from prAna. You don’t need to wear prAna to win. If you don’t want to share your outfit, you can even just share your wishlist from prAna! Tag: #WIWW @prAna #sweatpink

prAna is a long-time partner of Fit Approach, but that in no way alters my die-hard love affair with this dress. I received my first Berry dress for free, and I paid for the second one, along with the other three dresses, with my own cold hard cash.

Closet nursing and staying in my lane

This last weekend I went to church with my family. My churchgoing these days is always in honor of someone else: I go to services with my husband on high holy days; I go to mass when visiting my grandpa.

They are not my traditions, but I like these occasional encounters with religious practice. I crave more opportunities to slow down, unplug, and reflect, and I appreciate the energetic groundswell of a community of people brought together in reverence for something greater than themselves. I’m sure I make plenty of mistakes, but I do my best to be respectful when I show up, through my dress, my participation, and my comportment.

This time, I spent the service in the crying room (a glass walled room at the back of the church, with the service piped in over intercom. You can see and hear everything; the congregation can’t hear you).

I wasn’t sure if nursing was appropriate in plain view, so I pulled a rocking chair next to the changing table in the windowless closet, and stared at a wall while I fed my baby and listened to a homily on the value of family.

I hid in service to my son while I listened to scriptural explanations for how I have no identity separate from my husband and read, on endless loop, the admonition taped to my wall:

“This is NOT a nursery or a playroom. Adults and children MUST BE ATTENTIVE TO MASS.”

Out of respect, I hid in a closet to carry out perhaps the most foundational act of mothering while a man on a stage who has never had a family spoke about its centrality.

His words made me feel invisible, like a utility to be used but not seen. I learned that I am of one flesh with my husband, except when my flesh is provocative. Except when my flesh is actively prioritizing family in the most fundamental way. Except when it dares to perform in ways my husband will never be able to match or manage.

If I’d tried to come up with an image to represent the invisible work of women and the hypocrisy of ‘family-friendly’ policies, closet nursing during a sermon on the role of the sexes and the primacy of the family would have been far too overwritten and obvious to use.

And yet here we are.

Then I realized how complicit I was in my own invisibility. I dragged my own damn chair into that closet. Not knowing the etiquette, I overcorrected out of imagined respect to those who would happily force my hand in becoming a mother but shame me for publicly fulfilling that contract.

I breastfeed in public all the time—I am purposefully not shy about it—and here I was, submitting, out of a ‘respect’ that was anything but reciprocal.

The second time my son wanted to nurse, I stayed put in my glass box, in full view. No one said anything. Maybe no one noticed. I was probably just as invisible, still contained by the architecture of a protective patriarchy.

But at least I could no longer see the sign scolding me to stay in my lane.

Photo: tgraham via flickr. 

Getting my sparkle back

sparkling detox sweat pink

I’m five weeks postpartum, and while I’m still in the honeymoon phase of new baby life, I can already tell you that for me, transitioning from one to two kids is way easier than from zero to one.

 

At the beginning of my journey as a new mom, I really struggled to find time to take care of myself. My exercise was sporadic, my nutrition about as ad hoc as it gets.

The adjustment to momlife required lots of trial and error until I finally found my stride—and of course once I felt like I’d ‘made it,’ I got pregnant again. (Note to self: what were you thinking?).

So this time is my do-over. I get to start from scratch, again, and to my own surprise I’m really excited to do that. To see what I can achieve knowing where I might like to end up. To discover what new reserves of strength I have as a mom of two.

 

I’m just starting to exercise again, so while I’m ramping up my physical activity, here’s how I’m taking better care of myself:

I’m giving myself a kick start with the Sparkling Detox

 

I’m participating in the Gerolsteiner Sparkling Detox for the third year in a row (!!) to help me temper some habits I picked up during my bonus 10 days of pregnancy, when I was sure it would never, ever end.

 

Those habits are fine in moderation, but I don’t want too much cold brew, lemonade, and red vines to become my new normal.

The Sparkling Detox is something I do every year, and its genius lies in its simplicity: you replace all beverages for a week with Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water. It’s fun—who doesn’t love sparkling water?—and an easy way to hit reset on any habits that are keeping you from your most hydrated self.

This year, Gerolsteiner’s Sparkling Detox happens from August 27-31.

Register here and you’ll be automatically entered to win a case of Gerolsteiner!

I’m making food really, really easy

 

 

During that week where I’ll be replacing all my beverages with Gerolsteiner, I’ll also be making my food very predictable. Boring, if you will. As a person who will happily eat the same thing day after day, this makes sense for me.

I’m planning out my meals to basically have the same thing every day for a week, so there’s no decision fatigue around figuring out breakfast or lunch. Formulaic eating for the win.

 

I’ll choose boring over exciting any day of the week, as long as it means I’m nourishing myself in a healthy way. Breastfeeding can be so depleting, and it’s doubly essential that I take care of my whole self so that I can in turn take care of my kids.

I’m finding new ways to calm my nerves

Lack of sleep and general stress has a way of taking a toll on your nerves—at least, I find that I need extra help calming down anxiety and stress these days.

 

 

And magnesium, it turns out, is key for a healthy nervous system. A liter of Gerolsteiner contains 25% of the daily recommended dose of magnesium, plus 348 mg of calcium and 1800 mg of bicarbonate, so my water intake is truly working overtime to help me be healthy. Since magnesium supports healthy energy metabolism, muscle function, and nervous system function, I’m optimistic that my sparkling detox experience will also help me feel more relaxed and more on top of my game.

 

I love finding ways to multitask on taking care of myself – I’m such a sucker for efficiencies – so getting hydrated and getting chilled out at the same time sounds pretty darn amazing. Yes please and thank you.

You can join me and the whole sweat pink community in the sparkling detox, even if you’re not starting from scratch like I am. Just enter to win a free case of Gerolsteiner here to make it even easier to sparkle. Or find Gerolsteiner near you (Austin friends, Central Market definitely has!)

Let’s sparkle together, shall we? 🙂

On patience

On Father’s Day, I watched my two year old “help” my dad assemble a shelving unit. Her busy little toddler hands sought out the parts he requested, lost half of them on the journey from her grasp to his, and scattered shreds of packaging and packing tape around the room.

A task that would have taken him 10 minutes ballooned into over an hour of this Sunday afternoon, while he taught her the names for various pieces and tools she found and lost.

His patience with her was as revelatory as it was familiar: I have so many childhood memories of assembling furniture or painting walls or completing other household tasks with my dad when the process was the whole point. I always felt like a valuable contributor, a BIG helper, and never like I was burdening or detouring from the finish line.

That incredible patience, too, feels uniquely foreign: if I had to identify my defining character flaws, impatience just might top the list.

The contrast between his tirelessness with that shelving project and my own tendencies was especially striking this weekend: restlessness and anxiety are the mood du jour as I watched my due date come and go, with nary a hint of labor.

No matter how well I intellectually understand that a due date is just a silly guess, that I am still pregnant, four days later, has me on an emotional high wire, second guessing and over interpreting every spark of sciatica and whimper of a would-be contraction.

40 weeks.

Part of me suspects my body is hanging on to this baby because it can’t bear to bring him into this world. Every time I think I’ve hit maximum heartbreak, the relentless cycle of lies and outrage and partisan howling cracks open brand new fissures in my naive understanding of humanity and the nature of progress.

I’m taking a break from the news, and all non-work-related social media. I’ve even taken the long-overdue steps of unfollowing a few people whose posts reliably send me into a tailspin of woe unto the world.

These are steps I should have taken long ago, but in a moment of clarity—thanks to a cleansing, affirming conversation with a friend—I realized that keeping these people as part of my online diet in the name of openness to other points of view was awarding them undeserved power. No longer will these strangers so casually manhandle the levers of my emotional equilibrium.

I won’t step back forever. Stepping back is a luxury and a privilege, and I like being informed so I, too, can howl into the algorithmic void. But right now, I have to chill the fuck out. There’s no vacancy in my headspace for trolls or tribulations. Instead, I’m nurturing my paltry reserves of patience to let this baby boy come on his own terms, in his own time.

Pregnancy insomnia and the power of influence

I bought a jacket online sometime in the wee hours this morning, when pregnancy insomnia had me mindlessly scrolling fashion blogs and then Facebook.

I bought a jacket that I likely won’t wear for nearly a year—something about vegan leather moto jackets and summer in Austin doesn’t quite mesh.

I bought a jacket I didn’t really need because a random woman in a fashion blogger’s Facebook group looked really cute in it, and she happened to mention the brand in her caption.

As I was clicking purchase, the momentary shot of new-clothes-dopamine was tempered by a pang of regret that this blogger, who produces incredibly time-intensive, thoughtful, and high quality content, and who brings together hundreds of women in these community groups, will never ever get any kind of credit for this purchase. To my knowledge, it’s not a jacket she’s ever even discussed on her channels. There’s no affiliate or tracked link to follow. There’s no discount code to apply that identifies her as my source.

Her sponsors and advertisers won’t see my purchase—or undoubtedly, the hundreds or thousands of purchases just like it—as part of her sphere of influence, but it is.

I have so many discussions with clients about ROI. We talk, too, about content quality and follower counts and engagement rates, but at the end of the day, all those conversations are circling the real question at the heart of every sales call and every analytics report: ROI. It’s a frustrating problem, no matter what. We all want to be able to track, end to end, the entire universe of influence, and to be able to identify and measure with scientific precision what actions drove which sales.

Don’t get me wrong: few things make me happier than hearing a client share that our campaign achieved an X:1 ROI. I know that when they report those kinds of results, that that’s just the baseline impact of our work together, because that’s what they were able to track.

Those reports don’t count the prAna sweater I sold to my dermatologist, a full six months after we wrapped up a fall campaign. I watched her purchase my identical sweater on her office computer. I didn’t have a discount code to share with her, and I sure didn’t ask her to follow some (by then surely expired) custom link.

They don’t count the time a personal training client asked Tasha from Hip Healthy Chick about her Momentum Jewelry bracelet. Tasha took hers off, gave it to the client, and the client went on to purchase another. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count the time an woman in our community brought homemade protein powder energy balls to a friend’s house, and in that moment transformed her friend into a brand loyalist. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count all the people who have bought the same Sparkle Skirt Toni wears for many of her races—she recommends it to everyone on her running team and gets questions about it constantly. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count the number of coworkers in Vicki’s engineering office who have downloaded the C25K app on her recommendation. Untrackable.

It doesn’t count all the times the extended networks, the friends of friends, the anonymous online audience, make purchase decisions whose trail leads back, in indirect and surprising ways, to an influencer. Untrackable.

These are the examples we know about, and they barely scratch the surface of the kinds of interactions that we all have around products we use and love. It’s why we always encourage clients to think bigger picture: that demonstrable ROI is really fun to see happening, but it’s the cherry on top of a bigger picture: of showing up in organic conversations, being included in evergreen and authentic content, and gaining access to a network of purchasing decisions that, despite big brother’s ever-increasing encroachments on our lives and habits, are as yet invisible.

It strikes me as not uncanny that yet another form of invisible work is largely carried out by women, and that credit and reward for this kind of work are begrudgingly doled out, regarded suspiciously unless validated with black and white line items on a sales report.

Women drive 70-80% of purchasing decisions. Social media users are predominantly women. #MeToo has begun to prove the efficacy of whisper networks; it bears considering that those networks operate just as powerfully under other, less serious hashtags, too.

So: what are we do do about it? I have a lot more to say about this, but here’s the short version:

Brands: treat influencer marketing as marketing and brand building. It’s incredibly validating and fun when you can measure concrete results, but that focus is shortsighted at best. Building a brand and working with influencers is a long game. This is not to say every Jane Smith with a blog is a good investment of your time and resources, but that people who treat their work as professionals and who are passionate about your brand are doing more than you’ll ever be able to see or quantify.

Influencers: know your worth. There’s a tremendous lack of standards around compensation in our industry, and a huge variance in brands’ ability and willingness to invest in your services. Treat your job like a job; choose clients and opportunities for the right reasons; and include those softer measures—such as anecdotes of how your audience responded to your work—in reports back to clients in addition to more traditional metrics like traffic and engagement rates.

These are my initial thoughts, anyway. I used my early morning hours (up at 4am, WHY WHY WHY) to hash out this first draft of a topic that’s been percolating for me for a while now. And then I did a Gixo workout, and drank coffee, and enjoyed the early morning quiet even as I knew it would come back to haunt me later in the day, in the form of inevitable naps.

Is this the ultimate early Monday morning insomniac selfie or what?!