Catholic Fashion for Summer: Postpartum edition

Pure Fashion models
I'll have a couple fashion related posts this week. Not because I know boo about fashion, but because I'm trying to figure it out. It never was very important to me resulting in regular panic attacks before any dressy event as I tried to piece something together. But I've matured (a little) and have finally learned how to put on a little make-up (sort of) and am ready to take a more serious look at my appearance; not just how to dress on Sunday but even when I am doing laundry at home.

There is such a thing as Catholic Fashion; it is the outward expression of our dignity as daughters of God and of our vocations. Our clothes speak to others about us, and all too often, I think my clothes say, "She's a lazy bum." I don't know... maybe they say different things to different people. Perhaps they say "She's a homeschooling mother of 6 children.... what do you expect?" So, I'm reevaluating. The clothes themselves aren't the point. The point is that, whether I like it or not, physical appearance communicates. For a while after birth, it's all right to have those clothes screaming "Postpartum!" but then it's time to move on. I'm attempting to move on.

In addition to my public witness, I owe something better to my husband and kids. They should see through my efforts that it is a joy to live out my vocation with them. They should see that I treat it with the dignity it deserves... the dignity which our Lord has bestowed upon me as His own. The Chief deserves a wife who takes a little care to look pretty for him.

This topic has been on my mind for awhile but Betty Beguiles really got me started thinking in earnest recently and provided the kick in the pants I needed to move forward and finally take action.

My biggest problem is that I still dress like a college student. Make that a sleep-deprived, sweats-lovin' college student. I feel happy in hoodies. Athletic shoes are my friend. I tend to collect t-shirts with words. The paradox in my fashion world is that I also love all things girly. Like hair flowers and flowing skirts. But I'm a mom with lots of kids and a tendency to spill stuff on myself. I don't wear my "pretty" clothes during the day because I would ruin them. The temptation to live my life in ambiguously shaped cotton jersey is strong... but my vocation and my family deserve better.

I live a life of joy. I am grateful for my motherhood and happy beyond words to be married. Because I want others to see that in me and see what God has done for me, I recognize that I need to be attentive to my visible witness. If I am a ragged mess, people may walk away with an "it figures" on the tip of the tongue. I honestly think I owe it to the good Lord to present as tasteful a picture as I can of the beautiful life He has given to me. I do not mean being phony. At all. I mean discovering a particular Catholic fashion that is lovely and true to who He has made me to be.

I first came up with some parameters for my ideal daily wardrobe. And then I went shopping. I didn't want to fall in to the old pattern of just buying random sale-rack mismatched items. That only results in a closet stuffed with items I don't wear. I made a list...

~ Must be comfortable. I simply will not wear it if it is not. This may be a character flaw but it's the honest truth. If I am uncomfortable, I will not wear it for long. Dressing up is wonderful and I like to be pretty but still, I am often counting the minutes until I can race through my door and change my clothes. No belts.

~ Must be feminine. I have a vision of my perfect wardrobe and it is heavily laced with pink. And flowers. And flowing things. Realistically, on a day-to-day basis, this could simply mean wearing a skirt or a skort instead of yoga pants.

~ Must be practical. I have to face the facts; I cannot function in my home with long skirts. Oh, I don't doubt I could learn how to traverse stairs safely eventually. In the meantime, I would be the proximate cause of a great deal of damage to myself and others. I also must be able to frequently nurse a baby without becoming a contortionist (dresses are out) or I would quickly revert back to my old ways. Any wardrobe additions must not add to the discomfort of washing floors.

~ Must be pretty. God made me a girl and he made me to have an appreciation for lovely things. I think it would only honor his gift of my vocation to pay attention to this detail.

~ Must work with athletic shoes. I have very unfortunate feet that must not only be regularly encased in supportive shoes but in stability rated athletic shoes. My thanks to New Balance for making a very cool model of this kind of foot apparel.

I have made some small steps toward my goal. Finances are a limitation because I can't afford to just chuck the contents of my closet and start again. What I have done, with the Chief's blessing, is spend a little on some inexpensive basics that can serve as a beginning. Here's what I have come up with as a foundation for the warmer weather this year...

1. Jersey knit fold-over waist skirts. (Old Navy and Champion) Adjustable length, forgiving waistbands and lightweight.
2. Cotton feminine cut polos. (Old Navy) Clean cut and comfy.
3. Solid colored feminine cut t-shirts with extra length. (Down East Basics)
4. Skorts (already own a couple of these--my favorite being the Whatever skort from Athleta)
5. A few full aprons. These will be indispensable if I intend to permanently change my ways. I get messy during the day and my clothes take a beating.
6. Ribbons or Flowers. I have always liked wearing a little something girly in my hair but haven't taken the time recently. A little piece of satin ribbon is one of my favorite things to wear. :)

As finances allow, I would like to begin adding some prettier items. Knee to midcalf length peasant skirts are a favorite of mine and easy to sew (where's the time?). A couple pretty blouses with a ruffle or flower or two.

The changes have been small but still slightly challenging for me. I have not yet implemented them fully in my home (primarily because I haven't made the time to make my aprons yet) but have made a serious effort to do so when I leave the house. On Saturday, I was very tempted to throw on a pair of athletic shorts and a t-shirt to do some heavy shopping with the kids in the sticky hot weather. Instead I wore this...

Jellybean and I discussing the merits and pitfalls of fashion.
Surprisingly, the skort (the most comfortable skort ever) from BornFit is from my maternity wardrobe. It is slightly loose but fits surprisingly well. To most of you, this may not seem like a victory... trust me.

Tomorrow, I'm going to introduce you to my new swimsuit (no, I won't be modeling it), which I like, and host a fun and related giveaway. And later in the week, I want to do a fitness update and talk about ideal weight.

I'll leave you with some food for thought which I found on EWTN while doing some reading on headcoverings. There are always interesting conversations about these matters among Catholic bloggers and I enjoy them mostly from the sidelines. For me, the headcovering issue is similar to the dress-wearing issue: I love dresses and all things lacy and pretty but I usually end up compromising that desire with practical considerations and discernment about effective public witness. Don't be surprised to find me at church someday in a pretty chapel veil, but my hair will probably be grey! At any rate, here's the interesting excerpt from a canon lawyer commenting on St. Thomas' explanation of modesty:

Dress, external behavior, mannerisms, etc. are signs of the person, and become so in the cultural context in which the person lives, and in which it indicates something to others. The Christian conforms to the culture in such matters, unless sin is intrinsically involved (clothing which will have the general effect to tempt the opposite sex). Modesty is humility in dress and mannerisms, an outward sign of the disposition of the inner man. By not standing out the Christian assumes a humble posture toward his neighbors.


Posted on June 6, 2011 and filed under "Catholic fitness", "fitness".