09 July 2019

When Plus-Size Nursing Clothes Let You Down

Since having my eldest daughter two and a half years ago (Luna), only to welcome another little girl into the world 19 months later (Elia), much of my life has revolved around breastfeeding. This means I've consistently been looking for plus-size maternity clothes that might facilitate popping a boob out at any given moment, while ideally not straying too far from the styles that feel most, well, me.

The thing is, neither of these options really exist. There are almost no maternity or nursing styles specifically designed for plus-size parents. In fact, aside from independent brand Leche Libre, which offers five looks in a 1X to 3X size range, I haven't actually come across any retailer making garments to accommodate my size UK 24/26 (US 20/22) body or bodies larger than my own.

This applies to nursing bras as well — the dearth in extended band sizes feels like an irrevocable personification of the notions that fat babes don't (or can't) have romantic relationships, or babies, or the desire to look and feel cute, whether they are sustaining life or otherwise. As of this season, Viva Voluptuous is thankfully offering the first pretty options in any band and cup size, but these remain a rare gem in a sea of ill-fitting, hospital-beige garments.
While I know there are plenty of things to worry about when babies come into our lives — things that are arguably far more urgent and important than the clothes we put on our bodies — fashion really does mean something to me. Parenthood, so far, has been an ongoing process of determining the things about "pre-baby-me" that I wish to carry into this new chapter, and letting go of the ones that no longer fit.

I've learned that fashion lives in the former category; that clothing, for me, isn't just about practicality, but about a sense of security. Like armor, an outfit that makes me feel powerful, or put-together, or quirky, or interesting, or professional, or glamorous (depending on the mood I wish to evoke on any given day) helps get me through even the most trying of situations. Through the unthinkable, the wonderful, and everything in between.
Feeling like I was losing my sense of style to motherhood was unnerving for this reason. I couldn't utilize my pre-existing armor because most of it did not allow me to nourish my children with ease. You can't exactly raise a form-fitting, high-neck dress over your chest every time your baby wants to nurse, particularly when out in public. Nor can you navigate holding up the weight of a maxi in one hand while holding your child to your boobs with the other. You can't maneuver a bodysuit when your kid is screaming in hanger. Nor can you wiggle out of a wiggle dress when an infant is pulling at your top in frustration and despair. 

Luckily, plus-size babes have long been using ingenuity to create sartorial options that no one else is making for us. When it became clear that nursing-wear wasn't going to suddenly energize into my wardrobe, I was forced to examine everyday styles that could potentially be adapted.
Button-down tops and dresses were the most obvious, but I still wasn't comfortable with the thought of being funneled toward one look alone. Tank tops, spaghettis, and camis were my next idea — anything with straps that I could pull down on one side without completely having to undress. The true revelation, however, was the wrap dress: a silhouette offered in a diverse range of aesthetics across various plus-size brands, often featuring unique details in terms of hemline, sleeve, pattern, or material.

This ELOQUII dress was the first thing I purchased for myself in the lead-up to Elia's arrival. It was loud but kind of timeless; comfortable but kind of glamorous. I could wear it with sneakers while running around town with a double stroller, or dress it up with a kitten heel on a date night (should ever I have the energy for a date night). It even had a handy snap button detail at the chest, which I assume was put there so that a wearer might choose how plunging a neckline they desire. It was the outfit I wore on my first trip out of the house with Elia to a post-birth midwife appointment — and nearly a year later, it's still one of my favorite things to pull out of the closet when I want to conjure up those "you got this" vibes.
I don't know if it's the look-at-me boldness of the print, which demands attention in a world that would rather keep fat girls hidden away, or the malleability of the neckline, which means my baby never has to wait long for lunch, but I always feel on top of things in this outfit. The fact that I'm very likely not on top of anything ceases to matter, even if only for a short time, and the ensuing calm is a most magnificent feeling.

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