Finding Your Personal Style When Life Changes: A Story with Armoire
This pieces is proudly sponsored by Armoire
Recently my mom said to me, "Sica, I love you so much but you look like a tiny pregnant hobo." And... she was right.
Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking like (or being) a hobo, but, perhaps it's not the ideal look for someone who is a professional stylist and owns a fashion company. Plus - and more importantly - it just doesn't fit my personal style at all, which left me feeling like.... not myself. However, the deeper (and bigger) I've gone into my pregnancy, the less I've fit into anything in my life (physically or otherwise) and I found myself scrambling to piecemeal together the things I could (try and) squeeze in to while perpetually wondering: what do I wear? and with all these changes, what is my style right now anyway?
Since a very young age I've had a lot of opinions about fashion (and most things, unsurprisingly). I always knew my style (and my dolls' style, and what everyone else's style "should" be....) and while over the years my style absolutely changed and evolved as my life did, I still was always able to quickly adjust, could always easily find what I felt good in and what I was trying to say with my clothing.
(and it turns out that thankfully there is actually a career exactly for this, which is how I ended up working in costume design for so many years prior to launching Bead & Reel)
But of course that's all changed lately. I'm now dressing a body, a size, and a shape I've never had before, with emotions and hormones I've never felt before, and so not only did I literally outgrow my clothing, but I also outgrew the person I was even just a few months ago.
And yet, as lost and as uncomfortable as I felt in my clothing I still had a lot of resistance to buying anything new - especially maternity clothing. As a minimalist and vegan and just generally picky fashion person I had spent years building up a small, beloved wardrobe filled with soft sustainable things that I love, and I genuinely didn't want or want to need more, so early in my pregnancy I had this adorable notion that I would just continue wearing what I already had. No. Matter. What. I mean, I felt sure I could continue to squeeze into some of my shift dresses, and all of my leggings are high waisted anyway so there should be plenty of room to expand, right?
My body started to change almost immediately after becoming pregnant, but they were mostly in small, subtle ways which allowed me, for a while at least, to try to force my wardrobe and my body to adapt to each other. However some time around the 4 month mark that was no longer an option. It's not just that my stomach had really started to grow and change but everything else did too. My breasts went up several cup sizes, my rib cage shifted outwards several inches (which did allow me more room to breathe, so that was pretty considerate), and I've watched with amazement and awe as my hip bones have moved and expanded in every direction in preparation to give birth. This process has been so neat to experience (and, also sometimes painful), but it also left me with tops which were now too short and hitting me in unflattering ways, leggings that actually weren't high enough to reach over my belly but also weren't roomy enough to be rolled down below it because of my newly acquired hips, and anything that was a woven fabric (meaning: without any stretch) or that zipped or buttoned up the front (which was basically most of my closet) was definitely no longer an option.
So, I was left with some ill-fitting t-shirts, a few leggings I was attempting to uncomfortably wear, and three (and soon to be two) summery shift dresses for March in the Northwest. Hence, the tiny pregnancy hobo look I had adopted.
And yet even though I didn't feel comfortable or pretty in my clothing I still just didn't like the idea of buying something I would only use for a few months (that's sort of the antithesis of sustainable fashion), I couldn't find very many good sustainable options at all but especially that fit with my aesthetic and price range, and I was having a lot of challenges with second-hand (more below). Plus I also didn't even know what to buy, anyway. Like, how does maternity sizing even work? What looks good on me now? What do I like wearing? WHO AM I??!?
Fortunately in the midst of this existential and fashion crisis I connected with Armoire, a Seattle-based online fashion rental company that focuses on modern everyday pieces for a variety of lifestyles - thankfully including maternity.
I'd never used a fashion rental company before and to be honest prior to pregnancy it's not something I ever considered for myself, since I'm not someone who likes to rotate things in and out of my closet (even for special events), I had a fairly easy time finding things that fit me/that I liked/that I wanted to keep, and I'm very selective about fabrics and ethics and preferred to just stick with the brands I knew worked for me.
Well, all used to be true, anyway.
But in this new chapter of my life where I don't know what I like to wear anymore, or what even works on me, and I don't necessarily plan to keep most things postpartum (we'll see), a rental service has turned out to be the ideal solution to my fashion woes.
HOW IT WORKS
The process starts with filling out an easy questionnaire about your sizing and preferences, choosing a membership option (I started with 4 pieces per month and ended up switching up to 6 pieces a few weeks in), and then you are shown various clothing options to choose from. There is a stylist service available if you want help picking out what to try, or you can select your own, which is what I ended up doing.
I opted for two tops and two bottoms all by different brands and they arrived extremely fast. This was my first venture into maternity jeans and one of the pairs/brands fitting perfectly and other one did not at all (which, was good for me to know!). You can send things back as frequently as you want to exchange for new pieces, or keep things for as long as you like as well (you also have the option to buy any of the items, at a slight discount, if you really love something), so I returned the jeans that didn't work (using the package and label provided by Armoire) and chose something else to try.
And that's it. Wear and repeat as needed.
It turns out that there are a lot of things that really appeal to me about this whole process.
Unlike with purchasing from a traditional retailer (in person or online), renting allowed me to try a variety of different styles and brands not just in front of a mirror but in complete outfits in my everyday life before deciding how I felt about something. I found this extremely helpful (and even decided against a sweater I initially really liked after I wore it one day and realized it just didn't quite work on me, but if I had bought it and worn it around, I wouldn't have been able to return it in good conscience). I also like that it allowed me access to conventional maternity brands (but without the guilt), and I felt confident knowing I was getting quality items since that had been a real struggle with some of my prior attempts at online maternity shopping (which had taken up sooooo much time wading through all the low-quality, fast fashion maternity apparel on the second-hand market, and often left me buying something only to find out it had a hole in it, or was made from really cheap, uncomfortable fabric that I didn't want on my body, or didn't look at all like the picture but wasn't worth the return shipping to a European maternity brand....).
Plus, since the selection available to me on Armoire is curated (and therefore a bit limited - if you're hoping for thousands of options, this may not be the route for you) it forced me a bit outside my style comfort zone and into trying things I never would have thought to pick - which was good, because I needed to experiment a bit to find out what works for me right now instead of sticking with my usual staples.
I discovered that while pre-pregnancy I almost never wore fitted tops, apparently now I actually prefer them (I mean, look at this cute belly!). Pre-pregnancy my wardrobe was almost exclusively black, white, grey - and maybe some navy if I was feeling super adventurous - but now I find myself wanting more color and have been playing with soft pinks and greens, too. And pre-pregnancy I would have never worn a standard stripe (it just wasn't me), but I ended up trying a striped top and it became one of my favorite pieces (hormones are amazing things). And I would have missed out on trying - and loving - these different styles if I was just shopping around on my own.
The other thing I've found especially relevant to maternity clothing is that even if something fit me a month ago it might not fit me now (like, I've gone up an entire size in maternity clothing in the past few weeks), and I love that I could simply switch out the things I outgrew for something that fits right now without worrying if it will still work at any other stage of the pregnancy or postpartum.
Our fashion choices are really powerful, not just in where we spend our money and what we put on our bodies, but also the stories we're telling ourselves and others through what we wear. And this story of you likely changes over time, and so whether you're going through a career change, a relationship change, a location change, a physical change, or any other life changes (or, just trying to figure yourself out in general), having an option to experiment with, play with, and try out different things while you find out who you now is such a gift - at least, it has been for me.
And join me on Instagram this week where I'm giving away 3 one-month-free memberships!
A note on ethics in writing
I only work with brands who I genuinely believe in, and was paid for and offered a free month subscription for this collaboration. All opinions are my own. I may sometimes (but not always) use affiliate links in my blog when talking about products or services that I truly suggest, which means that I may get a small commission if you end up buying or trying something through a link I share. This is one of the ways that I continue to fund the stories and programs that Bead & Reel creates and supports.