*Has* becoming a mother changed my style?
Plus, an Express Lane Outfit Idea for the last days of summer. Free your mind, try a formula
This a public post from the Essays about Getting Dressed franchise. To revisit the last one, click here. To subscribe,
Today I planned to convey an Express Lane Outfit Idea for the last days of summer, when you want to free your mind from the shackles of thinking about what to wear.
I put this on Sunday, when I got home from the airport, to go do what I had to do (buy sponges). It took no time to think of — the mere act of pulling it together was more reflexive stupor, brain caught in a mental to-do list — and I liked it enough to want to memorialize it, so resolved it would publish today.
On Monday, without thinking much of the previous day but in a similar daze, I put this on:
It’s effectively the same outfit, but the collared shirt is poplin instead of knit, the shorts are flimsy and my bag is bigger (full of toddler provisions). It occurred to me that this express lane idea is actually a formula consisting of every tried and true I have worn all summer (in my case, pajama-style shorts, button-down shirts, and fisherman sandals), all in the same outfit.
I realized that almost all the recent style advice I have been taking from myself is in pursuit of finding and sticking to a formula or simply freeing up time, and this got me thinking: what am I trying to free time for? Is it so clogged up from being a mom that I can’t think of how to express myself, or is the expression undergoing some kind of shifting charge?
Sometimes I get asked whether motherhood has changed my style and I’ve been fairly staunch in my belief that for a cocktail of reasons including my getting older, a waning interest in adding new features to my wardrobe, how the culture has changed (and how this is reflected in my own desire to whittle my life down to a mere wall of things), I’ve just settled deeper into the style that’s already been here.
Though I guess you can argue that this “settling in” is in fact, the definition of change. That more broadly speaking, growth is essentially a process of watering or dehydrating the seed-of-self that’s already been here.
I’m not sure how fortuitous it is that the most significant life changes I’ve endured since my early twenties have taken place in the fairly immediate aftermath of giving birth. I look back three years and barely recognize who that was in the uncomfortable shoes and gigantic headband and conception of time as a self-generating waterfall, spilling into itself over and over.
When you have kids, your mental real estate appreciates in value tenfold. Not necessarily because you want to capture every moment (I don’t) but because your time becomes their time, and when it’s their time, while you can get away with focusing elsewhere, the fruit of that focus is half-ass. The fruit is half-ass and your kids are bothered. From experience, I know that it’s in the best interest of your own productivity and their curiosity to stay where you are when you’re with them. I know it, but I don’t always listen.
It also becomes trickier to distract yourself from confronting the big question: how do I want to raise my kids? You can get away with skirting this too, but if there is a gap between how you want to raise your kids (that is, what kind of mother you want to be) and how you are raising your kids (what kind of mom you are), it’s trickier to notice it, much less issue the task order to address it.
I used to spend hours thinking of outfits. Writing notes in my phone of different combinations that would come to me at random times. I’d plan for forthcoming events, create hypothetical scenarios that called for different expressions of what I believed the situations would ask for. I loved doing it so much — and sometimes, when I have a free minute, I still do.
But lately, I’ve been catching this feeling of redundancy that blankets the activity — not always, but sometimes. It’s like I’m dusting off a cabinet that’s already clean. I used to stay focused on the cabinet and was fine keeping it spotless, but my eyes are traveling elsewhere of late, towards some other shelving unit that looks awfully similar. It seems to indicate that it needs cleaning. A way for me to wield this very mechanism of expression in some capacity still unfamiliar.
I’m kind of scared to touch it and don’t know what to expect but the diversions that used to work are wearing down, so I guess now’s when I ask: do I build new diversions, or inch closer towards and further away — to pick up the duster and clean?
What would you do?
The Express Lane Details
What do I wear for the last days of summer, when I’m sick of thinking about summer clothes, but want to get dressed?
The knit is from Venstore, a brand out of London. I’ve been wearing it a lot — something about the shirt-like nature on a knit hangs like lazy limbs and I like it. I’m surprised to find myself on the Dillard’s website right now, but these from Polo (for $60) get the job done pretty effectively. Don’t hate this one from Bonobos for $89 either.
The shorts are Attersee, a brand that Isabel Wilkinson (formerly of T Magazine and before that The Cut) launched in July. They have a matching collarless tunic, a perfect (thick) weight to pair with denim, or contrast with flimsy pajama pants (see: this). These from Marrakshi Life are a good comp ($208, so not cheap, but great young brand), so are these for $25 (not a young brand, but low price).
The sandals are K. Jacques. Talking about them and delivering alternatives is probably getting redundant, but here is a sleek pair from Emme Parsons for $475 that will look great with knit socks in the fall, and here is a fancy ($$$) pair from Gucci that I would be so inclined to buy if I weren’t scaling back and here’s an Etsy pair for good measure too.
The shirt is Polo. I got in on sale from the men’s section at Matches. It’s a good place to hang out! (This is the inverse, color-wise, on sale for $54.) The fabric is stiffer than linen or fine poplin and that makes it a good contender to contrast-pair with feeble shorts. I kind of wear it like a cardigan now that I’m looking at it, huh.
The shorts are…it doesn’t even matter. I bought them out of a van on the beach in Spain like 5 years ago, but these boxer shorts from Entireworld ($22) might serve the purpose if you’re into the three-button feature on the front. I like these from Donni too ($68).
The sandals. See above!
The bracelets are what remains of summer: a puka shell-on-thread from Aurelie Bidermann (found a similar one from Farfetch for $96), but these ones from Etsy are both very good and very bad. The ideal combo — $6. The yellow flower bracelet is from Joso Joy, a brand that found me (and not the other way around!) on Instagram. In the middle is a hand-strung string of eclectic beads from Ashley Harris’ Don’t Let Disco, ahead of that are some pink opals from Anni Lu (look at this hot pink one!!!) and at the top is a bracelet I bought at the bazaar in Turkey. It’s also handmade. The ring is from a small French fine jewelry brand called Salomé Rico.
The clutch is by a Turkish designer named Serena Uziyel. Here is the same one, but in linen on Net-a-Porter for $665. Here’s a loose comp from Etsy for $65 and an unhinged one that I stand behind implicitly for $25.
And the necklace! The eye is also from Turkey — by a jewelry designer I met there named Melise Goral. And I strung a clear fish through the chain too. That guy is Gimaguas, but if I might make an alternative suggestion, this one from Blooming Dreamer is ace. Here, too, are some glass fish I found on Etsy.
This week’s Thing of Note:
“Why I Write,” an essay by George Orwell
Why’s it a thing of note? I read it last week while I was still in Turkey and toiling with a series of essays that ultimately, I didn’t publish. Something about the clarity with which he broke down his why to four components (sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose) unlocked some molding crack in my mind about why those essays weren’t going anywhere. It’s a good one to come back for any writer in the bottleneck, or more generally just any person interested in tracking the rhythm of when their thoughts flow and when they get stuck. Not sure how universal the four components are, but in some ways, they’ve helped to keep me honest.
Ok. Signing off yours truly,