I was so lucky to get to know Sala Sihombing who is an amazing mediator in Hong Kong. Map the Maze is a podcast for people using mediation to manage their separation and divorce.
We had a wonderful conversation over coffee a few weeks ago and she's has allowed me to share her Youtube clip.
It's really more than just clothes! It's a tool to embrace opportunity!
Who knew that Mediation and Styling had sooo much in common.
Having a baby is a very exciting experience filled with lots of highs and lots of changes. From your changing hormones, a change in your priorities and mental state to a change of your body. With all these changes (and more to come) it’s important to stay positive and feel like yourself, even if you don’t recognise yourself in the mirror some morning.
I, myself, am lucky enough to be experiencing my first pregnancy, with our little girl expected any day now. So, I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect on my pregnancy journey and the things I have learnt, such as how to dress for an ever-changing pregnant body without losing your identity or spending a ton of money.
As a Fashion Stylist, what I wear is important to my brand, and I have loved being able to continue working with my clients throughout my pregnancy. But the experience of being pregnant has forced me to be much more creative with what I wear and how I dress my changing body. During every stage of pregnancy that my body goes/has been through, sometimes daily, I have learnt 5 important things about what to wear, how to wear as much of my existing pre-pregnancy wardrobe and what is important when it comes to clothing purchases during pregnancy.
TIP #1. ALWAYS Be Kind to Yourself!!! ALWAYS!
BE KIND TO YOUR SELF! You are growing a human being! It’s a miracle!
Your body will go through major changes, everyone and EVERYBODY are different!
Never feel like you need to compare your pregnancy body to your pre-pregnancy body (or any other body for that matter). I hear so many clients compare their current bodies to those of pre-pregnancy, kids, before they got married or before they moved to Hong Kong. Whatever your comparison is… STOP IT!
If your body has stayed the same, great, but a negative comparison has rarely ever helped anyone. It just makes you feel awful. I am all about my clients feeling great in their skin and whatever they are wearing, no matter your shape or size. Who doesn’t want to glow of confidence?
During pregnancy, I found that you just have to go with the flow, every day can be different with symptoms such as sensitive and enlarged breasts, swelling and all kinds of fluid retention, aches and pains, and of course a growing baby bump.
I had constant nausea through my whole pregnancy, so being kind to myself was my first focus to feeling better and getting through the day!
Never EVER try to squeeze yourself into your existing clothes that ‘use to fit’, especially those that were never comfortable to begin with. Your body also has to get ‘use to’ be pregnant! If it doesn’t fit and it is not of value to you at this moment, simply put that item of clothing away in a safe place (vacuum-sealed bags are great for this), somewhere that you are not reminded daily and only hold onto items that work for you NOW and may fit in the future. Think stretchy, machine washable and comfortable. This will have you feeling so much better every morning!
Tip #2. Invest in Comfy Maternity items
I found the best clothing to invest for pregnancy were versatile and comfortable Maternity items.
Maternity wear is not often known for its ‘fashion-ability’, so it made me a little hesitant to buy and invest a lot of money, even knowing it would be very comfortable. Maternity wear is also treated as a niche market, hence the inflated price it, but a few pieces are definitely worth the price/purchase.
Many of my clients hear me talking about ‘Price per Wear’. This is simply a formula that I apply to any new purchase to see if it’s worth the cost, and this also applies to maternity wear.
Simply take the price of the clothing item, for this example let’s say we were buying a HKD100 T-shirt. Ask yourself, ‘How many times will I wear it’ (3 times per week for the summer season of approx. 6 months), the shirt would cost you about HKD1.30 to wear each time. As long as it doesn’t need dry-cleaning or any alterations, you don’t have to invest any more money into it. What dollar amount makes it a good investment is up to you!
Clothing Price Divide by the Number of Wears (per season/week/month) = How much it will cost you to wear it each time.
For me, this meant the purchase of some great maternity bras and some comfortable pants. I found that as I progressed in my pregnancy, the more comfortable it became to sit in a ‘man-spread’ position. This meant I relied far more on pants to be comfortable in public. A fit provided by a pair of maternity pant/jean is also hard to replicate in normal pants, especially late into pregnancy, so this is also a great investment.
Any maternity tops that I purchased also had to work in with my plans to breastfeed once the baby arrived, meaning I was going to get more than a few months wear from them (as it takes your body time to recover from pregnancy and during childbirth too).
Besides buying a few essential and comfortable investment items, I was able to use much of my existing wardrobe with a few edits. I focused on items that had a good amount of stretch and wore T-shirts and dresses that had an extended hem length. The purchase of ‘bra extensions’ from a lingerie store was a money and time saver as I was able to get more out of my existing bras.
Tip #3. Slip-on Shoes
I found the type of footwear I chose to wear to be very important in my third trimester of pregnancy. My bodyweight (and position) dramatically changed, meaning my centre of gravity felt very different.
This had me questioning if my favourite heels were a little dangerous to wear around Hong Kong, so I made the switch to a comfortable pair of flats that I could just slip on and go. This was also important as it became very difficult or impossible to bend down and tie shoelaces up without getting breathless or feeling sick. I have been told that shoes can make a real safety difference during your pregnancy as much more is at stake for you and your baby’s health if you have a fall.
So, whatever makes you feel secure and comfortable in a shoe is the most important to avoid this risk.
Any shoe you do buy should be comfortable, but also secure enough that you don’t have any Cinderella moments. I also found out during pregnancy your joints tend to soften as you get ready for childbirth. This includes feet.
Many women can experience their feet permanently lengthen and widen during pregnancy due to weight, unsupportive shoes and joint movement. I was able to adapt a few pair of my flat supportive shoes by replacing some laces with elastic to make it faster and easier to slip on. A bonus is they became more comfortable as my feet swelled during the day.
Tip #4. Light Layering
During my pregnancy, I have noticed a change in my body temperature. I now feel ‘hot’ all the time, no matter what temperature the AC is set at.
This is a normal symptom of pregnancy…. but what it means is I found it much more comfortable to wear light layers of clothing that I could take off if I got too hot.
Another benefit of lightly layering clothes was to distract from the visibly growing baby bump, this way I felt more like myself and less like a ‘baby carrier’. I loved to elongate my body by wearing a sleeveless long vest that covered my bum. It made me feel tall, emphasized the small of my waist and being a dark colour made me feel slimmer no matter what I layered it with.
This is a not so secret stylist technique to distract the eye from one part of the body and draw attention somewhere else, also known as “Illusion dressing”. You can create curves where you have none, dress to look taller or slimmer (or the opposite).
Tip #5. Be creative with your Wardrobe
I have learnt so many additional tricks of dressing well while being pregnant and I am grateful for the experience to stretch my creativity with clothing.
Did you know that you can extend your fitted jeans (when they feel a little too tight around the waist) by adding an elastic hairband around the zipper and (looping it through the zip end) and attaching it onto the button? As long as you wear a slightly longer shirt with it, no one will notice the difference.
I also loved wearing dresses that became too short (because of a growing bump) as a blouse with stretchy skirts, layering dresses/skirt with opaque stockings and getting really good use from all my fun costume jewellery to change up any look (as it was the only thing that was guaranteed to fit every morning). It’s amazing how you can change a look with the right accessories and basic pieces.
During my pregnancy, I also looked to Social Media (e.g. Instagram) and sometimes YouTube videos for inspiration on what to wear and how to wear it.
Inspiration to use my existing wardrobe has helped me to save money on clothing so I could spend it on more baby items, but you don’t have to be pregnant to do this.
Anyone looking to be inspired can do so without spending money on new clothes. I love to look at celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Miranda Kerr and Kate Middleton for inspiration (all who had amazing maternity wardrobes) and then make that my look with what I have already. Just like baking a cake, once you have the basics of the recipe you can add any additional flair to it and make it your own.
Given that baby could arrive any day, I am excited to be starting on this journey of motherhood that many of my clients have already been through. Being a first-time mother, I am nervous but also excited to meet our little girl.
This means that I will be taking a step back from styling for a few months to adjust to my new role, but I look forward to re-connecting back with the Amanda Leigh Style community later in 2020.
Amanda is Founder and CEO of 'Amanda Leigh Style', a Hong Kong-based fashion consulting business, which is committed to empowering its clients to achieve their unique sense of style and build confidence to maximise life’s opportunities.