Sensible. That is how I would describe my wardrobe. Cotton T-shirts in various colours and faded jeans. Knock-off yoga pants with matching zippered jackets from Costco. For summer, denim shorts and ribbed tank tops.
My dresser drawers are stuffed with comfy cotton underwear and the many scarves I insist on wrapping around my throat, winter or summer, thinking them très chic.
My wardrobe wasn't always this way. Rewind 10 years and you would find me running out the door in two-and-a-half inch heels, silky pantyhose, fitted suits, filmy blouses, fashionable earrings and necklaces that dipped seductively down my décolletage. I was just like Carrie from Sex and the City - a modern-day Aphrodite.
Then motherhood hit. I swapped my heels and suits for sneakers and 100-per-cent cotton fabrics. I gave up my French-lace undergarments for machine-wash nursing bras - you know the ones, with the flap that doubles as a peek-a-boo window and voilà, a meal at the ready.
I couldn't wear designer blouses while my breasts leaked milk, never mind the spit-up on the shoulder. Its sour smell reminded me that my life wasn't my own any more and that the clothes I had worn to power lunches were not going to impress my hungry offspring.
Later came the baby-food phase with its throwing of strained peas and spilling of juice on freshly washed sweatpants. I noticed dried tomato sauce in my hair at my evening toilette, vaguely recalling I had fed my darlings spaghetti for lunch and cringing as I flashed back to the woman at the grocery store checkout - the one with the immaculate manicure and flawless makeup whose gaze lingered a little too long on my hair. It's not me, I wanted to go back and explain. I'm not this person.
Early into mommyhood I had consoled myself that my "mommy wardrobe" was temporary. I carefully ensconced my beloved suits and blouses in dry-cleaning bags, sighing wistfully at the sight of them, hanging limp and one-dimensional at the back of my closet.
Years flew by. My children's diapers were replaced by Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob underpants; the dried milk stains overtaken by paint blotches and stuck-on Play-Doh.
I discovered a lovely consignment store I called The Boutique - if anyone asked about the source of my or my children's clothes. I grew addicted to rummaging through The Boutique's racks for designer T-shirts that cost a small fraction of the price I would have paid at the mall. Considering we were a single-income family, it made sense to invest in gently used clothing; if well preserved, it could be resold back to the store.
In the meantime, the dry-cleaning bags at the back of my closet grew sticky with dust, their contents painfully out of fashion.
Then one day, while the kids were napping, I decided to revisit the past, to try on the skirts and jackets, the fitted dresses and heels.
Slowly, as though unwrapping the most delicate of secrets, I slipped the transparent plastic off the hangers, pulled on the hose, zipped up the skirt, tucked in the blouse - the buttons oddly pulling across my now-fuller bosom - and turned expectantly to the full-length mirror.
I stared at my reflection in disbelief. The waistband of the skirt dug unattractively into the extra inch with which motherhood had blessed me. The fabric pulled across my round belly. My feet begged to be rescued from the pointy pumps. I hated the tightness of the pantyhose around my thighs, the cling of rayon against the bare skin of my arms. I studied the woman in the mirror and then … stripped.
I tossed the pantyhose into the trash. I pulled on my familiar yoga pants and long-sleeved sweatshirt - the one with the tiny rip at the neckline.
Outfit by outfit, I purged the closet of its career wardrobe. I folded each item and unceremoniously tossed it into a black garbage bag. I buried bits of Aphrodite, remnants of my old self, inside that pile of clothes and balled-up drycleaning bags. I had no idea whether I'd ever be interested in resurrecting her again.
I dragged the bag down the stairs and stuffed it into the back of my trunk, ready for my next visit to The Boutique. Maybe another woman could wear them, someone who still placed looking good ahead of feeling comfortable.
A decade later, my children are now in elementary school. Although the decision was not easy, I chose to forgo my career and its fashionable wardrobe in exchange for bearing witness to my children's lives.
No yummy mummy, I spent years checking labels to keep hand-wash articles to a minimum. I rarely spend money on dry cleaning. I stare in wonder at the stay-at-home mothers in their sling-back shoes and feather-adorned hairdos waiting to pick up their children from school.
But while cotton T-shirts and jeans remain a staple of my wardrobe, on nights when my husband and I go out for the evening, escaping our roles as mommy and daddy, I reach into the back of my closet and pull out a dress I bought on a whim. It's a deep burgundy with a spattering of sequins. When I put it on, I feel nothing like the career tycoon I used to be - but I do hear Aphrodite whispering.
Judy Walker lives in Edmonton.
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