I found myself explaining to a middle-aged woman I happened to be waiting in line with at the pediatric clinic why I was wearing a cropped top. “You’re a mother already," she said to me in the serene tone of motherly wisdom, adding, "You shouldn’t be wearing clothes like that."
I initially felt indignant, and I found these thoughts entering my head: I didn’t know there was a deadline to wearing cropped tops. I didn’t know that carrying a diaper bag instead of my handmade clutch meant I couldn't wear something that exposes a trace of my linea nigra—an evidence that I carried a baby for 37 weeks and four days. Heck, I didn’t know mothers had to subscribe to a certain look to, well, look the part.
But calming my nerves I gave a simple, practical reply: I explained to her that it was so much easier to breastfeed my son—who stoutly objects to a nursing cover. I often find myself scrambling to unbutton a top when he asks to feed, and even more disconcerting, frantically struggling to fasten my outfit back before my breast pops out for the whole world to see.
But truthfully, that’s not the only reason.
I wear a cropped top because it goes well with my high-waist bottoms. I wear a cropped top because I like the way I look in it. I wear a cropped top because it gives me positive vibes. I wear a cropped top because… I want to. After all, fashion is a form of expression.
Should a woman give up her preferred sense of style in lieu of something more socially acceptable once someone starts calling her mom? I felt my attention was called for not following a dress code I never knew existed for motherhood. In the same vein, I am oft confused as to why the remark “You don’t look like a mom!” is taken as a compliment and “She looks like a mom!” less so. What are moms supposed to look like?
I dove into the fashion industry straight out of college. It’s been more than a decade, and it still gives me the same fuel that fires up my soul from when I started as a young woman. When I got pregnant a year ago, that passion did not fizzle out. Even if it meant having a baby yanking on my chandelier earrings, or stumbling in my stilettos while trying to chase after him. Of course, I’ve learned to adjust my outfits for practical reasons after that; but I did not find the need to overhaul my wardrobe and edit out the items that might be viewed as unbefitting a mother.
I choose to dress this way not because I am trying to seek attention through my choice of clothes, but because I feel good in them. Besides, feeling confident in what you’re wearing should not be a limited-time offer. My sartorial preference and how much time I spend perfecting my eyebrows and drying my hair are choices I make for myself. Just because I became a mother, it doesn’t mean I need to let go of these. So, let’s allow others to make their own sartorial choices without judgment, too.
Finally, I want my son to grow up knowing that no one is entitled to treat another person with anything other than respect—no matter their age, their gender, their style, or position in society. I am a mother and I am proud of it. But I am not just a mother.
To all the wonderful mothers, I salute you!