I look pregnant, but I'm not - help me dress for a meeting
January 9, 2019 6:34 PM   Subscribe

I used to go into the office, and I used to be - for me - a reasonable shape and size. I telework now, and after having my last baby and gaining a large amount of weight and separating my abdominal muscles, I no longer have business clothes that fit.

Everyone is allowed to be their own size, and that is good. Here is my issue: I am short, I weigh more than I am accustomed to weighing, and since I telework, I haven't bought new business clothes. Furthermore, I've had several children, and have a diastasis recti. So my stomach pooches - six months pregnant wise.

I don't want to get a tummy tuck - which is the surgical solution for a diastasis recti. I've been losing weight on the keto diet, which I like, but am still 40 pounds from my goal weight. And weight loss will shrink my stomach, but not fix the problem of torn tissue.

I have to be at an in-person meeting in two months with a bunch of people I've never met, including my new boss who lives in another country. I don't mind if other people think I'm pregnant, but it's intensely embarrassing for them if they assume it. I will try to lose another 5 - 10 pounds before I attend, but the problem will still be there. And I won't be able to fit into any of my last pre-pregnancy suits. I could wear a maternity suit, but without mentioning to my new boss, who has never met me in person, that I look pregnant but am not, that would be awkward.

Please give me some ideas for dressing my short, overweight frame, with a pooched out abdomen. I will use a personal assistant, or a shopper, but I hate shopping.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is exactly the kind of thing 'structural undergarments' (ie girdles, spanx) are made for. The lingerie section of a large department store or a small specialty store would be a good place to start. Bonus: you will probably find some of your older clothes still fit...so you don't have to start from scratch. (I always find it...weird..to be wearing ALL brand new clothes...like it's a costume or something. Maybe it's just me :/ )
posted by sexyrobot at 6:58 PM on January 9 [13 favorites]

A lot of stores have personal shoppers (I know of Nordstrom) they can help with this. Good luck!
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:15 PM on January 9

Seconding spanx. If you've never worn shapewear, get yours a few weeks ahead of time to get used to it and try on different outfits with.

Look for soft drapey tops as opposed to structured blazers. Eshakti is a great resource for dresses, as you can customize everything. Best of luck at your meeting!
posted by ananci at 7:23 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Undergarments can help, but honestly, you can fashion your way out of this as well. Peplum tops are extremely forgiving of a belly example 1, and playing with colors can help minimize the belly as well. (Even just wearing a dark suit with solid colored contrasting top helps, so long as the jacket fits well). Dresses are also an easy out, with a quick Google, I found examples from oprah that might be good to spark ideas. A personal shopper at a major Dept store can totally help you, but it helps to have an idea of what you'd like.

Also, keep in mind, your team hasn't seen you in person in months, you can totally try out a new style and they have nothing to compare against, so you can go more fun if it ends up more comfortable (long jackets? Eileen Fisher type stuff?)
posted by larthegreat at 7:25 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

I don’t know what industry you’re in and if this would work, but can you go ‘structural flowy dress’ rather than business suit? I usually dress like a rhombus— I have been mistaken for pregnant before as that’s where I carry my weight, and not only have I not gotten these comments since I started dressing like a rhombus, it also feels more authentic to my sense of self and I have more confidence as a result. (on preview, jinx to Eileen Fisher!)

Also—if you haven’t gotten a good bra fitting in a while, that’s a great place to start! If you have big boobs I really like the Wacoal underwire sports bras for under higher neck work attire. Nothing beats it for lift and comfort!
posted by stellaluna at 8:35 PM on January 9 [11 favorites]

I have never been pregnant, I am just fat with a second-trimester-looking belly, but I find an a-line or sheath dress with a blazer is a good solution for this. The blazer will create a line that will distract from your middle, and the dress won't cut you off in the middle (and smush your belly) like pants and a shirt will. Assets (the cheaper, Target-sold line by Spanx) make very nice, comfy control-top tights that never roll down on you and will help smooth the belly as well. Dark tights with dark shoes will also help make a longer line (versus pants) which will also visually stretch you out a bit.
posted by assenav at 9:09 PM on January 9 [17 favorites]

For example, either of these from Anne Taylor Loft would be cute and businesslike with a nice jacket, and flatter your current figure.
posted by assenav at 9:21 PM on January 9

I agree with assenav.

Watch out for the potential trap: items will be sold as "forgiving" of a pooch, but if you throw a big old billowing box of fabric over something, yeah, it won't CLING to the pooch, but it will actually make it look bigger (because it is, in fact, making the silhouette larger!). So, e.g., no empire dresses. Your goal should be structured, but not tight. (Yes, I know, much easier said than done if you don't have a tailor and a tailoring budget.)
posted by praemunire at 9:38 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]

I also wanted to add that there are exercises and PT that can help fix diastasis rectii—you are not limited to surgical repair.
posted by stillmoving at 11:37 PM on January 9 [9 favorites]

I think most everyone understands that a women's stomachs looks different after having a baby. It's kind of the deal with female adulting. But I came to say blazer. I would go to a consignment store and look for a structured blazer. You can wear a dress or non same colored pants underneath. Anyone who assumes you are pregnant is a jerk, and this is not your problem.
posted by Kalmya at 1:19 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]

Nthing blazer, ideally one that is not supposed to close in the front - you get all the structure of shoulders and lapels and lines going down and elongating but it is somewhat forgiving as to exact tummy shape and size and even bust line as long as it fits around the shoulders.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:14 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

A lot of people have no idea what pregnant people look like at all, and would never mention that you look like you are, nor would it even enter their mind to do so. They might think privately that you're fat or that you have weird posture, but those are both things that are totally a no-go for mentioning in a business context. So really I wouldn't worry about it all that much, especially since you'll mostly be meeting new people who have nothing to compare the new you to.

As for clothes, there are a few ways that I successfully use fashion to distract from my protruding non-pregnant stomach on my short frame. The main way is to put more width around my hips and thighs and drawing attention to my shoulders and neck. This means full skirts, long tunic tops with ruffles at the hip, jackets with interest at the lapel, tops with unique collars or statement necklaces, and sometimes ruffles and embellishment at the shoulder. Everywhere else, like the main trunk of my torso, my cleavage, and especially my waist is simpler in comparison, either through solid colors or lack of texture or embellishment, and also lacking in layers.

For your meeting I think that a "fit and flare" dress (so a dress that comes in at the waist and has fullness around the skirt) in a solid color, paired with a blazer that has some interest at the lapels or shoulders (like say a mandarin collar or a pretty lapel pin or a slight puff sleeve), will be a great foundation for you. Underneath, if you can find it, wear a full slip. A full slip won't constrict you and suck you in like spanx but it will smooth out lumpiness and help dresses lie more neatly. For leg coverage, if you need it in a formal environment, I suggest thigh highs with elasticated tops. They might strike you as a little silly but they are extremely comfy and won't cut into your waist all day like tights or leggings would. If you can't find a dress you like, look for a "full skirt" that hits you at about your knees and a top in a solid color made of a fabric that doesn't make you sweat.
posted by Mizu at 4:15 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

This is my body type right now and when I need to dress nice for work I wear a sheath dress and blazer with shape wear. Spanx and Assets make tights you can wear to both disguise the pooch and avoid shaving your legs. If I were you, I’d go buy something that fits your body now and not worry about trying to lose extra weight before your meeting (and maybe even a cozy outfit for working at home). I’ve been riding a weight roller coaster for years and constantly have to fight off the urge to buy clothes that will fit if I lose five pounds or to squeeze myself into a pre-pregnancy outfit. Wearing clothes that actually fit is a huge relief and helps boost my confidence.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 5:27 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]

I am fat, with a large protruding belly, and I dress relatively formally for work.

I wish we lived in a world where this didn't matter But, it seems to matter to you (as it does to me!), and happily, you can look fantastic (for values fantastic that include the ridiculous that we even have to think of about this) and confident REGARDLESS of your weight. That is, you can (and should) feel great about how you look for this meeting, whether you lose those last 10-15 lbs or not.

There's lots of great advice in this thread. I'm going to add to it:

* If you hate shopping and can afford to do this, charge 4-5 outfits to a credit card, ship them to your home, try them on, then return what you don't like.

* Spanx and supportive undergarments: fantastic, but they are not always super comfortable. I like to wear slips + Jockey slip shorts (or whatever their under skirt shorts are called) instead. (I am fat enough that no Spanx can ever hold me in, and also, a structured jacket hides a lot of sins.)

* One option: ponte a-line dresses with a contrasting structured jacket. You can make this outfit more or less formal by the formality of your jacket and accessories.

* Another: a regular suit with a tunic top. Be sure to try on the tunic top WITH the suit so you can decide if you like where the lines from the jacket and the shirt fall.

* Pay attention to your hair, makeup, and accessories. A great hair cut, well applied make-up, and well manicured painted nails make a huge difference when it comes to how put together you look. Accessories like scarves, long necklaces, and watches also make a big difference.

Good luck!
posted by asnowballschance at 5:28 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]

A blazer will cover whatever you need it to cover. Just be careful it's not too tight over your belly. Wear with an a-line knit dress.

If that's uncomfortable, a flowy tunic top over stretchy pants is just about the most comfortable outfit there is, and looks reasonably polished worn with boots and an eye catching scarf.

For maximal coverage and flexiblity, put the blazer over the tunic top.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:21 AM on January 10

Seconding get a good bra that fits well. This post and the comments were very helpful to me.

I wear tummy control panties and it feels good to not be so jiggly. Spanx are a great idea.

I'm short and overweight and petite sizes are very helpful. Something with an interesting neckline or a great necklace helps some with distraction. I prefer a structured skirt and a soft top, often a cotton cardigan, no idea if that's terribly out of fashion. I often wear a loose jacket over it.

Mention that you recently had a baby as a way to cut off the pregnancy question before it can be asked.
posted by theora55 at 6:31 AM on January 10

I came to say a lot of what has already been said, but I'll echo it anyhow:

- diastasis recti can absolutely be fixed (or "almost" fixed so it isn't noticeable) through physical therapy.
- foundation undergarments were made for this exact thing. I'm personally a fan of the underbust tank + regular control top tights look, but there are tons of options on the market. I was a doubter for a long time, but as I've gotten older I've finally come to realize that foundation garments are the secret for those of us who aren't super toned to looking better in professional clothes - the clothes just lay more smoothly on a smoothed line.
- I've had really good luck with Talbots, in the in-person store (but you can also order online). Lots of Petities (even plus Petites), professional clothes, and at least at my location the in store folks have been pretty excellently trained about fit issues.

You'll be great!
posted by anastasiav at 7:05 AM on January 10

You might actually try posting on r/xxketo to see if someone has suitable items they no longer need and could sell you. I could totally see someone having a whole outfit that they wore in very similar circumstances.
posted by teremala at 7:47 AM on January 10

I agree with the sheath dress and blazer. I wore that at 5 months pregnant, and even people I've known for a long time (but not seen in awhile) were surprised when I mentioned I was pregnant (and it's my second child so I look more pregnant than I am). Maternity clothes have a specific shape, so buying maternity wear is the last thing I'd do. Layers of scarves also do a lot to distract. Also I do know of people who have benefited from exercises you can find online for diastesis recti.
posted by slidell at 8:48 PM on January 10

If I had to do this, I'd pick out a larger, draping scarf and wear it with a cardigan or jacket, even one that doesn't close in front right now. If the top has three-quarter sleeves and you can wear an eye-catching bracelet or two, that makes a pretty nice look without buying clothes that won't fit later.
posted by BibiRose at 5:14 AM on January 11

Sheath dress (thick ponte knit will be comfortable but not clingly) + fitted blazer worn unbuttoned, shapewear optional, is the best clothing strategy here.

Another strategy is: could you come in with a big cup of coffee, suggest a sushi lunch and have a post-meeting cocktail? People might initially think you're pregnant but those are pretty clear contra-indicators.
posted by marylynn at 6:37 PM on January 11

Postpartum clothing (aka the horribly named, bounceback) have pants that shape your core and are like spanx with a pregnancy slant. See if those will work for you, likely in combination with the other suggestions on here!
posted by vacuumsealed at 9:25 PM on January 13

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