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Managing the middle: What to wear when your tummy is poochy

elastic waist

I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat it: My daughter turned one last month and I’m still working a postpartum stomach that is disappointingly similar to how it looked when I went back to work two months after she was born.

And you know what, that’s fine! It sure as heck doesn’t mean I shuffle around town in old, saggy clothes, waiting for “someday” to feel cute again. Instead, I treat myself to figure flattering items that work with, not against, my poochy tummy.

So whether you’re postpartum, naturally apple shaped, or just love carbs like me, here are three key points on how to love your look when your middle is mushy.

1. Buy pants that actually fit.

Leggings are great, yes, but they are limiting. So even though finding “real” pants can be torture for those of us working stomach pooch, soldier on. It’ll be worth your while when you find a couple pairs that make you feel good and expand your outfit options.

The good news: there’s a plethora of elastic-waist pants available in the market now. Let’s all thank our lucky stars that it’s not 2000 and everyone isn’t rocking extra-low waist jeans anymore. The horrors.

My go-to for all things “pull on” and “elastic waist” is Macy’s. The prices are usually right, and if they’re not, there’s an 85 percent chance there’s a coupon code available.

PRO TIP: Always check retailmenot.com before buying anything online. You’ll be surprised by the range of discount codes they have.

Current cuties include these insanely comfy Style&Co. knit denim pull-on jeans that come in a variety of washes.

I’m loving that flares are back. I’ve rocked skinny jeans hard for years, but it’s nice to have a little extra kick with my winter boots. Don’t be frightened by the claims these are “low rise.” They’re not. They’re medium to high rise, just like momma likes ‘em.

One point to note: these run a little long, so check the hemline before you decide whether to order regular or short.

I am living for pretty much any pull-on pants from Alfani, as well. These are my current faves for work, as the fabric is a nice mid-weight that makes you feel chic and covered. Again, loving the flare.

I also ordered several pairs of these because the color choices are great. They’re a thinner fabric, but have a lot of stretch and wear well.

2. Rejoice that longer lengths are in

I am thrilled that at this stage in my life, long drapey sweaters and tunics are the rage. Not only does it provide plenty of options for ensuring my pooch stays covered, but it also means I look current while remaining comfortable.

I recently marveled at the uptick in figure-friendly cardigans while shopping for a birthday present for my bestie. She’s got a killer bod (and a 6 month old!), so I get that she wanted a harder-to-find cropped cardi, but I was rejoicing at the bevy of gorgeous flowy options to throw in my cart. It’s rare that fashion favors my apple-shaped desires.

Loft even has a whole section devoted to “coatigans,” the bulkier, snugglier cousin of a cardigan.

There’s honestly no shortage of gorgeous, drapey, flowy cardigans out there right now, so eat ’em up while you can. They work well with leggings too!

Recent finds include this classic that features a tie waist. Leave it open or tie it shut, either way you’re covered and classy.

And while it was a little pricier than I wanted, this kensie draped-neck zipper-pocket cardigan is HEAVEN. It’s gloriously long and has a nice, cinched-waist element in the back that highlights that you have a waist while still covering you completely. And it’s super duper soft. Worth every penny.

A word to the wise when it comes to tunics: by my estimate at least 30 percent of the “tunics” out there are just shirts that go to your hips. For a real tunic that reaches that sweet spot of mid- to upper-thigh, you’ll have to endure some trial and error, but double check the product photos if they’re shown on a model and don’t just take the name “tunic” at its word.

3. Know that not all leggings are created equal.

Some of you might have read that and thought “What do you mean ‘leggings season?’ Aren’t they year-round?” Yes, of course, but there’s nothing better than rocking leggings, riding boots and a flowy sweater in fall and winter to feel effortlessly chic and comfortable.

Molly at Cream City Style (check her out for Midwest-style realness) recently slayed it writing about how to cover your necessary bits in leggings, but a couple points to add for the squishy-tummy set:

Look for wide waistband options like these from Hue so your impressive pooch doesn’t wrestle the waistband down to the ground over the course of the day.

Spring for quality staple pairs in a thicker weight that will wear well through weekly use and ensure you don’t end up with Lululemon butt.

And above all, rock what you got and make sure you don’t let your middle cramp your style.

About Caley Clinton

Caley Clinton works in PR and is mother to two girls under the age of 4. She can be reached at caleyclinton@gmail.com.

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