I love clothes. I love putting together outfits each morning, choosing accessories – it’s like a chance to create a costume and decide who to be that day. My friends will testify that I have a tendency to dress up much more than I need to – why not wear heels and a dress for an afternoon of writing in a café? why not wear a cocktail dress to a casual dinner with friends instead of leaving it hanging in the closet? why not wear a long gown at the smallest excuse?

It’s probably a sign of shallowness, but I confess that one of the things i wasn’t looking forward to about pregnancy was finding things to wear. I was afraid getting dressed wouldn’t be fun anymore. But as it happened, I found I enjoyed the challenge. Fortunately I love empire-waisted dresses, so some things already in my closet worked through pregnancy. A black jersey dress I splurged on at a post-holiday sale a few years ago got me through everything from meetings to lunches to cocktail parties. And I found I was able to buy new clothes that weren’t maternity clothes, including a gauzy taupe dress that looks like a short version of a Regency gown which among other things was great for two baby showers and Thanksgiving dinner with a variety of cardigans. Realizing that my diaper bag was going to double as my purse, I bought a big Longchamp tote in a nice solid brown instead of something floral patterned.

I went home from the hospital in another empire-waisted dress I’ve had for years with a good neckline for nursing. And thus I went from the challenges of pregnancy dressing to the challenges of new mother dressing. A lot of my friends loved the fact that they didn’t have to dress up when they had new babies. For me it was the opposite. I wanted to curl my hair and put on makeup and wear dresses and heels. Part of it was that it was the holiday season when Mélanie was born, so there were lots of parties and special events. But part of it, I think, is that it was a way to hang on to who I was. I love being a mom, but I still wanted to be Tracy. My baby gift to myself was a new black dress with lace sleeves (which you can see me wearing in countless photos including the one above). When Mélanie was less than two weeks old, we got up at almost the crack of dawn the morning after Christmas and went Boxing Day sale shopping at Union Square in San Francisco. I was delighted to see lots of others parents with young children (everyone with strollers was using the elevator) as well as moms with teenage daughters which made think about trips with Mélanie when she’s older. The need for clothes that work for nursing provided an excellent excuse for shopping (I fear I’m all too good at find excuses for shopping). I learned that surplice mock wrap bodices are great for easy, discreet breastfeeding. I found a wonderful dress in this style at Teddy in New York that goes everywhere from writing afternoons to to meetings to dinners out. I got in two colors on two different trips.

But while I’m still able to have fun with clothes, it’s not quite the same as before. There was the night I went to the symphony with my uncle and aunt in a cute cocktail dress, carrying a tiny black bag instead of my big tote/diaper bag. I came home from my sophisticated evening out to find that the cute cocktail dress had been unzipped on the side the entire evening because i breastfed before I went out (it has a slip, so I was covered up, but still…). There was the day I got Mel and me dressed in cute outfits and out the door at an early hour for a day of lunch and meetings only to realize I’d forgotten to wear earrings for probably the first time in twenty years (I went around all day with my hair combed over my ears). And there was the recent afternoon when I left Mel with a friend and went to a meeting at the Opera House and drinks next door at Jardiniere wearing a cute little black dress I hadn’t worn since before my pregnancy. Only to realize when I got home that the cute lbd had avocado and baby sunscreen smeared on the shoulder.

All of which is something of a metaphor for a deeper truth. While I still am the person i was before Mélanie was born, being Mélanie’s mom has changed me. Which is a good thing.

Suzanne/Mélanie says much the same to Isobel in this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition. Do you find clothes help define who you are in different parts of your life? Do clothes in books do the same for characters?