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How I Built a Professional Maternity Wardrobe Without Breaking the Bank

In the first several weeks and months of my pregnancy, I was so anxious to know the baby was growing well, that any weight gain and hint of a baby belly was a welcome discovery. Sure, my clothes fit a little tighter and my key professional pieces got less comfortable every time I wore them, but that was exactly what was supposed to happen.

Now in my sixth month, there are only a few non-maternity articles still in rotation (including my suit I bought when I first became an attorney, and before I lost twenty pounds of “Bar Exam Weight”; it is 2017: what’s old is new again!). Every day, getting dressed is a new challenge; it is hardly even useful to lay out an outfit the night before, because if baby decides to flip overnight, it may not fit any more!

Desperately searching the great Internet Library for wardrobe ideas, I was disappointed that most maternity wardrobe advice fell into two categories: (1) Wear leggings, t-shirts,a and elastics on your jeans all the time; or (2) Spend all your money on a completely new wardrobe you will use for the next ten months!

We all want to look like Amal Clooney, but what is a young professional to do? I have to look grown-up and put together, but I am not interested in investing hundreds or even thousands into clothes I will only wear for the next six months! Couple my budget constraints with the fact that many clothing lines simply do not offer enough options for female attorneys in general, let alone specific maternity wear, I had to get creative. Although I still have a lot of growing to do, I have already learned a few tips and tricks you might find helpful when building your professional maternity wardrobe, while staying within a reasonable budget.

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You can be surprised by the versatility of some non-maternity items in your closet – or someone else’s! This open blazer looks sharp without putting pressure on your ever-growing torso by foregoing a button closure. Via Kohl’s.

1. Accept hand-me-downs with gratitude.

I have the joy and pleasure of having a close friend who’s pregnancy slightly overlapped with my own. She just had her baby girl two weeks ago, and has been graciously sharing her maternity clothes with me as she outgrows them or simply doesn’t have a use for them any more. She was especially helpful because she worked in an office during her first pregnancy, so she supplied my first pairs of dress pants and blouses for the office. Even though some pieces I may not find useful because of fit, style, or the particular season, many of her hand-me-downs have helped fill critical gaps in my wardrobe and saved the day when I was waiting for purchased clothes to arrive in the mail! I have been so blessed by her generosity and look forward to the day when I will get to pay it forward by sharing my clothes with someone else.

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2. Shop at home first, and then slowly.

In my experience it is a good idea to wait and see what you will need as you go along, rather than filling the online (or real) shopping cart as soon as the test turns blue. In fact, when I looked in my own closet first, I found at least a half-dozen shirts that will work well during every month of pregnancy, two skirts that will probably fit up until the end, and a couple of pairs of leggings that will be well-worn during this period. After I bought my first round of maternity clothes and wore them for a couple of months, I began to notice where there were gaps in my collection. In my first maternity haul, I focused on dresses, thinking they would be a versatile all-in-one outfits. However, after a few weeks of, “Getting dressed would be so much easier if I just had a pencil skirt,” I knew buying that one piece would go far! I realized that although my work dresses were helpful, I needed a few more bottoms so I could mix and match for even more outfits. If I bought too many dresses at first, I would have wasted money on things that did not turn out to be as useful as I thought.

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Stores like Target and Old Navy update their collections often with each season, so check back frequently for styles that go on sale. This slightly less summary top may not be what you want at a barbecue, but it is perfectly work appropriate in your air conditioned office! Via Target.

3. Sales Sales Sales – have I mentioned Sales?

I am not one to pay full price for anything, anyway, but that is especially true when shopping for what will turn out to be – let’s face it – a temporary wardrobe. I know I will continue to wear these after the baby comes for several months, but ultimately I will look funny in pleated shirts and ruched dresses. My go-to place has been Old Navy, but I have also gotten a few pieces from H&M. Old Navy has insane sales and you can practically steal clothes with the deals and discounts they always send to your inbox. I don’t usually like Old Navy for key articles because they are not known to endure for the long-haul, but that is perfect when I am only looking for clothes to last me six months or so! So far, I have spent about two hundred dollars in total on maternity clothes, which has gotten me:

  • two court-appropriate work dresses
  • three slightly less dressy but work-appropriate dresses
  • black dress pants
  • black pencil skirt
  • floral printed t-shirt
  • maternity tankini top
  • sleeveless plain top
  • sleeveless patterned top
  • wireless bra

Twelve items for two hundred dollars means each item cost an average of sixteen dollars. Am I a genius, or what?

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You cannot go wrong with a little black dress – especially this one, which has a button opening to assist in nursing. Via Old Navy.

4. Get the most wear out of every purchase. 

For professional women like me, our “around the house/running errands/weekend” clothes are the exception, not the rule. Maternity jeans, leggings, and flowy sweaters are not going to cut it in court, closings, and client meetings – as comfortable as they may be! It is a challenge, but I have to resist the comfy, casual maternity clothes that are so easy to find. Instead, when at home and on the weekend, I have opted to wear the things I already have (even though they might not fit the best), hand-me-downs, and the few articles I bought that work well for both the office and home.

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This is exactly the kind of dress that is casual enough for a throw-on and go Saturday, but I can also wear with the right accessories and cardigan at the office. Via Old Navy.

A couple of dresses I bought are casual enough that they can be worn to my sister’s birthday party, and then dressed up with accessories and a blazer for the office. It is worth it to me to spend money on the pieces I will wear from 9-5 every day, and then hack it for the rest of the time.

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The mandarin collar on this top is just enough to make it interesting, and the bright color exudes confidence and sophistication. Via H&M

5. Style is in the details: collar, color, and cut.

The most polished look one can wear is a tailored suit, but there is no way I am spending hundreds on a dry-clean only suit, which – if tailored properly – will not even last me through my pregnancy! I needed to switch to stretchier fabrics, but remain polished. How does one fake the tailored look? The details: collars, colors, and cut. A collar or bow on even the loosest-fitting shirt looks instantly more groomed. You will be surprised by the casual brands that still carry shirts with a mandarin collar, a lower-maintenance version of the traditional. If your tops don’t have a collar, add the structure with an open blazer (even a non-maternity one without buttons will provide the collar effect with comfort).

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A shirt like this will take you far, with it’s classic look and color, even without a blazer. This is all-cotton, although it is a denim weave, providing additional structure. Via Target.

As for colors, I like to stick with solid black on the bottom and a bold shirt. This not only makes the shirt more memorable (making it easier to re-wear the bottom even the next day), but the contrast adds a bold confidence. I like sophisticated patterns like stripes or large floral. Otherwise, I tend towards colors that are timeless and serious: maroon, white, and light blue are appropriate for every season.

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This bold print makes the outfit interesting, even without heavy jewelry. A solid pant or skirt and white or light blue cardigan complete the look. Via Old Navy.

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Just like your non-maternity wardrobe, you will need basics to mix and match. I prefer a boot-cut to the slim ankle, because my ankles already tended to be too large for them before pregnancy. Via Gap.

Finally, cut. It is shocking to me that anyone would design a short maternity dress. As if I want one more thing to worry about while navigating pregnancy, let’s add, “Don’t flash everyone!” to the mix. This is something to be particularly aware of when buying from budget brands: they tend to take short-cuts (literally) on length. I do not buy dresses that are described as hitting “above the knee.” I similarly do no buy maxi-style dresses online, because if they are not quite long enough, they look too juvenile.

As for body-con versus empire waist, it depends on how loose the particular dress or shirt is made. I cannot wear a spandex bandage to court, but a billowy sack would also not send the right message. My favorite professional look has been somewhere in-between: an empire waist, but a slightly more fitted skirt. It provides a nod to my pre-maternity favorite (pencil skirt), without being too stuffy or tight. The fabric is key here: a jersey cotton is not going to give you the structure that a polyester blend can.

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This is a fantastically bold color and the cut is perfect: just long enough. The detail at the waist makes it slightly more fitted, without being shockingly tight. Via Old Navy.

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August: Ask an Attorney #3

If you are new to the Ask an Attorney Series – welcome! Check out what this is, as well as the answer to my first question by clicking here. Check out my answer to the second question by clicking here. Don’t forget to leave your questions in the comment box; they may be featured in my next post!

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This is my face just minutes after finding out I passed the Bar Exam! Look at that smile: I had not idea….

THIRD QUESTION: Why are attorneys so doom and gloom? They are always looking at the worst in a situation.

Oh, boy! If only I could turn off the “risk-o-meter” constantly spinning in my head. This weekend, I was walking into a local grocery store to pick up items for my mother’s birthday. Just before entering, my husband pointed out to me a small vegetable patch just outside the door: a few tomato plants and what could be zucchini or pumpkin greens. My immediate thought was, “How cute. I wonder if they sell those to the public?” One split-second later, my thought was, “Oh no, do they have a license to sell those?? What about the liability!?”

Like insurance agents, attorneys are trained in the depressing art of risk management. They make no guarantees or promises, and in many cases, you never even know if what they do for you was necessary. Attorneys work to prevent and reduce harm to your interests. Their success depends on you following instructions, others doing their part, and a little bit of luck.

Take, for example, the fairly uncomplicated act of writing a will. If you are married in Connecticut, your spouse is not the sole heir of your estate. That means that if you are married and die without a will, your spouse doesn’t automatically get everything. In case it wasn’t obvious, writing a will can be a justifiably gloomy exercise. You have to walk through tons of scenarios that all involve you dying, and some involve just about everyone in your family dying, too. (“Okay, so in case you and your husband die, your sister is dead, and your children are still under the age of 25, who would you like to file the paperwork with the court? And what about if your brother and sister-in-law get divorced?” Yeah, it’s rough.)

But, as noted above, if your don’t have a will, your family could be in a far more complicated circumstance than the awkwardness of determining inheritance if your family endures the worst bus accident in human history. The lesson? When you leave your attorney’s office feeling very depressed, lighten your load by knowing that what you just did was well worth the effort.

Or was it?

See, the truth is, most people don’t die with their spouse. And most people don’t die young. And most people don’t lose two or three of their closest relatives at the same time as their own life is lost. When writing your will, your attorney is trying to protect you and your family against the 0.0000003%* chance that everything in the world goes horribly wrong at once. You will probably never need that kind of protection. But you just might.

In this way, some of what attorneys do is provide insurance. And like insurance, it may not ever be required. But you don’t buy homeowner’s insurance because you think your house will catch on fire. You buy it to protect your interests just in case. A lot of what attorneys do can be characterized the same way, just in case.

Insurance-type work is the bulk of what transactional attorneys to. These are the ones who write and negotiate contracts, agreements, and that pile of paperwork. These are the ones responsible for all that fine print that comes in the box with the electric drill you bought. These are the ones that “drag everything out just to make more money,” and “haggle over ridiculous wording. Who cares?!” (Might have heard these sometime… difficult to recall….)

The truth is, we wish we didn’t have to care. The truth is, we don’t like having to explain why the last draft actually isn’t the final draft – yet again – and why – yet again – the transaction is being delayed and we have to go back to the table. What we are doing is trying to get the deal closed and get you the best possible insurance for the future. And even if none of the scenarios we are imagining ever come to be true, we have to make sure you are protected just in case. [Believe me, we don’t like this dragging out any more than you do.]

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I’ll close with these final thoughts. While much of what attorneys do is try to protect your interests just in case, we can never, ever protect you against everything (especially from yourself). My two least favorite questions to be asked by a client are:

  1. Do I have to do that?
  2. Can they sue me if I do this?

The answers are very simple. 1. You don’t have to do anything, but there will be consequences if you do or do not do something. 2. Nothing we do can ever protect you from being sued. Anyone can sue anyone. Whether or not they win (or even how far they get) is another question.

Attorneys tend to see the world like a chess game, or a flow chart: the outcomes depend on how parties respond to many factors (most outside of our control), as well as the insurance we provided for you up front. Our risk-o-meters are only part of the equation, but an extremely critical one at that.

So instead of bad-mouthing all those long-winded attorneys who “drag things out” and are so pessimistic, recall that we are involved for one purpose and one purpose only: to protect your interests now and down the road from things you can’t even imagine. We ponder the depressing stuff so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

*not an actual number. Just an illustration.

-D. E. Barbi Bee

Do you have any questions for this attorney? Leave a question in the comment box!

 

August: Ask an Attorney #1

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This September, I will have been at my job for almost a full year! This year has been a rocket ship ride full of challenges/learning experiences, excitement, and many conversations that started with, “So how do you like being a lawyer?”

Answer: I love it. It’s the most difficult, frustrating, stressful job but I truly absolutely love it. I feel like I was designed for this. [Even though I often wish it was more like these jokes.] I can’t imagine myself doing anything else and as small as I sometimes feel, every day I am becoming a better and better attorney and I’m obsessed.

To celebrate my upcoming anniversary, every Monday of August I will sharing my answers to some of the most common questions posed about my job.

FIRST UP: How can you defend someone you know is guilty?

First of all, this question is based on the assumption that a lawyer’s job is to help the accused walk away. *Buzzer sound* Wrong. On a practical level – walking away is not always the goal, and it’s rarely even possible. On a theoretical level – a lawyer’s role in the system as a whole is not letting criminals walk free – it’s about balance.

The American judicial system is built on a few fundamentals, which we happen to love: the presumption of innocence, the power of people against their government, and rights of the accused. You’ve heard of the presumption of innocence: it means that (generally speaking) when the government accuses you of breaking the law, they have to prove it to an impartial third party (judge or jury). Lawyers have to defend the innocent along with the guilty because otherwise this presumption would not exist.

The power of the people is fundamental because our entire government (and, as a function of government, the judicial system) is designed to attempt to combat the basic presumption that everyone in society is hungry for power, and if not properly checked, they will steal too much power and take over. The three branches of government are intended to check each other’s power grabs, the state and federal governments check each other’s power grabs, and the people and government as a whole check each other, too.

When the government (through a police officer and then prosecutor [i.e. government’s attorney]) accuses a person of a crime, the person needs a lawyer on his side to keep the government’s power in check. If the government is not challenged in every case, even when the accused is truly guilty, their power will be unstoppable.

(Side note: I know to some, the system already looks pretty rigged and justice is not being done. All these justifications are in an ideal world, and if our system works perfectly. And even the failure of our system does not mean that attorneys should not represent the guilty – it means more needs to be done, not less.)

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Finally, you know about the Constitution, right? That’s the document that the old guys back in the day wrote to set up the federal government. When they were done, some of those guys were like, “Um, what about the people, though? What do they get?” Good point, Ben, let’s make sure it’s super clear what rights the people have: enter, the Bill of Rights. (Super solid, cool stuff is in there, like not having to testify against yourself, and keeping the cops from snooping around in your house outwith a warrant.) These rights apply to everyone (even “bad guys”), and you should be really pumped about that because if the government can arbitrarily take rights away from someone because they are like 99%  sure they did a bad thing, then they can do it to anyone – even you!

So defense lawyers make sure that the government is on its best behavior all the time, so whether they are dealing with a bad guy or not, so everyone’s rights are preserved. This, by the way, is why people get away sometimes because of “technicalities”: the police didn’t follow this rule or that rule, so the evidence is hidden from the jury, and the defendant walks free. Does it stink sometimes? Yup. But, again, in an ideal world, the police would follow all the rules, and then good guys will walk free and bad guys go to jail.

All this may sound totally absurd, but it’s super, majorly important. Someone asked me once if a lawyer who knew their client was guilty could just do a bad job, and make sure the person went to jail. NO! Big time no! Why? One of those important rights we discussed is that everyone has a right to a competent attorney – if you do a bad job, and the bad guy goes to jail, he can appeal by saying he had a bad attorney, and he can end up walking free!

The entire American system is designed so that if everyone does their job perfectly, and everyone follows the rules, justice will be done. Obviously, Making a Murderer fans and Black Lives Matter alike will shake their heads at that theory – but that’s the plan. As lawyers, we have a very important role to play in this system. Even when it fails, I can say that my role in the system – despite its flaws – was honored.

Thanks for joining me for week one of Ask an Attorney! Come back next Monday for the next answer. Do you have a question you always wanted to ask? Here’s your chance!

Why I Changed My Name When I Got Married

Drew, Ellen, Me, and my husband, Massimo at Hermit Island, Maine - June 6, 2015.

Drew, Ellen, Me, and my husband, Massimo at Hermit Island, Maine – June 6, 2015.

Wedding season is officially in full force. Having recently returned from my cousin Drew’s beach-side nuptials in woody Maine this past weekend, I have got weddings on the brain. Ever since getting married almost two years ago, attending weddings always bring up all the memories and feelings surrounding my own wedding day.

Of all the decisions one has to make when getting married (and there are a lot!), one that is often overlooked is whether or not the bride will change her name – and if so, to what? This deeply personal choice (it is your name, after all)  most of us don’t learn about until after the wedding. Back when we were first talking about getting married, Massimo and I made the choice together that I would take his name, and here I am to share what factors went into that decision, for anyone curious about some things one may consider when going from Miss to Mrs.

1. I changed my name because I had a choice.

Although we still have a ways to go, here in the US, and in my particular family, we women have the choice of changing our names or not. Some people don’t like women changing their name upon marriage because of the history of the tradition – that when you got married, you were no longer a legal individual, but the property of your husband. Personally, I felt it important to reclaim the tradition, and exercise my freedom to consider the change or not for myself and for my new family of two. I had the choice – and that alone made it worth considering.

2. I changed my name because it was representative of our new, united family.

This is a common reason to change your name: so that everyone will have the same name. It’s a practical reason, but also has its symbolic implications. Having the same name helps symbolize my new role as a wife, and instantly associates me with my husband, and, should we have them someday, our children. In some ways, I feel sorry for Massimo and men in general that they don’t get the same symbolic “re-birth” (for lack of a better term), but I suppose it’s up to the husbands to figure out their own way to represent our covenant – tradition has given me one already and I happen to like it.

3. I changed my name because it mattered to my fiance.

Even though it was I who would be living with a new name, as an engaged couple, it was important for me to respect the opinions and feelings of my soon-to-be husband in such big a decision as a name change. If I was neutral on the idea, and didn’t care either way, but Massimo felt very strongly and always pictured me having his last name, then I would do it. In reality, I was mostly already planning on changing my name before we discussed it, but knowing how much it mattered to him helped me dive in all the way.

I had the choice – and that alone made it worth considering.

4. I changed my name because there were other Devenneys to carry on the family name.

I come from a family with a lot of girls, but we do have two boys that can carry on the family name. Some women want to keep their name (either as a surname or middle name) to preserve it if they have no brothers to do so. I was fortunate enough to not have that pressure on me, and little did I know that nearly a year after getting married, we would add a sister-in-law to the family who happily took on the Devenney name through my brother.

When we were brand-new Mr. and Mrs. - June 30, 2015 in Haddam, CT.

When we were brand-new Mr. and Mrs. – June 30, 2015 in Haddam, CT.

5. I changed my name because I got married young.

I always assumed that if I got married at all, it would be years and years into my career. For that reason, I worried about changing my name after already having a client base and law firm, and how it might affect my professional recognition.Would I change it legally, but keep my maiden name professionally? Would I let people call me by my husband’s name, but not legally change it at all?

These questions are especially significant in the field of law, where your name is not just what people call you, but often the name on the moniker on your building. All these questions subsided and I fortunately didn’t have to answer them when I married at the ripe young age of 23, when the most recognition I had for my last name was the fact that my first-year Torts professor could never, ever say it right.

6. I changed my name because it’s easier for me to change my name than anything else.

As I said, we wanted both of us to have the same last name, and we wanted to symbolize our new life as a married couple. Well then, “Why doesn’t he change his name, or you hyphenate the two of them?” While those options would give us the same result, “Devenney” is a lengthy name to hyphenate, and the fact is that our culture simply isn’t designed for men to easily change their names. When a woman changes her name, it is instantly understood, and we don’t have to answer a lot of questions about why we suddenly have a new name.

When I had to go through the process of changing my name (which took about a year to do thoroughly), all I had to say was, “I got married,” and that (along with appropriate documentation) was enough. I can’t imagine the confused looks and questions that Massimo would have had to endure had he tried to change his name. Everyone would probably assume he was trying to commit identity theft. Until security questions ask, “What is your mother or father’s unmarried name?” it will simply make more practical sense, if anyone in the couple is going to change it, for wives to do so.

Now, I do realize this is a circular argument, because if wives keep doing this then our culture will never change. But I also realize that me – being just one person – am not solely responsible for the 60% of Americans who think women should take their husband’s last name when they get married.

7. I changed my name because no matter what it says on my license, I will always be a Devenney.

At first, I worried that I would lose a part of me if I changed my name – I would no longer be instantly associated with the Devenney name and family. After considering this, I realized that my mother has been a Devenney for over 30 years, and is still easily identified with her parents and brothers, who carry her maiden name. I grew up in the same town as my grandparents and cousins – all of whom had different last names – and yet everyone still knew that we were related. I realized that no matter how long I am a Barbi, people will still know that I was a Devenney first.

8. I changed my name because I wanted to honor the support of my husband on my diploma and in my career. 

The name “Deborah Devenney” appeared on 23 years’ worth of essays, programs, awards, certificates, and diplomas. Every time it showed up, I was able to represent the Devenney name and let the world know that the Devenneys had all helped me get to wherever I was. I got married one year into law school, and although my parents, siblings, grandparents and so on were still extremely supportive and instrumental in allowing me to finish law school, it was Massimo who stepped up and took on the role of supportive spouse full-time.

When I realized that I would be getting married before graduating, I told Massimo that I wanted his name to show up on my diploma, so that everyone would know that it was he who helped me get there. When we each have our own businesses or careers or whatever, our shared name will let everyone know that I helped him, and he helped me. Having the same name is one way we chose to symbolize that mutual support, and share in each other’s successes.

“Devenney” is a lengthy name to try to hyphenate, and the fact is that our culture simply isn’t designed for men to easily change their names.

-debarbibee