We start each day with a full bottle of energy we can use toward decisions. Every decision pours a little out of that bottle. And when the bottle is empty… we’re done. We’re too tired or overwhelmed to make any more decisions for the day. This concept is called decision fatigue. And it can limit your success.
You’ll see masterminds like Jobs and Zuckerberg wearing the same things over and over again. By limiting their wardrobe choices, they save mental energy for more impactful decisions.
Arianna Huffington takes this a step further and suggests that men have an advantage in the workforce because they don’t generally exert as much time and effort (and possibly money!) into their wardrobes.
I give you this background because what you’ll find here isn’t your traditional fashion blog.
Here, you won’t find an unending stream of styles. Instead, I’m going to focus on the best nursing-friendly fashions for corporate environments.
I’ve spent way too many hours shopping way too many brands trying to find nursing-friendly styles that were flattering, practical, and quality. If a style fits that criteria, I don’t mind a #stylerepeat.
I’ll save my energy to figure out what I’m going to do with my son this weekend, or how I’m going to deliver a groundbreaking idea at work. And I hope you will too!
This is my first review in my Working Mom’s Wardrobe series.
I always shoot to find pieces with the following characteristics… but some ensembles are better than others!
- Flattering: Does it look good on a recovering postpartum bod?
- Work appropriate: Does it pass for a business casual or business professional dress code?
- Pumping-friendly: Can you access both breasts and easily fit your breast shield?
- Nursing-friendly: Is it safe/soft for baby? Can you access your breast with the one free hand you have?
- Camouflaging: How badly will a spill, dribble or spit up show?
- Quality: Will it survive momlife?
- Easy to clean: Can you forget about it in the dryer?
- Affordable: How expensive is it, and if it’s pricey, is it a justifiable investment?
Today I am bursting with excitement to share Harper and Bay’s bell sleeve nursing dress, with fabric by Caitlin Wilson. This is one of three Harper and Bay dresses I own… so clearly I’m a fan. For reference, I’m 5’9”, size 12, and an A-cup wearing a size large.
The cut is incredibly flattering… it’s loose which masks your postpartum tummy, and it rests just below the knee. The fabric is a little stretchy so you also have flexibility with fit as your size fluctuates.
With a modest neck and hemline and tailored look, it’s perfect for the office. Or church. Or a social event. I even plan to pack it for an upcoming trip to Morocco because it’s modest and comfy, even in warm weather. Seriously… check me out wearing it on Father’s Day in 95-degree weather (and rocking a Pieces to Peaces headband because this mama does not waste time washing her hair on weekends!).
You access your breasts through a hidden zipper across the bust. This has to be my favorite part. It’s outstanding for pumping and accessing both ladies at once. With some tops, it’s near impossible to keep any lanolin (or in my case, coconut oil!) from touching the fabric, which creates an embarrassing mark that is hard to wash out. There is zero chance of that happening with this style!
Also… the zipper is just really good quality. It’s soft so it won’t scratch against your baby’s face while breastfeeding. And it will easily zip/unzip with one hand.
Image below: Don’t freak out, that’s just my ThirdLove nursing bra that happens to match my skin tone really well!
The Caitlin Wilson floral pattern is outstanding. When I first shopped Harper and Bay, they were fairly limited in styles and fabrics. This new line introduces some trendy, modern patterns that are forgiving of minor spills. Not that we don’t all want to change if an accident happens… but let’s face it, sometimes you’re rushing to a meeting, or have already gone through the backup shirt you packed for the day. No need to make your stress worse by wearing something that makes a spill obvious.
Regarding quality, I’m very happy with this dress. It’s well sewn, the fabric is nice, and it’s held up well after a few washes. I do have some notes about items I returned below that you may want to be aware of. Basically, I just suggest you check your items thoroughly upon receipt… this sort of thing happens with any product and you should always look things over when you receive them.
The dress is machine washable and it says to lay it flat to dry. It doesn’t really wrinkle. I accidentally threw this one in the dryer once, and will note it did not shrink. However, I ordered this same style in navy, laid it flat to dry, and it did shrink to more of a bodycon style (which my husband says still looks good, but I feel a little uncomfortable in with my baby pooch). The fabrics are different, so if you get a solid I would recommend ordering one size up with that in mind.
Now for the price… this beauty runs $108. That’s a little steep on my current budget, but I’ve worn it every week since I’ve purchased it because it’s amazing. Comparing it to the other brands I’ve researched, I’d rank it $$$ (out of $$$$$).
Harper and Bay does run some infrequent sales, so make sure to follow them on social media and sign up for their emails. They just ran a 34% off sale for the founder’s birthday, which is the highest discount I’ve seen. A word to the wise though… they don’t carry a lot of inventory so if you really, really love something, it may not be worth waiting for a sale. I have been waiting since early February for them to restock their nursing shirt in the size/color I want.
Just to recap…
|Easy to clean||Great|
While I won’t have this feedback on every brand, I do have some customer service notes to share. I’ve made two returns with Harper and Bay. I’m one of those people who hates returns and usually ends up keeping the item because I dislike returns so much. But… these dresses are pricey and I couldn’t afford to keep them if I wasn’t going to wear them!
The first return was a navy version of the bell sleeve dress. I wore it to work, and when I got home that evening my husband noticed there was a hole in the armpit. I emailed Harper and Bay and mentioned it looked to me like the stitching wasn’t quite right under the arm, but that it was possible I had caused the tear (though the chances of that were slim because it fit really well – definitely not too tight). They exchanged it for me, which was a relief since I had worn it.
The second return was for the scalloped nursing dress. I had two concerns – one, the breast access was a side zip under the arm without a lot of give, which would make it difficult to pump in, and two, the scalloped hemline looked like it had been cut out with scissors rather than being hemmed nicely. It was a little rough where the points came together. But I noticed today they had some of that dress on a clearance sale for imperfections… so I may just have gotten one of the rough ones!
Now, we are really spoiled in the era of Amazon returns. With Amazon, shipping is easy and free, communication is instantaneous, and sometimes your exchange is sent to you before you return your damaged item.
I get the sense Harper and Bay hasn’t yet grown to the point where they have a dedicated resource for customer service. And I’m totally OK with that – the company was founded by a mom and I love that I’m supporting her and the others behind the brand. But, it’s good to know what to expect. You will need to email them about your return. Following their response, you can ship it back. You will cover the postage/packaging. They only process returns once a week so there will be a delay. Also, they don’t generally offer exchanges because of limited inventory, so if you want a replacement your best bet is to place a new order at the same time you’re returning the original.
Again, this is hands down my favorite nursing dress at the moment. I get so many compliments on it, it’s comfy, it’s professional, it’s practical… I could go on and on. I’ll probably keep wearing it after I’m done breastfeeding.
What do you think? Is this a style you can see yourself rocking?