Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Chicken and The Rats

The Chicken and The Rats. It could be one of Aesop's Fables, or one of the stories my children demand I make up on the spot to entertain them, stories for which they detail the components and I have to flesh out the details ("It needs to have the Yeti, some ice cream and Daddy's shoes". Um, okaaaaaay....) but if there is a moral to this modern tale, it's this: loss of clothing confidence can strike even when you're going nowhere special.

So the parents from The Princess's nursery were having a get-together last night. Just at the pub, and not a particularly salubrious pub at that. But for me, it opened up a whole can of "what shall I wear?" type worms. I've not been out sans enfants since the bub was born last September (have been a slave to the breast) and, added to that, the parents at the nursery seem, largely, to be of the dressed-down, unbothered type. Of course, it's hard to tell if that's just a 9am thing, but my overriding impression has been of veg-box devotees with a fondness for macrame.

So what's one to do? Don jeans and t-shirt, and hope that the glow of fitting in (and a skinful of booze) will dull one's sense of sartorial boredom and shame? Or say "sod you all, I've not been out in bloody months and I'm wearing my Louboutins and Marc Jacobs if it's the last thing I do?"

I yearned to wear my Black Rats, probably with the cowl neck tunic I bought for the purpose a week or so ago but oh god, what if some of the dads were there and thought I was a slapper - especially as The Bearded One was to be on babysitting duty and I was attending solo .. they might think I was on the pull!! What if the mums shunned me; just plain refused to speak to me? What if The Princess's teachers disapproved and started treating her differently? It would be my fault!!

I mean, for god's sake. They're leggings. What on earth is my problem?

In the end, fate intervened in the guise of an "Oh my god, I'm so fat" moment, brought on by eating more than my acceptable quota of Brazil nuts and almonds for the day. And so I, the Chicken of the title, folded the Rats back into their drawer to await a less dysmorphic day.

When I eventually entered the pub, only teetering slightly (due to being out of practice, you understand) in my £6 Primark boots and Zara stripe t-shirt dress, I felt pretty good. I didn't look out of place. None of the dads were even there, having all been assigned to babysitting duty. And I was cheered mightily by the sight of one of the less likable (no, not just because of the complete lack of care she takes with her appearance) mothers hoovering her way through a plateful of food, the proportions of which had me and my dietastic tendencies recoiling with horror. Meanwhile, one of the lovely mums (no, not just because she wears large sunglasses and works in fashion) had a glass of Prosecco in my hand within minutes.

But you know what - even without all of that, the Rats would have been absolutely, unremarkably, fine too. Especially as I spent most of the night with my legs stuck under a table.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Join the Tribe

I've never been a massive fan of practicality, my superficial little heart clinging determinedly to the belief that the beauty of something gives it far more worth than its usefulness. In fact, I'm pretty sure that my relationship with my father-in-law began to deteriorate the day that I explained this to him whilst sunning myself on the deck of The Playful Lady and eschewing the rope-yanking chores for which he seemed to think my presence on his boat had signed me up.

But motherhood wreaks odd changes in most of us - some of the run-screaming-from-your-reflection variety and many more of the resigned-in-the-face-of-your-sartorial-fate variety. High heels as day wear might work for a bit when you've got one baby in a pram (which can double as a walking frame, thus mimimising any obvious limpage) but when you've got a handful of the little tinkers, and they're mobile, and moving in opposite directions to boot - well, it's time to bite the bullet and find it in your heart to love flats.

Of course, there are plenty of mothers who may as well forget about biting the bullet and simply aim it carefully at their temple. These are the ones who embrace 'sturdy' fabrics that 'wear well' and 'bounce back from stains'; the ones for whom cashmere and silk no longer blip on their stylistic radar. To these mothers I say: make friends with your drycleaner and get over it.

If they can just bring themselves to embrace one SS10 trend on the grounds of combining aesthetics with usefulness however, it should be the tribal one. Not only will those prints and patterns successfully camouflage the odd bit of baby-vom or spoonful of pasta sauce flicked with gay abandon over a cafe table but there's another benefit to be had too. "Look! Giraffe!! Giraffe!!!" I gurned, pointing frantically to my yellow dress as my 6-month-old howled the train carriage down. Slowly, the tears stopped and a chubby little hand reached out to grab a handful of fabric. "Mum, why do giraffes have such long necks?" asked the 3-year-old Princess. Et volia, there was the entire journey's entertainment sorted, without even having to resort to an impromptu screening of Madagascar.

Taking the prize for all-round usefulness, however, is my zebra scarf. Benefits for me - looks good, keeps neck warm, is a handy 'discretion aid' for public breastfeeding. Benefits for them: babies, so the wisdom goes, can easily focus on black & white prints. It has fringing, which is useful for nose-tickling and fun to grab at. It sparks up interesting conversations about, well, zebras. And Madagascar. Benefits for all of us: it was a handy spew-stopper & mopper when The Princess threw up in my car the other day. I mean, how many more boxes can one piece tick?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Behind the Peoples

It's Spring! I know this to be true because this morning, my children and I heard the unmistakable strains of the CBeebies crew singing their seasonal song, and there was nothing about snow falling or butts freezing - no, a reassuring glance at the TV screen took in tuxedoed boys running through green grass and conducting daffodils out of the ground with waving batons. "Birds get busy, bees get buzzy, bushes and the hedgerow start to get all fuzzy.. do you know it's Springtime, hear it in the windchimes..." I nearly wept.

So, despite the rather less encouraging sight that lay in store outs
ide (think grey skies and drizzle) I decided that it was high time that I cracked out my new Oliver Peoples Chelsea sunglasses. Walking along the High Street, The Bearded One looked, and looked again. "Where on earth did you get them?" he asked incredulously. "Why?" asked I, waiting for a compliment yet bracing myself for an insult. "They look ridiculous! They cover your entire face. Why don't you just wear a helmet with a visor?" he mocked.

Needless to say, a quick glance at his sartorial offering for the day (pretty much head to toe Gap, folks) did nothing to convince me to whip the offending sungl
asses off. In fact, I decided right there and then to keep them on all day, even when indoors, even when cruising the aisles of my Sainsbury's Local for cereal and washing up liquid.

"Hello Superstar Lady!" said the chirpy checkout assistant as I slouched nonchalantly up to the till, muttering something about not needing a bag. "Has anyone ever told you that you look like Nicole Scherzinger? You know, from the Pussycat Dolls?"

God, I love having my entire face covered.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Male Agenda

After a whole weekend of sole-parenting - and not just sole-parenting, but sole-parenting while ill, and to three children whose own end-of-winter snuffles and complaints are making them even more all-consuming than the mere fact of their tender ages - I am only just feeling magnanimous enough to forgive The Bearded One on the grounds of the fact that he's been working rather than, I dunno, having fun.

My good nature, however, does not extend so far as the bods at the Times Style Supplement. Imagine my disappointment - no, my teeth-gnashingly, blood-curdlingly red-hot fury - when I fell hungrily on the sealed section of the paper only to unearth a - what?? a Men's Fashion Special? A MEN'S FASHION SPECIAL?? Do you mean to tell me that, on a weekend where the only hit of retail I've had has been a £35 tunic (which will hopefully make my Sass & Bide Black Rats more wearable than they've so far been this year) I'm not to be treated to pages of swoonsomely lovely things to long for, lust after and, oh go on, all right then, buy? Are the nightmare-inducingly ugly feet of the male model on page 47 really as good as it gets??

Thank heavens for The Sartorialist, to whom I turned for comfort. Hel-lo Mr Milan. Apparently special is a word that can be applied to men's fashion, after all.

photo from The Sartorialist

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Earning Your Stripes

Something about the onset - well all right, not the onset but the "coming one day soon, no really, honest!" - of spring (and, eventually, summer) brings out the inner sailor in most of us - all blue and white, clean and fresh and breezy. Breton stripes are everywhere and I've been powerless to resist - sorely tempted by the Alice by Temperley striped jersey dress (but resolute in the face of a high-ruched side and the certainty that these legs aren't fit for that degree of show) I also flirted with a cute See by Chloe frilled nautical number and Vivienne Westwood's Ariana, until finally settling, rather more prosaically (not to mention bargainously - 'twas £9.99!!), for a blue & white stripe, three-quarter sleeve tee from Zara.

Breton stripes aside, something about this Full Circle Peggy maxi is also speaking to me, but I'm not sure whether that's the dress itself or its claims to "wrap around the body for a flattering cut". I want to believe it, want to believe that I'd slip it on and be effortlessly Riviera-worthy, but somewhere through the siren song of its bargain price and admitted loveliness I can hear another, darker voice muttering: "Flattering for whom, exactly? An edamame-munching beanpole of scrawny proportions looking to flesh out their frame and fake some womanly curves? Maybe. A 37-year-old mother of three with a few pounds of baby weight still making their unwanted presence felt: perhaps not so much."

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Retail, Curtailed

Considering the number of times a day I utter dark threats about taking children into the woods and leaving them there to perish (thanks to the insatiable appetite for acting out Hansel & Gretel that my 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son seem to possess) you'd think that I'd have some clue about how to maximise a rare visit to some real-life, rather than online, shops. Lead the lot of 'em - The Bearded One included - into the centre of Canary Wharf, shove a packet of crisps at them and run like a woman who's as caffeine-fuelled as life with 3 under 4 demands.

Today, at the very least, I was able to return a pair of (sadly frumpy) red espadrilles to Kurt Geiger where I had such a pleasant chat with the snippy assistant who regretfully informed me that he could get me the Carvela Kojaks in my size but unfortunately they were a five-minute walk away in a stockroom. Er, yes - and? Apparently more pressing was a staff rendition of that Chang Chang, Changity Chang Shoo-Bop song from the end of Grease, to which my
daughter and I were subjected as I pulled my boots back on.

To add insult to retail-starved injury, we had to hotfoot it out of there after lunch at Itsu for the grocery delivery (Asda, since you ask. I blush to admit it but it's not so bad for basics like pasta and tins and hey, if I want to occasionally shop at Net-a-Porter I have to economise somewhere) But the race home, it turns out, was in vain since the delivery guy had already been and left our front porch heaving with toilet rolls and cans of chickpeas - most of which, it turns out, I'd neither ordered nor paid for. Now why can't that ever happen with a Net-a-Porter delivery?

Friday, 12 March 2010

Nature Lover

Five years and many purchases into this marriage, there have been disgruntled murmurings from The Bearded One along the lines of having "thought I'd married Barbara, and you turn out to be Margot." I can see where he's coming from - I did have a slightly earthier thing going on when we met ten years ago but you can blame that on the pittance of a waitressing wage I was flouncing around smilingly for. These days I prefer my maxis along Halston Heritage lines, not Hennaed Hippie, and the more deeply entrenched in motherhood I am, the less 'earth mother' I want to look.

"I thought you were into nature and stuff," complains The Bearded One, visibly blanching at the £635 price tag of the Michael Kors heels I'm hankering after as a 5th wedding anniversary present (traditional gift: wood - which, I might point out, is not only from nature but also present in the heel of said shoes)

I am, though, I am. Haven't I just treated myself to this exquisite Emilie Hagen seahorse necklace? And wasn't it cast from a real seahorse?