Thursday, 29 July 2010

I don't dress for the school run, I dress for my life!!

Thus said a wise (and avid ;-D) friend of mine recently. Let's call her Esher Mummy. These women who bark on about the high-falutin' ways of mothers who dare to look presentable at 9am - what, may I ask, is their problem? Is it that they think you've negelected your child(ren) in the pursuit of early morning fabulousness? Plonked them in front of the telly with a Mars Bar for brekkie while you beautify in the bathroom, agonise over outfits and eventually teeter downstairs with a tinkling "Come on then! You'll be late!" An acquaintance once sagely advised me "Tidy house, bad mother" - implying, you can't possibly be engaging with your child in a meaningful way if your house isn't a toy-strewn disaster zone. God only knows what she'd make of mascara'ed lashes and tinted lips.

But as Esher Mummy so rightly says - who's to say the day begins and ends with the school run? What about the endless trips to the supermarket, the fortifying coffees, the park dates and the interminable post office queues (returns: the downside of online clothes ordering..)? Fine if your post-school-gate plans are picking dried-out cornflakes out of your labrador's coat: by all means, wear your trackie pants to drop your child off. Just don't expect him - or you - to get invited to any parties of note.

I don't even do a school run, as such, yet. Nursery a few mornings a week, that's all - and that's bad enough. Recently, in the course of a riveting discussion about 'introducing solids' with a mum whose youngest is similarly aged to The Bub, I expressed interest in Baby Led Weaning but said I'd not done it for any of my three. She looked me up and down and said "Well, you wouldn't - not with the way you dress. It's very messy."

Hmm. Because kids are otherwise so very, very clean and tidy, is that it??

Anyway. It made me think - as did the fact that the longest day is now a good month behind us and the nights, while still light, are drawing in unmistakably earlier. Already my thoughts are turning towards camel capes and cashmere - even while SS10 purchases hang, unworn, in my wardrobe. Time to wear, wear, wear. Thank goodness for children, say I - baby led weaning or not, they're mucky as anything, generally providing excuses and opportunities for several outfit changes a day. Like Esher Mummy, I don't dress for the school run, I dress for my life.

Horniman Museum Myths & Monsters exhibition with the children. Wearing Leona Edmiston dress, charity shop belt, Gap denim jacket, Bloch ballet pumps.

Friday night: Jools Holland at the Greenwich Sessions. Wearing Arrogant Cat harem jumpsuit from, Antik Batik sandals from eBay and Primark necklace.

Friends over for lunch. Wearing River Island maxi, charity shop bangle and Primark gladiators.

Local Nature Reserve: wearing Diesel denim mini (99p on eBay) with Zara stripe top, Havaianas and canvas bag.

Monday: working from home on High Maintenance Mummy with the children in tow; heading out in the afternoon for a haircut - bye bye bird's nest! Wearing Primark skinnies, charity shop blouse (have been told it's Cacharel and am more than happy to believe it!) Bloch ballet pumps and charity shop trench.

The day after the haircut. The Bub cried hysterically when he saw me, clinging to The Bearded One and refusing to come to me. Even The Princess, usually my Best Fashion Friend, told me I looked silly. Wearing Theory skirt, Fruit of the Loom top from eBay and silver flip flops from some dodgy shop in Peckham.

Afternoon at the park. I'm impressed with the way I've co-ordinated with the pushchair even, almost, down to the coffee stains in the hood and crumb-covered seat. Wearing Primark grey skinnies, Bloch ballet pumps, grey Oushka Oakley and Vero Moda cowl neck tunic from

OMG, I have an interview. For like, regular, paid work. For the record, this picture was taken after the event. I didn't rock up with a creased dress. Wearing Banana Republic dress that I found in Traid for £14, £1 belt from same store and Swedish Hasbeens from And how handy to have a trenchcoat (£4.95 from a charity shop in Cornwall) to cover tell-tale travel crinkles and nervous sweat patches. Of which, let's hope, there were none. Just think, if I get the job I might even be able to spend more than £20 on an outfit.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

That Warm, Furry Feeling

Years ago, in the halcyon days when 'sans enfants' was a fact of life rather than an occasional something that needed to be planned (meticulously) and paid for (exorbitantly), The Bearded One and I shouldered our rucksacks and 'went travelling': a journey home to Sydney for Christmas became a RTW trip that took in Nepal, India, Malaysia and South America. From trekking through the Himalayas to climbing Bolivia's highest mountain, we really did nothing that thousands of middle-class kids hadn't done before us, but boy did we feel adventurous.

With hindsight, however, probably the most adventurous thing I did on that trip was to not only buy an alpaca fur hat from a vendor hawking by the rails of the high-altitude railway from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca, but to wear it, without a scrap of irony, when I got back to London. I thought it gave me a certain Bond Girl quality: kind of Anna Karenina, kind of Russian spy.

Kind of stupid, my friend the Coal-Eating Geordie told me bluntly, between polishing off pints of lager and sucking back on Marlboro Lights with evident relish. I ignored her: she wore skater-girl jeans and had an odd running style. But as more and more people came out of the woodwork to express their doubts about my sartorial wisdom, and the weather started to brighten up, the hat was put away; the next winter was spent in Australia in cold-weather avoidance and the hat was forgotten.

Until moving house and the inevitable wardrobe cull unearthed it: no way was I getting rid of it. I donned it for the amusement of the children, a riotous game of "What's the Time, Mr Wolf?" ensued, and my alpaca hat found a new home in the dressing-up basket.

A recent obsession with The Wizard of Oz has seen it take on a new incarnation: The Princess, aka Dorothy, has sparkly crimson pumps that pass muster as ruby slippers while Master C is the Lion, with a mane so fabulous that any imagined lack of courage must surely be amply compensated by sheer fluffy glamour. And, just like his mother (aka The Good Witch, The Wicked Witch or Aunty Em, as necessity dictates) back in the days before warm weather and mockery took over, he wears it in public without a trace of self-consciousness. It's such a regular part of his dress now that I barely even register it any more - so I was a bit bemused to notice people hanging out of car windows and smiling widely as we stood at the traffic lights to cross to the Natural History Museum last week. Only when I laid my hand on his head to keep him back from the road did I get the mild shock of fur and the realisation that no, I hadn't forgotten to pull my top back down after The Bub's last feed.

Despite the soaring temperatures, the hat stayed on as Master C faced the T-Rex with a roar and the declaration that he'd "got his courage back now". The smiles from strangers followed us all day; my own grew broader and broader, never more so than when my boy went running up to the glass-cased lion saying, in a friendly manner, "Hello Lion! You got mane, me got mane too!!" I've always imagined The Princess wearing my fashion mistakes and triumphs in years to come; I don't think I ever imagined that my heart would swell quite so much at the sight of a child of mine in a piece of dead alpaca.