When I first had Rory its safe to say I had an identity crisis. I had gone from living and working in London and very independant to living in the countryside, a new area with a tiny squirming new born. Although it was exactly what I had dreamed of, I felt more than a little lost.
I’ve always been a bit of an alternative girl when it comes to style; pink hair, piercings, tattoos and ‘interesting’ fashion choices were all pretty normal for me but for some reason as a mother, let alone a country mother, I thought that must be all behind me. I was considered a responsible adult, I wanted to meet other mothers and do things like visit National Trust Houses and eat cake but I couldn’t see how the old and the new me could merge. I thought I had to change, I thought I had to subdue my personal style in order to find this new place for myself. I had all this going on as well as having to deal with a new body, the challenges of breast feeding and all the practicalities you need out of clothes when you become a busy mother.
One of my biggest problems and still is after no.3 is that most breast feeding clothing is absolutely hideous. Recently I searched for a “breastfeeding friendly” top to wear on our holiday flight (Tip: Feed your baby on the way up and down to assist with the cabin pressure ear popping!) and I encountered the same problem I did 5 years ago. A lot of breastfeeding tops are designed to see you through from pregnancy to birth and onto feeding but because of this, all the extra fabric around the tummy, as well as the extra layering to enable boob feeding means the tops are ugly, unflattering and wholly un-sexy. No wonder when I had no.1 I felt lost. Just because I’ve had a baby doesn’t mean I don’t want to feel sexy and look good!!
Going back to my crisis of identity, life is turned upside down when you have a baby and no one prepares you for it, I used to look at fashion blogs and magazines but the clothing and styles seemed no longer relevant to me. I own 2 pairs of heels and probably get to wear them once a year, between September and May I basically live in Dubarrys as 6 months of my life is spent dealing with mud, the fashion images did not deal with my issues. I also now tend to spend a large majority of my time on the floor, I needed outfits that i) didn’t flash my pants and ii) didn’t pick up all the fluff and dog hair, making me look like a tumble dryer filter.
I played around with the ‘country’ look; shirt/blouse, jeans, boots, tweed jacket etc. (all items that are staples but now with a twist) but I felt bored and like I was wearing a uniform. I wasn’t having fun with my clothes and I certainly didn’t feel sexy. I also struggled to find clothing brands that worked for me. I was used to being able to pop to Oxford Street and Kings Road shopping after work, now all I had was internet shopping (taking a baby clothes shopping is not my idea of a fun day out). This was a massive issue because I had a new body and my usual sizing and cut of clothing didn’t work, not just the obvious Mum tum but I felt broader around my rib cage as well. Endless clothes were bought, tried on and sent back making me feel increasingly depressed and that I had lost myself.
I also struggled with finding a place for my own style. I went to art college then on to study fashion, so individual style seemed natural. I’ve always liked various ‘looks’ and I tend to wear what ever I feel comfortable in that day, I wasn’t a “set” style person and part of me felt like I couldn’t continue my daily wardrobe dress up game.
I remember going to my wardrobe (which at the time was THE smallest wardrobe you have ever and seen shared with my husband) to get ready for lunch with my parents at a nice restaurant. I literally had nothing to wear! All my old clothes were too small, inaccessible for boob feeding or were fit for walking the dogs in the woods and nothing else. That made me feel dreadful. Call me self indulgent but I don’t care, my clothes are the thing that make me feel good, accessories are my toys and I can honestly say hand on heart I dress fundamentally for myself. I get dressed and rarely look in the mirror because it’s about how they make me feel but until this point I think I hadn’t realised how important that was to me. My whole life had changed and I had lost the one thing that would keep me, feeling like “ME”.
Then the search began, the search for the new way. This was a struggle and it’s taken me a few years but I think after every baby my confidence has grown. I’ve come to realise you don’t have to dress in any way, you can just dress how I want. I had to seek out new clothing brands because many of my old go to shops would no longer work for me, I need clothing that is practical for my day going from having coffee/lunch in town to walking the dogs in muddy woods, then chasing the kids round sandy playgrounds but isn’t as boring and uninspiring.
I think the biggest discovery for me was knitwear, from chunky jumpers and cardigans to massive scarfs. Totally practical but you can find some very stylish key pieces. I also learnt it was quality over quantity. Rather than indulging in throw away fashion I am now much more likely to save and invest in pieces. Clothes need to be washed a thousand times and have all kinds of kids crap thrown at them. Before buying items I now check what material things are made from (that makes me feel so grown up!!!) if I order something and it isn’t the quality I expected it just goes back. I have no time for sorting out shoddy products (I’m looking at you Zara, sort it out). Its has however taught me to look at items and styles and give things a go, you never know what you will like and there are no rules.
I genuinely feel excited about clothing again now, I am sure this is partly because I feel very cemented into my role as Mother. Perhaps its also because I’m in my mid 30’s and I’m starting to find myself again (it would have been easier and cheaper to take a gap year!). I still have days when I look at myself and think “what the fuck?” but I like to remind myself that these are more often than not the days when I am so tired I’m falling asleep in the babies porridge.
So here’s to the new season and my favourite season Autumn…I’m off to have a look at some gorgeous new knitwear and find someone to evict the spiders from my Dubarrys.