Saturday, 30 October 2010

Never, Never Land

After another night's seemingly endless adventures, where I played Captain Hook, to Baby Boy's Peter Pan, I know for certain that there is no point hoping that a sprinkle of fairy dust will be the answer, or a magic X will mark the spot- a good night's sleep will come,when it comes.  However, after sword fights (with dummies); searching for hidden treasure (same dummies flung into the darkest corners of Baby Boy's room); blood thirsty yells (for milk) and voodoo chanting (please don't wake up, please don't wake up, please don't wake up), a short list of what I ought never to do, in order to maintain some levels of sanity in the house might be the answer.

I know that as soon as night falls again, all rules fly out the window (if only babies would too, in true Peter Pan style) but as I wait for my super-strength coffee to brew, this list (or rant) is making me feel a bit better.
  1. Never, never, say out loud, or even write down that I think my baby is sleeping through the night. It is an automatic curse on sleep- every time some well meaning person asks me if he is and I say yes, I have jinxed a good night's sleep for at least seven days.
  2. Never, never, agree to let my husband have a lie in advance- it is guaranteed that the morning of the agreed lie in,  I will really need him to get up with the baby. Today after waking every three hours to battle with Baby Boy, I could really do with that extra couple of hours in bed- by 11 am I will be a flickery-eyed drooling zombie.
  3. Never, never, ever again, teach Baby Boy sound related tricks- noises that seem amusing and cute in the day time, quickly become the stuff of nightmares at  3am- in Baby boy's case endless raspberries- I literally think he has mastered circular breathing- although the first three months of colicky crying should have made that obvious.
  4.  Never, never, teach Baby Boy hand related tricks- I taught him to clap down on to my hands the other day, which seemed like a good idea at the time but he likes it so much that he has taken to clapping his hands down on everything. This is normally absolutely fine but having my breasts 'clapped' enthusiastically in the wee hours while trying to feed the hungry boy, jerks me out of autopilot mode and ensures that after putting Baby Boy back down, I take that much longer to get back to sleep.
  5. Never, never, ever again, let my husband order baby equipment- it is guaranteed to arrive loudly (scary door buzzer) by weird courier at 7.30 am on a Saturday morning, just when I have persuaded Baby Boy that sleeping for an extra half an hour is a good idea.
  6. Never, never, forget to put my glasses in the same place every night- stumbling downstairs to the front door, first peering at the delivery man, then having to bend down in my dressing gown and put my face three inches away from the box to read the lettering and work out the item is actually for us, is not good for my self-esteem (why would you ever courier a Baby Safety Gate, on a Saturday morning, at 7.30 am ?!!)
  7. Never, never, leave what can be done the night before, to the next morning. Once contact lenses are inserted, the revelation of a turmeric stained playmat from last night's takeway curry is not an improvement to my mood and the prospect of a kitchen full of washing up might be the straw that breaks the donkey's back.
  8. I would try and think of two more things but I can feel my zombie self eating my brain...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Ten things to be grateful for: A mantra for returning to work

I go back to work on 4 January after approximately nine months on maternity leave. As the days spent with Baby Boy slip away I am already mourning the missed moments yet to come. Every hour it seems he has a new expression, or gymnastic ability and the the developmental milestones are about to get so much more interesting!
I have to go back for monetary reasons, as taking the full year off would be too much of a financial risk- my income is the consistent, secure one in my marriage (hubbie is Flexible Working Artist Man, FWAM) but my maternity package ended this week. If I go back to work in the New Year and if my husband looks after Baby Boy 90% of the time, we will be able to afford the childcare when he needs to travel abroad for work. I must return to work for at least three months in order to not be asked to pay back the maternity pay I have received while off, so it makes practical sense to go back full-time before money gets tight and then think about alternatives.

Despite a dull ache in my stomach, feelings of dread, jealousy (towards hubbie) and an expected seperation anxiety, I am determined to take account of all the advantages I have had over the last nine months, so I can make the most of the time I have left and not let the return to work be a cloud hanging over us. So here is a list of things I am grateful for, or a mantra I will keep repeating to myself when the pressure is back on at work and everything is being carefully held together with bits of blutack, post-it notes and string ( that's what is feels like in our office):

  1. Good timing- I work at a local council and on my last working day before going on leave, I had a meeting with HR that informed me that the restructure of my section meant they were deleting my post- if I had not been on maternity leave at the time of the following consultation, I might not even have a job right now! As it is I was directly assimilated into one of the vacant positions left- phew.
  2. Luck- The election of the Tory/ Lib Dem coalition means that they have removed yet another post from my team- as I am on maternity leave while they are implementing the face stage of the cuts, again I am safe for now and still have a job!
  3. Benefits- Neither my husband or I are in the higher income bracket, so I am still receiving child benefit payments in my next two brokest months.
  4. Flexibility- When I go back to work I can take advantage of flexible working hours and hopefully arrive and leave early, to get home to Baby Boy sooner.
  5. Location- I can cycle to and from work and get home to Baby Boy quicker.
  6. Modern Man- Baby Boy will be looked after by his second favourite person in the world- Super FWAM Daddy!
  7. Options- If I can't bear being away from Baby Boy, I could hand in my notice at the end of February and we could scrape by, or I may be able to negotiate a job-share.
  8. Responsibility- If I hadn't been a sales obsessed clothes freak, I could have saved up some money and gone back to work later (okay this isn't something I am grateful for but I should face up to this and take some responsibility for my bad budgeting choices and make the most of an eclectic wardrobe)
  9. Choices-There are a lot of people out there less fortunate than I, who haven't had same number of choices available (so suck it up woman and count your lucky stars you whinging cow!)
  10. Memories-I had over eight months of precious time with my lovely little boy.

How are you finding the prospect of returning to work? Are you dreading it, or relishing the prospect?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Shopping again: falling off the wagon, to get back on the bus

I wrote a guide last week on ten key items to help others in the quest for style simplicity, smugly believing I owned everything I needed for a practical, minimal, effortless wardrobe. I even made a commitment not to buy any new clothes for a year a few weeks before. My husband laughed (until later he realised it didn't count if he bought clothes for me), my mother laughed and my friends laughed behind their hands.

Those who love me well, know of my skill at putting the cart before my high horse, but having bought the items that were previously missing from my wardrobe before my 'no clothes' resolution, I was still stubborn in my belief that I could go clothes cold turkey. The problem was, having lost any desire to spend long periods of time in changing rooms, with a bored baby, I bought them all online- and when they turned up (after having blogged my resolution- schoolgirl error), the blazer I needed was too small, the 'perfect' black trousers looked cheap and my boobs made the buttons pop off the 'essential' white shirt in seconds. The cardigan is fantastic and I have been wearing it relentlessly but I am currently only hanging on to my high horse by a stirrup.

Two weeks after this decision therefore I am backtracking as quickly as I can. Having had time to think about what is actually possible for someone who is addicted to clothes and who still has a wardrobe as haphazard as a church jumble sale, I am going to follow my own style advice and base my wardrobe on ten key pieces. Of course I am actually going to have to go to the shops (leaving Baby Boy with his dad) to get the ten key items, as although I own some of them, they just don't get my style juices flowing and if I happen to buy anything else not on the list while I am out, well 'Que sera, sera.'

What do you think? Could you not shop for a year?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Wearing the trousers in the house

Following a recommendation, I have been reading 'The Women's Room' by Marilyn French. This account of domestic repression (reviewed here), has provoked quite serious thinking about my role as a mother and the politics and power relations in my own house (possibly to be blogged about later when I reach some conclusions). It has been a while since I have read any feminist writings outside of articles posted on the web (read this and tell me if you think it's still disturbingly relevant) and I appreciate the way that this book is challenging my choices (and what I think are my choices), even though it was written over thirty years ago.

As usual however, some of my deepest thoughts have overflowed out of the profound part of my brain and ended up trickling, partially evaporating and then settling into the more shallow regions of my mind. The result? A couple of hours of browsing for inspiration for more androgynous dressing ideas and literal trouser wearing possibilities. I really like the collection of images 'curated' by Lizzie Garrett at, I am only surprised that I haven't found the site before. Take a look if you veer more towards simple, practical and in control style, rather than floral and flounces.

Surround Me: Art Lullabies in the City, for you and your baby

We have attempted only three 'Art events' so far with Baby Boy. The first was a private view for 'Surreal House' at the Barbican when he was a couple of months old. He had a nice time and went to sleep in the Baby Bjorn, as lots of people talking drunken pretentious nonsense about Art, layered up into handy white noise. However, it was so busy with cheap-skate artists and their partners drawn to the free bar (I confess I am in this category) of Pernod cocktails (yuck), that it was really hard to see the work. Later hubbie said this my fault, as I was too busy finding a prime spot between the bar and the exit to look at anything- it was my first time out after giving birth though, so I feel justified in my philistinism.

Our next go at Baby plus Art was visiting the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. This went quite well, as the space is fairly pushchair friendly and on a weekday it is not too mad. A positive by product of a visit to the Serpentine Gallery, is a walk through Hyde Park and an ice cream (for hubbie and me, anyway). Baby Boy seemed to enjoy staring at the people in the gallery and responded positively to the red light effect of the cafe/pavilion outside where we went for a coffee- there was also a higher ratio of granny age women in attendance (who are his biggest fans at the moment), so lots of cooing and smiling to keep him amused.

Our last attempt and most stressful, was visiting the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern last Wednesday. We went purposely in the week to avoid the crowds but it was crazily busy ( I'm not in half-term mindset yet). Using the Baby Bjorn was a good choice but the massive overstimulation of crowds, brightly coloured paintings and lack of air (I am always yawning after I leave any of the bigger galleries and it's not out of boredom, I really think it's the air-con), was too much for Baby Boy and he started 'singing', almost immediately after entering the exhibit.We are lucky that Baby Boy is not a huge crier and the way he shows his ambivalence to his surroundings is by 'singing' (sounds like an early X-factor audition) and not bawling but unfortunately it seems that people who pay £11.50 for a Gauguin ticket at Tate, find it a lot less cute than people who go to the Serpentine for free. We had to rush around to avoid people peering over their spectacles at us disapprovingly and as they had jammed people in like commuters, to maximise revenue, it was hard to really take full advantage of what is a really fantastic show of Gauguin's work (and the right sort of colours to really interest a six month old). I also found it hard to find somewhere to quietly breast feed- I am less worried about wardrobe malfunctions now (especially in an Art gallery, where is seems quite natural to get your nipples out) but any sudden noises and Baby Boy gets really distracted and forgets to feed, getting more seriously grumpy later as his hunger catches up with him.

I am quite enthused therefore about the prospect of the 'Surround Me' installation by Susan Philipsz, which is on in the City of London from 9 October until 2 January (on Saturdays and Sundays only).
The installation is completely pushchair and baby noise friendly (Baby Boy's singing might even add to the effect), as it is a walk based piece, where you visit six easily accessible locations in the City, in any sequence to hear six different 16th and 17th century songs being sung by the unaccompanied artist, either every five to ten minutes or so, or on continuous loop. I quote here directly from the blurb on the piece:

'SURROUND ME: A Song Cycle for the City of London takes inspiration from the heightened presence of the human voice in Elizabethan London. To be heard over one another a natural order and harmony evolved in the cries of the street traders which enthused composers of popular song such as Thomas Ravenscroft to write canons where one voice follows the other in a round. Another popular song form for several voices, the madrigal emerged in Italy in the 16th Century and soon travelled to England where it flowered as the English Madrigal School.
SURROUND ME embraces the vocal traditions of the City of London connecting themes of love and loss with those of fluidity, circulation and immersion; the flood of tears, the swelling tide and the ebb and flow of the river, to convey a poignant sense of absence and loss in the contemporary City of London.'

I love the strange and evocative silence of the City on the weekends, how the streets which normally buzz with hive-like activity become almost completely empty. The general silence is almost oppressive, especially as you wander through the narrower medieval streets, where the old and new buildings have combined to loom threateningly. The only noises you do hear, seem to have seeped out of the old walls, like damp accumulations from the breath of the past, with no connection to the modern City (I read too much Iain Sinclair and have a very active imagination).

I really look forward to taking Baby Boy on this walk, without worrying about pursed lips and raised eyebrows. I relish the possibility of my spine-tingling, as we stroll from location to location, hearing what sounds like the voices of ghosts. Baby Boy loves hearing singing, even my cracked tones make him happy and a likely result, in combination with the gentle bumps of the push chair, will be a long afternoon snooze.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Make do, or dye? Sagas in bad hair colouring

My natural hair colour is according to my mum, medium brown,with some reddy bits in. I can't really remember, as since I was 16, I have been dying it either myself, or getting it coloured professionally darkest brown/ almost black- some innate gothic tendencies I guess. Having glossy long dark hair becomes almost as much hassle as having sunshiney blonde hair and getting rid of it is actually a more painful process (has to be grown out or bleached), so you can end up stuck with it for years, as you fight funny lighter roots every six weeks.

Knowing that I wouldn't have time for hair fuss and bother with a baby (and a desire to spend less in the future), last winter I bit the bullet and had my hair bleached professionally. Instead of having two tone hair by completely growing it out and since black plus bleach equals ginger, I decided  I would cheat a bit and embrace a radical new red-head look for a bit before recolouring to my 'natural' colour when roots appeared.  £200 lighter of pocket and six painful hours later however, I walked out of the salon with bright ginger hair darkening into auburn at the ends- all completely unintentional and quite scarily clown-like- I ended up two tone anyway (I of course thanked the hairdressers kindly for their efforts, as I am useless at complaining). I was imagining Karen Elson but it went more Tori Amos.

I ran home and after a few goes, managed to colour it and achieve something close to what I thought my natural colour was- but by this point my hair looked like a horse's breakfast. I desperately got my husband to cut the dry ends off (by this point I was no longer caring about the obvious mistake this would be, I just didn't want to spend any more money). Following this foolhardy enterprise, I asked my best friend to tidy it up a bit, as it was pretty lopsided- I somehow thought hubbie's artistic sensibilities would make him a natural hairdresser, my best friend was infinitely more gifted in this area. Finally, after a few weeks of chopping a bit every day as I spotted more 'asymmetry' I walked back into a different salon and got a bob cut. I have spent the last eighteen months growing my hair out so I no longer have to dye it and to try and get the condition back. Up until today I was feeling pretty damn pleased with myself and by ability to 'make do' without hair colouring and smug about all the money I have been saving, that was until my hair caught the light as I was looking in the mirror yesterday...

Grey hairs! Grey bl**dy hairs! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!

I believe in growing old gracefully but I am still in my twenties, so I am going to be a hypocrite for a little bit longer (or at least another 30 years). So with all the money I keep spending on the next 'best teething thing ever' to distract Baby Boy from his teething misery for five minutes (nothing really works), my haircut budget has just thrown itself out the window and ran shrieking down the street to Boots for a packet of Nice N' Easy.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Back on the Style Bus: A minimal mother's essential wardrobe items for more effortless dressing

All the excitement of feeding Baby Boy solid foods has side-tracked me somewhat from my style mission of streamlining, achieving simplicity and not losing my individuality (within budget), while being a hands on, no nonsense mummy (haha). Inspired by a Coca Rocha shoot in Elle recently, highlighting 25 key wardrobe items, I have decided to come up with my own list of ten 'essential' items which form the basis of my wardrobe as an aspiring stylish mother of one.

1. For comfort and joy- The perfect pair of mid-heel shoes for each season

If I wear a pair of heels higher than 3 inches, the pushchair handles become too far away and I develop a shuffle like Fester from the Adams Family. If I wear completely flat shoes I walk like Penguin Man. I read somewhere that a heel of 1.5 inches is good for the back and posture- whatever the science behind having a bit of a heel, if I don't have one, I don't feel quite right- I walk a lot (no car and buses and buggies are not always friends in London), so I know a slight heel is essential for comfort too.

As I am veering towards more masculine styling at the moment, I like these heeled brogues from Office. Investing in a pair of mid-heel boots for A/W is also a good idea but I would avoid shearling and hiking boot styles to ensure that you don't look like a fashion victim and can get some longevity out of them.

2. If you need diversionary tactics- A bottom enhancing pair of black jeans

When your tummy is like a big jelly and your boobs are inflating and deflating regularly (and are often different sizes- or is that just me?), drawing attention to your other assets is often a good idea. Black jeans will flatter if you are generous in the bottom area and can be dressed up or down easily- I am addicted to higher waisted styles at the moment to keep my belly in and to avoid muffin top effect. I do like dark blue jeans in theory, as they are flattering but I always think that they look 'mummyish' and not MILF. These slightly cropped ones from Urban Outfitters will highlight the skinniest part of your leg, your ankle.

3. Want to be a confidence trickster? A blazer/ jacket to be dressed up or down

Blazers and jackets are everywhere at the moment but if you pick the right one, you can keep it and love it for a very long time. If you need to rush out and nothing else is working, throwing a blazer over the top of everything always seems to pull your outfit together. Also good for milk posset camouflaging. This silk one by Whistles is the right combination of smart/casual.

If you want something more tolerant towards flying liquids then this one is probably better by Topshop, it's machine washable too!

4. For practical magic- A chunky knit cardigan for layering/ snuggling

A useful item for play-dates, park visits, coffees and cuddling your little bundle (especially if you have a drafty flat like mine), if you find one in a neutral colour, it will layer on top of pretty much everything.This oatmeal cardi by Phase Eight has a great shape.

5.  When you are on maternity leave but mean business- A great fitting white shirt

Finding a white shirt that fits well and doesn't gape around the boobs is hard, but once you find one it is an instant 'lifter' for any outfit with its crisp and light feel. The white actually looks flattering on most skin tones and if you wear one during a serious discussion with your partner, you may well get the upper hand- especially if slightly see-through- hehe. This blouson shaped shirt by Mango is a forgiving shape, with no buttons at front meaning gaping is not an issue, but its sheerness gives it a subtle sexiness, while obscuring the tummy region.

6. To avoid wardrobe malfunctions- A large lightweight shawl/ pashmina/scarf

To add colour to an otherwise uninteresting ensemble, for breastfeedfing in public and for keeping off the wind (and as an extra layer in the pushchair if you a being an overprotective mum). Also good for sitting on in the park if you have forgotten the blanket (I always forget the blanket!). This Urban Outfitters one is very large, bang on trend but classic at the same time.

7. For pick n' mix- A selection of of men's T-shirts in neutral colours

The fit of a slim fit men's t-shirt is looser around the arms than in a women's cut, without being baggy (so not giving you sausage/ bingo wing/ strong man effect) and fits just on the right place across the chest while completely skimming the belly and often sitting just below the hip. The chances are that that the same colour cotton t-shirt in the men's section of any shop, will also be cheaper than the women's version. I find a white t-shirt an invaluable part of my wardrobe, when I can't be bothered to think about what to wear, I just put one on with whatever seperate is appropriate for the weather (shorts, jeans, leggings, pencil skirt, whatever) and than add a chunky piece of statement jewellery or a scarf for a relaxed but still chic and easy look and layer up with a blazer or cardi. I find that any milk leakages are barely noticable if they do happen and the whites can actually go in with my baby-clothes wash, as they don't seem to ever leak colour. As they are a relatively cheap item, you don't have to be precious if paint and food gets on them and later they can be used as messy play overalls for your little one, when they get beyond redemption. Uniqlo men's t-shirts are currently only £2.99 and are a nice soft cotton!
8. Bum Genius- The ubiquitous leggings

There is no doubt that the leggings revival is here to stay and I have to say that I am pleased. I don't like patterned, lurex, shiny or statement leggings, as unless you have willow-like proportions or are under 25, they definitely increase your chances of membership to the mutton brigade by 100%. However, I do think that black, completely opaque leggings are a minimal wardrobe essential. If you want to run around in an unladylike manner, having any kind of fun with children, partner or friends, they can really save your modesty as an alternative to tights, as well as being a welcome additional layer in the winter months. However, have you noticed the number of girls/ women walking around that don't seem to realise that you can see their pants through them- or who have camel toe- yikes!? It is quite hard to find leggings that aren't see-through but in all my legging purchases so far, Topshop's versions have come out best for price in relation to thickness- do stretch over your hand before buying though! I really want these cable knit ones but I reckon that they aren't going to be thick enough to pass my tree-climbing stretch test and they will make me look like a woolly mammoth- best stick to black :(

9. For elemental pursuits- The wool coat that makes your most crumpled clothes look like a sartorialist's dream

I oppose the current consensus and argue that most of us will not be channelling a luxe '70s vibe by buying and wearing a camel coat, but instead will look like Norah Batty's best buddies on bingo night. Unless you are a proud owner of amazonian inches or have a perfect complexion, the camel coat is likely to make you look like you should be pushing up daisies, rather than adorning fashionable parties as a flower of society. I'm sorry but the camel coat is also just too boring, unless you have the pounds to really invest in something with a truly stunning cut.

Although I would suggest that a neutral colour will do you the most favours I wouldn't ever recommend buying a black coat. Unless you are very blonde (in which case a black coat would look striking) and have a signifcant dry-cleaning budget, wearing that much black next to your skin and in such proportions is rarely flattering. Black, whatever the fabric, seems to be a fluff and stain magnet and an item which is used so frequently could end up looking shabby in days just by an accumulation of tiny detritus. Here is my favourite 'safe' but stylish coat from Whistles and a more interesting option from Cos, an almost modernised Audrey Hepburn look
10. To come up smelling like roses

 Finally, scent. I am not going to recommend any perfumes as taste in this area is very emotive- one person's favourite smell reminds another person of a partcularly vindictive great aunt. I would say though, that a scent you love is a beautiful olfactory pick me up, if you are feeling worn and tired. A spritz of something luxurious, can make you feel sexy, even if you have drippy boobs, eyebags the size of a Bugaboo bassinet and greasy hair. My favourite scent is always the first layer to go on at the beginning of the day!

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Tom Boy Returns: Why I won't be wearing maxi skirts and 'lady-like' chic, whatever my mother says

Marc Jacobs A/W '10
While Baby Boy was having his nap this afternoon, I decided to make good use of the quiet time and finally start reading the Patti Smith autobiography, 'Just Kids', which my husband had recommended to me. If you have read any of my earlier posts, you will note that I am veering towards a more minimal, or at least, 'effortless' wardrobe and that Patti Smith is one of my sources of inspiration. I have always know that part of this choice in clothing has been a mini-protest against the flowery dresses and prints that I by necessity wore during my pregnancy (along with various coloured opaque tights), as well as a practical realisation that most of my wardrobe can't be worn while breastfeeding. However, I am also conscious that I have spent the last four years choosing to wear eclectic patterned dresses, embellishment, feminine vintage jewellery and more obviously 'girly' attire, so couldn't pin down the sudden need for more masculine simplicity.

Today however, as I read 'Just Kids' I realised why I have moved back towards clothing choices closer to the androgynous and practical attire of my tomboyish childhood playing war-games and climbing trees, and the uniform of jeans/ trousers and non-forming fitting tops of my semi- misbehaved youth. Patti recalled one incident in her childhood, which totally resounded with me:

'...limping back to the home front beneath the anvil of the sun, I was accosted by my mother.
"Patricia,'' my mother scolded, "put a shirt on!"
'It's too  hot," I moaned. "No one else has one on."
"Hot or not, it's time you started wearing a shirt. You're about to become a young lady"...
 ...'My mother won the argument and I put on a shirt, but I cannot exaggerate the betrayal I felt at that moment. I ruefully watched my mother performing her female tasks...For a time I resented her. She was the messenger and also the message.'

 If I replace 'shirt', with 'skirt,' you have the reason for my irrational resurging abhorrence for all clothing of the overtly feminine persuasion. Like Patti, I was allowed to run around (with my older brother in my case), in non-gender specific clothing appropriate to the messy, often haphazard games we played. In my case however, rather than the ideal of the 'young lady' being held up alone as a reason for 'modest' feminine clothing to be enforced at will, my mother's motivations were religious as well. I was made to wear frumpy and 'appropriate' ankle-length ensembles to attend a certain Christian sect's meetings three times a week for regular dogma, as well as huge assemblies several times a year in football stadiums for three day long barrages of christian instruction.  Perhaps more traumatically, I was also taken out on Saturdays knocking on doors (more often on school holidays) and suffered acute embarassment from bumping in to school friends while out 'on the ministry' dressed in this hideous get up, or leaving to go to evening gatherings, as my friends played on the street. As it is a highly patriarchal religion, you are not allowed to wear trousers at their religious events at all (women are not allowed to preach to the congregation or be 'elders' and are actively encouraged to defer to their husbands).

Since I achieved independence from the religion and left school therefore, my tomboyism has been a continued act of defiance. I have never worn a skirt longer than below my knee, as anything below mid-calf brings me out in cold sweats and anything ankle-length brings on a full-on panic attack. To me, 'lady-like' means submissive and long-skirts are symbolically oppressive, just by association with controlling, judgemental, restrictive and life-controlling bible belt sects. Through my early and highly 'inappropriate' lifestyle of my twenties therefore, I have wore worn a uniform of skinny jeans, military style coats and black, which suited my feminist outlook and lifestyle (and need to be able to run away from the perverts dotting the Archway streets).

The last five years however, have been a slippery slope into 'appropriateness', to the point where I might not be thrown out of a meeting by 'virtue' of my attire- horror! Now I am married and have a baby and my mother verges on approving of me (an unintentional by-product of my choices), my reading today made me realise that perhaps my need for more effortless and masculine styling, is the resurgence of my teenage rebellion.

So despite the current trends, I will be wearing trousers as often as is possible; continuing to refuse to go within a mile of a Kingdom Hall; swearing a lot (especially about 'useless men', but not in front of the baby and not in front of my mother, as she still scares me a bit) and will continue my protest by rejecting all this 'lady-like' impractical, nonsense. How can you run around in British weather in post-modern 'Mad Men' attire anyway without showing your knickers, how can you kick a dirty-mac wearer, lurking in a London park in the groin, if you are wearing a Maxi skirt and perhaps most relevant to me, how can I pursue baby-led weaning in pseudo 'primwear' without stains?

But as you can see I have posted some bible belt approved looks from the A/W '10 collections anyway...

Fendi A/W '10

Aquascutum A/W '10

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Unique threads for your baby ( and for less, if you wait for a sale)

To get back to a more style-related theme than the last few posts, have you seen the Baby-Ts, Onesies and Hoodsies made by Threadless? I haven't seen any other designs for babys/ kids (and for adults, so you can match your partner to your baby, should you so desire), which are as cute, or as funny. My tip is to to sign up to the Threadless newsletter and wait for one of their regular sales (there is one on now), as full price, they aren't very cheap, especially with postage costs from the US. However the sales prices make them very reasonable with the exchange rate, especially if you buy a few and the quality of the material and their originality is just fantastic (designs are submitted by the public, then voted on by the public and then printed if popular). I find buying original and inexpensive clothes for little boys really hard if you don't like to buy Disney themed/ TV character togs, or dull colours but Threadless always has something for boys and girls that makes me smile-whether a bit cheeky, or beautifully whimsical.

Here is Baby Boy modelling his onesie with jeans, with a beautiful hot air balloon and clouds in the shape of animals and a couple of other Threadless designs that may be arriving for his first birthday:

Design courtesy of the Artists at

Friday, 15 October 2010

Making everything fit- family, flat and jeans

I have a confession to make, I have broken my rule of no new clothes already- the same day of my rant-inspiring visit to the Bobbi Brown counter, I was in H & M looking for leggings (which actually count as underwear, so had I bought any I would have been okay and guilt free, honest) when I found a great pair of jeans (which are so skinny that if I wasn't wearing my contact lenses I might mistake them for leggings but can't fool anyone else). The thing is, I just knew instinctively that they were going to fit. Since I gave birth to Baby Boy, I have only found one other pair of trousers that look half decent- for some reason even they seem to be a fluff and baby vomit magnet (non-bio washing powder barely touches the surface of Baby Boy's milky reflux). I have a long back, short legs and no hips, just dimples where they should be, which makes buying jeans hard anyway. Extra weight on my waist means that some of my favourite jeans, have to stay in the back of my wardrobe for just a little bit longer (or a lot longer if I don't stop eating cheesecake). I have so far purchased four pairs of jeans, all of which have gone saggy, or are too long or never fitted in the first place but I was in denial about for a few weeks- so I just had to have those H & M jeans. I have been wearing them non-stop for the last three days, and they are the perfect fit (and they do up at the side, so although I have a bit of a muffin top, I don't have a zip mark permanently on my belly), so I feel very defensive of them! They are also an off-black which seems to absorb milk beautifully and also coped quite well with the starchy residue from the spaghetti incident of earlier today.

Anyway, the trouble I have had buying jeans that fit over the last six months, have been nothing compared to the difficulties I have had fitting Baby Boy, Maternity Leave Mummy (Me) and Flexible Working Artist Man (Husband) into our flat all at the same time. Our flat has become a Tetris game of moving furniture and toys to try and accommodate baby paraphernalia, oil-painting tools and a music making studio (the last two FWAM gear) within its miniature proportions (there is a parallel here with fitting my post-baby body into my pre-baby wardrobe). Every day I seem to sacrifice a piece of furniture to the Freecycle God, so that we can work, play and eat together but with those all important divisions of space, so that our individual tasks and hobbies can be done with enjoyment- by which I mean not strangle each other, or trip over trailing wires and teething rings. We were so used to using Baby Boy's tiny room as a storage room/dumping area for all the odd junk we had (fans, easels, dining table, chairs, filing cabinet, useful shaped boxes), that it became a real challenge to make the flat a liveable, workable and not to mention safe, environment once we needed to move his cot in to it- many squabbles about being unable to to fulfil our creative needs (without interruption or distraction) have emerged, alongside the usual blow ups about dirty socks and discarded tea cups.

But not after tonight's exertions!

So as I sit smugly at my desk (old ikea fold-out dining table covered in throw thing, doubling as changing table), in my study (tiny corner of our bedroom, squashed up between wall and bed) typing this post, listening to the sound of heavy bass coming through the door of the sitting room/ studio (FWAM antics) I can proudly say that one room of the house, is now totally fit for purpose- which is the most important room of all...

Baby Boy's room! With Baby Boy happily asleep in it :)

It does looks nicer than the picture but due to the flat's petiteness- it is impossible to get far enough away from the contents of the room, to photograph them all, unless I try a circus like dangling act from the upstair neighbour's window- I am proud of my furniture juggling though.

P.S When do you stop tiptoeing in to your little one's room at night to put your hand on their chest to check that they are still breathing?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Babysitters, Teething and Future Beauty

Commes Des Garcons S/S '97
Tonight will be the first night that we have 'officially' left Baby Boy with someone else, while my husband and I go out together. A couple of months ago, we left him for two and a half hours with my mum but this seems very different. Although I have been looking forward to attending the opening of 'Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion' for many weeks now, and worrying about contriving an outfit of suitable chic insouciance (which is about as oxymoronic as fashion can get), Baby Boy's teething symptoms seem to be crescendoing. He has been a an/off misery patch for weeks now, chewing on everything (but nothing quite satisfactory enough), dribbling, rubbing his gums with his fingers and whimpering. Despite giving him various teething devices, as well as doses of Bonjela and Calpol, we can only keep his symptoms at bay for a few hours, so for the rest of the time he gets lots of cuddles, distracting play and as mentioned earlier, magazines to read (rip up) to help quell his frustration.

Although we are leaving his care to a trusted friend (so I have no real reason to worry) and normally he would be asleep the entire time we are planning to be out, I can't help but wonder if his first tooth will appear tonight- I have a funny gnawing feeling in my belly (and isn't hunger, as I had a sneaky burger and chips for lunch).

Is this what the next eighteen-thirty years will be like (depending on levels of responsibility achieved), an inability to truly relax when out ,with a fear of missing seminal moments and an unwillingness to let go?

I know tonight that I should relax and enjoy my time with my husband, allowing myself to be mesmerised by the exhibition and enjoying a free drink or two, but I feel that any attempt at louche admiration of the Japanese design on show, will go out the window if anyone asks me about Baby Boy. These days I am more likely to talk about Baby-Led Weaning and the 'lumps and bumps' found in nappies rather than on clothes...
Commes Des Garcons S/S '97

Commes Des Garcons S/S '97

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Baby, Selfridge's, Bobbi Brown and Me

Today Baby Boy and I got on the 55 bus with a Baby Bjorn and braved Oxford Street once again. Sleepless nights and fluctuating hormones make a good foundation one of my essential, if out of budget, items for tricking people into believing that I am holding it together (and I am about to run out). Being naturally very pale of face and not being keen on the old fashioned Hollywood powdered look, I have long been a fan of Bobbi Brown's yellow toned, barely there foundations. I could of course have bought a foundation online but I wanted to try some of her new products to see if they had additional camouflaging benefits. I was also sure that an hour looking at window displays and thousands of new faces bouncing above the pavements would keep the boy amused too (what I imagine he sees from his Baby Bjorn).

I luxuriated being in Selfridge's again and looked forward to a bit of attention and leaving with a yellow bag or two. Having Baby Boy with me made me see the bright colours, glittering lighting and magpie collections of unnecessaries from a less jaded pointed of view- it was enjoyable to try and regress a little and instead of being aware of being sold to, just enjoy the visual stimulation, scents wafting from the perfume hall and music  from each section of shop floor, mixing into a weird, thumping, buying soundtrack .

The trauma of giving birth however, had obliterated from my mind the lesser trauma of shopping at Selfridge's beauty counters and actual interaction with the sales assistants loitering there. Not being overtly expensive looking, a bit crumpled in fact in my attire (shabby chic, not a derelicte dosser) and not ever wielding a designer handbag (for some reason its one of those status items I couldn't care less about), I generally have to stomp up to someone and ask for help in my horsiest Winchester accent if I want to buy something before I get any kind of response. This has always got up my long nose a bit but I thought having a 17lb baby strapped to my front would make me a bit more obvious than normal (and surely in even more need of help). However, as usual at Bobbi Brown, I was invisible (perhaps this proves how good at camouflaging blemishes her products are).

It is so exasperating when you love a product but the service just doesn't match up to its brilliance. When I was finally served after having to interrupt another conversation between two overly made-up assistants (again letting down the products by over-application and in complete conflict with the brand's goals), I didn't get any information on new exciting offerings, was told that I positively shouldn't even think of trying the new all-day foundation (but was given no new alternative, or given an explanation why) and after being colour matched for my usual foundation (I waver between two shades depending if my face has seen any sun) wasn't even shown the result in the mirror. The whole experience took five minutes in fact. What should have been a proper consultation (with the end goal of selling more, surely), was like a visit to my local Boots to stock up on Calpol but less friendly. It really irritates me that sales assistants seem to make such unfounded judgements about the people they see- a little chat about the baby and a few questions about how much sleep I was getting and she could have sold me loose powder, under eye concealer and blusher, all of which I needed.

Now you might say she was having a bad day and that working on Oxford Street is hard work for little money, but I have never got proactive customer service from Bobbi Brown at Selfridge's, or indeed any of the make up counters there (apart from Benefit). I used to work full-time at Urban Outfitters on Oxford Circus for £5.40 an hour, five days a week and I just don't have any sympathy towards sales assistants who ignore customers. When you have spent five out of nine hours a day folding t-shirts, three hours showing people to fitting rooms and re-hanging clothes and at least one hour a day just saying hello and goodbye at the shop door, the idea of being a make up artist/ counter assistant at Selfridge's (which does have some creative outlet and can earn you decent commission) is positively aspirational.

So what I have I learnt today? A baby is the one expensive accessory that will not get you good service at a beauty counter, but you will appreciate the beauty, colour and lights of the Aladdin's cave that Selfridge's is, from a whole new and joyously childlike perspective, if you have one with you.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Evidence: Baby makes a mood board

The only thing I did was put the magazine in his lap...

My second stylish infancy...

When you have spent an entire day on Ebay, trying to get a 'Bumbo' for under £15.00 and have spent most of the previous evening researching and weighing up the advantages of a 'Bebe Pod' versus a 'Cushi Tush', it is hardly surprising that you feel as if you deserve to be shut in a home and fed tastless pureed mush, until you enter gurning oblivion.

It seems however, that this is perfectly normal behaviour for a concerned mother living in the 21st century, who is aware that certain equipment is needed to practically bring up baby but is unwilling to fully sacrifice her aesthetic values (this is coming from someone whose sitting room floor is currently tiled with alphabet rubber squares and who has a washing line strung up from the sitting room door to the curtain rail- but hey ho).

A 'Bumbo' for those of you who care, is a ergonomically designed chair and currently a 'fashionable' must have item (that looks like a teletubby potty and comes in a range of colours to suit your home and which I have been brainwashed into believing is stylish, although as you will see with baby goods, style is always relative). The 'Bumbo' enables an infant to sit up, as soon as said baby is able to support its head. You can put it on any flat surface (e.g. floor, a restaurant table, home dining table, or aeroplane wing?) and supervised of course, your infant can sit in its squishy confines, happily viewing the world. Why do I want one? Because from next week, baby boy will be experimenting with solid foods and in our little flat, space is at a premium- this weird little thing has a pretty small footprint and conveniently can have a tray stuck on to it, for eating purposes. It is wipe clean, hardwearing and in turquoise, matches the alphabet tiles (although nothing else in my flat).

Anyway, the point of this post? Well, I suppose I wanted to point out that it is not contradictory at all, for someone (who is a mother) who wants to streamline their own fashion life with monochrome, design classicism and a need for minimalism almost veering towards hermeticism, to be living a parallel life populated with bright clashing colours, rubber accessories and surrealism. Or perhaps it's obvious, the former, is the natural consequence of the latter...

Monday, 11 October 2010

Lie Ins, Coffee and Magazines

This morning I got to have my second lie in (until 10.30 am- bliss) in two days! My husband is back from working abroad for ten days and he gets up with the baby and lets me stay in bed for a bit.

I do still have memories of getting back into bed with a couple of magazines, some toast and a coffee and whiling away the morning until the images of unattainable beauty drove me into the shower for some knee jerk cleansing and scraping. However these days, any extra time in bed is spent catching up on much needed sleep and as it turns out this morning, my husband is the one that drinks the coffee and the baby gets to play with the magazines. When I finally got up to eat the toast, I was delighted and amused to find my baby turning the pages of this month's Harpers Bazaar and Elle with much enjoyment. He had a natural editorial ability, ripping out select pages and putting them to one side (I only assume he was creating a mood board to plan ahead for my A/W wardrobe) and chewing up particularly bad adverts into tiny pieces. Seriously though, he was kept occupied with the glossies, with unusual focus for quite a long time (20 minutes or so,which for a six month old, is a very, very long time), I can only assume that the pretty colours, shiny paper and often scented pages offered a similar amount of stimulus to his young mind, as to mine! I shall be keeping up my subscriptions, as they offer even better value for money than previously thought.

An examination of the pages torn out of Elle later, seemed to suggest his approval of demure skirts, lady-like suiting and a propensity for Stepford wife like apparel in general (with the focus being on breasts). He has only known me for six months but I feel like he is commenting on my unwillingness to conform to the domestic goddess stereotype and a lack of motherly poise- I think he will appreciate my choices more when he realises that they are suitable for messy play, puddle jumping and getting down on my hands and knees for some serious mud pie making!
Prada A/W '10

Dolce and Gabbana A/W '10

Marc Jacobs A/W '10
All photographs credited to

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Another thing that reminds me that I still have a little love for East London

Really deliciously straight forward and unfussy Sunday Roast in the Chesham Arms (E9) for £5.95! Not only is the price astonishing but we were able to enjoy a pub garden that really lacks pretension-with peeling tables, overgrown grass and railway arches but not contrived to be that way (plenty of room for push chairs too!). It felt like a pub garden from my childhood and I was a bit disappointed there wasn't a giant plastic shoe with a red roof to play in. Anywhere else in East London and it would at least cost a tenner (under the banner of 'gastronomy') and you know that your money really would be covering the costs of pointless investment in flocked wallpaper, unnecessary taxidermy and crap art. I can't stop smiling at the still pleasantly full, warm and good value feeling in my belly...

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Wardrobe Streamlining: One Year Without New Clothes

In the interests of needing to save up for the logistical means for moving to Berlin and budgeting better in general (with the possibility of not working for a while on arrival and the aim of being a full-time mum for longer), as well as an awareness that my current styling methods are lazy (more likely to buy something new, than work with what I have), I have decided to see if I can survive a whole year without buying new clothes*

I have thought about this carefully, so in advance of this commitment I have bought one black toned smart/casual jacket, one black mid-length cardigan, one pair of carrot-top black trousers (for my non-existent hips) and one white collarless dress style shirt. These were items that were previously missing from my wardrobe and should hopefully open up a multitude of possibilities for what I already own.

The problem I have been having with a lot of time at home with the baby (on maternity leave) is the pull of internet shopping. I do love it when it comes to sales shopping, as it does mean that I don't have to sort through rails and rails of clothes and face the crowds in town but unfortunately it makes impulse buying even easier and many mistakes have been made over the last six months (especially when trying to fit to a post partum more feminine figure). So instead of sating my boredom by eating into my overdraft with online purchases, I am going to try and be more creative with my dressing and inspired in my daily choices- it is hard to dress excitingly when breastfeeding full time but with a little thought, there must be more  options. Once I get the hang of it, I will start posting up some images, so you can see the results (oh dear).

I am extremely excited about this resolution and already feel lighter and more virtuous.It just remains to be seen whether I am pulling my dry-shampooed hair out within two weeks, or whether items that have been hibernating in my wardrobe for far too long, are given a new lease of life. I am also interested to see what alternative therapy I can find after a tiring day- hopefully something inspiring and not from the inside of a 750 ml glass bottle.

So... I do solemnly swear that from 09/10/2010- 08/10/2011, I will not purchase any clothes for myself- gulp.

Wish me luck (donations of lovely, lovely clothes gratefully accepted)! Here are some pictures of my current style inspiration.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Why all stylish mums should jump on the dry shampoo bandwagon

Let's face it, if you have been woken up five times in the night but need to make it to a 10 am Baby Sensory Development class in Stoke Newington ( a good 30 minute trot away) and still want to make the most of every minute to lie foggily in bed,  dry shampoo is a good investment/ option if you want to look half decent for the rest of the day.  I'm still not sure that fashion editors deserve any sympathy when they say it is an essential item in their 'crazy and fabulous' lives (or I deserve sympathy for going to a Baby Sensory Development class) but they definitely know what they are talking about as regards the total genius of dry shampoo. Another plus of course, is the way that the additional volume and texture goes hand in hand with some of the more 'grown up' lady-like or sexy bouffant looks recently seen on the runways. The only problem is deciding when to actually wash your hair with real water. I suppose when it starts to look more Marie Antoinette than Brigitte Bardot...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Holiday from Blog

I am taking a week off to visit baby boy's nanny, his great granny and grandad and also to have a think about the direction of this blog. So you will be hearing from me next Friday, hopefullly with a more relaxed tone to my writing. I will of course be keeping up with Paris S/S '11 but I will leave the commentary to the other thousands of worthy fashion souls out there for now. Have fun!