Quick Style Fixes for Busy Mums

It's not vanity. It's self-respect.

Archive for the category “In which I give out Life Lessons”

Old haunts – good for the soul.

What I didn’t realise about motherhood, until it happened to me, was how many cogs I had to adjust in my brain. I couldn’t just put myself first – there was a small, sometimes shouty prawn that told me she was more important.

This meant I had to wave goodbye to some aspects of my old life. The problem, though, with sacrificing things – my job,  lie-ins, instant gratification, a decent pelvic floor – is getting carried away.

I made so many adjustments and sacrifices I forgot I didn’t have to lose everything from my old life.

Am I the only one? Do we only think we’re good mums if we constantly toss our loves, pastimes and hobbies on the sacrificial flames of parenthood?

It’s early days, but I’ve found myself going back to old haunts and old interests recently and finding the whole thing really UPLIFTING. I’d even go so far as to say it’s felt SPIRITUALLY CLEANSING. I feel stronger. 

Here are some things I’ve rediscovered over the last month or two:

  1. The pub in my old hometown. A lunchtime drink and a walk by the canal. Amazing.


  1. Messing around on the Clifton Downs. I used to come here all the time when I’d just moved to Bristol, marvelling that I’d swapped this:Commuters in LondonFor this:

clifton downs


But after I moved to South Bristol and got married and had a kid, I stopped going, I have no idea why. It was one of those mental barriers that needed to come crashing down. Anyway I recently took P. and bought us both an ice-cream, and after I’d taught her how delicious the chocolate cones were, she left me alone to read a section of my newspaper in peace! It had been at least three years since I’d spent an afternoon here and I couldn’t believe I’d left it so long. Definitely one of my spiritual homes and I’m glad I reconnected.

the downs

  1. Spending a few hours in Bristol Central Library. This is one of those places I used to spend hours in. Recently, I read about a series of events about writing being held in the library, and managed to go along to one of the sessions one sunny Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been in for years, having stuck to my local, much smaller library, but as soon as I walked in it felt amazing. And I spotted this little post-it note on the wall:


  1. Cycling the Bristol Bath cycle path. This place meant a lot to me when I first moved to Bristol, and I would try to cycle along it at least every couple of months. Hadn’t been back for about 5 years and as soon as I got on my bike I started grinning like a fool and didn’t stop, not even when I swallowed a bug. Look at this view!



I know it’s really, laughingly simple. Pubs, libraries, bit of grass, and cycling. Like I said, it’s early days, but I feel inspired.

Partly I think it’s just time – now P. is two years old, things are much easier in terms of where I can take her and how portable she is. But I can’t wait to try out other stuff and adventures on a domestic scale that I’d felt were out of my reach before.

What’s your experiences of visiting old haunts since you’ve become a mum? Do things feel just the same, better, or worse? Where would you love to go again if you could?



A blog that makes me thankful to be alive.

Some of you may have seen or heard about a new photo-book which was published last year called Advanced Style.

In a nutshell, a photographer and blogger from New York, Ari Seth Cohen, has devoted himself to capturing the style, flair and verve he sees in older women (and some men – but mostly women.)

I saw a copy of it again this week in my local Blackwells and remembered how beautiful the idea, the blog, and the book, is.

Here are just a few of my favourite images from his blog. From the sublime…

advanced style `

advanced style 2

advanced style3

To the endearingly eccentric:

advanced style4

To the inspirational on so many levels – This woman is 101. That’s right. If I looked that good NOW I’d consider it an achievement.

advanced style 101

I just love any woman who refuses to be invisible, who would rather put on a show than blend into the background, and who doesn’t go beige with age. These women are my style icons and inspire me on so many levels.

You can visit the blog, follow Aris on Twitter (Sample tweet: “Just got this rad Garfield sweatshirt.”) Or learn more about the documentary Cohen is making, and finally order the book. Although I would recommend you ask your bookseller to order it and boycott Amazon, but that’s just me.

Oh, and one more thing:

advanced style the last

Aren’t women cool?

Tumble turns.

In my previous post I talked about tumble-turns, and you asked me in your thousands* what a tumble-turn was. (*lie)

It’s a beautiful movement that occurs during lane-swimming, and it’s the best fun you can have with a swimsuit on.

Michael Phelps does them. Rebecca Adlington does them. Ryan Gosling definitely does them. (I like to think.)

They look a bit like this:-


Tumble-turns are an act of faith. They urge you to swim AT THE WALL until you are millimetres away from it. It’s madness.

Every fibre of my being screams at me to stop. When practising I have to overcome a voice in my head that says: You crazy?

It is only when you have silenced the Tumble Turn Fear that you can become a true master of the Tumble Turn.

As a novice, I am still learning. Physically, it’s a challenge. Last week I almost choked on my tongue. I end up with my legs akimbo and have to poke my head out of the water to find out where they are.

I get weird looks from the life-guard.

I have to make sure that there isn’t a fast swimmer behind me, just in case things go wrong and I end up blinding them.

But I am strangely addicted to perfecting this beautiful movement. It’s so graceful.

I am also, let’s face it, a bit of a show-off, and I am looking forward to the silent hush of awe from my fellow swimmers the day I finally get it right. And hey, who doesn’t want to impress lifeguards? They look so freaking BORED.

In fact, motherhood and tumble-turns have a lot in common. They both look hard. They both have a definite wall that you sometimes feel like smacking your head against. Sometimes you actually do.

When you start out, you frequently feel the world turn upside-down, have no idea what your body is doing, and feel out of your depth. (ahem.) Both require strength, stamina, and self-belief. When you get them wrong, you’ll feel a bit self-conscious.

But when you get it right – it’s pretty special.

Ryan swimming

Stop cruelty to models.

One of my bugbears about fashion magazines is when they make the models pull stupid faces or do weird things to their limbs. I find it cruel and unnecessary and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Poor models, I think. Yes, they may get to wear pretty things, but they still have to pull poses like this:

And this:

Look at the pain in their eyes! This model looks like a rabbit in the headlights; she may even be drugged.

Honestly, I don’t know how magazine editors can live with themselves sometimes. Still these pictures should hopefully make all new mums feel better about their lives; you may have egg on your cheek and a damaged pelvic floor, but at least you don’t have to keep your mouth open while keeping a hand near your face, in some weird mockery of happiness.

DKNY and me

Ah, seminal moments in fashion. I remember when I saw Yazz on Top of the Pops, back in 1988.

Bomber jackets are cool, I thought. I started wearing dad’s old suit blazers with the sleeves rolled up, in a misguided tribute to Yazz’s boxy jacket look.  It didn’t look so good on a ten-year-old in the Home Counties but I had the chutzpah of youth.

Then there was Kylie’s odd open-topped hat on the cover of her first album.

These Antipodeans are fashion-forward! Was my excited response. I found a plastic witches hat in the dressing up box, cut off the pointy bit, and voila – I had a centre-less hat, through which I pulled out my pony-tail. I worked this look at my friends’ parties and it went down a storm. Although they did just think I’d come as a witch.

In the same spirit, I remember where I was when I saw the Spring/Summer 2010 ad campaign for DKNY. Oh my.

This ad was everything I loved about clothes. It told me what my dream personal style was before I even knew.  Genius slouchy yet sharp tailoring, luxe sparkly fabrics in an informal cut, strong florals, androgyny and femininity, rules being broken, modern sleek hair, attitude and drama, nothing too matchy-matchy yet everything in sync. It was like a nod to the future with a bow to the past.

I love the woman on the far-left, in her incredible suit with just a hint of bright abstract colour underneath. Her hands in pockets! Her glasses! That fab jacket! At the time, my favourite outfit was the one on the third right; the woman in floral trousers (with pockets, natch) and a stripy sparkly boxy top. 

Let’s just have another little look:

Mmm, mm.

So, you want to know, what did I know with this inspiration coursing through my veins?  Pregnancy, moving house, nursing a newborn and being two stone heavier than normal happened.  But somehow, that flash of colour, contrast, and attitude filtered through.

And so this the weekend, when I spotted a floral skirt in the amazing second-hand boutique Luminous and Vogue in Berkhamsted’s Lower Kings Road, I knew what I wanted to team it with.


I didn’t know where this knowledge had come from until later….suddenly I knew that this was Donna Karan’s style, filtered through two years and a huge ocean. It’s obviously vastly different to high-end fashion, yet you can see the influence. I learnt stripes and florals can work and I put my own (more practical, more budget) spin on it.

So what I’m saying, ladies, is read, absorb, and flick through fashion magazines as much as you like.  Your style, and your confidence in your style, will evolve without you even thinking about it. And don’t worry about trying trends two years late;  it’s better to be late to the party than never get there at all.

Stripy top: Charity Shop, Skirt: H&M, Luminous and Vogue, Flip-flops: Peacocks

(Image sources: Yazz – BBC, Kylie – Rateyourmusic.com, Catwalk model – this blog)

Get some new underwear.

Mums, eh? We’re all give, give, give. But you’re an enlightened, modern woman, aren’t you, so you know you deserve some time off once in a while.

If you do one thing this week, book a bra-fitting at your local department store. This applies to you whether you’re six months pregnant, or six weeks into motherhood, or six years. This applies to those with and without children. Go and get a kindly looking woman with a tape-measure to hit you up with some perfect brasseries for your boobs.

Most British women are wearing bras the wrong size for them. Not only that, but their elastic probably stopped working a while ago. We spend money on clothes, hair and make-up but the foundations need to be sound before we worry about the roof, no?

The right underwear will make you instantly slimmer. It can help relieve back-ache, shoulder-ache, and will make you feel glamorous even if you barely have time to slap on some mascara in the morning and are wearing a sick-stained top.

Give yourself a treat and book yourself and your precious assets some me-time.

Stores that offer this service: Marks and Spencer’s, House of Fraser, Debenhams, John Lewis, Rigby & Peller. If you’re lucky enough to have a thriving high street, any good underwear shop should offer this service too. This is one simple thing you can do for yourself and you will reap the benefits for a long time.

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