She loves fashion, but when Grazia’s contributing editor Angela Buttolph had her first baby in May, she was plunged into a style crisis. How can she rediscover her mojo to become the ultimate MWLF (mum who loves fashion)?
Angela Buttolph and daughter
My moment of revelation came in H&M. A brilliant Kenzo-meets-Givenchy sweatshirt: black, with snarling panthers on each sleeve. It was everything I love – tough but sleek and a bit edgily menacing. Then it hit me. The sweatshirt was damn near perfect, but it was never going to work with my newest can’t-live-without accessory. Because my latest piece of arm candy is not an It bag or a statement cuff. It’s a baby... Before my daughter was born, there was plenty of first-time-mum stuff to worry about (number one: giving birth), but fashion didn’t enter the equation. If anything, I was looking forward to joining the ranks of Wonder Mums, from Miranda Kerr dangling Flynn from an Alexander Wang-clad hip to Victoria Beckham wearing body-con tailoring and heels while toting Harper. Why should my style be compromised? Fast-forward five months and I’m in a full-on style crisis. Having worked in fashion for a decade, I pride myself on not ‘doing’ style crises. Or at least I did...
1. The Killer Piece Problem
My first inkling that my style was under threat came the day I realised that every baby comes with its own killer accessory: the pram. Killer in the sense that it would kill every look I tried to assemble. It was fun at first: I finally felt like a real mother as I pushed it down the street. I’d even chosen one in neutral goes-with- everything black. But the brutal truth is a pram doesn’t go with anything. All my go-to looks suddenly looked, well, get-away-from. Before I was a mum, I aimed for a ‘rock-chick Kate Moss meets Emmanuelle Alt’ vibe, perfect for a fashion writer who wanted to look cool but didn’t have time for ironing. I’d style out my scruffiness as a kind of ‘up all night’ kinda thing. But now, as a pram-pusher, when I have been up all night, the scruffy look isn’t so desirable. And the ‘rock chick dashing to a gig’ look isn’t particularly convincing when you’re pushing a buggy and everyone knows your night involves nothing wilder than bath-nappy-bed. In my old clothes, I felt like a fashion fraud. This season is not kind to babes-with- babies. Usually, the ’60s trend would be a gift – cute dresses, thick tights, neat coats and chic kitten heels. I’d fancy myself a little bit Megan Draper in Mad Men. But just add a pram or a car seat and that scene changes instantly into something a bit regressive and drearily domestic.
2. Mum Grunge
Ah, that other big trend, grunge. Play word association with ‘mum’ and ‘grunge’ and you inevitably get Courtney Love, and a whiff of punky squalor isn’t cute when you’re primary carer for a baby. I can hear you saying, ‘But Gwen Stefani looks fierce in bondage trousers and mesh vests!’ Which is true, and a year ago I’d have said the same, but I’ve learned that much of the celebrity mum style phenomenon can be explained with the simple use of italics. Gwen Stefani looks cool in that get-up because she’s Gwen Stefani. Spot an anonymous civilian mum in the street looking like that and it’s all a bit try-hard. Or worse, mad mum. And practicality plays a part in my look like never before. Victoria Beckham may wear six-inch heels, but she’s only walking from limo to door, thereby keeping trip hazards to a minimum. No, it’s flats all the way for now and that, more than anything, requires a major wardrobe rethink (*sobs*).
3. The Coat Conundrum
Non-mums, have you ever thought about the fact that you can’t carry an umbrella and push a pram? Nope, me neither. So where does that leave you? Hoods. And let me tell you, a hood will ruin any coat. Parkas are in this season (air punch) and the perfect one to not appear as scruffy mum-on-a-school-run is the Whistles silver camo-print version, which is awesome (but could teeter perilously close to ‘wacky mum mac’ territory when accessorised avec pram). But what are my alternatives? I’ve never been an outdoor ‘performance anorak’ kind of girl. (I’ve never been an outdoors kind of girl.) After careful consideration, I’ve decided the only way to pull off a hood is to go for the most extravagantly sumptuous one you can find to add a hint of glamour. Zara’s charcoal duffel with faux fur hood has a ski resort snow-bunny vibe that appears pleasingly impractical but is anything but. I’ll be rocking this with my other staples: a skater skirt in (wipe-clean!) faux leather, thick tights and flat riding boots. I’m getting there; if not a MILF, I’m a MWLF (mum who loves fashion). Perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me that a baby prompts a wardrobe re-evaluation; they force you to rethink a lot of other things. Even Mossy dropped the up-all-night look when Lila Grace was born, favouring instead a sweet take on Jane Birkin’s casual style – all freshly washed hair, minidresses, bare legs and ballet pumps. That panther-snarl sweat suddenly seemed inappropriately scary when I tried to picture my baby’s sweet face snuggled up to it. And it’s probably bye-bye to my favourite Hermes studded cuff for a while...