If you'd asked me what "dressing like a mum" looked like before I had a baby, using only pop culture and advertising as my visual aid, I might have suggested a pair of bootcut jeans with a colourful button-down, or a sensible pair of shoes.
If I'd searched stock image libraries for a picture of a "working mum", I definitely would have added in a briefcase.
Victoria Beckham has found her sartorial groove as a mother. Credit:AP
As journalist, and host of The High Low podcast, Pandora Sykes wrote of dressing "like a mum", "The subtext to the many missives I have received from brands since birth is that mums don’t wear super-sized earrings or silly shoes or daft blouses. Mums wear button-down shirts and wrap dresses and yoga pants, because they must be comfortable and breastily accessible – even, curiously, post-nursing – for the rest of their lives."
The insulting message is that once women become mothers they become both non-descript – the endless jersey boatnecks! – and uninterested in clothes, because they suddenly have no need for the things they might have cared about before children.
When I had a baby I realised several things: you can function on such an impressively small amount of sleep, having a baby really is like having a piece of your heart living outside of your body, and my love of clothes was definitely not going to disappear during a necessary period of wearing only activewear and maternity singlets.
Rather, it was lying in wait and recalibrating while I adjusted to my new routine and a new way of moving through the world (often with a pram).
Because just as, obviously, you can care about politics and fashion (and indeed fashion in politics can be a true power move: look at Nancy Pelosi and her burnt orange Max Mara coat and Michelle Obama’s personal style evolution post-White House, I mean, those glittering Balenciaga boots!), so too can mothers want to have fun with fashion and enjoy getting dressed.
To suggest otherwise is to discount the personal style of millions of mothers who dress to face the world. Perhaps, even, it's an attempt to contain mothers in a harmless, comfy-shoed category.
The thing is, dressing like a mum looks different for everybody.
Serena Williams' on-court outfits only got more badass after she had her daughter. Victoria Beckham found her sartorial groove post the Spice Girls and her (incredible) WAG years after having four children.
Mothers want to have fun with fashion and enjoy getting dressed.
Beckham, whose eponymous label just celebrated its tenth year, has ditched her high heels – despite once famously saying: "I just can't concentrate in flats" – and she's never looked so chic or, more importantly, like she's finally comfortable with who she is.
Becoming a mother might mean certain accomodations are made: for practicalities, or for a change in your day's rhythm or your body shape. And, yes, I do dress differently after having a baby.
For one thing, I wear more colour (perhaps as a foil for sleep deprivation and/or sticky fingers). But maybe also because I'm less afraid to experiment and less rigid about how I want to express myself. I'm many things, including a mother. I still want to feel, and look, like myself.
Returning to work has been another sartorial experiment. At first it was pure novelty to get dressed up for the office. I wore crisp white shirtdresses and towering heels and statement earrings. Motherhood has also reinforced my view that a well-cut blazer can make any old outfit look polished and the best outfits are worn with ease.
In the early days of my return to work people asked me where I was going after work, assuming a hot date or a fancy launch, and the answer was usually, "Nowhere."
But once the novelty of going into the office and drinking a coffee on my own terms wore off, what remained was the joy in dressing for myself: the self that is a mother, but also someone who still really, really likes entirely impractical shoes.
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