Even now the girls are pretty much grown-ups and have a far more complex social life than me, there are still days during the summer holidays when they are milling around aimlessly. At just such a moment, an invite pinged into my inbox from those lovely folk at Persil. ‘Come and meet stylist Grace Woodward at AIDA in Shoreditch.’ Shoreditch, full of vintage shops, bagels and edgy cool stuff that you just can’t get in South London, is one of the girls’ favourite spots. We piled into a taxi straight away.
On reflection, I probably should have asked more questions as the event turned out to be for brand new mothers and was all about bursting out of the cocoon of maternity jeans into proper clothes again. This happened for me some sixteen years ago. But in fact I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the new mums, some lovely mummy bloggers and the fabulous Grace Woodward, X Factor Fashion Director and stylist on Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model. Grace is herself a new mother, to beautiful 10-month-old son Larkin, and although her outfit was perfect (obviously), Larkin had scratched her on the nose that morning, proving that no one is immune to baby-related mishaps.
I certainly remember the shock of being left with a distinctly baggy body, post-baby, and not having the faintest clue on how to dress for my new role as 24 hour servant to a small tyrant. All I knew was that my cupboard full of lovely office clothes was not going to work. Birth is a huge enough trauma without the shock of realising that none of your ‘before’ clothes are right for your ‘after’ lifestyle.
I wish Grace’s guide, Pram Glam, had been around then. It’s practical, and written in a friendly, down-to-earth style, in association with Persil’s sensitive range of non-bio products and Comfort Pure, perfect for delicate new-born skin and flustered mummies. In case people equate the booklet with pressure to live up to an impossible image of shiny celebrity motherhood, Grace explains her aim is entirely the reverse. She’s saying that you can be an attractive, confident mum, just by using some clever defensive dressing techniques. She’s all about revealing a slender ankle and rolling up your sleeves to show a delicate wrist, while the ‘mum tum’ remains under wraps in a chic, yet forgiving, drapey crossover top (perfect for breastfeeding) or elastic tube skirt.
‘Since being a mum I feel a lot more maternal in general,’ says Grace. ‘I’m now really concerned about all the retouching and the tricks that people don’t realise are going on. There’s such pressure on mums to look fantastic as soon as they’ve given birth – you see these celebrities whose figures ‘snap back’ and they’re in bikinis six weeks after having a baby. People don’t realise that they’ve got trainers and nannies and stylists and the whole works going on to achieve that. There’s no way ordinary mums can do it. But anyone can just whack on a simple denim dress and a patterned scarf and look great at the park.’