The Londoners redefining mum style
A positive pregnancy test no longer heralds the death of your wardrobe. We meet three London mums who've navigated maternity, new motherhood and beyond without sacrificing their style
But what if inspirational fashion is your job? What if your thousands of followers depend on you to bring a big dose of unique style to their Instagram feeds each day? How do you navigate maternity dressing, post-birth body changes and breastfeeding when fashion is more than just a passing interest, it's a way of life? Three women who've done just that are London-based fashion journalists and digital influencers Susie Lau (aka Susie Bubble), Pandora Sykes and Katherine Ormerod, whose frequent dispatches rack up thousands of likes and comments on Instagram.
Each of these women has their own look and way of putting together an outfit, and while they may have embraced the occasional fashion fail safe at one time or another they're more likely to be seen in seemingly-impractical heels, full-on frocks and the latest 'it' accessories. In other words, they're helping to redefine 'mum style' for the Instagram generation. And now they're sharing the secrets of how they balance dressing for success while bringing up baby.
Susie Lau, journalist and founder of Style Bubble; mother to Nico, 2
I actually tried very hard for my style NOT to change when I was pregnant. I avoided maternity wear and purposefully bought oversized things that I could wear once I had given birth. Simone Rocha, Molly Goddard and vintage Comme des Garçons were basically my saviours. I did overly rely on a pair of Topshop maternity jeans towards the end when I was very frustrated with being overdue and just a bit fed up with being pregnant. And then into the first few months of motherhood, I also had to adapt to wearing things that could facilitate breastfeeding easily which was a challenge! I missed wearing dresses that had lots of buttons or things that couldn’t be yanked up with ease.
For me fashion has actually become more important since I've had Nico, which sounds a bit silly. I’ve always loved clothes so much and for me they have always been an outlet for creative expression. And when you become a mum, I think it can be a hard process of giving enough time to yourself versus your baby. So when I’m travelling for fashion weeks or going on trips or going out in the evenings, I actually love making more of an effort. I’ve never been one for 'ease' though when it comes to style... I love clothes, I love supporting designers who I’m passionate about and I’m a texture/colour/textile magnet... that definitely hasn’t changed.
If anything I get more joy out of really dressing up now because it’s a treat to go out and so I maybe make more of an effort. Another aspect that people have noticed and perhaps I subconsciously allowed to happen was that I’m not so afraid of more body conscious or skin baring garments as I used to be pre-motherhood. I think when you’ve gotten so used to getting your boobs out in public to breastfeed you suddenly aren’t so self conscious about your body. And mine is pretty ravaged after having Nico. It’s also an age thing where I’m not so hung up about imperfections.
I’m quite conscious of not allowing motherhood to define me or consume my brain. Yes I am a mum but it’s not the only thing I am. Yes Nico is hugely important in my life but I don’t really feel the urge to talk about her all the time (I’m always scared of boring people). It has obviously changed me as a person and how I work and how I organise my life.
I can’t say I’ve really changed my buying habits in terms of stocking up on things that are more 'toddler friendly'. I might have had to go to my dry cleaner more often because some of my nicer things have gotten dirty more easily! I definitely have accumulated a lot more bigger, roomier bags that can hold both my stuff and Nico’s when we’re out and about. It’s more about avoiding certain things with her. Like no crazy holey knitwear that will be destroyed when she starts clambering all over me. Ditto with sheer tights that will become laddered when she hugs my knees.
Some mornings I do fall back on some tried and tested staples for nursery drop-off -– like a pair of Proenza Schouler camo trousers that are paint stained. Or a pair of rust coloured Mother jeans that I wear over and over again because they seem to go with everything. And my Louis Vuitton Archlight trainers are truly battered from all the nursery runs. But sometimes I have to be at events and meetings immediately after dropping her off. The other parents at my admittedly progressive and creative nursery probably do look at me like I’m a bit mad when I’m doing drop-offs. This morning for example I wore a Gucci embroidered satin skirt in the pouring rain.
Follow Susie on Instagram here
Pandora Sykes, journalist and co-host of weekly current affairs and pop-culture podcast, The High Low; mother to Zadie, 11 months
I was pregnant May to March and I struggled more at the beginning, when I didn’t really show (just had the requisite big boobs and extended rib cage and bloat) than when I got to the beach ball stage. It was strangely easier to dress, when I became obviously pregnant. I simplified my style a lot: I wore fluid dresses, I had two silk patterned high-neck dresses from Ellery and a vintage YSL one that I’d owned before and wore belted but now just wore loose a lot; and stretchy midi dresses and skirts which would not be my usual style but worked for this occasion. H&M was my saviour. I just sized up by about 6 sizes!
I was so excited to get my wardrobe back when Zadie was born. Rather than diving into new trends I celebrated my existing clothes which had become foreign to me through months of neglect. I would say, and this still stands after 11 months, that I veer towards the easier parts, and particularly my vintage items. I am wearing a lot of blazers, vintage shirts and jeans, and easy, printed dresses (Batsheva, The Vampire’s Wife, Rixo) and I wear boots rather than heels most of the time. I just don’t like feeling gussied up. Not just from a physical point of view – I work four days a week so it’s not like I need to be ‘stroller ready’ at all times – but from a cognitive standpoint, too.
Motherhood is definitely an important part of my identity but it’s not something I ‘lead’ with – in that it would never be in any of my social media bios. Privately, my daughter is the most important thing in my life but professionally, I would still want me as a woman to come first. It’s certainly influenced my style in that I shop a lot less. Not just because I don’t have the time or money, but more because I felt perhaps I had enough, for now.
Fashion isn't less important, but it's less about trends and more about personal style. But I think that’s as much to do with turning 30 and feeling a real impact in a lot of areas of my life – from where I lived to where, and how, I worked to how I dressed. I’ve felt a renewed surge in my vintage shopping which I was already very keen on. Perhaps it’s something to do with new life and wanting the planet to sustain itself... or it might be nothing to do with that and just via osmosis because culturally, we are talking a lot about sustainability and waste. Either way, it’s a good thing I think!
I think the problem a lot of women have when they have a child and a ‘sartorial crisis’ is because your body changes when you have a child and it might be that some styles don’t suit you, now, post-partum. My biggest advice would be to go easy: opt for simpler things that make you feel good. Can’t wear the cool dress, but can fit into the failsafe jeans? Screw it, that’s great – the jeans are way more important, anyway. One surprising thing about becoming a mum is that I can still feel like myself in a jumper and jeans. I didn't think I'd find a way to make it my own, but I have.
Follow Pandora on Instagram here
Katherine Ormerod, journalist, founder of Work Work Work and author of Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life; mother to Grey, 11 months
I realised I was pregnant in June and was really big by Christmas. I had a belly that measured in the 100th percentile and gained 40lbs at 5’2’’. My boobs went from a 32B to a 34G in my pregnancy and by week eight they were already so big that people kept messaging me on Instagram to ask if I'd had a boob job. I was lucky that I could wear big jumper and coats at the end rather then tank tops – it kept the enquiries about whether I was carrying twins down to a manageable twice a week level.
My pregnancy was just not subtle in any way and it had a huge impact on how I dressed. I found it so hard and gained a newfound respect for women who are stylish with a big bosom. The high street basically gives you two options: porno mum to be or matron. I'd very much been a 'Reformation, deep neckline, mini dress wearing woman', so my new shape completely changed the way I dressed.
I became more conservative – its basically impossible not to because the options are very mainstream. I get it – a maternity brand needs to offer the lowest common denominator and nothing too out there because they need to appeal to the most people possible for the short window of pregnancy. But I felt like a shadow of my former fashion self. I did experiment though and kept playing with my old wardrobe to see how things could fit differently. Looking back I did okay.
Since I've had the babe, I have pretty much reverted to my old way of dressing, except I'm very protective of my midriff. I'm still in swimming suits only and feel insecure about how my tummy and boobs look. Though I've stopped wearing a bra again as they went back to a 32B! This summer will be the test really – as last one I was still breastfeeding. I need to buy new shorts as I feel like they are the most unforgiving garments post pregnancy and I reckon the hemlines wont ever be as short again. But at 35 that is probably as much an age thing as mother thing to be honest.
Motherhood is a massive part of my identity that I'm still grappling with daily. Whenever I'm out without the baby I feel like I’m in disguise and someone is going to find me out. I'm not sure how long it will take for that to settle. I had a really tricky time at the beginning – or more accurately we had a really unsettled, constantly puking reflux baby and it totally floored me emotionally. Really I'm only just recovering my confidence and self-belief. But I'm getting there.
In some ways fashion is more important now because it's a link to my former self, life and career. I'm still wedded to high heels. It's a life long affliction. I do wear flat boots a lot though, but I wouldn’t ever go out in the evening without my stilts. It's amazing to feel back to yourself and fitting back into the wardrobe that I had collected and cherished over the past decade was just the most exciting feeling. But also, in reality, style is very low priority because, well, what about your needs as the primary caregiver isn’t? I hate it when I revert back to my maternity uniform as a mum now -– jeans, loafers, stripe jumper, pea coat – because it just isn’t me. But it is very convenient and my hands are often too full to get my white knee high boots on.
I've Marie Kondo’d my flat as it is teeny tiny and Grey has taken up every spare bit of room I ever had for surplus clothes. So I'm slow to buy anything really because its so bloody tidy that I don’t want to ruin it. I definitely don’t want to spend my money on expensive clothes in the same way and I think that has an impact on your style because your high street options are often less distinctive and less demonstrably ‘fashion'. I think much more about value and longevity now. As an influencer, the brands that want to work with me have changed, which is both natural and eye-rolling – as if I'm suddenly too old for some labels but have graduated to others just because I gave birth.
Growing up, my mum was always glamorous even though we had literally no money. She’s worn lipstick every day I can remember, always in heels (she’s 5’ at a push) and big black glasses. She’s much girlier than me, but always made an effort every day of the week. I can never, ever to this day recall her wearing joggers. Or a sweatshirt. I'd say we're cut from the same cloth!
Follow Katherine on Instagram here