The founder of Dress Like a Mum, Zoe de Pass, is changing the way we see fashion and motherhood. Basically, by saying: mums can be cool too. Here, we discuss getting dressed in the morning and the rise of the Instamum…
Zoe, 35, lives in Peckham, south east London, with her husband and their two kids: Art, three, and Elphie, 18 months. She was born in Notting Hill, moved to Wandsworth where she stayed until secondary school and then the family relocated to Surrey, where she spent her teenage years.
What time are you up in the morning?
It depends. Either my husband or I get up for the early shift. He’s quite good at getting up so often he does it – that’s around 6am. Or 7am; when Elphie wakes up.
How do you feel?
Like I would like another hour or two in bed.
What do you do first thing?
Take my son to the toilet for a pee, then come downstairs and have Weetabix for breakfast.
When do you decide what to wear that day?
Because I don’t have much time, I have to be quite quick. So what I sometimes do is after breakfast, I’ll have a shower and I think about – depending on what I need to do – one thing I want to wear then work backwards and work the outfit around it. If I have new boots or have to walk a lot and so want to wear trainers or have a meeting and want to be smart, I’ll start with the shoes then work out the rest.
Yesterday, I wanted to wear new trainers – so I had that in my head, then worked up from there. But actually, I also knew I wanted to wear a jumpsuit, so that outfit was easy to plan. If I don’t get kids food all over my outfit, I might wear it again the next day but because of Instagram, and putting up what I wear each day, it’s not so easy to get away with it. Once, I put the same outfit up twice and said: I know this is what I wore yesterday but I’m a mum and don’t have much time. Everyone found it quite funny. I wasn’t going to post it up but I was like fuck it – and I did. That said, I don’t often wear the same clothes on consecutive days.
Fashion mums have downtime too, kind of…
Do you ever have a down day, where you hang out in a tracksuit?
Yes. I like changing into my tracksuit bottoms, which are really cool leopard print ones, I change into them just before bathtime and then just hang out. But even my chill out clothes are a bit fancy – like today, I’m in leopard print bottoms with a fluorescent jumper.
Would you ever leave the house without doing hair and make-up?
Yes. Hair definitely. I’ll often just put a hat on and go. Make-up – less so. I’ll go to the shops in the tracksuit I mentioned earlier, but I normally put on a bit of make-up because if I didn’t I’d probably bump into someone I knew and have to have a really long conversation. I’m not like: I have to wear make-up, but I usually do because I’m often going out afterwards. I actually really like wearing it; it wakes me up and makes my face look better.
What is your own mother like, in this respect, does she make an effort with her appearance?
My mum is really cool, really stylish but she will go out without make-up. She used to work in fashion, so she’s quite creative with her clothes. Her and my dad used to live in New York and go to Studio 54 – they’re cool people. I guess it’s where my interest in fashion stems from. Mum and I have always liked discussing clothes.
My grandma was really creative too – I have this felt collar she made during the war to brighten up her outfits. I didn’t realise it’s where I got inspiration until I posted a phoho of me with the felt collar and everyone was like: that’s where you get it. My mum always wears nice accessories like scarves.
You don’t have to study fashion to work in it…
Did you study fashion?
I studied three-dimensional design. I did an art foundation and part of that was a fashion module but I studied furniture and product design at uni – so it was still creative. I was thinking about whether I wished I’d done fashion, but after my degree, I went snowboarding for about three years then came back and worked for a trend research agency. I wanted to be a ‘cool hunter’, as it was called then. So I was doing research and looking at trends and within that, there was some fashion. I’ve watched the digitalistion of fashion so that side of things is really interesting to me – how it’s grown.
After that, I worked in-house for an agency specialising in fashion. I was doing brand work for luxury fashion brands. So I’ve working in fashion, just digital rather than the design side. I’d like to get into designing – maybe collaborate with some people.
Getting the kids dressed
How do you dress the children: do they have a say? And is your partner ever involved?
My partner hates getting the kids dressed so I have to lay the clothes out as he finds it stressful because if he chooses what they’re going to wear, they’ll come downstairs and I’ll be like: they’re not going to wear that. But I’m quite into dressing them in comfortable fun things, not as little adults – fun kids, bright colours, prints, comfy things.
My daughter is turning out to be quite opinionated. This morning, for instance, she refused to put on shoes; would only wear Art’s old Crocs. I put her shoes on with laces and she pulled them off, I said: fine, wear those horrible summer Crocs. When she’s in a good mood she’s really up for wearing fun clothes but I’m trying not to make a thing of it. They’re both pretty good at getting dressed, really. Though my son probably would wear his Buzz Lightyear costumer every day, if I let him.
Where were you working pre-children?
I was working for Spring Studios digital agency – it’s a massive fashion photography studios, they have a digital ad agency and I was working there for five/six years. I was head of insights – doing brand strategy, social strategy, those kind of things… also, trend research. But I didn’t go back after having Elphie.
Starting Dress Like a Mum
Why did you start Dress Like a Mum?
I started it when I was on maternity leave, to inspire people about what to wear when breastfeeding, and when people started asking exactly what I was wearing – the business grew. Then I got in contact with brands. I was responding to my audience. I wasn’t going to do the website but people wanted it.
I see the website and Instagram as being quite separate, in some ways. My Instagram is quite popular – that came first – and allowed me to launch the website. I would have kept it just as an Instagram account but people wanted more info so I launched the website too. There are a lot of mum blogs, lots of fashion blogs – but mine is more about brands, their stories, how they started.
I don’t write a lot of content; I just write the facts about things – so that’s the style. These are brands I’m interested in and I like, basically. It’s a platform for them to be written about. I’m never going to talk about what I had for breakfast – it’s not about my life, or me – it’s about fashion and fun. I’ll add the odd anecdote about something funny but no one’s really seen inside my house.
The rise of the Instamum
Why has it become so popular?
I think there’s a few reasons. Firstly, because there’s a lot of mums on Instagram. And Dress Like a Mum is niche – it’s easy to copy, a lot of what I wear is from the high street. Mums don’t have a lot of outside stimulation when they’re at home with a baby, and they don’t have time to read magazines. They also don’t go out at night much, but we use our phones a lot so Instagram has turned into a friendly place for mums to be. Basically, Instagram’s played a massive part for me, because of the demographic of mums on them.
‘Mums’ is a hot topic right now and brands are realising mums aren’t one demographic to be lumped together. ‘Fashion mum’ is where I lie – but there’s also funny mums, organic mums, vegan mums and people, through Instagram, can pick and choose who to follow. There are so many different variations. I’m owning the fun, fashion, easy-to-wear mum – that’s the place I am. And a lot of mums like me think: I want to wear dungarees, she’s doing it, I can do it. So it’s about Instagram. Timing. The support of others. Everyone’s nice and friendly, I’ve got a good network. Everyone chats. But it’s basically the mum community, I think.
Is it your full time job?
Yes. I’ve got a new agent, which sounds very important and weird, but they’re going to help me get bigger deals, get money for things. I get approached by people and brands all the time but this is my first day of childcare – so I’ve been slotting my work into nighttimes. When a brand contacts me, until now, I’ve been saying: will you pay me? And they’re like: we have no money. And I say: I’ll do it anyway.
Now, the luxury of someone saying: can you do this and I’ll pay you a couple of hundred quid is amazing. It’s good to have someone helping with this side of things. Even with friends, I’d say: I charged someone £80 for this and they’re like: Zoe, what are you doing? But with my agent, this will change.
What’s your favourite high street shop for women?
And for kids?
I like H&M or Gap Kids.
What one clothing item could you not live without?
My fuchsia pink jumpsuit. It’s my happy place.
If you wake up feeling crap, what outfit lifts your spirits?
I might wear the pink jumpsuit, but I also like dungarees. They are happy and easy.
Are you a big accessories fan and if so, how do you choose what to wear each day?
Yep. Into everything. Whatever matches what I’m wearing. My clothes are quite practical, I’ll wear a hat because it’s raining but it will be really nice – I won’t compromise practicality on comfort or style. I really like bags. I like jewellery – I just haven’t worked out how to photograph it properly, otherwise that would be up on the Instagram feed too. I like big rings.
Lastly, how do you take your Instagram photos?
I have a camera which is in between an automatic and SLR. It’s an Olympus Pen. So either my husband takes the photos or I have a timer option on the camera and use a tripod. It’s the latter most of the time.