What does it mean to dress like a mum?

High street stores are capitalising on mum style, with ‘mom jeans’ on offer, and the Breton stripes have long been associated with dungarees-wearing mothers. But what does it really mean to dress like a mum? 

When you meet your baby for the first time, you’ll have just spent around 40 weeks pregnant. So you won’t have been rocking your usual gear. More likely, you’ll have a wardrobe of elasticated waists and vest tops with strange bulges around the belly to accommodate your bump.

You’ve become a mother. But while you might be feeling quite amazed by what your body’s managed to achieve, you won’t necessarily be feeling fantastic about how your body now looks. It can come as a shock that many women continue to look pregnant for a while after giving birth.

I found it really hard to choose what to wear during this postnatal period.

Throughout pregnancy, I wore tight mini dresses, delighted that for once I could breathe out and not worry about how my stomach looked. But then the baby was in my arms, my stomach was wobbly and still protruding, and I didn’t really feel like squeezing myself into bodycon dresses.

Annie Ridout
My daughter, always happy to pose

Everyone wants a photo of the mother and baby – and yet the mother can probably think of quite a few things she’d rather do than pose for photos in her changed body, and (at least in my case) a strange combination of maternity jeans and her husband’s loose shirts.

Add all this body insecurity to the fact that you’ve probably left a full time job to stay at home with your baby – at least for a while – and a mother’s sense of identity becomes a little shaky. Who am I? What kind of a mum am I going to be? What do I wear now that I’m a mum?

I remember when my daughter was about six weeks old, being invited to a networking event. I was keen to go and meet other mums so got ready and was about to leave my parents’ house (where I was living, at the time) but I broke down into tears.

My mum was a bit surprised. She asked what had happened and I explained that nothing had happened; I just didn’t think I was dressed right and it made me feel unconfident about going to this event. I felt stupid for caring; but I did care. We had a cup of tea together and I decided not to go.

After the birth of my daughter, my body actually returned to ‘normal’ (pre-birth shape) fairly quickly. I was able to wear my old clothes within a month. I still had a wibbly wobbly stretch-marked stomach, but it could be tucked into knickers. (Second time round, it’s taking a lot longer).

However, I still wasn’t sure what clothes to wear. I was breastfeeding, so this meant only layered tops or vest tops with clips on the straps. Not very fetching. And I wasn’t sure if I still had the confidence to be wearing the same clothes I had the summer before becoming pregnant.

Who was I now? How should I dress? Did I need to dress like a mum?

Over time, I got back into exercise and felt more in tune with my body. Not in control, exactly, but there was less milk leaking (and less other things leaking), and I felt ready to have my body on display a bit more, rather than hidden under frumpy clothes.

I love dungarees. Lots of mums wear them; and for good reason. It’s a whole outfit in one (you just need a simple top to wear underneath), so speeds things up in the morning. For me, they leave plenty of space for my still-protruding belly. And they’re loose enough for me to get down on the floor with the kids.

It doesn’t make sense to wear white trousers and a silk blouse when you’re spending the day with kids (that didn’t stop me buying some white cigarette pants last months – they remain unworn, in the wardrobe), as they will get destroyed. Clothes do need to be a bit child-friendly in terms of colour and materials.

Pregnant with my second baby, wearing a Clary and Peg jumpsuit

But when it comes to the shape of the clothes, there is more flexibility. I still wear hot pants and mini dresses. My body isn’t the same as it was before children but my attitude is: wear what you want, when you want. Don’t avoid certain styles or colours because of your age, or because you’ve become a mum.

Especially the second bit. Mums can be in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s. Why should we all have the same rules when it comes to dressing? 

My only rule is that if I don’t feel good in it, I don’t go out in it. Often, it’s the frumpier clothes that make me feel crap – not the experimental, or tighter ones. So I’ll take off the baggy top that I’m hiding in and put on something more revealing; reminding myself that no one but me gives a crap about my belly rolls.

What I dress in, now that I’m a mum

Every morning, I shower and wash my hair then I pull various clothing items out of my wardrobe and the drawers under the bed. It matters to me that I’m comfortable and feel like ‘me’ in what I’m wearing. My clothes are one of the tools I use to express myself.

I love putting on one of my vintage dresses with tights and boots. Or a cosy jumper with comfortable jeans. Jumpsuits make me feel fun. In the summer, I’m up for baring a bit of skin. I love a leopard print coat in the autumn. Shoes matter more to me now; I’m usually in a pair of my Tracey Neuls

Tracey Neuls

So, what do I wear now that I’m a mum? All the same stuff I wore before having kids, really.

What do you think it means to dress like a mum? Has your style changed since having kids?