From a politically engaged, creative upbringing with her single mum, to life as a stylist with two little ones – Yvadney Davis, founder of Style After Nine, talks postnatal dressing, living abroad and glamming up for nights out
Yvadney Davies, 34, lives with her husband and their two children Manelo, three, and Elodie, six months, in South Norwood, south London.
What’s your home like?
It’s a quirky detached Victorian House with plenty of room for me to express my love of colour and pattern. I have a mishmash of upcycled second hand furniture, homemade soft furnishings and contemporary everything else (we’re a couple of miles away from IKEA – dangerous!). The downstairs is very open, which was key when we were looking to buy. We want a space for our family to enjoy each other’s company, but also have zones where we can spend time by ourselves.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?
I look back fondly on my childhood. I lived with my young mum, a single parent in a Victorian flat overlooking the famous gothic Nunhead cemetery in south London. My mum is a superwoman and juggled full-time work with being insanely creative. She played the piano, sewed, knitted and baked and would take me to see contemporary dance, music and off-beat theatre performances. I inherited many of her talents and was very artistic and musical, playing the violin from the age of four.
I have vivid memories of going on an anti-apartheid march as a four-year-old, sitting on someone’s shoulders as we marched towards Trafalgar Square
Despite being an only child, I had lots of cousins and friends I played with like siblings and spent many of my summer holidays at my grandparents’ home in Florida, which was heavenly. Being an only child also meant I was just as comfortable around my peers as I was chatting to my mum’s friends. She was very political, a staunch Labour supporter and fiercely opposed to Margaret Thatcher. So, I’d say I was politically and socially aware from a young age. I have vivid memories of going on an anti-apartheid march as a four-year-old, sitting on someone’s shoulders as we marched towards Trafalgar Square.
At what stage did you start working in fashion, and what led you down this path?
I have been drawing pictures of people for as long as I can remember and used to help my mum sew our dresses, looking through pattern books, choosing fabrics and trims. So, by the time I was a teenager I had a portfolio full of designs, had started reading Vogue and watching fashion TV against the backdrop of 90s greats like Gianni Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano. That’s when I decided to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins.
I spent some time working as a design assistant in New York, before I realised it wasn’t for me. An incomprehensible amount of time was spent comparing four-hole buttons to two-holes and testing fabric for stretch. I’d had a taste for the glamour of PR, having done internships for Julian Macdonald, Gina Shoes and an agency in New York that looked after Jil Sander, Bally and Luisa Beccaria and I wanted a piece of that fast paced ‘Ab Fab’ life. My first proper PR job was at Smythson of Bond Street.
Where were you working when you first became pregnant?
I was living and working in Vancouver, Canada when I got pregnant with MG. Despite working in PR, I had a full portfolio of test shoots and used the move to make the leap to full time fashion styling. I had been signed by Judy Inc, an amazing talent agency, and did all sorts of jobs from editorial shoots and look books, to an award-winning music shoot and even a stint on TV.
It wasn’t easy being pregnant and styling. I suffered with terrible lower back pain from early on and spent many a shoot on the floor to ease the pain. I wore sickness bands to control my morning sickness for the TV job and had to sit on a crate in the middle of a farm at six months pregnant while we filmed the music video, not easy in a bitter Canadian winter.
What were your feelings about the maternity clothes on offer?
Vancouver is a beautiful, health-focussed city. So fashion there tends to lean towards function, think yoga-gear and hiking clothing or the extreme luxury designerwear for the many mega rich residents. Maternity clothing was pretty limited. You had H&M and a few big North American chains with very basic options, lots of pieces I’d not be seen dead in outside of pregnancy. I really missed London and having so much choice. I missed Topshop!
How did you dress during pregnancy?
Aside from a couple of pairs of maternity jeans and some maternity vests, I stuck to non-maternity pieces that could accommodate my bump. I worked out a few tricks, such as large safety pins on zips and belly belts, to allow me to keep wearing my regular bottoms. I also wore a tonne of asymmetric jersey pieces and full skirts I could wear above my bump. Above all, much as I do now, I relied on big accessories and trophy jackets to make simple outfits look pretty fabulous and I lived in my Converse.
And post-birth: how did you feel about your changed body and how did you then dress?
To begin with I thought it was all quite funny, the saggy bulge of a belly, massive boobs (I used to have small boobs and could go braless), lumps and back fat. After a few months, I felt more then a bit frustrated and actually quite down about myself. Maternity style is one thing, but that post-baby period is actually quite tricky for mums. No one really talks about it, and I think many new mums are left feeling insecure about their physique, with no idea how to dress for the practical requirements of motherhood (as in breast-feeding and dealing with sick up).
I treasure the opportunity to wear vertiginous glam heels, as I’m normally running around in flats. And a cool clutch bag is always a nice change from my nappy bag
For a while I felt pretty down about my body. I dressed quite awkwardly, fumbling my way through fashion hits and misses, mostly misses, as I find when you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s hard to pull it together on the outside. That’s actually why I started my blog Style After Nine (after nine months of pregnancy), as a cathartic way to communicate with anyone else out there who felt the same. I promptly snapped myself out of my self-loathing and thought ‘sod this!’, rocking the same trends as everyone else, just adapting them so they were breastfeeding friendly (lots of separates and dungarees), and accommodated my mum tum (a tonne of elasticated and wrap waistbands).
What are your feelings on the notion that we should aim to ‘get our body back’ after having a baby?
It angers me! The media has an unsavoury obsession with highlighting how quickly a celebrity mum loses weight: “Look at xyz back in her skinny jeans only 3 hours after giving birth!”. We put these women on a pedestal and set unrealistic standards on ourselves, dangerous considering the threat of raging hormones, depression, and establishing breastfeeding. It’s like there’s no let up from objectifying women’s bodies and if there’s one time the world should back off it’s the pregnancy and post-natal period.
There are more important things to worry about, like introducing our baby to the world, healing our bodies after nine months of change, and settling into our new lives as mothers. Yes, it’s important to be healthy, my Zumba and pilates classes are very important to me and I’m looking forward to returning to the gym one day, but if ‘getting our body back’ is at expense of our physical and mental health, and the well being of our baby, it’s not worth it.
You’re now a freelance kids’ fashion stylist and writer – how important is the way we dress our children?
This is the first age since the 1950s that children’s fashion has so closely mirrored that of the adults. On one hand it’s kind of cute, but on the other it’s a shame we can’t let kids be kids. That’s why, while I have fun dressing my kids, I strongly believe in reflecting the joy of being a child. It’s such a short time in their lives. I like to inject a bit of humour into their outfits, that can mean dress-up, animal prints that inspire their play (Manelo enjoys dinosaurs and jungle animals) and with Elodie, cotton pieces which look like vintage kidswear and a lot of bunny ears. Ultimately, I want my children to carve out their own fashion identity, even if, God forbid, that means Elodie becomes the Saffy to my Edina.
There’s also no point putting them in stiff restricting clothes they can’t climb over the sofa in, explore the park in and spill food down. You need a bit of stretch and comfort, most importantly you need that all important machine washable tag.
Do you let your partner dress the kids?
My husband is the quintessential tech geek. Yes…sometimes…let’s move on!
What are you wearing today?
Today, I had a coffee meeting and the school run, so I needed a simple outfit with a little twist. I’m wearing torn white boyfriend jeans (which are now skinny on my post-baby thighs!), chelsea boots, an oversized grey t-shirt, a fine knit long hooded grey cardigan, a simple navy cocoon coat and my supersized tortoise shell hooped earrings. Underneath it all my favourite Hot Milk nursing bra.
How do you dress for a night out?
Nights out now I’m a mum take on a whole other level of significance, as in it’s a big deal. I treasure the opportunity to wear vertiginous glam heels, as I’m normally running around in flats and a cool clutch bag, always a nice change from my nappy bag. That said, it’s hard to shake my mum hat off, and I tend to feel more comfortable in a jumpsuit or skinny jeans. I feel the days of body cons and minis are behind me. I almost always have to rush my makeup, as I get ready with my toddler clutching my leg or one-handed with Elodie nursing. So it’s all about bright lips and highlighter.
Any top fashion tips for pregnant women?
1. Don’t feel like you need to be a wallflower for nine months, continue to have fun with vibrant prints and colours. Work that bump!
2. If, like me, you’re normally small-chested, enjoy your bigger boobs and show off your cleavage.
Any other comments on fashion/motherhood…?
Accept the season you are in now, rather then holding on to your life pre-motherhood. It may be hard at times, but the rewards far out weigh the down sides. There are times when I feel like I’m missing out. Yes, I may spend many a Friday night enjoying a kitchen disco, but I don’t see this as time out, but rather living now and am embracing all the highs and lows. I like who I am now, and am happy playing with fashion with a confidence I never had pre-motherhood. I hope other mums are inspired to enjoy their post-baby style journey too.
Yvadney’s blog: Style After Nine