How to not dress like a mum

There are many things I’d anticipated when I became a parent: the sleepless nights, the dirty nappies, even the lack of time to myself. What I didn’t expect was the terrible fashion sense.

As a new mum, I kept wearing maternity clothes, assuming that one day I’d fit back into my old wardrobe. Now, I’ve realised this will never happen. Putting on pre-pregnancy jeans is like trying to stuff a sleeping bag back into its cover. Every time I push in one bit of flesh, another pops out. My wardrobe is 90% things I love, can’t fit into, but can’t bear to throw away either. The remaining 10% is leggings and billowing Breton-striped T-shirts.

And it’s not as simple as going out and buying bigger sizes. I’m several months into a search for new jeans. I got excited when I saw ‘Mom’ jeans in Topshop. “These must be for me,” I thought. Yeahhhh… that didn’t turn out to be the case. ‘Mom’ jeans are high-waisted and short in the leg. There’s no space for the intriguing mix of flab and flap that is now my mid-section. ‘Mom’ jeans are a take on the jeans our mums used to wear in the 90s – the previous generation to stand in our shoes. They’ve been remodelled for kids with flat bellies, who wear them with cropped T-shirts – and smug irony.

I ran out of Topshop and realised it was not the place for me anymore. But then I was lost. “Who am I? And where are my people?” I thought. Very big questions to be asking in the middle of Bromley. In the end, I went home with some new jeans for the toddler (natch) and slipped back into the comfort of my leggings. Where I stayed quite happily until the party invitations started rolling in… (Ok, more of a trickle. I’ve had precisely 2).

So this is where I’m at – trying to find a party outfit that makes me feel like the old me. I’ve turned to my mum friends for advice because we’re all in the same boat. Wearing Breton sailor stripes, of course, without a hint of irony…

I wear a lot of black and jeans (from places like Zara and H&M) in an attempt not to look silly or like mutton, and then cool earrings or a necklace.
Katie, mum of 2, hotel PR manager

I’m wearing my new orange Nike trainers to Xmas parties. I love them!
Alice, mum of 2, GP, raver

I nearly always shop online these days – it doesn’t always work out, but as long as it’s free and easy to return I don’t mind. I often shop at zalando.com – a bit like ASOS, but not as young. They stock lots of my favourite Scandi brands, like Minimum, Yas, Vero Moda and Selected Femme.
Marie, mum of 2, Swedish designer

You can’t beat Primani! I just bought an Xmas jumper and a party dress for £30. There’s lots of choice. I think it has something for everyone and lots of the stuff isn’t too ‘young’.
Jess, new mum, loving mat leave

& Other Stories and Cos are my go-to places. My Xmas party look is black trousers and top with silver mock-croc Topshop boots that I got in the sale last winter.
Caz, mum-of-2, food writer

I LOVE getting lucky in charity shops for vintage bits – like an 80s jumper I got for £5 that my husband thought was a joke!
Kate, mum of 2, designer, festival queen

& Other Stories for jumpers, going out dresses, accessories and shoes. And Cornish brand Seasalt for jeans that fit and work dresses that aren’t too short.
Laura, mum of two, glamorous lawyer

I shop online. I like vintage-inspired joanieclothing.com.
Gemma, mum of 2, writer

I like Esprit online (fabrics are usually very soft and dresses not too short). I also like Oliver Bonas as it’s in places like train stations, which I can run into, and it’s small so not too much choice. No time for choice!
Becky, mum of 2, busy designer

Follow writer, blogger and mum Sara on Twitter: @SarahLouWrites