As I was getting dressed the other day Cherry, resplendent in a full-length dress with a layered pink tutu skirt over hot-pink sweatpants and thick rainbow welly socks worn as gloves, watched me reach for my jeans.
'Oh Mummy,' she sighed. 'Not your denim leggings again.'
(Cherry hates denim leggings. She hates any clothing that isn't brightly-coloured, flouncy, printed, patterned, covered in flowers and rainbows, flashy or glittery. In fact ideally her clothing would feature all of the above.)
Violet, who was wearing her default uniform of absolutely nothing at all, nodded in agreement. 'Wear a pretty dress, Mummy,' she urged. 'Not denim leggings.'
I've known for a while my wardrobe could do with a bit of a pick-me-up, but there's nothing like your own children pointing out that you haven't worn anything but jeans pretty much since they were born to make you realise you're in a rut.
I'm not even sure if 'in a rut' is the correct terminology because that would imply at some point in the now-distant past I was out of aforementioned rut and actually had a sense of style, or wore something other than jeans and a range of cheap, ill-fitting and plain tops from bargain basement stores.
To blame my utter lack of any kind of personal style on motherhood is completely dishonest because truthfully I've never really known how to dress. I have always inhabited my body and my clothes awkwardly and uncomfortably.
I hardly ever feel good in my clothes because I hardly ever feel good about myself or my body, so I go for 'comfortable', as if I were 95 years old.
When you've always deeply rejected what you see in the mirror, no clothes are going to cut it because regardless of what you wear, you always look like you. Not like that girl in the pictures.
I have worked a great deal on my body image in the last few years and am approaching a place whereby I can inhabit my own skin with acceptance. Ironically I'm the heaviest I've ever been, barring during pregnancy. But of course the problem is not the weight, it's never the weight, it's what you're using weight to avoid thinking and feeling that's the real issue.
I've reached the point where I am ready to begin to dress my body. Not hide it or just shove it in something bland and nondescript in the name of 'comfort'. And not buy it clothes that suit rake-thin models and hate it for not looking rake-thin in aforementioned too-tight clothes. But actually dress it, me, as I am.
I'm busting excuses. My big one is I don't have time to shop and find out what suits me - well this isn't true. It's perfectly possible to shop online, try things on and send them back if you don't like them (unless you buy from Hollister in which case you'll be charged £9 for the privilege of sending back what are essentially crop-tops).
The second excuse is money and there is an element of truth in this - it's an expensive business, starting an entirely new wardrobe from scratch. Instead I've started hitting charity shops and buying pretty much anything I like the look of. Some of it fits and suits me, some of it doesn't. At £2 a pop, it doesn't really matter either way! Whatever I don't like goes straight back, and all the time money is being raised for a good cause so let me just polish my halo for a moment.
Ultimately my ambition is to know what suits me, know where to go to find well-made clothes that fit, and if at all possible shop ethically. It's basically the polar opposite of my strategy to date, which has been to spy something I like the look of on somebody else who is significantly thinner and more angular than me, decide I can't justify buying it, spend four times as much on poor-quality substitutes from cheap tat fast-fashion hotspots, then not wear any of it because I don't look significantly thinner and more angular, and feel crap.
Well no more! It's all about wearing what I love from now on. I don't even really mind if it technically 'suits me' or is the right cut or style for my body shape. If I feel pretty in it, it's a keeper.
I bought some leather-look leggings from Mango after reading a great blogpost by lovely Sara at Me and Orla. I've never once thought to try anything as 'out there' as leather leggings even though I had a sneaking suspicion they would really suit me and lo and behold, they are perfect and I am sure, life-changing. The same post also prompted me to invest in a stunning pure wool cape from Boden, which I thought it would come in useful out and about with the kids (it already has - 'Mummy can I sit on your knee and snuggle in your blanket?') and for camping later in the year when it gets chilly of an evening. I mean look at it. HOW gorgeous? So soft too. I might take it to bed with me. Or marry it.
The top is a charity shop special and I love it. Unfortunately it's too low-cut for me to wear without something underneath. I don't really like 'layering' as I am very broad in the torso and chest and the last thing I want to do is add bulk, but the top isn't tight-fitting (another big no-no for me that it's taken me 35 years to understand) so I've layered that baby up. And the boots are relics from my pregnancy with Cherry when I had to walk about a mile a day to the station to get to work and couldn't do it in heels. They are so warm and practical (ugh!) I can't bear to part with them.
So here it is, my first ever outfit post with proper photographs not shitty badly-lit mirror shots that I can hide behind. I had to push aside excruciating self-consciousness with a large side-order of self-criticism and doubt (Vain! Self-indulgent! Narcissistic! Who do you think you are, you're no model, etc etc etc) and ask Noel to take these photos of me. Posing. In a public place. Cringe-a-rama. And I don't really like the below photo (quite apart from it being out of focus) because it just feels so totally HEY LOOK AT ME but I'm publishing it anyway because this here space is all about doing the things that scare me.
And you lovely lot are along for the ride.