Look around the school gate next time you pick up your child. If you take your baby to a music and movement class, have a peek at what the other mums are wearing. Because, if rumours are to be believed, mothers everywhere are being struck down by a mysterious condition called 'Dressing like a mum'.
Apparently, this unfortunate illness hits women after giving birth to their first child. Perfectly fashionable people are suddenly incapable of buying and styling on-trend outfits simply because they have pushed a human being out of their womb.
Of course, this sounds utterly ridiculous but according to some fashionistas, women who wear a Boden knit, striped Breton top, jeans, parka jacket and Converse are guilty of 'mum dressing' and this, apparently, is a big no-no. There are even online articles devoted to advising you 'How to not dress like a mum'.
But let's back up here a bit. What does being a mum have to do with how stylish we are? Granted, when you have a young baby, nursing tops and baggy clothing come in handy when feeding your child and while you wait for your tummy to deflate a little. But that's just basic necessity, right?
And during those early sleep-deprived days, no one is going to judge a mum for simply rummaging in her floor-drobe each morning and reaching for yesterday's jeans and top, once again. (I even deemed clothes to be clean if I could scratch off the dried-on milk - or baby sick - with my nails. I'm not going to pretend I'm proud of that, but we all hit low points as a new mum.)
One mum who admits she was guilty of stereotyping mums as bad dressers before having a child is Laura Atkinson, fashion journalist and mum to four-month-old Nancy. "Since having a baby, I've quickly realised that actually, there's no such thing as 'dressing like a mum'.
"Maybe I just know very well-dressed mums, but the ones I have come across certainly don't dress much differently to how they did before. I actually think the idea of frumpy mum fashion is quite a lazy cliché, and it does a disservice to most women out there."
Clearly, there are lots of women who don't wear super on-trend outfits every day. They dress for comfort rather than to rival the pages of Vogue. But it seems crazy to be labelling mums as sartorially-challenged, when isn't the reality that some women dress well and some don't – regardless of their parental status?
"I think it's too easy for people to scoff at mums dressing for comfort," says style blogger and mum of two, Lucy Parley.
"If a dad or non-parent dresses badly, it's not such a big deal, but somehow, the association with a woman dressing practically for her role of mum makes it a talking point."
Busola Evans, mum to two-year-old Abiola thinks the whole concept of mum fashion is ludicrious. "I didn't undergo a style bypass simply because I had a baby," she says.
"Yes, many mums in my local playground, me included, have the same uniform of jeans, a stripy top and Converse, but lots of my non-mum friends wear that too. And how on-trend do you need to be when spending an hour in the sand pit?"
A truer interpretation of women's wardrobes could be that we all have different 'uniforms' that we wear for different situations. When we're relaxing, we might wear a sweatshirt. When we're doing practical jobs, we wear jeans and flats. When we're out drinking wine with friends, we wear high heels and a statement necklace. All of these things apply whether a woman is a mum or not.
Many mums just happen to do more practical jobs than other women. "It's pointless wearing anything vaguely expensive or really nice if you're rolling around the dusty floor at Gymboree or getting covered in sticky paw prints all day," says Gill Crawshaw, mum to Eliza, two.
"But I bet if you took any mum on a swanky night out, there wouldn't be a practical coat in sight. Every woman I know who dressed well pre-baby, still does, post-baby."
Busola agrees, saying, "I happily swap my jeans for a leather dress and heels on a date with my husband or a night out with friends. And I'm rarely without my NARS red lipstick and a brightly-coloured manicure."
Of course, the main stereotype we have to smash is the word 'mumsy' – it conjures up images of a frumpy, matronly woman, which, granted, many years ago may have gone hand-in-hand with being a mother but this is 2014.
It's time to reclaim the word 'mumsy' and turn it into a positive. From today, I say we should use it to describe a stylish looking mama. Picture it: you're walking down the street, you see a woman holding the hands of two young children. Her ponytail is swishing as she walks, she's wearing the must-have pink coat of the season, perfect-fitting jeans and high heels. "Wow, she's so mumsy!" you say to yourself...
OK, so I admit that perhaps we're a long way off from this happening, but if we think big, it could happen, people!
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