In the third trimester and 38th week of my third pregnancy, I had my first encounter with the fashion industry. I was super plus-sized. I could have relinquished my waters at any given moment. I hadn’t seen my (f)ankles in months. My boobs were like Cocker Spaniel’s ears, covered with a road map of blue veins. My fingers were thicker than Denny sausages. And… I went on National television to ‘model’ maternity wear.
It started out innocently.
I am the proud owner of a handsome son. At two and a half he was glorious; big blue eyes, button nose, cherub mouth, long blonde ‘man bob’ hair. (Disclaimier: No one over the age of two and a half should have a man bob.)
Spurred on by numerous declarations by strangers that he should be modelling, and the notion that I could perhaps start a College (Disney) fund with his earnings – I made an appointment with a well-known Dublin model agency to have his photos taken.
On the day, of said appointment, I was 22 weeks pregnant, with my 3rd instalment. I had surpassed the stage where people would wonder had I fallen off the food wagon and I carried with me, a neat but very obvious, basketball-sized bump. (I bake ‘em big). My hair was swishy, my skin was glowing and I was sporting my pregnancy uniform of skinny jeans, silk scarf, ballet pumps and massive sunglasses. With cute little angel boy, holding my hand, we swept into the office to be met with positive appraisal.
‘Oh, we are always looking for pregnant models?!’
‘Did you say model? Me?’ I pushed angel child to the back and proudly displayed by rotund form.
‘Let’s take pictures of you both?’
‘Indeed. Let’s,’ I replied cooly. (SWEATING!!!)
Oh my God – AM FAMOUS FASHION MODEL!
I smiled and posed, (not at all like me…ahem) and left with my head inflated to almost the same size as my rock hard basketball belly, making plans on how I would spend my thousands.
And then heard ABSOLUTELY nothing for another SIXTEEN weeks, until I got THE call. Ireland AM. Model. Me. I had been specially selected from a panel of… ONE.
Oh my God – AM FAMOUS MODEL ON TV!
I briefly mentioned to the twenty-two year old (never seen a baby/held a baby/known anyone who’s had a baby) booking clerk that I was by now quite far along in the pregnancy, but undeterred, she instructed me to turn up on Monday morning at 6.30am in the studio with a few pairs of shoes (shoes? surely she meant flip flops) and my great big form.
A lot can happen in sixteen weeks.
At this stage I was carrying at least 8.5lbs of baby, approximately 2.5lbs of amniotic fluid, the placenta alone weighs approximately 1.5lbs, and I had at least 14lbs of Pavlova induced weight evenly dispersed around my body. But I didn’t care – I was FAMOUS FASHION MODEL.
It was time to call in the troops.
The S.O took on the task of the great big leg shave. This involved sitting in a bath and resting my tree trunks on the side, so he could foam and shave each water retentioned tubular object. My sister in law undertook the spray tan (like a great big hippo in a shower curtain), painted my cocktail sausage toenails, and with a tint and wax of the brows, I was done. It was the closest I have ever been to a make-over sequence, in a movie montage, but with very discouraging results.
By the time I rolled out of the bed and got there, I was exhausted. Being Famous Fashion Model is very hard work, but I was ready for hair and make-up. The excitement!
But it was my bubble and not my waters that burst.
There was NO hair and NO make-up. I had to do it myself. I looked down at the teeny makeup bag I had brought and wondered how I could create a full look from a lipstick. To make matters worse, the other two real ‘AM FAMOUS FASHION MODELS’ were stunning and their bumps were like crème eggs to my wrecking ball. Oh Christ – I panicked. My hormones kicked into overdrive, and I started to sweat. For anyone who has been pregnant, you will understand what this means. You spend much of the nine months in a constant state of overheating, and at that moment in time, you probably could have fried a rasher on the palm of my hand.
Luckily the real-life ‘AM FAMOUS FASHION MODELS’ were beautiful both inside and out, and were willing to share their magic make-up with me and I managed to get the face under control, fix the hair up as best I could, and I was feeling much better about the whole experience until I saw the maternity clothes. Sweet mother of God.
This was maternity wear for the elderly.
I acknowledge that women are having babies much later these days but this was a crime. NO, NO and NO. I had two ‘rigouts’ to wear. One was a cropped wide-leg white trouser thingy with a top that resembled a house-coat and the other was a miserable looking wrap dress, that would not fully wrap around my expanse.
It just didn’t work. I wanted to wrestle the ‘boutique’ owner to the floor and tell her she about to watch her business go up in flames, but she insisted I looked fabulous. The material of this barf patterned dress was splayed so far outwards over my bump, that I could have hidden Anne Franc and her entire family, in the negative space between my belly and the rest of me.
The ‘Catwalk’ was all of 2 inches long, so I had to come out from behind the screen, take one heavy step to the end, turn without taking Alan Hughes out (who took one look at me, one look at my huge form and asked, ‘do we need the ambulance on standby?’
The whole episode was a ground swallowing. This, coupled with the fact, that three months later I received a cheque for €40 for the pleasure (it wouldn’t buy me a pair of Mickey Mouse ears FFS). THE INSULT! It cemented the fact that my brush with the fashion industry was a one-hit-wonder, and I can indeed confirm that the camera does add at least 10 or 40lbs.
Let’s face it, I’m no model but, fashion is ingrained in my soul.
It’s not for everyone and that’s ok.
I appreciate that most people don’t get it and it might surprise you to learn that I applaud this. It is afterall, only fabric. But to me, it’s more.
It’s art, it’s expressive, it’s liberating and it’s fun. But the more and more I speak to people the more and more I realise how baffled they are about fashion; from not knowing what to wear to work, to weddings, to the pub, on a night out, in the daytime, in bed, in the shower, swimming, to a picnic, to a meeting? I have been absorbing fashion since the day I was born. From the Mothership, the sisters and every magazine ever published. When I was supposed to be studying for my degree, I was, in fact, sitting on my bed reading Vogue. Every time I go out for dinner I ensure I am facing outwards, so when The S.O is telling me a fascinatingly boring story, I can watch the fashions walk by. When I go to a party, I am marvelling at the style. It’s on my radar all the time. Here’s what I know.
TIP 1. STYLE IS EVERYWHERE
Look at someone whose style you admire and copy it. It’s probably a good idea to also ensure they don’t live in two-mile radius. The internet is your style BFF. Remember the movie Clueless and her computer that helped her make outfits? Well, now we all have that. It’s called Pinterest. If you have an item that you don’t know what to do with, then type it into Pinterest and by world wide web magic, up comes ‘pencil skirt outfits’ and dozens of ways to wear them.
If you are not on Instagram, then don’t come complaining to me that you have nothing to wear. Pick a few stylish people (bloggers /celebs/stylists) and watch how they do it. Chances are you already have some of the pieces in your wardrobe and haven’t thought to put them together in that way. These people are other level stylish, but if you break down their looks, most of the pieces are basic but with a sprinkling of personal style on top! You can do it. Remember for every designer piece there is a high-street equivalent.
TIP 2. NO NO, CAMEL TOE!
If it doesn’t fit you, if it’s wedged up your arse or elsewhere (camel toe is a no) don’t wear it. It’s going to be uncomfortable and it will show. So please reverse slowly out of the shop. You can be comfortable and look stylish. It is possible. Please don’t get hung up on the sizing in shops. If you are a 10 and the 10 doesn’t fit you, it’s not you, it’s them. Get the bigger size and chop the label off if it bothers you. Bigger is best, that’s what belts were invented for. Look at Victoria Beckham. Oversized is cool and guess what, it makes you look smaller. If it makes you look pregnant and you’re not. Don’t wear it. Babydoll is for babies.
TIP 3. Fur Coat and No Knickers
Invest in Outerwear. I have more coats and jackets than anything else and since I live in Ireland, it takes transitional dressing to the max. We can often have more than four seasons in one day and I’m busy, I can’t risk a cold, so you need coats and jackets to help you.
For Spring/Summer I always have a Utility Jacket, a leather jacket and a denim jacket. For smarter wear, I love a light trench coat and it’s on my list to buy. If you have the outer layer right then you can wear whatever you please underneath. (Best to wear something.)
My pet hate is seeing someone in a fab outfit with a shite jacket or coat over it. NO!!!! You will wear a jacket or coat much more than a little top from Zara, that you picked up quickly, when you were supposed to be getting the chicken fillets in Marks & Spencer’s. So go buy a few jackets and you will get your money’s worth, year after year.
TIP 4. It’s in the Jeans
‘I can never find the perfect pair.’
Of course, you can’t. It’s like trying to find the perfect man. He doesn’t exist and neither do they. You need at least four pairs of jeans (you do not, however, need four men).
– You will need a skinny jean. These are most flattering with runners and flats.
– Black jeans for night time and winter.
– Boyfriend Jeans. YES. Everyone can wear these, they look awesome with heels and are so darn cool. Wear with a few rips and don’t forget to tan your knee! Nothing worse, than a hairy white knee bulging out of a rip.
– Fat jeans. Need I say more.
I don’t spend a lot of money on jeans. Zara often works for me. Find your shop and stick to it. Levi’s are having a moment and are a good medium price point. There’s no trick to buying jeans you just have to try loads of pairs until you find the right ones. It’s a day out. Make it fun / drink your way through it! Good jeans open up your wardrobe to loads of possibilities.
My favourite thing to wear is jeans, stilettos, a t-shirt, a blazer and massive earrings. So the person who asked me what to wear to the pub…wear that.
If jeans are not your friend, don’t wear them! Trousers are cool and infinitely more flattering.
TIP 5. It takes real planning to organise this kind of chaos.
Ok so I know I’m weird, but you have to plan. My friends laugh at me that the rigout is pressed and out on the bed well before I have anything to go to. The motto that I should apply to my food fits much better with my wardrobe…Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail. And when people say to me ‘you look well’, I respond,
‘This was no accident.’
Keep a note of things that you wore and felt nice in on your phone. It’ll give you an outfit at a moment’s notice! I have outfits ready for so many occasions that may arise but never actually do. I could head to the races, a polo match, a ball, a lunch, an interview and I can’t wait for the day that someone invites me to slip over to Monaco for Easter drinks!
I am ready for the life I want, not the life I have!
TIP 6. Age is an issue of mind over matter, if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter’. – Mark Twain
On my journey into middle-age it was one of the questions I asked myself. Should I dress differently now that I am in my forties, and ‘NO’ is the answer. I don’t feel 40. I shop in Bershka, Zara, H&M and there are people more than half my age buying similar. But it’s about how you wear it. I’m not going to buy ‘Mom’ jeans and wear them with runners and a bra top. I’m going to wear them with stilettos and a silk blouse and I bet I’ll look better in them. Screw that!
If your legs are still killer, then wear the mini skirt. Now, wear it with long sleeves or something demure, but wear it. If you have varicose veins and baggy knees, don’t wear it. If it looks good and if it makes you feel good there are no rules! There’s plenty of things that I can’t wear so I just don’t.
Just because you are middle-aged doesn’t mean you have to dress like a Nana. Maybe someday I’ll be more sensible, maybe not! But to me, there’s only one thing worse than dressing too young and that is dressing too old!
TIP 7. Man, you don’t know shit!
Dress for yourself. I stopped dressing for men when I was sixteen. Yes, you want to look good for your husband or your partner but what the hell do they know? Most men dress like over-grown babies, or like their fathers, so ZIP it.
You think what I’m wearing is weird? Well, I take that as a compliment. If you don’t understand it, I am glad, you are not meant to, I am dressing for me!
TIP 8. ‘I’ve always thought of accessories as the exclamation point of a woman’s outfit.’ – Michael Kors
You can make trousers and a blouse fabulous with the right shoes, bag and jewellery. These are the frosting to your cake! They are easy to buy as they always fit and they always make you feel great.
Good shoes that don’t turn up at the toes are key. You need (AT LEAST) one pair of flats (for this season it’s the slipper), one pair of runners, black stilettos and flat sandals. Please don’t wear sandals though if your toes curl under and tickle the soul of your foot. Your shoes can elevate any outfit from drab to fab. I can’t stress how much a pointy toe can turn your leg from ugly sister to Cinderella.
Get with the massive earring trend. They are all you need. For a night out, you don’t need to wear all your everyday jewellery. Take it all off and wear those big earrings and see what happens!
Unless you are a member of the royal family, are over 75, have a job as cabin crew or are going for an interview with the bank there is no place in your life EVER for flesh- coloured tights. I am willing to take the backlash on this. Wear dark tights or tan on your legs and brave the cold. Sally Hansen Leg spray (lightly applied, not like a burnt sausage) is your friend.
I am majorly allergic to tights and will often wear trousers or jeans to avoid them. But I understand that they are sometimes necessary so buy nice ones.
I feel I should mention something about underwear, but once I have used all my budget on clothes, there is rarely anything left over for the knickers! So I choose not to talk about my knickers. I’ve had the same strapless bra for twenty years. I am underwear failure.
TIP 9. Be French!
Ah, the Je ne sais quoi. The French just have it!
They have that effortless style done to perfection. They breeze out with un-brushed hair, looking as if they just threw the outfit on. And they probably did, they are French. But I am Irish so I need to work harder at my nonchalance.
The art of not looking too done, to me is the key to style. It’s the high-low dressing, of taking one hero piece and teaming it with something that’s not obvious. It’s the trick that always works. Please review the following combinations and vow to do at least one of them and then revert with your findings: GO Godammit.
– The sweatshirt and sequin pencil skirt.
– The wrecked jeans and tuxedo jacket.
– The Tux and T-shirt. (or as I once did the Tux and Trainers, only to be laughed at by…a man) It was that cool.
– The evening dress and leather / denim Jacket
– The jumpsuit with a utility jacket.
– The tailored trousers with trainers.
– The woollen sweater with huge statement earrings.
– It’s never being too matchy-matchy, that is for babies and elderly people.
– Try it!
TIP 10. If modern man is the missing link between apes and human beings then the t-shirt is the missing link between your jeans and your blazer.
Snooze, Snooze. These are the pieces that we don’t really want to buy but they connect all the items in our wardrobe together.
They are things like a nice (4) pair(s) of jeans. Just do it for God’s Sake.
Cami Tops. Essential for under blouses or jackets (H&M or The Kooples always do them).
T-shirts. I bloody love t-shirts with loads of stupid stuff written on them. But if you are more conservative you need a good black, white and grey. Go for a loose fit, no matter what size you are.
A good blazer in black or white or both. For spring try orange, red or pink.
Sweatshirts. They are the key to life. I wear them all the time! I am after all a mum. They can be dressed up and down. I love a grey sweatshirt with a huge necklace and jeans. Not too dressy but always looks cool.
TIP 11. Don’t throw paint at a dirty canvas.
If the hair and make-up is good, it probably doesn’t matter what you are wearing.
I can’t stand seeing someone in a lovely dress that just jumped out of the shower, ran a brush through their hair and slipped the dress on. YOU ARE NOT CINDY CRAWFORD. Put on your make-up. Book a blow-dry.
And for Jesus sake, rub a bit of fake tan on. There is nothing worse than a blue foot tucked into a beautiful shoe.
TIP 12. Look at the full picture.
Shop in outfits. If you don’t have something to go with it. Don’t buy it. Or buy everything to go with it at the same time, which is what I do and why I am so very poor.
TIP 13. ‘Always dress like you’re going to see your worst enemy’ – Kimora Lee
Weddings / Luncheons / Confirmations / Communions / Christenings.
Ok, so I obviously can’t include all of this in a single Blog as my hand would cramp but here are my thoughts…
This is the time to have the best fun with fashion. Think outside the box. Instead of a dress which can be dull as dishwater, go for a skirt and blouse, or trousers and a top.
A jumpsuit can also work really well. Except you may get stuck in it in the toilet and have to ask your friend’s husband to fix you and that could be embarrassing for you both. Make sure you can get in and out of it without dislocating your shoulder.
Why not try a really cool trouser suit? I would always say if in doubt keep it plain and work on the accessories, shoes and coat. You will also wear all these pieces again so it’s like a big huge investment, (I’m very commercially minded!).
I’m not anti-dresses. I’ve just bought so many that I’ve only worn once and if I added up the cost of them all I could actually be driving to Lidl in the Diamante Defender.
If you want to wear a leather jacket over a tulle dress to a wedding, do it! Style, should be interesting.
Style is an expression of who you are but in the end, it’s all just rags. What makes us who we really are is what’s underneath, so stop stressing about it. That’s the great thing about getting older is knowing finally who you are, and having the confidence to be that person.
I am addicted to fashion.
I shop too much.
I have far too many clothes.
I think about clothes too much.
Sometimes I wear weird shit.
Love, Judy xxx