Before I had to do an actual school run, I always thought dressing for it would be the most enormous hoot. Would I be more like Elle Macpherson in leather jeans and a trilby or more of a mum-next-door like Louise Redknapp? Before my eldest child was even out of nursery I had compiled several hundred school gate outfit ideas.
Choosing an outfit with other women in mind – rather than men – is my favourite thing to do. Women appreciate the subtle complexities and the hidden messages of one’s outfit in a way men can’t and don’t want to.
But the thing I didn’t realise before I had to do a school run is that it is awful. Mornings are a nightmare. Where does everything go? I need to exorcise my house of the demon that hides my keys and the kids’ book bags and all the fresh milk.
Leather jeans? Don’t make me laugh. The other mums at school were very lucky not to get a daily eyeful of my pyjamas for the first term that my daughter was at school.
If you are one of those mums who lays everything out the night before,
then I salute you, but I am almost always still fishing one of the four-year old’s shoes out from under the sofa and shrieking at my confused six-year-old: “Where is your PE kit?” at 8.25am.
But then I came up with a plan.
At least two days a week I allow myself to wear gym kit, even though I have absolutely no intention of going to do exercise or even breaking into a light sweat.
I encourage you to do the same. I want you to put aside any thoughts that it might be naughty to wear gym kit if you’re not actually going to the gym and embrace this as just a modern and very practical look. The fact that you can legitimately wear a stretchy waistband all day long is neither here nor there.
Although, thinking about it, with all the bending and lifting and running and dodging involved in the school run it’s practically a workout anyway.
The trick with gym kit, I find, is to wear it with something unexpected: rather than actual trainers, wear a pair of clean white plimsolls; rather than any kind of sporty coat, wear workout gear with a leather jacket or a single-breasted wool coat.
It sounds mad, but it somehow works.
Also, you can spend the time you may have wasted dithering over what to wear putting on some earrings and wiping yesterday’s mascara away from under your eyes. Elle Macpherson eat your heart out!
I also have a lot of navy sweaters, grey sweatshirts and boyfriend jeans. There are very few events to which you can’t wear a navy sweater (let alone the blasted school run) and look marvellous. Add some gold hoops and you could go for lunch in town.
Another look I’m a huge fan of is soft black cotton leggings – rather than gym leggings in a technical fabric – and an oversized hoodie. I know what you’re thinking: how is that better than pyjamas? Well, the mysterious fashion gods have decided that huge hoodies are a good thing, and I need no more encouragement.
Go as large as you dare; I tend to get mine from the men’s department – I know that sounds bonkers, but genuinely the look you’re after is that you have borrowed it from a
man (preferably one that you know). Then on top add a leather jacket or a single-breasted coat and your best cross-body bag.
If you wear this, you will not only be the world’s most comfortable person, but appear to everyone to be bang on trend. You are only wearing a random collection of items you may very well have put on by mistake – but that’s fashion for you. I need to send whoever decided that very large, very comfortable cosy hoodies are now in a huge bunch of flowers.
Of course, if the dog’s been sick and the nine-year old ate its own homework and the boiler’s broken, just throw a smart chunky cardigan over your pyjamas and a large, cosy scarf.
Add a tote bag the size of Guatemala for hauling around all the junk your kids hand you (am I the only one whose children present them with actual rubbish to dispose of?) and everyone will think it’s all on purpose. Which it is. Sort of.