Red Magazine’s Senior Contributing Fashion Editor Sarah Clark, 38, has been working in the fashion industry for 17 years.
What she doesn’t know about style is not worth knowing – but she ALSO knows a thing or two about children’s clothes.
Finding brilliant, inexpensive clothes for her twins Marlow & Tabitha, who will be three in January, inspired Sarah to launch her fab blog, Little Spree.
Her exacting standards meant she has had to retrain her fashion eye in order to find great kids wear – and she’s pretty good at it, as her finds on the blog show.
As she says, she ‘couldn’t care whose label is on the inside as long as it looks good.’
Here Sarah talks to MMM about style, getting your post-baby mojo back – and of course, the best high street children’s wear.
- Sarah with son Marlow
- Sarah and daughter Tabitha
- Sarah’s Marc by Marc Jacobs dress, “This is about five years old. I’ve literally worn it to death! I wore it throughout my pregnancy too. It’s so cute and comfortable. I wear it at least once a week! A great buy.”
- Her favourite Church’s brogue boots and (right), another favourite Marc by Marc Jacobs dress, “This was a birthday present from my boyfriend Tom. I wear it with my high Dior ankle boots & tights.”
- (Left) Sarah’s American Apparel bobble hat which she ‘lives in when it’s damp to combat frizz.’ (Right) Her Antik Batik bag, “I always love a bit of leopard print, particularly on accessories. I used this a lot as a baby bag when the twins were small. It was perfect.”
- Christian Louboutin ‘Love me 100’ leather and mesh pumps, £545, Net-A-Porter. Sarah says, “I shot these in one of my stories for Red recently. Love them! I would probably wear them with a cropped jean, but I like them with knitted tights too, which was the way I styled them for the story.” (Below) Tabitha and Marlow.
- “Valentino? No they’re Zara!” £59.99, in store now.
- Sarah with Marlow
How would you describe your style? Has it changed since becoming a mum? I find it quite hard to describe my style because it’s a bit schizophrenic to be honest. One day I’m in a little Marc by Marc Jacobs petticoat dress and flat Chelsea boots (yesterday), the next (today) an Isabel Marant folk blouse, Topshop skinny jeans and Isabel Marant ‘Dicker’ boots.
I do have a tendency to gravitate towards anything slightly hippie/folky/girly, but try not to wear it in an obvious way. I guess I like things to be a mix of pretty and masculine, but always with a slight sexiness too. I think this is due to my irrational fear of suddenly turning into a ‘frumpy mummy’.
I don’t think my style has changed that much since I had the twins to be honest (I still wear things that I bought pre-pregnancy as well as during), although I probably experiment now less simply because I have so little time.
I tend to buy the same kind of things again and again. And sadly, heels (well really high ones anyway) are now limited to evenings/work events really – I just can’t move fast enough in them when I am running around during the day, even when I’m not with the kids (I can cover a lot more ground in a flat boot or my trustly Vans!).
And obviously heels are a no-go when you’re trying to hustle the kids in and out of the car, or at the playground. Apart from anything else, you’d just look ridiculous!
Who inspires your look? No one person really, but I always love how Sophia Coppola dresses. Laura Bailey, Isabel Lucus, Kate Bosworth, Diane Kruger, SJP (love her!) and Jane Birkin back in the day.
Models often inspire me too. particularly when they first arrive at a shoot in their own clothes. They are always so great at putting together a casual, off-duty look. I know it’s such an obvious one, but I do also think Alexa Chung always looks pretty great (I just need to remind myself that I am about twice her age and weight).
Do you dress completely differently out of work? What is your ‘off-duty’ look? Not completely differently, no, but I definitely have an ‘off duty/mum’ look that is pretty much a uniform made up of variations of the following:
- Topshop Baxter skinny jeans (if they’re good enough for French Vogue Editor Emmanuelle Alt)
- Men’s cashmere jumpers (not too baggy or too tight), usually in navy or charcoal
- Vans (have to be the plain, slip-ons – quicker to get out the house!) or hi-tops (love the Common Projects ones), or my Isabel Marant ‘Dicker‘ ankle boots.
- Then a great coat (from somewhere like Sandro) or a mannish-style blazer/jacket, depending on the weather.
- In the Summer, I just switch the jumpers for cool, slouchy t-shirts and the Vans/hi-tops for a great pair of flat sandals.
Is there an item or accessory you couldn’t live without? Probably my Church’s brogue-style chelsea boots. I wear them all the time. They look great with everything, and are super-comfy. I literally get a compliment on them every time I wear them.
How did you find your wardrobe changed after having the children? Well for the first six months or so, it was pretty boring, but then just getting dressed each day was quite a challenge when you’re at home with two babies on your own!
To be honest my memories of that time are quite foggy, but I think, like most new mums, I wore a variation of what I wore when I was pregnant, which was – men’s cashmere jumpers, leggings (sorry, but it’s true…), biker boots, that kind of thing.
Then after a while, I got my mojo back and started wanting to go shopping again (it took a good six months or more though). I don’t think my wardrobe has changed in a major way, but there are definitely less ‘statement shoes’ and more jumpers and jeans. I am not busting a catwalk look when I am at home with two two-and-a-half year olds that’s for sure!
What practical style advice would you give time-poor mums who want to look great? When you’re with the kids pick a ‘uniform’ and stick to it. Just find a look that feels comfortable that you still feel good in, and you won’t go far wrong.
I buy the M&S men’s cashmere jumpers every Winter and I live in them (in fact, I am wearing one right now) and the same style of jeans in different colours and washes.
If you can, treat yourself you a great handbag, and that will give your outfit enough edge to stop you feeling mumsy and boring (and don’t even think about buying one of those hideous, garrish nappy bags – that will drag your look right down. When the twins were babies I used a great slouchy, leather Miu Miu bag that I got in a sample sale once – you really just need a slightly roomier handbag).
My current favourite is my Alexander Wang mini ‘Rockie’ bag.
And a great coat helps too (once I’ve got my (nice) coat on, everything sort of comes together somehow).
Try to avoid too many prints and patterns as they will be harder to work with things you already have.
And then, when you’re at work, or not with the kids, try to make as much effort as you can muster – it’s so easy just to not bother because you’re exhausted, but if you just spend an extra ten minutes getting ready, it can make all the difference (I rarely do!).
Above all, don’t fall into the ‘mumsy’ trap. Just because you are now a mum does not mean you suddenly have to age 20 years! You are still you. I think that’s so important to remember.
Which two high street stores do you think offer most to women who can’t buy clothes as regularly as they would like? Why? I would say Zara for sure. I am always in that store (I love Zara Home and the kids stuff too), and I find it virtually impossible to heave empty-handed.
I love that they have all the great trends covered, as well as really cool basics (that still have a bit of an edge to them). I know I can always find something in there.
I would also say Gap. I bought the best printed slim-leg trousers in there in the Summer and everyone thought they were Stella. They are a really flattering shape too. They often do great shoes too, and have some cool knits at the moment. Oh and I also love the menswear.
Your own blog Little Spree is fantastic at finding those brilliant, stylish bargains for children. Have you been surprised by what you can find out there for children? Definitely. And that’s why I decided to start it in the first place. I was forced to look a bit harder for more affordable things because dressing twins can be expensive (two Winter coats, two pairs of first shoes and no handing things down) when you’re on maternity leave.
But once I tuned into the whole affordable kids’ clothes thing, it came really naturally to me (and I’ve always loved a bargain).
There are some truly amazing things out there, you just have to look a bit harder. Before I had kids I had never set foot in Mothercare (why would I?), then suddenly I’m buying Marlow’s first Winter coat there (a tweed duffle coat that looked exactly like one from Caramel).
I guess I just needed to be a bit more open-minded, but now I absolutely love finding them great high street things that everyone assumes are from Bonpoint! Spending a fortune on your kids’ clothes is just a waste of money as far as I’m concerned.
What would your must-buy be for a boy and a girl this Autumn? For anyone who already follows Little Spree, look away now (you will have heard this many, many times already!): either the Start-rite or Jones Bootmaker desert boots. Honestly, they are fab. They look so chic and stylish, and literally go with everything. They come in navy and tan. I have both colours for both of my kids (they had them last year too – I know, I am so mean).
Also, a great coat that is both stylish and practical. Zara have done an amazing double-breasted grey one with a little fur collar that I am trying to track down in Tabitha’s size.M&S and John Lewis have both done great boys’ ones too.
Oh and the M&S wellies. They come in yellow, red and blue and are completely plain (my favourites are the yellow and red). Love them.
Gap have done girls’ jeans that are the perfect wash (mid-blue) and fit for little boys – they are called ‘mini skinny’ and I’ve just bought Marlow two pairs.
Who are your favourite mid-range childrenswear brands? And do you have a cheap and cheerful favourite that never lets you down? I would have to say Zara again (sorry). I honestly buy so much in there, particularly for Tabitha. I also love Cos (more for boys than girls) and Boden (if you haven’t looked at Mini Boden for a while, check it out – they are doing some fantastic things at the moment, and the quality is always great).
I am also obsessed with Emma Levine. She is my latest discovery, and is doing some amazing things at great prices if you’re looking for something a little different.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS:
Leather jacket or parka? Ooh definitely a leather jacket. Way more versitile!
Blow dry or scruffy bun? Well I am definitely more of a scruffy bun kind of girl, but I do love a John Frieda blow-dry from time to time (I don’t own a hairdryer…). I quite like a slightly messed up day-old blow-dry with a slightly scruffy outfit too…
Vintage or couture? Couture. Just to dream… Have always loved a bit of vintage though.
Chic or unique? Well I don’t think I would ever be described as being chic, so I would have to go for unique…
Fireman Sam or Team Umizoomi? Not familiar with either to be honest (although have heard of Fireman Sam) Mr Tumble? Just kidding. Peppa Pig?