Boden today launches Wear It Like A Mum, a campaign to lead a conversation about the experiences of women and their attitudes towards style after having children. The campaign, which was developed by in-house creative, comes after the brand conducted a major piece of research into the negative representation of mums’ style in the media and the expectations many women feel are placed on their appearance and choice of clothing after becoming mums.
Boden has partnered with Dr. Michael Farrelly, who works in the fields of discourse analysis and language at the University of Hull, to conduct a diagnostic of the relationship between the word ‘mum’ and style in the nine major British newspapers over the past 20 years. To assess the impact of this media presentation on women, the brand commissioned leading pollster Opinium to survey 1,000 U.K. mums to reveal modern day attitudes towards how mothers dress.
Wear It Like A Mum is Boden’s response to the negative responses - aiming to reclaim the word “mum” as a moniker of style and substance and showing that being a mum isn’t a term to be judged against when it comes to choice of clothes.
Boden has teamed up with a host of influential and inspirational women for its Wear It Like A Mum campaign, highlighting the spectrum of roles mums play and demonstrating the idea that ‘wearing it like a mum’ is about women choosing what to wear, on their own terms. The group includes influential business leaders, tech innovators, models, designers, authors, charity executives and social media stars.
What unites these women is that they are all mums and they are all forging their own paths, pursuing their own ambitions, enjoying raising a family as they go - while also being enormously stylish. The list of ambassadors proves that being a mum can be about being stylish, that mum style is timeless and relevant across generations. Being a mother doesn’t preclude anyone from dressing elegantly and with gorgeous style on their terms, despite what the media might have us believe.
Penny Herriman, Global Brand Director at Boden, commented: “Wear it like a Mum campaign celebrates Mum style. We found there is a perception that Mum and style do not go together. We want to start to change these perceptions and to champion stylish Mothers.Why should becoming a Mum mean you have to compromise on your style?”
Mumsnet CEO and Founder Justine Roberts: “Many women wrestle with their self-image after having children, feeling that somehow they have 'lost themselves' along the way; it's a theme we see repeatedly in discussions on Mumsnet. All the pressures experienced by mothers of young children (career worries, mind-boggling childcare costs, relationship glitches, tiredness, bodily changes, friendship shifts, societal judgement) can sometimes culminate in an epic changing-room meltdown over an ill-fitting pair of jeggings. As with so many things when it comes to parenting, self-acceptance and good night's sleep can go a long way; but a good frock or the perfect pair of sneakers can help too, so three cheers for the retailers who are making stylish, affordable clothes available for all body shapes and all age groups.”
Clemmie Hooper, midwife and creator of Mother of Daughters, commented: “The word mumsy and mum do have negative connotations. I think the meaning of mumsiness comes more from previous generations - who would worry about mumsiness. Things are really changing for women in society and social media - you don’t have to dress a certain way just because you’re a mum.”
Dr. Michael Farrelly, Lecturer at University of Hull, commented: “We carried out research into the language that has been used to describe mums in the UK press over the past 20 years, and the results show that mums have a hard time. The press, which influences so much of public opinion, is signaling to women that they should avoid looking like a mum, or at least, a particular sort of mother: a ‘mumsy’ mum. It’s no surprise that the research Boden has conducted with mums themselves reveals a trend of mothers feeling an expectation placed on them to dress or present themselves a certain way - given the negativity directed towards their style choices in the British press.”
Johnnie Boden, Founder of Boden, commented: “Boden has been dressing mums for 25 years and that’s why I’m so excited to be celebrating stylish mothers this season.”
Dr. Michael Farrelly’s findings:
The research revealed that a majority of all mums (66%) change how they dress after having children. When asked what words they felt best described how mums should dress, 72% responded ‘comfortable,’ with 67% also saying ‘practical.’ Just 15% associate the words ‘fashionable’ or ‘stylish’ with mums’ style and a shocking 1% said they would think of the word ‘sexy’ when asked how mums today should dress.
Delving deeper into this issue, Boden discovered, worryingly, that half (49%) of all young mothers (aged between 18 and 34) reported feeling less attractive after having children. Trying to pinpoint what exactly is influencing this negative attitude towards mums, their self-image and their style, Boden found that 38% of mums felt the media has a negative impact on the self-image of mothers.
Boden worked with language expert Dr. Farrelly to analyse the way mums and their style are discussed, dissected and critiqued in the press - evaluating a sample of over 10,000 articles across broadsheet and tabloid newspapers which discuss mums over the last 20 years. This research found that, of the nearly 2,476 articles dealing with mothers and style, the idea of looking like a mum, or appearing “mumsy,” was explicitly something to be avoided. Words including “stunning,” “smart,” “gorgeous” and “sexiness” were cited as direct contrasts to a mum’s image across all types of national press - whilst words like “unflattering,” “dowdy” and “frumpy” were used to elaborate the sense we are given for what a looking like a mum means.
Dr Farrelly reveals: “All instances in the data used for this report express a negative sentiment toward what is described as ‘a bit mumsy’. This negative expression is always in the context of an evaluation of some other idea about looks or clothing… The way that ‘a bit mumsy’ works is to negatively evaluate some types of clothing and, at the same time, it plays on anxieties that desirable lifestyles are not open to women who wear the wrong type of clothes.
The research also reveals that instances of the term ‘mum’ or ‘mother’ are more often associated with negative circumstances in the news, whereas ‘dad’ and ‘father’ are more often asscoiated with positive events: “a reader of UK tabloids over the past twenty years would have been exposed to a picture of ‘mums’ which exaggerates the nuclear family, tragic events and negative emotions. Readers are also exposed to very different impressions of ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. Since the press is not just a reflection of society but an active contributor to how we understand our place in the world, we ought to consider the potential effects of this kind of exposure.”
“The UK press primarily understands ‘mums’ as carrying the emotional burden of family life, yet understands them as ‘fair game’ for chastisement should they appear to be ‘mumsy’… Linguistically, and socially, we have shared sense that 'mumsy’ is to be avoided.”
Indeed, only 7% of mums have heard the phrase “like a mum” used in a positive way, and the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “mumsy” as: ‘Giving an impression of dull domesticity; dowdy or unfashionable.’
Ambassadors for the Wear It Like A Mum campaign include:
1. Clemmie Hooper (of Mother of Daughters)
Mama to four little women, midwife and author of 'How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out'. She has a huge following on instagram and now runs a blog named Gas and Air, sharing midwifery and parental wisdom.
2. Zoe de Pass (of Dress Like a Mum)
Stylist and blogger Zoe is focused on fashion, campaigning to turn ‘mum dressing’ on its head. She began the project after frequently receiving comments such as 'you don't look like a mum' and couldn’t work out if or why this was meant as a compliment.
3. Anna Whitehouse (of Mother Pukka)
One of the pioneers of the ‘real parenting’ social movement. Blogs, writes, Instagrams and has a podcast. She also campaigns tirelessly for flexible working (started the Flex Appeal movement), works to support miscarriage charities and is an ambassador for Practical Action, a children’s charity which works in Nepal.
4. Lucia Whitehouse (of Grandmother Pukka)
Mum of Anna (Mother Pukka) Lucia is a much-loved ‘Insta Gran,’ embodying the same playful spirit as her daughter. One of the rare influencer mum-daughter duos.
5. Stefanie Luxat (of Ohhh Mhhh)
German author and journalist. Covers lifestyle, motherhood and fashion.
6. Amanda Owen
An author and shepherd with 9 children, living in the Yorkshire Dales and documenting it on Twitter.
7. Freddie Harrell
Freddie is a fashion icon and a businesswoman. Founder of SHE UNLEASHED (a company holding workshops helping women with confidence), she has just set up her first hairdressers and beauticians ‘Big Hair No Care’ in south London.
8. Jessica and Caroline (of Not Such a Model Mum)
Modelling duo split between London and Barcelona. Focusing on fitness, beauty, motherhood and fashion.
9. Michelle Kennedy
Entrepreneur - after working at dating app Bumble, she founded Peanut, an app which helps women meet like-minded mums in their area. It has since had interest from Apple.
10. Maz Boutorabi
Design Director at Boden.
11. Erin Northey
Born in America, Erin is CEO of the EducAid Sierra Leone charity.