The 2nd in our series celebrating mothers and their daughters through style, brings us to West London where Senior Lecturer Shivanti, in her mid-forties, lives with her only child Maya. Shivanti worked as a Contemporary dance teacher at North Westminster Community School in the late 90s, which is where we first met. NWCS is sadly no more (several luxury flats and an Academy later) but our friendship has remained constant. Shivanti and Maya entertained (its the only way to describe an evening with this bubbly pair) me at their home near Paddington, last month.
Maya is an articulate, engaging eleven year old. She began our chat.
"Mum's style is casual. She's happy to go around wearing jeans, a top and a pair of trainers. When she dresses up to go out for events she looks really pretty in her shiny skirts and her heels. Mum has an individual style. On a day to day basis she doesn't even care what people think of her. She just grabs and goes. But she doesn't look terrible! She's like: "I don't want to look a mess but I don't really care what this or that person thinks of me!"''
Shivanti adds 'She's right you know. I wear what I want. Its liberating!'
On her daughter Maya:
'Maya's style is quite cool and funky. She doesn't follow trends to an extent. She likes anything thats leopard print, anything shiny and sparkly. She loves her Converse trainers. She also loves to wear her denim cut off shorts with some leggings.'
We turned to talk about clothes with memories. Maya: 'I have a pair of black leggings with leopards on them that I just love. They're so cool and comfortable - I've had them since I was about six so they fit me like pedal pushers now! They just so comforting and they're always just 'there' in my wardrobe so I always wear them around the house'.
Shivanti reminisced about when she was a girl. 'I loved wearing dresses. Family and friends always used to buy my sister, Grusheka, and I matching outfits. But they were always made of nylon and they were so hot and sticky. Its not even like we're twins - there are five years between us! I'm the eldest and I wanted my own clothes! I actually kept one of the first dresses I had as a baby - a hideous little nylon number. I dressed Maya in it! I'm sure I've got a photo somewhere...' Mayas horrified face at this news was priceless. 'THANKS mum'.
Maya continued. 'Most of the time mum lets me pick put what I want to wear. Sometimes she gives me advice and I listen to her... most of the time. Once I tucked my bootleg jeans into my boots though. I looked like a pirate! Mum definitely had something to say about that'
Shivanti added 'I don't like her messy school uniform. She hikes her skirt up so she's allowed one roll (of the waistband) and thats it as they get in trouble at school. Having said that, I was annoyed because I thought she was growing up and out of her uniform too fast. Those skirts are expensive! Then one day I asked her and she confessed she was hiking it up! I was quite relieved to be honest!.'
On 'stealing' each others clothing:
'I WISH I could fit into everything Maya wears! One day Maya got all of my heeled shoes out in a row and tried them on pair by pair. I do like her accessories. I tend to wear my gold jewellery - just the chain my dad gave me and a ring. Maya has made me some simple jewellery so I'll wear that.
'I LOVE all my mums heels..AND I love her tulle skirts'
Maya is animated at the best of times but the topic of her mothers wardrobe takes this to another level!
'Mum has never bought me an item of clothing that I didn't like. She knows my style very very well'.
Often, women's priorities around fashion and clothing change after childbirth, which is perfectly understandable. How did this new era affect Shivanti?
'My attitude to fashion changed a lot after I had Maya. Before I would worry about outfits not being suitable for a particular venue. I was little bit more conservative. I would be scared about what management at work would think or say, for example. NOW I wear what I love! As I've gotten older I realise that when you're forty and fifty thats not where fashion stops. It was different for my mums generation. My mum would wear similar stuff to her peers. One generic look or style. What was expected of them. They didn't have an individual look as such. Whereas now women in their forties and fifties look fantastic, if not better, than girls in their twenties as we're more comfortable with our bodies. These days I'm all about comfort whereas previously I would wear my heels all day!'
Shivanti winces at the memory. We note that Shivanti was never without a cute pair of high heels when we first met.
'Whats NEVER changed is my love of heels. Lets face it, your shoe size never lets you down!'
Shivanti had some wise words to say to Maya. 'You are unique and special. Celebrate that. Don't take anything for granted. Keep learning. Know your history. You're really creative - never ever lose that. Society wants us to fit into this nice little mould - an *ideal* student or young woman - all of this can dampen your creativity. Never lose that!'.
I looked on as Maya suddenly reached out and hugged her mother. I know this sounds cheesy but you had to be there. It was completely appropriate for that moment.
Maya addressed her mother seriously at first. 'You've taught me about all sorts of things about history, my South African heritage and about the world'. Then she laughs 'Some of it is quite depressing... but its also important to know that the world isn't perfect!'.
Shivanti and Maya changed into their favourite clothes for a quick 'photoshoot'. I could hear them in the next room giggling and fussing like young sisters and it made me smile. When they emerged their mood was so infectious, so uplifting, that the memory stayed with me for days afterwards. I'm smiling as I write this. I hope you've enjoyed reading this post as much as I have completing it.
How has YOUR style altered as the decades have passed? Did having children derail your fashion journey?
Do you dress for comfort or for style... or have you managed to strike the perfect balance? If it's the latter, do share your secret!
In the next instalment: A famous film star's dress finds its way from the Hollywood Hills to wilds of Wanstead!