This is the fourth instalment of our Mothers & Daughters: Talking Style series. Here die-hard West Londoner, Alison and her mother, ex-nursing professional Barbara, introduced me to the delights of Holland Park one sunny July afternoon. Alison's nephew came along too and occasionally tries to join in (you'll hear him chattering happily in the background) We spent time talking about mother and daughter style influences, their attitudes to fashion and some memories of favourite clothing.
Read below or click on the picture links to listen at your leisure.
Introductions: "I’m Barbara. I’m 68. I’m Alison and I’m 42"
Q: "Can you describe your mums style?"
0:12 Alison: "My mum is a very conservative dresser. She’s never shown too much skin or too much cleavage. Her style has evolved as ours has. As we’ve become more dictatorial with her as her children. We say “Oh why don’t you try this it’d look really nice on you?” or we just buy her stuff. Sometimes we do bring her out of her comfort zone. But there is a very definite comfort zone for mum. She’ll wear quite muted colours and very conservative, classic style dressing".
Q: "Can you describe Alisons style?"
01.03 Barbara: "Alison is more creative than I. People always compliment her and say she’s stylish. She’ll put things together in a very individual way which suits her and I think she likes to be different. She doesn’t like to fit into any particular slot. At least that’s my impression".
01:45 Alison: "It’s interesting that she says that I like to be different because I think that actually stemmed from her as a child. You know like how when you’re a child coming into a teen and you do really want to conform. It’s really important that you fit into a style group and you fit in with your friends and you want all the labels. Growing up in a city like London. I actually went to school in Chelsea on the Kings road, so there were lots of style influences from where I went to school and where I lived in Ladbroke grove. So you’ve got the large Moroccan community you’ve got the Black Afro-Caribbean community and the Irish. So a lot of culture and style and fashion merged together".
02:37 "But where I wanted the Lois jeans and the Adidas and the Nike my mum always tried to steer me in another direction. It was like ‘Everyone’s got that! You don’t want that! Why don’t you try…THIS!’. Like ‘Reeeeeally? I’m not sure mum. I dunno…’."
02:55 "But actually that was really important to who I am now. So whilst kids were going to play-centre – I went to every play-centre in Ladbroke grove – they were wearing tracksuits and shell-suits and stuff like that, I was going in corduroy skirts and Dash gilets".
03:19 "So I always looked different. I was bullied and I did stand out but I was a very soft child and maybe that added to it. I don’t know but now I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. So where everyone would be going right on a fashion path I’ll take elements of right but I’ll go left. I like to always make it slightly different. Always. Put the Ali spin on it".
03.:53 "I was the eldest. I was an only child until I was 9. Being a real mummy’s girl. It’s always been me and my mum. So I was very sheltered and soft and un-streetwise. I didn’t want to play out. Where kids wanted to play out I didn’t want to I wanted to stay in and draw pictures and watch cartoons and be with my mum. That was really what made me happy. Being with my mum. Whereas other kids – if they were part of a big family – they want to be out and they want to rule".
04:38 "I hated play-centre with a passion but I just knew it was part and parcel of it. Mum worked long hours, she always has. She’s always been hard working. That was just it, as a single parent family I had to. It was just survival for my mum and for all of us".
"Being an only child I used to beg my mum to have another child. I used to cut out foster clippings from papers and magazines and say “Look! This child needs a home can we get this one?” Legitimately shopping for a sibling".
"So at the age of nine, when my mum told me she was expecting my middle sister, Chemere, I remember exactly. It was in Tesco’s. She told me she had something to tell me and I just nagged her until she told me. It was after school in Tescos and it must have been late Autumn but we were in the frozen aisle on the Portobello road".
00.33 Q: "What was your reaction".
Alison: "I cried. I was so happy".
Q: "Do you give each other style advice?"
Barbara: "I don’t look at it as *advice*. It’s just persuasion".
Alison: "Well I think its fashion advice. It’s opinion".
Barbara: "She says ‘Oh mum, this will look really nice on you!” and she’ll buy me accessories. She knows I like scarves. I prefer to have something plain and wear scarves. Like with this".
Gestures to her own outfit
01:12 Barbara: "I do love scarves because I find them quite useful. I actually prefer a scarf to a necklace. In Summertime you can wear necklaces but in the winter you think well, a scarf, you know, with your coat or whatever. She tries to be persuasive. I wouldn’t say she gives me advice because she knows I’m not good with advice. I feel I know what I like and what suits me. So no amount of advice is going to change that. I have gradually, whether its getting older, become more confident, I would wear things that I wouldn’t probably have worn twenty years ago. But I still keep it within colours. I think in life people go through phases. You know they have their blue phase and their pink phase. As a teenager I was all pastel. I would not wear anything that would make me stand out".
02:19 Alison: "And I’m the polar opposite of that".
Barbara: "My mother… she loved red and stripes and polka dots. Anything that would make me stand out I would shy away from. I didn’t want to be noticed. What I’ve found with my own experience is that I do my best not to stand out but people for some reason still get drawn. So it just doesn’t seem to work. On Sunday I went to church and I was wearing a dress similar to this, a straight fitted dress, and I had a necklace on or whatever. And one of the women was going ‘Oh you look so sexy! Oh you look so good!’ and she was going on and on and on and then she said to this other man ‘Doesn’t she look…?’ and he said ‘She always looks good’".
03:33 Alison: "LOVE it".
Barbara: "And I thought ‘Well! People DO notice!’ I don’t think its anything I just think I feel comfortable".
05:47 Alison: "Yes. She used to be concerned that my wardrobe was 99.9% black. She said I was in a constant state of mourning. Yes. Black is my happy colour".
"Although as I have got older and matured. Black is always my go to. Because you just can’t go wrong with black. Its just instantly smart and sexy and slimming and all the other things".
"But I am embracing colour much more. So yes. So although I always will have black as a large part of my wardrobe I now won’t depend on it in an outfit".
"Before I would have at least one black item whereas now I can wear full colour and feel confident to wear full colour".
Q: "Why do you think that is? What’s changed?"
04:47 "Alison: It’s just me becoming more me and embracing who I am and enjoying it. Not feeling that I have to hold back or reign in. I’m reigning myself in less as I get older".
Q: "Did you ever steal each others clothes?"
Alison: "Right! So we had this conversation last night and it really annoyed me that my mum couldn’t remember me wearing her clothes. She was like ‘No you never wore my clothes. They weren’t stylish enough!’".
Barbara: "Maybe when I was at work. I don’t remember. I really don’t".
Alison: "I certainly couldn’t steal her clothes now because I’m twice the size. But in my teens and early twenties definitely I stole stuff. Or borrowed for a long period of time. Long loan".
Barbara: "You see that doesn’t register with me".
Alison: "It might have been not necessarily clothes. It may have been accessories. Shoes I would have liked but we were different shoe sizes. But scarves, jackets. That kind of thing".
06:01 Q: "Do you remember anything in particular that you loved wearing?"
Alison: "She’s got a kilt or she had a kilt. She’s now given to Jaya". (Alisons 13 year old daughter).
Barbara: "Well I always hoped it would fit her". (Alison)
Alison: "I think I wore it as a teen. I couldn’t even think of wearing it now. It’s black and grey".
Barbara: "It’s a 22 waist. I remember buying that kilt".
Q: "Hold it! 22 INCHES? Oh LORD!"
Barbara: "Yes I was about a size 10 before I had Alison. I think I wore it even after I had you" (Alison).
06:45 "It’s a lovely kilt. There was a shop in Oxford Circus. I can’t remember the name now. You know where they now have Topshop and Topman. It was one of those big department stores that just went. I think it went even in the eighties or seventies".
"The difference between those days and now, when I had no responsibilities, I really just bought what I liked. It wasn’t the label or anything. If it fitted me, I liked it, I’ll buy it. And it’s a proper wool kilt. A nice one. And I have it and I thought I never got good wear out of it. I like to get good wear out of everything."
…TO BE CONTINUED...
The term 'long loan' has always made me smile. One of my daughters first introduced me to this when she first started to borrow my clothes a decade ago. I've waved many an item goodbye this way! Did any of this conversation resonate with you? Do let us know in the comments below.
Watch out for part two of this conversation with Alison and Barbara in our next post where the duo take us on a further trip down memory lane.