Mummy knows best

Competitive dressing after childbirth isn't for the faint-hearted

After my daughter was born, it didn't take me long to get back into some sort of shape and back into smart, fashionable clothes: only about a year or so, maybe two. For some women, however, it's a point of pride that they do it as soon as possible.

A few weeks ago a woman walked into the café where we were having Sunday breakfast. She was fully made up, she had beautifully coloured hair, and she was wearing really tight trousers, atop which sat a cropped leather bomber-type jacket with Mongolian fur collar. The length of the jacket was evidently really important because it showed her tummy, which was pretty darn flat. Behind her trundled her husband carrying their tiny baby, and what turned out to be her sister-in-law.

The woman proceeded to undo her jacket, but the Mongolian fur had caught in the zip. The sister-in-law looked on in some discomfort - as did we all, because we knew that a very carefully chosen top lay underneath and I for one couldn't wait to see it. In the end the woman decided she couldn't take it off, and she sat down. Her baby cried, but her leather jacket was so tight that it was pushing her shoulder blades together and she couldn't make her hands meet. So the husband hung on to the baby.

Then there was the friend who wore Christian Louboutin skewer-thin heels within hours of giving birth. She had wanted to wear them during the birth as she heard Posh had done - though this vicious rumour has never been substan tiated. Seven days post-partum, she showed me around her garden holding her son, despite sinking three inches into the earth with each step. That's commitment to motherhood, I thought.

It is entirely natural to want to look good after childbirth - to show that you have been through this hugely elemental experience and yet, seemingly, at least on the outside, have not been touched by Mother Nature. (I was thoroughly frisked by Mother Nature and the marks still show.) Fashion is a very useful signalling device in these times. My boyfriend, a photographer, regularly gets Jpegs sent to him from model friends who have just given birth. "This is me," said one, which I examined for days with a magnifying glass, "five minutes after giving birth." (Note the specific time.) Well! Where I had had blood and sweat, she had blusher, mascara and a very good lighting man. The contents of her hospital bag proved rather more useful than mine.

The particular sartorial badges of pride to be seen in are: hipster jeans, preferably worn with a tight top that shows off a trampoline-tight tummy; very high shoes, which show you're in control and your pelvic floor has bounced back; a tiny bag, signalling a master of organisation, because only skatty mummies carry big bags. Earrings demonstrate you never allow your baby to get close enough to rip them out; they score extra points, as they show you haven't allowed motherhood to make you go all soft. (That would be terrible. It's important not be soft emotionally or physically.) Black or dark-coloured tops are highly prized, because they show you aren't besmirched by baby-sick. It's really not difficult, when you know how.