From Grazia Editor to style SOS: How I lost (and found) my fashion mojo

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THE door to the Topshop changing room swung open and on the rails there was a sea of beautifully cut, grown-up, chic clothes – not a dodgy floral pattern or “trendy” print in sight.

They’d been handpicked for me by Fabulous’ Fashion Director Tracey Lea Sayer, who had offered to help me rediscover my fashion mojo. In that moment, I understood everything I had failed to get right in my fashion life.

Natasha tells of her fashion renaissance as she goes on a journey to find her fashion mojo

Or, at least, everything I had failed to get right since being pregnant and having my second child. When had I stopped buying clothes that actually suited me?

Why had I forgotten that a trend meant for 20 year olds (oversized Fila bumbags, shudder!) wasn’t going to work for me, no matter how cool the model on ASOS looked? I stood there, mouth agape.

And then I hugged Tracey. I knew right then that she was about to transform my life as well as my wardrobe.

But how had I ended up here? As the former deputy editor of Elle and then editor of Grazia, clothes have formed a huge part of my existence – mainly because it was expected of me, but it was also a joy.

‘STRANGE EXPERIENCE’

I loved fashion. It felt a privilege to work in the industry I’d been obsessed with for years.  And I was in my early 30s, so I felt young and let myself experiment – and didn’t dwell too long on any mistakes.

I found my groove, mixing simple, well-cut pieces with slightly bolder high-street trends. I sat in the front row at Fashion Weeks and didn’t stress about being a street-style star, but focused on something that made me feel chic.

True, I spent money I should probably have invested on stuff for my kids or put towards my mortgage on Celine coats, Chanel handbags and Louboutin shoes.

I built a fit-to-burst wardrobe of clothes I should love – and know how to wear. But fast-forward six years, and somewhere along the line I lost confidence. In truth, I had lost a part of me. And I wanted it back.

Natasha with daughters Rose and Thea

If I was going to date my clothes crisis back to a precise point, it was almost certainly getting pregnant with my second daughter Thea at the end of 2017.

Being pregnant is a strange experience at the best of times. Your body is given over to growing someone else. Limbs swell. Feet puff. Your face expands.

Yes, you might be “glowing” (it’s sweat, usually, FYI). Yes, you might love the miracle of a life springing out of seemingly nowhere inside of you, but so much of the way you define yourself changes.

The first time I got pregnant, with my eldest daughter Rose, I was 31 and still Deputy Editor of Elle.

‘I was immensely grateful for both my daughters. But somehow I’d lost me’, writes Natasha

My bump didn’t really appear until about five months and I was pretty much able to wear normal clothes just a size up the whole way through.

But having my second, five years on, aged 36, was a different experience.

At four months pregnant, my clothes started to strain and I felt the crushing anxiety of attempting to still feel like myself, while being about as physically far away from that as possible.

I felt older, suddenly, as if those five years had tipped me into a new style category, which I knew included no more skirts or dresses above the knee. I needed new clothes, but I hated maternitywear.

She has previously worked as deputy editor of Elle and editor at Grazia

I had just left my Grazia job to go freelance, so I didn’t want to spend money I didn’t have on clothes that I would probably never wear again.

Leggings repulsed me. I panic-bought three pregnancy dresses in weird floral prints (will I never learn?), tore the labels out before I even tried them on (hormones) and then proceeded to never wear them.

I eventually found two outfits that I deemed wearable – a stretchy black midi-dress and a stretchy red midi-dress, both from Zara – and pretty much alternated them every day for the next five months.

I didn’t want to go out, pitch for work or meet anyone who didn’t already know me. The way I felt, which is the way I suspect many women feel during pregnancy, can be hard to talk about, especially when so many women struggle to have children.

I barely had time to shower, let alone do my hair or wear make-up


Natasha Pearlman

I was immensely grateful for both my daughters. But somehow I’d lost me. I remember the first weeks after having Thea, in August last year, as a haze.

Her birth was a much easier and more joyful experience than my first. I had masses of support on hand from my husband Ben, 40, a journalist, and my amazing sisters, parents and parents-in-law. Thea was gorgeous, funny and loved.

But in the haze of sleeplessness and recovery, I lived in holey pyjamas, vests and a dressing gown. I barely had time to shower, let alone do my hair or wear make-up – looking after two kids put paid to that!

When Rose started school a month later, I bought myself a pair of jeans two sizes up from normal, a grey T-shirt and a pair of sandals, and that became my new uniform. I looked fine, but I also felt like I was fading into the background.

Natasha had been following Fashion Director Tracey Lea Sayer’s style reinvention on Instagram

When I mentioned to Ben how I felt, he told me I was beautiful and reminded me that the weight I had put on would eventually come off like it had done before.

But, however convincingly he spoke, I still looked at myself in the mirror and at my unintentional capsule wardrobe (AKA the only clothes that fitted me) and felt embarrassingly despondent.

That is the power of clothes. Superficial they may be, but – and it’s something I came to hugely respect as a magazine editor – an outfit means so much more. Whether your clothes are designer, high street or second-hand, they are so often your armour. Lose your fashion mojo and, frankly, you can lose yourself.

And that is how I was starting to feel. Working from home half the time meant I stayed in tracksuit bottoms and T-shirts.

Fabulous’ Fashion Director Tracey Lea Sayer handpicked clothing that she felt was right for Tasha

The days I was in an office – about four months after Thea was born – I was so fearful of getting it wrong or not flattering my new, slightly bigger, size-12 body, I resorted to head-to-toe black, which I’d never been a fan of before.

Occasionally I was gripped with a desire to try a hot new fashion trend – hence the oversized bumbag disaster – but nothing felt like me.

As I gradually returned to work full-time and resolved to take back some time for myself to exercise (I became a SoulCycle addict – something the cynical old me would never have countenanced), my body started to more closely resemble my pre-pregnancy shape.

I got back into my size-10 outfits, but I still didn’t know how to dress. Which was how I ended up messaging Tracey – whose style reinvention on Instagram I’d been following for the past two years.

Natasha in her usual clothing before fashion advice from Tracey Lea Sayer

Her honesty about losing her mojo despite working in fashion and finding it again in her 40s inspired me.

If she could fess up to her army of followers that even fashion directors have crises of confidence, then so could I. She jumped at the chance to help – and two weeks later, I found myself in a changing room having an epiphany.

Tracey took me round what felt like every store in London. I clocked up 17,000 steps, covered nearly 10km and amassed acres of Tracey’s solid-gold advice.

“Stop buying online: you need to get in the shops to try things on and see how they fit”; “Stay away from girlie florals – they are not for you”; “See that jacket? Go at least two sizes bigger – it will look far more expensive”; “A pink suit or a dress will be a great contrast to your hair.”

‘NOTHING FELT LIKE ME’

The gems flowed, and I wished I had my tape recorder. We tried on about 10 different styles of trouser until we found The One – high waisted, and flared or cocooned. I discovered high-street shoes that I couldn’t believe came at such a great price.

I laughed, I was brave (FYI, acid green is NOT my colour), and more importantly I fell back in love with fashion and learned to like and trust myself and my own taste again.

I’ll be honest, it’s not been great for my bank account. But I’d spent the previous 19 months feeling pretty far away from who I once was, and now I’m genuinely happier again.

Weirdly, given my line of work, I’ve been reluctant to talk about how I’ve felt with my friends – I felt stupid for caring so much. But having asked for help and reminded myself that sometimes the very best clothes out there come from the high street, I don’t regret it for a second.

Look one

Tash couldn’t help but by this suit on the spot — though she was unsure about the shirt underneath

Tracey says: “Tash can really pull of a suit. This sharp Topshop two-piece with its super-sized flares looks high-end and is perfect for a working mum.”

Natasha says: “I loved this suit so much in Topshop that I bought it on the spot. But – don’t kill me, Tracey – the shirt underneath felt too formal. I’ll probably pair it with a silk camisole instead.”

  • Outfit: Blazer, £140, trousers, £80, both Topshop Boutique; blouse, £59, shoes, £59, both Topshop

Look two

Tash was a huge fan of the bolder print and comfortable boots

Tracey says: “Tash normally shies away from prints, but this tiger-print Marks & Spencer shirt dress is fierce on her! We steered clear of anything too girlie as she suits a structured look for work. Oversized sunnies and killer heels finish the outfit perfectly.”

Natasha says: “I loved wearing a bolder print. The boots were super-comfortable and felt cooler than regular heels. I definitely wanted to take them home with me!”

  • Outfit: Dress, £55, M&S Collection at Marks & Spencer; sunglasses, £12.99, Reserved; boots, £100, Aldo

Look three

These off-white trousers have survived the park, muddy feet, and a wine-fuelled night out!

Tracey says: “Downtime is always a difficult look to pull off without looking scruffy. Tash wanted to look cool and not mumsy, so we went for soft colours and different textures and layered them up. Weekend vibes all the way!”

Natasha says: “These trousers went straight into my wardrobe – and I have worn them, and various versions of this outfit, non-stop. Even though they’re off-white, they’ve survived the park, muddy 11-month-old feet and a wine-fuelled night out.”

  • Outfit: Jacket, £169, T-shirt, £10, trousers, £49, sandals, £42, all Topshop

Look four

This micro-floral print is the perfect combination of grown-up and glam

Tracey says: “A summer evening event demands something a bit floaty. Tash is not usually a fan of girlie styles, but this micro-floral print from French Connection looks grown-up and glam rather than being too pretty. Oversized earrings complete the look.”

Natasha says: “I was amazed at how comfortable I immediately felt in this dress. It covered all the body parts I’m most paranoid about and flattered the parts I like. Plus, the Mango leather sandals were a revelation. They’re next on my shopping list!”

  • Outfit: Dress, £110, French Connection; earrings, £6.99, H&M; sandals, £49.99, Mango

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  • Photography: Lancton
  • Styling: Tracey Lea Sayer
  • Hair & make-up: Bethan Owens
  • Stylist’s assistant: Tiffany Pugh


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