I have just become a grandma. Having a new baby in my world is the most wonderful thing imaginable. My granddaughter was three weeks old yesterday and I love her to bits. She is utterly perfect. Last night, as I was twirling around in the kitchen to her favourite song – Ed Sheeran’s Perfect – with her in my arms gazing up at me, I thought ‘Life does not get any better than this’.

‘You look perfect to me.’

I am absolutely loving being a grandma. But I’ll be honest with you, I’m struggling with the whole ‘grandma’ thing: the title and what it implies. I haven’t relaxed into it yet. When someone says ‘Grandma’, I look around for my mum, who was the best grandma ever and yet sadly, hasn’t been around for a good few years.

I have an image of a grandma: how a grandma dresses and behaves, who a grandma is, and it is nothing like me.

You know how much I love clothes. I’ve discovered a freedom to dress the way I love and I’m not ready to let that go. However, a couple of days before Delilah was born, I entered crisis mode. I think it was nerves. I became convinced that I needed to sort my wardrobe and get rid of ‘non grandma suitable’ items. I was convinced I couldn’t be a good grandma as I was. I needed to change to fill the role. I looked at my clothes and thought ‘Grandmas don’t dress like this.’ There was one particular item that stood out as needing to go: a crushed velvet short skater dress from Miss Selfridge. Somehow it suddenly seemed far too young for someone like me, far too young for a grandma to wear. And then that perception spread to the rest of my wardrobe:  I didn’t own anything suitable for a grandma to wear!

In my panic, I messaged my daughter and my best friend. My daughter was to be the mother of this precious baby. Her opinion mattered. I won’t repeat the single word she replied with, but it was basically ‘You absolute idiot!’ My friend was no more understanding. Her response was ‘If you start dressing like a grandma, then we’ll have to go out separately from now on!’ Both responses raised a shadow of a smile, but did nothing to alleviate my nerves.

However, when I gazed into the eyes of my grandchild for the first time, everything changed. This is what I communicated with her without speaking aloud.

Hey there, Delilah, I’m your grandma.

I’m not a normal grandma. I don’t knit. I’m a bit quirky. I’ve been called an eccentric dresser.

But that is who I am and that is what I offer you.

I will love you with my whole heart. We will have such fun together.

I’m a big kid at heart and I look forward to being a big kid with you.

I will be unapologetically me, for that is all I can be.

I will love you just as you are and I hope that you will be able to love me just as I am too.

That skater dress has not made it back into my wardrobe. It became a symbol of something and I don’t believe I ever will wear it again. But everything else is staying. I am not the stereotype of a grandma, but then, who is? I will be a wonderful grandma, because I will love all my grandchildren with all that I am and that will be enough. I’m throwing out the stereotype and doing it my way.

I will teach Delilah and all my grandchildren to follow that it is OK – more than OK – to be exactly who they were born to be.

Because that is exactly who I intend to be too.

 

Name: Ros Rusted

Business: A* Rosalyn Rusted

How did you first develop a passion for what you do?

My passion has grown over the years! At first it was a job that I was growing into! For the past 10-15 years, it’s been a job that I love.

What were you doing before?

Before having children, I worked in an office mainly with a small stint as a dental nurse. Immediately prior to becoming a driving instructor, I had been a stay at home Mum of four for about 12 years. When my youngest child was about 2, I started to think about what job I could do when he went to school that would fit around school hours. I wouldn’t have dreamed of becoming a driving instructor had I not randomly seen an advert saying there was a need for female driving instructors. I went along to learn about the training process and decided it could be a perfect job to fit around a family!

What gave you the courage to step out and do your own thing?

I am not sure where I got the courage from, but I certainly soon discovered that I needed plenty, as it was such a demanding process. Not least because I was looking after my toddler plus three older children plus childminding a baby at the time!

A* Rosalyn Rusted

What have been some of the struggles along the way?

The training was in three parts and each part became harder! The part 3 was a nightmare and you are only given 3 chances to pass it. I failed the first 2 and was absolutely desperate to pass on the third attempt having put SO much work and effort into it for months, not to mention the money! Also I had been a trainee instructor for 6 months at that stage and my first pupil had passed first time. I enjoyed the job and knew I could do it!! But could I get through that test which was all done by role play and so different to the ‘real thing!?!

I changed driving schools at this point and had someone new to teach me what they were actually looking for in order to pass in my final attempt!!!! It worked! I made it!!!’

That was 23 years ago!

 

What do you love about what you do?

I love working with young people. Some of my pupils are older but mostly 17/18. I always seem to get along well with each one and I endeavour to make their learning to drive experience a good one! I love the freedom of working for myself (I only worked for a school for the first few years).

What’s made you feel proud of what you’ve achieved?

I am proud of keeping my business going all these years on ‘word of mouth’ recommendation only. I never advertise, the one occasion I tried, it brought in nothing!

What would you say to another woman contemplating doing her own thing?

I would encourage anyone to take that step and put 100% effort into making it work for them. The rewards are huge , especially in terms of confidence building!

Name: Stella Raphael-Reeves

Business: Tribal Spirit

The business is based upon my passion of dance, the outdoors and music, in particular live djembe drumming. There is something about dancing bare foot in the forest on a summers evening to the beat of a drum. I set myself up as a sole trader, set goals for the year to perform at three festivals and two of the major Yoga shows in the UK. With both these goals achieved, I then set up a Tribal Spirit Jewellery range with beautiful bespoke handmade pieces, a wonderful brand and a website.

How did you first develop a passion for what you do?

I have always danced and loved music, it has always been my way of expressing myself and releasing energy.
My parents loved to dance and always encouraged my sister and myself to dance. I love fashion, jewellery and nature and Tribal Spirit has allowed me to be creative and express myself in an arena where people accept me for who I am: albeit a little ‘Wild’.

What were you doing before?

I have spent the last 18 years working in education. After having 6 months vacation from the corporate world, I realised that I am way too institutionalised to live my notion of dancing bare foot and fancy free around the world. What I do realise, after a great deal of internal turmoil and pain, is that actually you can have it all: a great job, a good income stream, travel and follow your passion.

What gave you the courage to step out and do your own thing?

The thought that I could bring pleasure to so many people, the happiness I receive from making others happy.

What have been some of the struggles along the way?

To be honest, I haven’t struggled – just sometimes fear of the unknown and realising I like my comfort blanket of a regular income.

What do you love about what you do?

I love watching people express themselves in a myriad of ways, love meeting like-minded souls and people who share the passion of music and dance. The notion of being free even for that short period of time. I love making people happy even if it is from sticking a golden Tribal Spirit tattoo on their arm or marking their bodies with Tribal Markers.

What’s made you feel proud of what you’ve achieved?

Proving to myself that I can start up a successful business from a dream and make it work.

What would you say to another woman contemplating doing her own thing?

Believe in yourself, don’t ever give up and don’t ever be afraid of what other people may think about you.

 

 

Name: Rebecca Cabaniss

Business: Padding Paws Gateshead

How did you first develop a passion for what you do?

I’ve loved animals all my life so running a dog walking and cat sitting business allows me to spend more time with animals.

What were you doing before?

I was working in retail.

What gave you the courage to step out and do your own thing?

My friend Jeff told me my idea could work and gave me the kick start help I needed.

What have been some of the struggles along the way?

Physically hard work, not always having enough work, sometimes having too much and juggling.

What do you love about what you do?

Absolutely love being out in nature and love my doggies and cats.

What’s made you feel proud of what you’ve achieved?

That I’ve been able to run a business and seen it grow! I’ve gained a lot of confidence along the way.

What would you say to another woman contemplating doing her own thing?

Go for it ! You’ll not regret that you at least tried.

 

Chiffon. I’m not a great fan of the word, I have to say. It seems really dated.

But the fabric itself, oh my, I just cannot resist…

Chiffon come from the French word for a cloth or a rag. Really not the right word for this delicate, ethereal material. Chiffon fabrics are produced using natural or synthetic silk. Early chiffon was made purely from silk until 1958, when polyester chiffon was invented and became available as a cheap alternative for all. Of course, the natural silk will have a more delicate quality. The chiffon you’ll find on the High Street is more likely to be a polyester chiffon.

Chiffon is the fabric of my dreams. It’s all about the feel, you see – a soft delicate drape. I love rubbing it between my fingers. I love the feel of it on my skin. My skin through it feels silky and luxurious, the gentlest of touches.

Chiffon is all floaty – light and airy. Weightless. There’s a real freedom there. You hardly notice you’re wearing it. I’m not a fan of wearing clothes – I do, obviously, but clothes you can wear without feeling them, without them restricting you or weighing you down, well, that’s a real gift.

Chiffon’s a transparent fabric – not a mesh or a tulle, but something more ethereal all together. This sheer material is so flattering, particularly in black for me. I feel more comfortable wearing something more figure-hugging if there’s a layer of chiffon over the top. It’s the best overlay in all seasons and for all occasions, giving a floaty appearance to whatever you happen to be wearing underneath.

My love affair with chiffon started back in February – the month of love, how appropriate. As soon as I saw this frilled black chiffon tunic over a pair of jeans and a slogan tee on a mannequin in the H&M window, I was hooked. I didn’t buy it straightaway, as I’d vowed not to buy any new clothes from High Street stores at all in 2017. But I was smitten. I couldn’t stop thinking about that dress. I went back the next day and bought it. I love to wear it with a cobalt blue vest and black leggings, but to be honest it’s so versatile, it’s completed a lot of looks. I pack it every time I go away, because it takes up so little space and I feel so amazing when I wear it. It’s a definite winner.

And then there is the black skirt that’s layer upon layer of wonderful. A nude tulle, a stiff black cut out mesh, finished with a black chiffon overlay. A TKMaxx find that makes me feel like a cinema star when I wear it. It looks so, so pretty and feels incredible to wear. A recent purchase, I wore it to a meal out the other night with black vest, black jacket, black ankle socks and shiny black hefty shoes. I have no idea what anyone else thought of my look. I don’t think I care. I know how I felt and to me, that’s all that matters.

And then there’s the 70s-inspired batwing top that hangs in my wardrobe waiting for the right occasion. Another TKMaxx treasure, the satin string vest top has a long-sleeved batwing overlay in black chiffon with large black stars all over it, ribbed with thick black jersey at the neck, waistline and cuffs. I’m so excited to wear it. I think I need to arrange to go to another Rolladisco. It would be absolutely perfect attire for that. For the moment, I’m happy to take it out of my wardrobe once a week for a look and a feel. I’m just glad that I own it.

I’d say that was pretty restrained as love affairs go, wouldn’t you? More to do with the fact that I haven’t come across more black chiffon delights in my travels. If I had, I can’t guarantee for sure they wouldn’t now be in my wardrobe! It’s weird how we change. Everything for a season. There’s been lace, velvet…and now this. Although lace and velvet still feature too…you never let go of your first loves…

Anyone else in the middle of a love affair with a particular fabric or style or colour? Something you’re drawn to in a fashion store, something you can’t resist touching or trying on or buying….?

PS: I know the photos don’t do the garments justice. Chiffon is an awful fabric to get a good image of for anyone, I think. Feel free to take a picture of me wearing one of these three items and I’ll get that uploaded instead!