Boo Darlison is describing a visit from the midwife, five days after her son, Rex, was born. “When I answered the door, she said, almost pointedly, ‘Oh, I was looking for someone who’s just had a baby.’ ‘I have just had a baby!’ I said. I was wearing a dress, some lipstick and a headband – but that’s just me, dressing up makes me feel better.”
It is a winter’s morning in Crofton Park, south-east London and I have joined Boo on her regular walk from home to a coffee shop in Brockley, a ritual she has come to value amidst the doldrums of national lockdown. In the last 12 months, which have seen the arrival of a global pandemic and Boo’s second child, Prunella, it’s been the little things – these local walks, good meals, nice clothes – that have given her some much-needed routine – peace, even. “Clothes lift me. They help when you’re surviving on caffeine and a prayer.”
I get the impression that the likes of colour, pattern and accessories not only play a soothing role for Boo, but help identify her, too. “I’m still the child that dresses up,” she says, “and, having spent most of my adult life in a uniform, wearing my own clothes always feels like a treat.”
Boo tells me about the jumper she bought from TOAST while pregnant last year, mustard-coloured Scottish wool with a Fair Isle pattern of cooler hues: sky blue, mossy green, teal blue, cream. She wears it now with a pair of denim culottes (also from TOAST) and, as she herself points out, the teal in the pattern dances with baby Nella’s brilliant eyes.