Thursday, 23 February 2017

My Personal Style: A Paradox

As I get dressed each day, I can see all the pieces starting to fit together as I become the version of myself that I want the world to see. There’s no template or precise formula to the process, it’s all down to feeling.  So checks go over stripes which in turn go under faux fur or spots or denim and I start to take shape.



My personal style sits in direct contradiction to itself. It’s at once a shroud of confidence and a source of vulnerability. It’s everything I am and everything I’m not. Pulling on bright colours and stepping into clashing prints feels like coming home but I’m far removed from the person these sartorial markers make me appear to be. People assume I’m confident, positive, extroverted but underneath it all I’m a serial worrier who loves to stay in and hates being the centre of attention.

On more delicate days when I wake up without an ounce of fight about my person, I can feel the gaze of each passerby as their eyes fix on my hot pink sock boots or my apple green gingham blazer. I inject malicious intent into stray laughter and unkind comments loiter, the words of judgemental strangers smouldering upon my reddening cheeks. On these days, the days when I feel like a beacon for insults, my style is a mark of defiance. It’s my physical stamp on the world when fading into the shadows would be the easy option. It’s me choosing who I want to be and not who others want me to be.

And on the other days? The days where I feel strong and capable? My style feels like a celebration. Capacious proportions, chunky plastic bangles and diametrically opposed hues are a confirmation of who I am. It’s my visual vocabulary and a badge of honour for my creativity. As I get dressed, I clash and layer and mismatch and become the embodiment of exactly who I want to be.

My outer self is folded in drawers and hung in my wardrobe. It sits, like a jigsaw, waiting to come together as the final image, only each piece doesn’t connect with the next. I pick and choose – a colour from here, a texture from there – until I create just what I want. It doesn’t look like the picture on the box but it does look like me.


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

One Dress, Four Seasons

If I were the type of person to believe the universe provides us with what we need, I would believe it had provided me with this dress. It appeared to me in the window of & Other Stories; a soft, summery interruption to a chorus of coats and knitwear. I didn't succumb but just a few days later there it was in my size, unworn, with the tag on, on depop for half the price. I hit buy it was mine. The universe had provided. 

But so consumed was I by the fate (sheer coincidence) that had brought me and the dress together, I hadn't really thought about when I might wear it. Seeing as I bang on constantly about wearing what's in your wardrobe and not making wasteful purchases, I thought I'd better hold myself to account and make sure I actually wear this dress.

On its own, it screams sophisticated night out but the closest I come to that is a moderately priced meal followed by a cup of green tea in front of Netflix so that particular scenario isn't remotely realistic. A going out dress is a waste of precious wardrobe space, so this dress needs to work within significantly less glamorous contexts. As I'm sick of the current season, I took it for spin through all of them. Let's start with spring.

Spring

Ah, spring. The season I resume shaving my legs on the reg in the hope of exposing them to some sunshine. Let's face it though, vitamin D isn't very forthcoming in March, April or May (or June or July or August) so layers are a prerequisite. If you happen to have a vintage space t-shirt, here is where you would deploy it. If not, any old t-shirt will do. While I'd love that alone to satisfy the layer quotient, we all know it won't so this is the point where a jacket must begrudgingly be added. Something about white denim makes me think of a retirement cruise but, nevertheless, I'm determined to bring it back so I've been hauling this jacket out of my wardrobe every spring since 2008. If your style is more post-graduate than pension, try a lightweight duster instead. So that's spring, onto summer...









Summer

This dress is made for summer. When I took it out of the packaging, I had visions of myself strolling around European cities, exploring the winding back streets and drinking coffee in a sun-drenched square. It's ridiculous the dreams a single piece of clothing can conjure but that's part of their magic, I suppose. This is my 'sauntering round an Italian city' outfit. The silhouette wouldn't be in the least bit forgiving to my inevitably bread-swollen stomach but who cares when you're free from the constraints of waistbands? Something about red and black feels a little wintry (Father Christmas connotations maybe?) so parrot earrings and a rainbow accessories spectrum solve that problem.






Autumn

The sadness of the end of summer is tempered by the return of layers. The only problem I have with dresses is that they're a lot of just one thing. The summer iteration of this look is dreamy but a few more layers thrown into the mix feels much more me. I wear the blue shirt so much I imagine my skin will soon start to envelop it and provide it with its own blood supply and pink and red are a match made in heaven, so those two items were an obvious choice. Another obvious choice was the rocket ship bag I got as a gift a few Christmases ago. I mean it LIGHTS UP FOR GOD'S SAKE. I'm being pretty optimistic with the bare legs here (no matter what any fashion editors tell you, a midi skirt and ankle boots are not the answer when temperatures start to drop into single figures. They have cars to drive them around. They don't experience weather like you and I). If I were to indulge in a spot of hosiery, it would probably be fishnets which is very street style 2016 and I apologise. 








Winter

And finally, back to winter. No matter how many times Ned Stark warns us of its arrival, it's still very much the unwelcome visitor of seasons. I decided to approach this one from the perspective of a 1980s art student. In fact, I feel this is what Tia from Uncle Buck might have looked like had she had a slightly rosier disposition. The boots originally belonged to my Nana and at once feel very 30 years ago and very now thanks to the prevalence of midi lengths over knee high boots on the AW17 runways. The stripy turtle neck was part of a mime costume my boyfriend wore for Halloween years ago and the jacket and jumper are both vintage so this really is an outfit of hand-me-downs. And of course, I could be wearing long johns under this and no one would be any the wiser so maximum points are duly awarded.







And there we have it. One dress, four seasons. I've run the gamut of the British climate and come out on top. The dress will stand the test of lazy summer afternoons and a trip to the local shops and so can hang guilt-free in my wardrobe.


Friday, 3 February 2017

Dress Code

I don't know if you've noticed but it's winter. Still. But, although we're only just past the middle of the season, Mother Nature isn't even really trying any more (I don't blame her given the current state of affairs). The weather in England at present is like a soup of grey, drizzle and wind that's been left out on the side for so long it's not really any discernible sort of temperature. 

So if winter isn't even going to put in much of an appearance I'm going to make friends with spring/summer instead. I'm not quite prepared to step outside in sandals but I will wear a breezy summer dress with scant regard for seasonal wardrobe conventions. I picked up this striped beauty at a vintage shop last October after I'd just got back from Berlin and 'wasn't going to buy anything for a while'. I would attempt to feel guilty for falling so quickly back into the arms of consumerism but, 1. it's vintage and, 2. it has heavy Céline overtones (specifically Resort '16).

I hadn't worn it yet and I was determined that it wasn't going to be relegated to single season status so I followed the standard formula of any summer-does-winter garment reboot: anything + a turtle neck + tights + boots = winter. It all added up and my cotton summer dress became an all-rounder. 





As usual, Vashka decided she might like to feature in my mini shoot and outshone me instantly. (Please note the homemade tipi to the right of frame that she has never once used.) 

But back to the dress. A mere turtle neck is fine if all you're planning on doing is lounging around at home admiring your cat but if you plan to actually go outside? You need to get a little bit more strategic to take the 'summer' out of summer dress.

A kimono jacket, belted at the waist, serves as the logical next step in this outfit. It has the sharp appeal of a waistcoat peeking out from under a jacket at the top and the whimsical appeal of a Victorian over coat at the bottom; it's the mullet of garments in the most positive way possible.

Next up, a jacket. Short, of course, to reveal those carefully arranged layers. And from there you're on the home straight. Wrap a scarf around your neck with the gusto of Lenny Kravitz, pop your boyfriend or significant other's hat on and grab a bag that features all of the colours of your outfit plus a few more for good measure.





And with that, you are released from the tyranny of single season garments. Go forth, retrieve your floatiest dresses from the darkest depths of your wardrobe. Free them from the shackles of summer, dust them down and take them for an off-season spin.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Changing Your Spots

We're in the midst of troubling times and I think it would be irresponsible and disingenuous of me to pretend otherwise, even on a fashion blog. I'm affected by Trump's presidency so little on a personal level (currently) that I could ignore the news and escape into my own bubble. In fact, I've seen plenty of bloggers do just that. On the day of the Women's Marches that took place around the globe, the number of self-styled 'girl gang' bloggers who approached the event with complete radio silence was disconcerting, their atypical social media black out only broken the next day by a new lipstick recommendation or collaboration shout out. 

Now, not everyone is politically minded. Not everyone follows the news and not everyone is in the position, mentally, physically or otherwise, to engage in politics. However, to found a personal brand under a blanket of feminism only to opt out of the realities and necessities of the movement really sticks in my throat. Women are under threat. Immigrants are under threat. The poor are under threat. Racial minorities are under threat. Indigenous people are under threat. The chronically ill are under threat. The LGBTQ community is under threat. Muslims are under threat. Freedom is under threat. When such an affront to democracy is hurled in our path, we must stand up however we can. As such, if we are afforded a platform and, particularly if that platform is wrapped up in a message of feminism, it's distasteful - at best - to ignore it.

Such issues are unpalatable and may well be 'off brand' for many voices out there but does that matter? Can we not love fashion and beauty and interiors and speak up against global injustice? Are we so shackled by maintaining a consistent, curated output that we can't possibly stray from it?

I'll call out Trump, I'll attend marches, I'll make donations and I'll hold the government to account. But I'll also wear bright colours, share pictures of my cat, sew a new pair of ridiculous clashing print trousers and walk around in gold boots. You absolutely can be two things at once and, at times like this, you absolutely should. 




I'm finding the never-ending wave after wave of bad news mentally exhausting and I know others are too. It's difficult to process the magnitude of what's happening under Trump without feeling completely spent by the end of each day. So it's necessary to pull back sometimes and to take some time to get together a killer outfit or watch animal videos or write about how polka dots changed your life.

It's not a bad thing to wax lyrical about a collection or gush about a new nail varnish colour. Culture and creativity are an important part of life and I'll never believe they should be belittled or disparaged. Where would we be without it?





So, no, I don't feel guilty about having kept up with every single couture show or having watched the entirety of the new Lemony Snicket the other weekend. But when I'm refreshed, I get right back on it. And the reason I do it is because I say I'm a feminist so I better fucking well act like one. 

Monday, 2 January 2017

The Burden of Stuff

On New Year's Eve, my boyfriend and I had one of our accidental, biannual clear-outs. They usually start with an innocuous suggestion of dusting a shelf or tidying some books and end hours later with us stood, frazzled from a series of "no, don't put it there, put it there"-style micro arguments, looking down at bags upon bags of stuff, wondering where it all came from and how it all fitted in our flat.

Original artwork in collage: Venus of the Rags by Michelangelo Pistoletto


This time, we cleared out the living room and ended up with three IKEA bags full of books and 6 further smaller bags of sundries to donate. So extreme was the mass exodus of stuff, it rendered an entire shelving unit redundant.

The fact that we had so much stuff to expel from our flat even though we have regular clear-outs might make it sound like we're hoarders who have to tunnel through our own consumer debris but we're really not. Last summer we put a ban on buying unnecessary stuff for the flat (something we had been guilty of in the past) and I am tidy to the point of being annoying. Still, mindless purchases throughout the years build up, almost without you noticing, until you look around and think, "why on earth do we have all this useless shit?"

So this time, we were brutal. Without trying to sound too Marie Kondo, if it wasn't useful or we didn't love it, it got the boot. It was heart-wrenching at points but the outcome was a huge relief. I felt unburdened. 

Increasingly, I find stuff (or possessions or things or whatever you want to call the non-essential bits we accumulate throughout our lives) to be a source of stress and guilt. When my wardrobe feels a bit full or the shelves look a little overstuffed, I feel overwhelmed. This excess stuff isn't making me happy, it's making me tense and anxious. It's a physical and mental burden. And it's a chain. If I sell something, it becomes someone else's burden once they grow tired of it too; if I donate it, it becomes the charity shop's burden; if it's something that can't be sold, donated or recycled then it becomes the earth's burden.

We're filling our lives and our planet with stuff. I often imagine the Earth bulging outwards as we churn out phone after t-shirt after PlayStation after sofa and wonder what's going to happen when we've reached capacity. Like a suitcase that has to be sat on to close, I feel that the Earth must be straining at the seams, ready to burst. The mental image leaves me feeling incredibly uneasy and a home full of stuff is just a reminder that I'm only serving to add to the burden.

In response to these feelings of worry, stress and guilt, I've been trying to change my habits. I've spoken previously about my fast fashion detox but this extends beyond my wardrobe. Of course, it's easy not to buy a TV or a computer but it's the little things that creep in, almost unnoticed. For example, I upgraded my phone last year as mine had finally given up after four years and I immediately looked for a new case. I may have had a newer model but it was exactly the same size as my old phone and so my existing case was perfectly fine. I didn't need a new case, I was just following the same old pattern I'd fallen into. 

That tiny event was really important in changing my behaviour. The average consumer is so settled into buying new rather than making do that they do it without thinking. When I found myself googling phone cases I was just doing what I'd been conditioned to do by years of advertising and 'treat yourself' rhetoric. It was a habit and habits can be broken. By just taking a second to really consider what I'm buying and, crucially, why I'm buying it, I've saved myself countless unnecessary purchases and the resultant burden of yet more stuff in my life and my home.

I don't want to look in my wardrobe and feel stressed just as much as I don't want to look at landfill sites and feel responsible. So, by questioning my choices and the motives behind each purchase, I hope to ease the burden and claw back both physical and mental space.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Completely Selfish Christmas Gift Guide

I had intended to write a series of festive posts but, in the face of pre-Christmas deadlines, I found myself bereft of the energy and, frankly, the will. My Christmas spirit peaked somewhere around early to mid November, as I began to diligently craft a selection of decorations, visions of transforming my flat into a multi-coloured wonderland in my mind. Unfortunately it has since dropped off into oblivion, much like the pound. 

But, in the spirit of...getting into the spirit, I've decided to create a completely selfish Christmas gift guide based entirely on my own interests. The hope is that if you read this blog you surely have the same interests as me and so, in turn, this will become your own personal gift guide. If not, there's a picture of my cat for you to enjoy. Speaking of which...

Cats

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my cat Vashka is my one true love. Seeing as she can't, unfortunately, grace all of my clothes, I'll have to make do with a wardrobe full of Stella McCartney and Gucci I suppose. After the trend bubbling under the surface for a few seasons, we reached peak cat in AW16 and I'm happy to press pause and set up camp there. Wrap me in Stella's soft, dusky cat prints; swathe me in Gucci's bold feline motifs; let me live as my authentic, cat-loving self from here until eternity. Side note: Vashka has earnt a place on the collage too, of course, because she's a gift to the world.

Jumpers: Gucci, Jacket, trouers, dress: Stella McCartney, Cat: Literal perfection







Jewellery

If clothes are my lifeblood then jewellery is the heartbeat that keeps everything flowing. If ever I'm not feeling my outfit, a pair of huge earrings or an over sized, plastic cuff will always turn a 'not sure' into a surefire winner. As with the rest of my wardrobe, colour is the name of the game when it comes to choosing a new piece to add to my collection; the brighter the better. Throw an abstract shape in the mix to sweeten the deal and I'm sold. 

Earrings and brooch: Lou Taylor, Bangle: Georgia Perry, Necklace: Aliyah Hussain







Vegan

This year, after being a vegetarian for 16 years, I turned vegan. Obviously this impacted my wardrobe and materials such as leather, silk and wool are now off my shopping list (real fur always has been). In a dream world, Stella McCartney would stop using wool and silk and I'd buy all of my clothes from her. In the same dream world, I'd also have to be outrageously wealthy in order to afford £500+ trousers and £1000+ dresses, sigh. Until I inhabit said dream world, however, other, less gut-wrenchingly expensive vegan options abound as long as I am (or the person fulfilling my wishlist is) willing to check every single label and do a little research beforehand. From Shrimps' whimsical faux fur to Matt & Nat's clean lines and understated luxury, there are plenty of vegan treats worthy of a spot under the tree.

Bag and shoes: Stella McCartney, Coat: Shrimps






Now, I'm going to go and eat my weight in vegan chocolate and watch Elf.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Layer Up

I have a complicated relationship with winter. Firstly, I despise being cold. I spend almost the entirety of winter wrapped in blankets, hunched over hot water bottles, saying "feel how cold my nose is" to my boyfriend. Secondly, I loathe dark evenings. You better believe I've uttered the sentence, "ugh it feels like it's the middle of the night!" at least five times a week since daylight savings began. Thirdly, each winter the universe conspires to place me, at all times, within at least 5 feet of a compulsive sniffer or an open mouth cougher. 

BUT, despite the germs and the dark and the cold, this time of year is also sort of my spiritual home because it facilitates me wearing an inordinate amount of clothes on any given day. So, while Vogue continues, inexplicably, to extol the virtues of bare legs in winter, I'm trying to work out the logistics of wearing two jumpers without looking I'm partaking in a YouTube challenge.

I think it's clear by now that 'less is more' means absolutely nothing to me, so I've decided to take you on the rollercoaster that is my layering process. Strap in, it's about to get cosy.

Almost every single winter outfit starts with a turtleneck because, of course. So, leaving the formalities of layering aside for a moment, let's take some time to focus on my jeans because they cost me a mere £5 and happen to feature the most exquisite green stitching and a very pleasing centre crease. I can only assume the previous owner was some sort of Guinness world record holder as I had to lop a full 20 centimetres off each leg. But back to business. Next up is a printed shirt to bring some colour to proceedings and then the obligatory neckerchief because what is a turtleneck if not a blank canvas for a jaunty neck accessory?




After that it's coat number one. This vintage ski jacket featured in my snappily titled 'Vintage Clothes That Totally Look Designer' post earlier this year and I'm still very much on board with its Miu Miu-esque vibes. Adding to its already lofty credentials, it's a lot warmer than it looks and a double zip means I can create some shape and avoid looking like a toilet roll tube. I've deftly neglected to demonstrate that particular detail here.

After coat number one comes coat number two. Not strictly a coat, but this monster is about as warm as knitwear gets (or faux knitwear as I'm no longer buying wool - more on that soon). I found this blanket-masquerading-as-garment in a flea market in Berlin and it's one of those pieces that gets compliments every time I wear it. Maybe it's the extravagant blouson sleeves.






Lastly, it's hat and scarf time. Frankly, this could have been one image but I needed an even number so here we are. I made the scarf a couple of years ago as a post-Christmas treat for myself when my generous spirit began to wither after weeks of crocheting gifts for other people, and the hat came at the hefty price of £2 from a vintage shop. Both the scarf and hat are near permanent features about my person throughout winter.











So, there you have the secrets of layering laid bare. Stuff over stuff over more stuff, essentially. And you will find me in this cocooned state for approximately 3 months until the weather forces me to do otherwise. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Party Season Style Guide We Actually Need

If I'm to take the magazines I read and the marketing emails I receive as a barometer for my social life, I should be attending at least ten Christmas parties this year. How many do I currently have in my diary? Zero. 

Don't worry, this isn't a cry for sympathy. As I write this I'm wearing a blanket that has sleeves, which is perhaps an accurate sartorial metaphor for precisely how in the party mood winter makes me feel. On occasion, I like to muse on flitting from party to party swathed in velvet, weighed down by outlandishly huge earrings but then I remember how impossibly stressed I feel when anyone invites me to anything that starts after 8pm and I come back down to earth with a thud. 

As a child, I always wished I was older but as I edge towards my late(ish) twenties that has translated to a mental age of somewhere around 75. So, whilst I will happily scroll through page after page of velvet blazers, twinkling party dresses and Bowie-esque shoes, mentally creating show-stopping party outfits, what I really need (and I'm sure I'm not alone here) is a realistic party season style guide. One more suited to a less high-octane Christmas social calendar. Oh look, here's one...

Activity: Watching Elf and eating a tub of ice cream

The oversized silhouette of this cosy jumper will work with the curves of your impossibly bloated stomach. Teal joggers will infuse your look with a flash of colour and contrast fabulously with your sagging sofa cushions. Opt for monochrome socks to pull the look together and accessorise with a spoon that you can use to dig through the mountains of ice cream.

Jumper: Max Mara, Joggers: Baja East, Socks: Marni, Spoon: John Lewis



Activity: Staying up late to create beautiful gift wrap that will inevitably be torn apart

As you painstakingly curl the ends of each length of ribbon that will be cast aside without a second thought as your loved one desperately strains to see if you spent as much on them as they did on you, put comfort first with a pair of lightweight poplin pyjamas. You might be tempted to choose flannel but don't forget how much you stress sweat when you just.can't.tuck.those.fucking.corners.in. A sumptuous silk dressing gown will provide all the warmth you need if you start to feel a chill. Echo the luxury of the fabric in your footwear with plush slippers and add a playful edge with pompoms that will almost certainly be in danger of being mistaken for a decoration and snipped off by an errant pair of scissors.

Pyjamas: Three J NYC, Dressing gown: Olivia von Halle, Slippers: Dickins & Jones








Activity: Sitting in quiet despair as you wonder where the year has gone

The tree is up, the presents have been bought, now all that's left to do is panic about exactly how little you've achieved this year. Your mate on Facebook has been on three different spiritual journeys and you've spent 200+ hours watching videos of unlikely animal friendships BUT there's no reason why you can't look fabulous while you're doing it. Literally nothing can make you feel like you've got your life together like a well cut shirt, so let this striped number swaddle you as you question every decision you've made since January. Pair it with the matching trousers for a pyjama mind set with a high fashion aesthetic. Complement the look with a blanket in contrasting tones under which you can hide until January arrives with a whole new dose of reality check.

Shirt and trousers: Isabel Marant, Blanket: makeit-loveit.com