A FashFem Fix…

"Don't tell me I'm pretty - just accept that I'm smart."

Have you noticed that feminism has become even more visible of late?

Love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying the Slutwalks have got people talking. Whether you want to sharpen your teeth on Victoria Cohen’s contentious article ‘Are Slutwalks Losing Their Way?‘ or mull over Deborah Orr’s more considered piece ‘Why is Feminism Still So Afraid to Focus on its Flaws?’, feminist concerns have really been pushed into the limelight in the last few months. Check out Slutwalks: trying not to miss the point for My Illustrated Life’s vociferous take on the issue.

Sick of cliched movie males only going for the pretty girls? See how ‘Hairspray’ breaks the mould in Hairspray and Celebrating Diversity by The Styling Dutchman.

And speaking of pretty girls, Delightfully Tacky’s post ‘The Infinite Variety of Individuals’ discusses whether being a ‘girly girl’ undermines you as a woman, or if it’s simply another choice.

From girly girls to little girls; author Lisa Bloom explains why telling female children they’re pretty encourages them to live in a ‘dumbed-down world’ in How to Talk to Little Girls’.

After another spate of male indiscretions, the spotlight inevitably falls onto the wife or girlfriend. Fashion for Nerds asks why the focus is on the wife’s beauty when male celebs are caught with their pants down – read her post ‘Fallacies’ here.

Kate Middleton is walking a tightrope of recent media attention, argues Claire in her post ‘An Unsubtle Knife’, dedicated to the new Duchess of Cambridge.

It’s not just the media that are critical of women, of course – women are often critical of themselves and others. Dress with Courage’s Elissa explores this in Winner Takes All – women and competition‘.


Jaime Black’s The REDress Project


Do you do outfit posts? We know fashion blogging ain’t all about the frocks. Rosel from What Are Years? explains her ambivalence towards them in ‘My Ethical Dilemma with Fashion Blogging’.

From the external to the internal: Beauty Schooled takes a stand and demands we stop being defined by our weight – do you dare post yours, and share some interesting facts about yourself on ‘Why Telling Everyone Your Weight Might Rock’?

And what do the fellas have to say? Ryan from Fashables asks why fashion is so female-centric in his post ‘Men Who Like Fashion Are Gay’.

In a non-blogging vein, read Dressing the Campus Red to see how Jaime Black uses the symbolism of the red dress to highlight the plight of aboriginal women.


With thanks to Franca from Oranges and Apples, Claire from My Illustrated Life and Laura-Poet from Seamstress Stories for your nominations.


See you on 13th July for themed posts on Fashion, Feminism and Social Class…




Charity Shopping: Mrs B's Mini Guide.

Even before my cash dwindled, I was a passionate charity shop advocate. Everyone loves a bargain, a one-off, the thrill of finding an item in your size and your size alone. But it ain’t always easy, especially now so many people are on the hunt for vintage and magpie-like types swoop down on items for their eBay stores (and all credit to ’em!) But necessity now dictates that I spend less, and so I have to put in the legwork. Armed with the right attitude, your own bags and ready cash, charity-shopping can be enjoyable…and let’s face it, sifting through those rails can do wonders for the upper arms…

Used with kind permission of Wrongun / All Our Hearts Content.

I’m not usually the prescriptive type, but I’ve been asked about my charity-shopping habits several times of late. So here goes: the Dos and Don’ts that have helped me navigate a fantastic resource…



…suss out the area:

Any seasoned charity shopper knows – you can tell a lot about an area by its charity shop selection. Shops in ‘wealthier’ areas are likely to stock the more high-end high street items – or designer if you’re lucky. The shops near my last house had a wealth of Monsoon, Linea and M&S Autograph ranges, with few items over a fiver – if you find the area that has the stuff you like, you’re onto a winner.

…mean business:

If you’re in a rush, you gotta get brutal. Prioritise. Divide and conquer. My experience tells me that I have most luck with shoes, coats and skirts (in that order), so when time is short I make a bee-line for those sections. Some shops group by colour rather than style, and in that case I steer clear of colours I rarely wear. By the same token, if there’s something specific you’re looking for, head to that section first (I personally am always on the look-out for silk shirts). If there are a few items, make a list to keep you focused. Whatever it takes! Last week I did four charity shops in the five minutes I had to wait for a bus, and I came out with the item I was looking for – it can be done!

…buy things you love

On the other hand, if you’ve got bags of time, you should have fun. Want to try something different, but couldn’t justify the outlay? Now’s your chance, while you’ll get change from a tenner. I dipped my toe into leopard print with a £3 skirt, and I now have a small but fabulous array of colourful dresses that I would never have bought at £50 a pop. You can also forget about ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ in a charity shop, and just try on things you like.

They said, "NO!" I said, "Yes."


…forget about the seasons:

Would you feel weird buying a lightweight dress in the depths of December? Or a thick winter coat in July? (If you’re British, it’s likely you greeted that question with a knowing sigh – summer is being rubbish again.) Well if you’re on the ball, that’s the way to do it: I’ve found all my best second-hand winter coats in the warmer months when everyone’s hunting down flipflops. As the summer-resistant type I avoid skimpier items…but if I was more carefree I would be buying silk vests by the armful when everyone else is looking for jumpers. You get the idea.

…milk them for all their worth!

Much as I love unearthing something that’s both beautiful and a bargain, I also use charity shops when hunting for basics. When I’m short of cash I resent forking out my precious money buying boring black skirts for work, or a waterproof coat for northern Britain’s inevitable downpours. So I hit the charity shops, and they’ve not let me down yet. Same goes for something you’ll only wear once, such as fancy dress costumes, or a replacement bag when the strap on yours breaks on your way to an interview.

The Joker and I both shop at Oxfam, you know.




…bother with fast-fashion cast-offs:

Charity (and even vintage) shopping can be a pain these days – 50% of donations seem to be from Primark or Matalan. Each to their own, but I resent forking out for an item that probably only cost the same new. I know that it’s for charity, but it’s the height of ‘false economy’ to me unless it’s an emergency purchase. There are better discoveries awaiting you. Promise.

…buy underwear:

If you’re the type of optimist that believes a hot wash will sort everything out – good luck to you, my friend. When it comes to underwear, my motto is; “neither a borrower or a lender be”…so I’m sure not going to don a stranger’s knickers. Some people  also draw the line at footwear, refusing to go where other feet have gone before…

Be careful now, Li-Lo...

…neglect the other sections:

So you’ve had no joy with the women’s clothes? Cast your eye over the men’s and kids’ sections. I’ve found cardigans and t-shirts for 13 year-old girls (and at half the price), and my favourite pair of trousers came from the men’s section – easy to shorten, and beautifully tailored, too. Sure, it’s unlikely you’ll come away with bagfuls, but it’s always worth a shot. Also good spots for scarves, gloves and hats.

…duplicate because it’s cheap:

I know whereof I speak. I’m a sucker for tan leather clutches, and if I see one in every charity shop I visit, I will buy one in every charity shop I visit. It’s a waste, both of your precious budget and of the items themselves – don’t give in to the siren cry of materialism, and let some other nice soul find pleasure in them.

"I'll take all of them."

…buy without checking the crotch:

Or underarms. This one came from Mr Bossa, after he made an unfortunate discovery when queuing to buy a second-hand suit. Do I need to elaborate?!

What tips would you give for charity shopping?

Have you had any charity shopping disasters?


Other must-reads:

Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: Budget Fashion: Can you afford to shop ethically?

Northwest is Best: What happened to charity shop bargains?

Delighted, Destroyed and Dangerous: women in the media.

Do you ever get fed up of the same messages from trashy magazines? Tired old aspirations that belong in another era, for example?


Or thinly disguised warnings that we can’t have it all?


I had a bit of fun with Company’s female fashion tribes a while back, but the lazy pigeonholing doesn’t stop there. May I introduce you to three of the biggest women clichés… The Delighted. The Destroyed. And the Downright Dangerous.

So who are they?


Key words: radiant, glowing, ecstatic, fulfilled
Most likely to be photographed… smiling happily at the camera, nuzzling lover in some street-side cafe

Of the three this is probably the tamest, but the most passive…and as a result, just as insulting to us ladies. Who gets to be delighted? In general, anyone who has been ‘given’ a baby by their fella, anyone who has been proposed to (and by extension saved from the bleak future of spinsterhood). Kate Middleton is one of the more recently delighted, of course, and her high-street shopping is celebrated as some kind of move against the highly traditional institution that she’s entered into.

Lucky old Chezza, eh? What will she do about her career now?!


Key words: crushed, humiliated, distressed, devastated, gutted
Most likely to be photographed… looking thinner, looking down or in huge ‘hide the eyes’ sunglasses

Oof. No-one wants to be in this one…unless it works for PR purposes. This includes personal tragedies, like Kylie’s battle with cancer or Lily Allen’s miscarriage, but the media becomes a real circus when someone’s partner is unfaithful. This may well have all started with Jennifer Aniston, who can still barely escape from the ‘Brangelina’ shadow years later. Will she ever be considered in any other way than the dumped woman who can’t find love? I hope so. The classic example is Cheryl Cole – Mr Cole’s sordid exploits generated incredible media sympathy, and led to endless discussions on her weight loss and appearance. Everything she’s achieved since has been viewed as ‘one in the eye’ for Ashley. What else could a girl do? If she’d crumpled, put on 3 stone and gone grey overnight, that would’ve been it. You can’t deny it. I saw this post the other day:

She may have been screwed over by the man she loves, but at least she’s still wearing a fabulous lipstick!! Phew!


Key words: seductive, provocative, enticing, inviting
Most likely to be photographed… in very few clothes

Uh oh. Enter: Imogen Thomas et al. These ‘homewreckers’ are demons of the first degree, apparently. Women without morals who eat men for breakfast, they are that end of the madonna-whore spectrum. Most women foolish enough to have flings with married footballers are lumped into this category, a category which entitles the media to speculate about the variety of one’s sexual partners, often conveniently forgetting that it takes two to tango…

SEX-HUNGRY, no less.

See? Sexual liberation has a lot to answer for. It’s also insulting to men, suggesting that some women’s sexual magnetism is so great it unzips their trousers for them. And gay women get a look in – later the article suggests RL has had flings with women too, as proof of her ‘depravity’.

NB: Angelina Jolie has managed to dodge this particular bullet; the fact she ‘broke up’ Hollywood’s golden couple has been neutralised with her charity work and love of adoption. Plus, you know: she gave Brad children, so job done.

The Passive Sense

I know you don’t need me to lay it on any thicker than that, so I’ll put the trowel down. I’m sure you’re also aware that male stereotypes exist (which certain Premiership footballers seem determined to perpetuate): the laddish moneybags, the ageing and sleazy lotharios, the ‘date em and dump em’ Hollywood bad boys. What I can’t stand is the passivity of the female clichés. Look at the vocab: fulfilled, crushed, gutted – these are things that are done to a person. The Dangerous Dames, who actively lure men away from wives and families, are an exception, and their very activeness is used more as an excuse for male infidelity.

And, as usual, sexuality and power are conflated, and either either stifled or over-blown.

"What do you mean, there's no 'Middle Ground Bubblebath'?!"

How do you feel about images of women in the media?

And what other stereotypes do we need to get rid of?


This post is one of a series of monthly posts by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers.
Read the other ‘Women in the Media and Popular Culture’ posts here.
Join the discussion in the Google group here.

My Top 7 Unlikely Style Icons…

I lied to you.

I told you I was influenced by Catherine Deneuve, Giovanna Battaglia…even Carrie Gorman from Elle UK. Turns out my influences are much more prosaic.

I submitted the photo below for The Loudmouth’s blog event ‘Show Me Your Buns‘. I liked it. Mr B liked it. My Facebook buddies liked it. But there was one voice of dissent, making an alarmingly accurate point: my sister told me I looked like Wilma Flintstone.

Feeling a little unsettled by this observation, I scouted through my photographs – this did nothing to put my mind at ease. Scroll down for my unlikely style icons..and make sure you tell me yours in the comments!

Daphne from Scooby Doo

"Shaggy, sometimes I think you'd rather eat pizza pie than solve a mystery."


Daphne’s willowy limbs aside, I do seem to share her penchant for purple and pink – often managing to incorporate multiple shades of each into one outfit. Thank the Lord I left off the headband, though, or that would have been embarrassing.

Blossom from the Powerpuff Girls

Pink skirt – check, knee socks – check, stroppy stance – check… But it’s the description of her as ‘bossy’ that seals the deal…

"Let's get him, girls!"


(I’m glad to announce that there are no more animated characters – if I’d found any similarities among The Jetsons I’d’ve been checking myself into the Priory for a Hanna-Barbara Cartoon Fixation.)

Betty Suarez

Now to my knowledge, no-one has ever modelled themselves on the Ugly Betty wardrobe (though I personally think her mad colour- and pattern-clashing is really something). One of poor Betty’s bad days involved her wearing a red poncho…and being sniggered at by the fashionistas at Mode Magazine. Turns out I am in no position to criticise…

"I saw Betty...and it looks as if Queens threw up..."


I’m just glad I didn’t go for any appliqué…

Some of my inspiration is subtle – well, not exactly subtle, but more of a wink and a nod to something altogether more garish. For example, my favourite pair of fabulous-trashy shoes are very Carmen Miranda:


I also learnt everything I needed to know about false eyelashes from dressing up as Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas:


(In case you’re wondering: no, I don’t usually put them on upside down…)

Absolutely Fabulous

Quite possibly the least attractive comparison (and in this lineup, that is saying something) is Edina (or “Eddie”) from Ab Fab. I look more restrained, sure, but the level of debauchery on this day wasn’t much less ridiculous…

So come on, let’s have a laugh at ourselves –

who are your unlikely style icons?!

Tell me in the comments…if you dare!


Want to read about more unusual icons? Try these:

Beautifully Invisible: 5 Things Jack Sparrow Taught Me about Fashion & Makeup

The Styling Dutchman: Frida Kahlo

What Have the Feminist Fashion Bloggers Been up to?

The Circus, 1870-1950 by TASCHEN

Edited by Franca from Oranges and Apples.

In a new series on Feminist Fashion Bloggers, we are compiling posts that weren’t produced as part of the FFB themes/topic prompts, but sit along the intersection of fashion, body image and feminism. Some but not all the posts were written by FFB members, and some were put forward by the authors, while some were nominated by others.

The range of the various posts is wide ranging and thought provoking as usual! There’s posts about the socially accepted rules of dressing, including dressing to hide one’s perceived flaws, dressing sexily, dressing modestly, dressing at costuming events, dressing while pregnant, the perennial problem with the phrase ‘real women’, perceptions of fat people and tattoos and Niqabs, and girls’ desire for Barbies.


The Alt Librarian“You Were So Pretty Before”: Gender and its Implications within Modern American Tattoo Culture (submitted by Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous)

Beauty SchooledEnough with the fat hate (submitted by Autumn at the Beheld)

The BeheldMy First Barbie (submitted by Mrs Bossa)

Decoding DressFiguring out Sexy Part 1 and Part 2 (nominated by Autumn at the Beheld)

Hugo Schwyzer“Your body is not so powerful it can drive others to distraction”: a letter to a teenage girl about clothing, modesty, and Slutwalk (submitted by the Beheld – and again by Franca)

Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of careImperfections

Mrs. Bossa Does the DoDressing for your shape part 1, part 2 and part 3 (submitted by finder extraordinaire of many great reads Autumn at the Beheld)

Tea and FeathersAll together now: we are all real (submitted by Sadie at Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care)

One Techies Search for Something Resembling StyleFollow Up: Feminism and the Slave Leia Costume

Oranges and ApplesDressing Pregnant Bodies

Lids, Sewn ShutNiqab: Just a piece of cloth (submitted by Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous)