New Name and a Dress: your most important relationship…?

I’m at the stage in my life when all my friends seem to be having kids and/or getting married. I’ve been to three weddings in the last month.

Watching these celebrations of relationships,  I’ve become aware of my own relationship… with my body. Are we destined for a happy life together? Let’s see… In preparation for these recent weddings, I have:

  1. stopped eating bread
  2. drunk Puritee every night for a month in an attempt to trick my metabolism
  3. eaten meals off a side plate to cut down my portion sizes
  4. lived off Special K for a week
  5. Eaten nothing but protein for a four day stretch

Is that nice? I think not. In fact, if my bod was a child, I’d be in trouble for maltreatment. Seeing my dieting attempts in black and white makes me think it’s all a bit, you know, crazy. And why have I bullied my body this way? I think you can guess: so I wouldn’t feel upset when I saw the wedding photos.

When I first heard about one wedding, I was feeling brave and bought a lovely outfit: champagne pleated skirt, red silk t-shirt, knockout gold wedges. I want to look fabulous, I said to myself in an encouraging fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why did I end up in a floor-length dress and cardigan? Because I couldn’t face catching a glimpse of my upper arms in a mirror. I punished my body for not losing weight, and hid it in fine knits.

I was bridesmaid at another, and bought a very slinky purple number – my derrière got some attention, let me tell you.

 Your curves look great in this, I told myself. But even after the Special K and the waist cincher, the day of the wedding found me sobbing about my side view. What’s wrong with this picture…?!

This sounds terribly self-absorbed. Weddings are about other people, after all; I know it ain’t all about me! But there’s something about weddings – including the sheer amount of photographs – that ups the ante. We women put more pressure on our bodies to be thinner or more tanned. Ever burst into tears trying to pick an outfit for a night out? Blamed your body because a dress wouldn’t fit right? Well, chuck in a bride, a groom, and a four-tier cake and that feeling is magnified ten-fold.

As someone who blogs about fashion, I feel I should be positive about my body – show it off and big it up. I just find that really hard. Pearl W was teasing me the other day about the fact I used to leave my head off blog photos:

Baby steps! I’m not saying it’s right to feel this way – it strikes me as really sad – but I know I’m not alone. A lot of us have complex relationships with our bodies, often starving them, depriving them, resenting them and hating them. Would we ever treat someone else like that? I doubt it.

Of course, it doesn’t help that we can’t move for media-proffered diet tips. Even Kate Middleton was rumoured to be on the Dukan Diet in the run-up to her wedding, and not a day goes by without someone somewhere commenting on her weight. (It’s that she’s “too thin”, but the emphasis is still on her size, no? All she’s done is pre-empt criticism that she needed to drop a few pounds.) I see the whole Kate phenomenon as emblematic of what many of us women feel – that eyes are on our bodies, judging. And that losing weight for a wedding should a given, whatever it takes.

 

I wanted this to be a chipper post, I really did, but it’s been on my mind lately and I’d love your feedback. Last night, Claire tweeted something in response to a convo about weight loss that gave me a slap round the face:

 

She’s dead right, as I’m sure you know: forcing your body to change isn’t always the answer – accepting yourself should be.

Christopher Hitchens said, “We don’t have bodies; we are bodies”, and I can’t help thinking that sentence holds the key to it all:  if I started thinking of my body as my self, rather than something that I own, I might be a little kinder and more forgiving – impending nuptials or no.

So, where does that leave me? Weddings are lovely, of course, but to quote Samantha Jones:

“I’ve been in a relationship with myself for…years and that’s the one I need to work on”.

After all, we’re together now, for better or for worse…

 

What kind of relationship do you have with your body?

What tips have you got for those who need to work on it?

 

This post is one of a series of monthly posts by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers.
Read the rest of the ‘Dating and Relationships’ roundup here.
Join the discussion in the Google group here.

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How Would You Wear…a Maxi Dress in Autumn?

Hello! How nice to see you again! The next FashFem post is out on Wednesday, so I’m easing myself back in with a post about, you know, pretty clothes and shiz. And you know I like to ask your advice from time to time.

I’ll be glad to see the back of summer. Or more accurately, summer clothing, which is all the things I despise: flimsy fabrics, sleeveless styles, and endless rails of frickin’ white linen. And don’t even get me started on bikinis. I’ll take cashmere and corduroy over cotton any time.

Having said that, I admire those who ‘do summer’ well. Part of me would love to dress like Courtney Cox in Cougar Town – colourful tailored dresses worn with covetable heels, tanned and toned bare arms and legs. Every year around this time think to myself, “Why didn’t I do summer like that, instead of swanning round in vintage nighties and flipflops, fanning myself cool with gas bills?!”

I wish to god I could purchase CC's upper arms. Not literally. That would be creepy and serial killer-ish.

Well, I’m a little behind on this one, but I decided to play the game before my beloved autumn well and truly descends: I bought two maxi dresses. Whoop! I have to say, they’re a dream to wear, but I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted. Everyone seems to live in them except  me.

And, as a bonus, I’m told that maxi dresses can actually be trans-seasonal – bargain. So, my question to you is…

…how would you style these two babies up … for autumn?

Dorothy Perkins

Sainsburys!!! (last of the big spenders...)

Which summer clothes will you be wearing in A/W?

Tell Mrs B all about it in the comments…

 

Wardrobe Staples Revisited.

Can you hear that sound? That’s the sound of me back-pedalling, frantically.

Last week I got all snooty over at The Loudmouth Lifestyle, with my post ‘5 Wardrobe Staples I Can Live Without‘. Black shoes, white shirts, breton tops…I spat in the face of them all. I was particularly dismissive of trenchcoats and jeans, saying the former made me look like a bag of potatoes and the latter made me feel like a plumber.

But lo! Who is this wearing jeans?!

I’m afraid to say you are not imagining things – it is I, Mrs B. I don’t know if I tempted Fate from the Denim Gods, or was persuaded Emily’s guest post on packing for a UK holiday, but I tried some on. After months of wearing peg trousers my legs looked quite shapely, as did my behind. I thought the dark colour was flattering, and truth be told, I felt quite good. And what had I said not two weeks before?

Never fear though – I shall not be wearing mine with a hoodie or Converse trainers. No, my vintage heels and pussybow blouse keep the ‘me’ in the equation…

Mr B calls this photo 'Touched up by a triffid'.

That’s not all. Suffering from shopping withdrawal, I scouted through the wardrobe at my parents’ house. And what did I find? A trenchcoat. To be fair to me, it’s not your average trenchcoat. Its tulip shaped-skirt keeps it just this side of flattering, and I think it scores extra style points for being one of the brightest colours ever seen by the human eye. Most importantly, I don’t think I look like a sack of vegetables. Or a detective. Score.

I’m not a total cop-out, though. To be honest, I was drawn to the coat because of the colour, not the style, and the jeans because of the shape, not the fabric. I still maintain that people shouldn’t feel they have to have these things in their wardrobe, and they should feel at liberty to find their own style staples. There’s no point buying something that doesn’t fit your shape, fit in with your lifestyle, or fit in with the rest of your wardrobe. Keep your character. What was my advice on coat-purchasing?

Looking at this coat…I have stayed true to that philosophy.

Do you think I get away with it?

Have you ever changed your mind about a type of clothing?

 

Mrs B Takes a Break.

You’ve heard the expression ‘life gets in the way’, right?

You may know that I moved a few weeks ago, and the truth is – it’s taken it out of me. The move itself, the new commute to work, the money issues, the jobhunting…it’s not exactly been fun and games, and frankly, I need a breather!

I’ve got some great guest posters lined up for the next two weeks, so I can have a break. I’ve already scheduled next Wednesday’s Feminist Fashion Bloggers post, though, so keep your eyes peeled.

It’s not all bad, however – I’m now living in a lovely place, so here are a few gratuitous shots of the West Yorkshire countryside, as well as one of Mr B in his grandad hat. There’ll be no light switches in my outfit posts when I get back on the horse…

I’ll leave you with this question:

If you had Mr B’s hat,what would you

keep in those little sidepockets?!

See you soon!

Mrs B x


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


How to Colour Block in Vintage…Whilst Moving House.

Isn’t moving fun?!!

Moving Day - used with kind permission of Mariel Clayton

I’ve moved the blog with relative ease – did you notice? – but the house move is proving to be much more stressful. So I’m keeping it light today (there’s enough heavy stuff lying around here) with a little peek at one of my new vintage faves – from Fashion Pearls of Wisdom’s Shop Street Style.

This is the perfect antidote to these grey Manchester days – a shocking pink dress. Bored of black and feelin’ bold, I decided that a dress this colourful needed…more colour. So I cinched it in with a purple belt, dug out my favourite turquoise heels (featured in the header), and took it our for a spin with my orange clutch in hand.

Dress and belt - vintage, shoes - Kurt Geiger via charity shop

At one time I wouldnever have worn pink because of my red hair, but it’s now one of my favourite combinations (gender-coding aside, of course!).  Just shows – your hair can be a valuable accessory.

See those boxes behind me? That’s my freshly-packed shoe collection. Not the most glamorous of backdrops, I grant you, but I wanted to give you a little insight into what an organisational geek I can be. At least when it comes to shoes. If only I could say the same about Mr B…

36 hours to go until we move…so wish me luck!

Any last-minute tips for surviving the move?

And are you this nerdy about your shoe collection?!

 

Dressing for Your Shape #2

So…do you dress by the rules?

I do – most of the time. I don’t always know I’m doing it, but by god they’ve gotten under my skin.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll put thought into your outfits: whether you’re going for comfort, sex appeal, professionalism or kookiness, you’ll have an idea about heel height, silhouette or accessories. On the other hand, you’ll just be drawn to certain types of items: you simply can’t resist the drape of a pleated skirt or an animal print harem pant – and if you have to stick two fingers up at the rulebook, then so be it.

"Rules?! What rules?!"

I for one thought there was no rhyme or reason to my more daring outfits (and I use ‘daring’ in the loosest possible terms – I ain’t no Agyness Deyn), but was intrigued to learn otherwise. Being a total geek (and a narcissist, apparently) I asked Steph from the Dashing Eccentric to give her opinion on my fave outfits using her outfit analysis checklist, which she tends to use in the following way:

“I analyze a look of mine that I really like, and come up with my ‘rule’ from the results. Then I use this ‘recipe’ to shop my closet for new looks that have a similar underlying structure… looking at my wardrobe in a new way often results in new, great looks which have nothing to do with my ‘recipe’ – this process sparks creativity.”

Riding on the success of my jumpsuit experiment, I emailed her my post on how Marni helped me find my fashion formula. You can read her full post on my outfit here: Mrs Bossa Gets it Done – let her know what you think!

Faux pas #1: rolled-up trousers on a short person: rather than an unflattering decision for my legs, Steph reads it as a way of toying with silhouette:

"Just a little to the side of a 'classic' fit/silhouette, with certain unexpected details in where hems hit... trousers are rolled into cuffs, even though they're being worn with socks."

This would also explain my love of ankle boots with dresses, and of long long gloves with cropped sleeves.

And on the subject of socks: Faux pas #2: socks with sandals: whereas Trinny and Susannah would screech in horror at such a thing, it can actually make a more positive statement:

"The accessories all have a geometric feel...The pointy triangles on the sandals are made emphatic by wearing a contrasting sock underneath."

Yay me! And the sock success – should that be socksess?! – continues with Faux pas #3: knee socks on a 30 year-old:

"Wearing nubby socks instead of hose, leaving a gap between hem and sock - these are the touches that set these looks apart from the ordinary."

Who knew that a flash of shin could tip the balance?!

Faux pas #4: Chunky necklace and high neck on a top-heavy lady: Those two would rip off the jewellery and have me in a v-neck tout de suite. However, Steph thinks it’s quirky…

"Joanna uses another quirky strategy for creating the 'background' in her skirt look, by 'backgrounding' pieces which are generally highlighted in outfits, ie black necklace on black sweater."

My silhouette may be more ‘classic’ or rules aware, but my accessorising has made just that tiny bit of difference.

As I’ve said, my ‘rule-breaking’ is very gentle – there are far wilder dressers out there – but the crucial element to any outfit is comfort. I don’t mean pyjamas win hands down, but I do mean you can only wear what you love and feel good in. Some people’s rule-breaking will involve neon or spray-on leather, but I feel my own little touches – a rolled hem, a pair of knee socks, a carefully-chosen necklace – inject that essential sense of ‘me’ into what I wear.

So what’s my point? My point is: pick and choose your rules. If you’re going to use them, make them work for you.

How do you ‘break’ the rules?

What are the little touches that make a outfit ‘you’?

 

Look out for part 3 – fabulous outfits from fabulous ladies…and what they think of ‘dressing for your shape’…

Recommended blog posts:

Mrs Bossa Does the Do: Dressing for Your Shape #1 and Dressing for Your Shape #3

The Styling Dutchman: You Can’t Argue with Taste

Arash Mazinani: My Beef with Body Shapes

By Anika: Who Gets to Label Me and my Worth? I Do!