Guest Post: A Year Without Mirrors

With thanks to Kjerstin (A Year Without Mirrors) for sharing this intriguing and very brave idea…!
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Thanks, Mrs. Bossa, for this wonderful opportunity to write a guest post!

I’m a feminist fashionistette who once worked in corporate fashion, but was lured to graduate school by a passion for women’s issues.  These days I’m writing my dissertation about clothing size standards. Several months ago I decided to avoid mirrors for a year (while planning my October 1st wedding!), and I’ve been blogging about the experience at www.ayearwithoutmirrors.com.

My no-mirrors experiment was actually motivated by a fashion emergency: my growing anxiety over wedding dresses. I put a lot of pressure on myself to both (1) find the impossibly perfect wedding dress (ideally… modern-yet-traditional, flattering-yet-brave, luxuriously-yet-inexpensive, unique-yet-classic, etc. etc.), and (2) to look insanely gorgeous in said dress, once found.

At some point the search stopped being fun. I hated feeling vain, insecure, and indecisive.  Never one for subtle life-changes, I rejected these obsessions by rejecting my reflection.

I’ve always found pleasure in expressing myself through clothes. You may have noted above, my style is all about combining opposites. I revel in mixing bright colors with neutrals, feminine with masculine, flowing fabric with sleek lines, old with new, preppy with bohemian…. sometimes all at once!  Thus, it scared me to wonder if shunning mirrors might make life boring.

Thankfully, this hasn’t happened, but it’s taken careful strategizing and a few attitude adjustments.  Here they are.  (Note – you DO NOT need to abandon mirrors to try these things out, though it could be fun!)

1: Feel your fashion.

How many pretty-but-painful items line your closet? Instead of focusing on how good something looks on you, first figure out whether it feels good.  In the beginning, not being able to see myself felt like cruel sensory depravation.  Then I started focusing on senses other than just sight. This led me to try new styles, and to abandon trends that hurt.  My walking commute demanded solid, supportive (preppy!) boat-loafers instead of delicate uber-feminine flats.  High-rise, high-stretch (high-comfort) jeans now softly hug my tummy and hips instead of cutting off circulation at “muffin-top”.

2: Buddy system.

Focusing on feel does NOT mean abandoning style or flattering clothes.  (Hey, snuggies are comfy but lack that pleasing je ne sais quoi!) Once you find fashion that feels good, check with a trusted friend to make sure you look as good as you feel. It’s a simple as that.  (If you shop alone, consider staging a fashion show at home…or starting your own blog featuring your favorites!).

3: When in doubt, copy yourself!

Once you find something you love, get one in every color.  When faced with buying a new outfit for my wedding shower, I bought the EXACT same Rachel Roy dress that I’d worn for my engagement photos, but in a new fabrication (and at a steep discount!).

Since I’d purchased the first dress before my no-mirrors experiment, I knew it was flattering, and had fabulous photos as proof.

4: Abandon control.

Back to weddings…  I found my dress.  I bought it the day before I stopped looking in mirrors, and – to be honest – I really wasn’t sure about it.  It has ruching (I hate ruching), has uber-girly flower appliqués, (including one in the back that looks, to me, like a bunny-tail!), and it wasn’t made in a famous design house (I’d always fantasized about name-dropping a bit, if only to myself…).  But it felt comfortable, was clearly flattering, the price was right, and my mom got goose-bumps.

Buying my dress was a first step letting go of wedding style perfectionism and it felt great.  And now I’ll be completely reliant on others to help me navigate dress fittings, choose a veil, jewelry, lacy underthings, and shoes (not to mention the all-important old/new/borrowed/blue items). Others may disagree, but sometimes good enough has to be good enough.  Even on your wedding day (well, as long as we’re not talking about the groom!).

How would your life change if you avoided mirrors?

What tricks would you use to get you through?


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Guest Post: How I Rock Vintage

With thanks to Cyrillynn (Any Second Now) – fellow Depeche Mode fan and all-round fabulous dresser.

 

Firstly, I would like to thank Mrs. Bossa for allowing me the chance to do a guest post on her fantastic blog!  This is something that I have been working on for awhile, so what better way to share than as my first guest post.  I wanted to honor her love of vintage by expressing my love of something similar.

 

AN ODE TO THE ROCK T-SHIRT

With so many t-shirts out there bearing some kind of “saying”, the rock t-shirt has received a confusing wrap. Are they are or they not fashionable? It depends on who you ask, and I personally love them. I have bought a t-shirt from every concert I’ve been to since I was 14.  My first two were Duran Duran in 1984 and Depeche Mode in 1985.  Both still fit and now have that “worn in” feel that clothing companies can only hope to emulate.

I’m heavily influenced by 80’s alternative, which sneaks its way into my outfits in the form of a spiked belt, bracelet or rock t-shirt.  Designers like Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Sprouse have infused punk into their lines, and that’s what I love to do with my own wardrobe.  They basically took the t-shirt and made it into a fashion statement.  One of my favorite newer designers, Idil Vice, has created an entire line of clothing that takes the rock t-shirt to a whole new level by placing those rock and punk images on other pieces of clothing like dresses and skirts (like the one below).

The rock t-shirt not only showcases my musical tastes, but it allows me to have greater expression.  I can wear them either completely casual, all the way to glammed up.  They become conversation pieces and can actually bond people.  When I went to a recent concert by OMD, I wore a Joy Division shirt.  There were three other people wearing the same shirt, and we all gave each other a knowing nod, understanding why we were wearing the shirts.  I received several compliments, including an acknowledgement from OMD’s lead singer, Andy McCluskey (he said “Look at you in your Joy Division shirt!”).  Wearing the “right” rock t-shirt can say “I am a connoisseur of music” without you having to say a word.

(Just to give you a bit of history, OMD toured with Joy Division back in the very early 80’s.  When the lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide back in 1982, OMD wrote a song in his honor.  Joy Division later changed their name to New Order).

I came across this article from Cleveland.com called “Vintage rock T-shirts not only make a fashion statement but make a good investment, too“.  Looks like I’m not the only one with a love of the rock tee.  People are not only snapping up shirts from bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, but even the random Styx or odd REO Speedwagon shirts seem to be a hit.  The article explains that vintage and current rock t-shirts are not just fashionable, but can bring in some cash if you are so inclined to give them up.  True vintage t-shirts have increased in value, especially on auction sites such as eBay, fetching up to $1000!  But beware of the wannabes being sold by sites who mass produce them and pawn them off as “vintage”.

“You can always tell by the tags: The originals have much smaller tags and if the tag isn’t as worn as the shirt, you’re probably buying a fake.” – Erica Easley, author of the rock shirt history, “Rock Tease.”

Who knew that my vintage concert t-shirts that I spent $15 on at the most back in 1985, could be worth so much?   Looks like I have a gold-mine in my closet!

 

(Top image courtesy of The Anti-Fop from Google Images. Middle image courtesy of Cleaveland.com.)

How do you feel about rock t-shirts?

Do you have any hidden gems lurking in your closet?


Guest Post: Packing a Capsule Wardrobe for a UK Holiday!

With thanks to Emily from Sugar & Spice for this guest post – I selfishly begged for it because of the changeable weather this summer…

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In April, my mum, sister and I took a trip to Scotland for three short wonderful days. We walked for two of the days and spent the rest of the time sitting in little cafes drinking coffee and eating cake. There are times when I holiday in the UK that I would not want to be anywhere else. Indeed one of the days we were in Perthshire, it was beautifully sunny and even reasonably warm given the time of year. But packing for a UK holiday can be far more challenging than packing for a holiday in the sun where the weather can be pretty much guaranteed. Indeed I wrote about how to pack a capsule wardrobe for your holidays over on my blog recently (http://www.sugar-and-spice.com/2011/06/how-to-pack-capsule-wardrobe-for-your.html).

 

Layering is the key to a capsule wardrobe for a holiday at home:

Thin layers are even more important – thin vests and thin t-shirts (long or short-sleeved, depending on preference) will probably be as warm, if not warmer, than one thicker layer – if it’s warmer than expected, you can wear the vests or tees on their own but if it gets cooler, you can pair them up

Jeans are a godsend for UK holidays – they work well in the cold and in the warm

Socks take up very little room and yet will make all the difference if it rains or the sun refuses to shine

One or two jumpers/cardigans should probably be enough – just make sure that they go with everything you have packed

Dresses are an easy addition to your holiday wardrobe – if the British weather comes through and you have a lovely week away you’ll be so glad you packed your dress, if it rains, you can add a pair of leggings and a cardigan and still feel like you’re on holiday

Leggings – thin, light, and essential for cooler evenings – and days!

There are a few essentials that you would be foolish to leave home without for a holiday in the UK:

Waterproof shoes – i.e. wellington boots

Waterproof jacket (and trousers)

Umbrella

Capsule for UK Staycation

 

Have I forgotten anything? Feel free to add your UK holiday essentials.

And finally, a huge thank you to Mrs B for asking me to write this post for her while she takes a much needed and well-earned break. (Come back soon, please Mrs B!!)

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See also: Mrs Bossa: Wardrobe in a Winter Wonderland

 

My Guest Post is on The Loudmouth Lifestyle!

Before I decided to take a break, I wrote this guest post for Stephanie of The Loudmouth Lifestyle. (Check out her outfit posts, by the way – she is gorgeous and always looks so happy in what she’s wearing).

Here’s the screenshot – click through for my post ‘5 Summer Staples I Can Live Without’, if only to find out how I managed to shoehorn potatoes and a toolkit into a post containing Brigitte Bardot…

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


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.

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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?