Holiday Identities: time to experiment!

It’s guest post time on Mrs Bossa Does the Do, as part of the Feminist Fashion Bloggers network. This excellent post is written by Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous – head over there to read my post. And remember to visit the FFB blog to read the posts by my fellow fashionable feministas!

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So Mrs. Bossa and I are both writing about holiday identities, using this paper called “It’s like Planet Holiday: Women’s Dressed Self-presentation on Holiday” as a starting point.  There’s a lot of ground covered in the paper, and there’s a lot of directions I could take a discussion of it.  But one of the most persistent sentiments underpinning the interviewed women’s experiences was the erasure or absolution of guilt associated with constructing a holiday identity.

I could definitely go for some beach time right about now.

It’s not surprising to me that the various interviewed women all described constructing a modified, often bolder and less restrained, identity for use while they’re on holiday; I often find myself doing the same thing when I’m, say, in an unusual city where I don’t expect to meet anyone I pass on the street again.  I’m less concerned about how I appear, because I am confident that anyone’s judgment or opinion of me is fleeting and won’t follow me home.  Holidaying offers this same anonymity:  the vacationer will not see the vast majority of the people she (here, all the interviewees were women) again, and so any impression they have for her will not impact her significantly beyond her holiday.  I am surprised at how freeing women found building this identity (and the wardrobe used to communicate it), and how unencumbered they felt doing all the prep work for it.

These women recount putting a lot of effort into their holiday images:  they carefully build a day and night wardrobe by shopping and borrowing, they go tanning, they try to lose weight, they shave or wax, get their hair and sometimes nails done… and throughout the article there’s no indication that they feel resentful about this work.  It’s framed as a luxury or a treat much moreso than it is an obligation, even though many of the women say this work is to a large degree necessary for them to fully enjoy their holiday.  Contrast that with the everyday up-keep work that many women do:  much of that same work that in the context of a holiday is freeing and enjoyable becomes tiresome and irritating in an everyday context.  There’s no guilt attached to any of it either — no guilt about taking time to do this prep work, or spending money on it.  As someone who feels vaguely embarrassed about spending time fiddling with her hair, or applying makeup, or much of any feminine-coded bodily upkeep, having a context to justify my work helps me feel less embarrassed about doing it.

At the same time, though, the emphasis on prep work is foreign to me.  I’ve never gone on a formal beach-y holiday, but I can’t envision myself spending much money on creating a new, temporary identity.  I understand wanting to use the opportunity of being away from your usual social environment to explore and experiment away from judgment or social memory, but things like spending time go tanning in preparation for going to a beach and getting your hair coloured (when it’ll get bleached by the sun and salt) seem like futile endeavours — the end result will be eroded by the fact that you’re out in the sun all day.  Buying clothes for a trip, with no lasting intention to wear them afterwards, seems wasteful;  I’m more likely to work what I’ve got in different ways, or borrow, or maybe buy one or two things cheaply to test the waters.  I understand better the women interviewed who went on holiday in preparation for a revamping of their wardrobes/identities — the holiday served as a testing ground in a very tangible sense, and the constructed identity was extended almost completely into their everyday lives.  Maybe the other women took pieces of their constructed identity back into their everyday lives afterward too, but I didn’t see anything in the paper about that so I can’t say one way or another.

Now why can I never find something along this line in a brick-and-mortar store? Bathing suits are not something you can reliably judge how it'll fit and look on you just by a picture.


I was surprised that the article didn’t talk more about bathing suit shopping, since that’s socially constructed to be a Big Deal.  Bathing suits are a pivotal piece of clothing around which beach attire (and thus identity) is centred, and yet these women mention it in passing but don’t dwell on it or talk about any extra stresses they had finding a bathing suit that fit and made them feel good.  As someone who struggles to find a bathing suit that fits, let along one that makes me feel good, I’m pleasantly surprised at this.  This complete lack of self-deprecating talk and internal body-shame was heartening, because that’s not what we as a society tend to see in either popular culture or our own lives (or at least my life).  We get bombarded with the message that we’re inadequate, that our bodies are insufficiently sexy to be scantily clothed in public, and that we should be ashamed that we don’t live up to this unattainable ideal.  The twenty or so women in this study didn’t buy into that, or if they did, they didn’t talk about it to the researchers, or the researchers didn’t talk about it in the paper.

And that’s really the point I took from this — these women took a potential minefield of body negativity and talked about it in very positive ways.  They saw their holidays as transformative, and the work they put into their holidays as relaxing and fun rather than compulsory (even though they often said that the holiday wasn’t worth having without having done all that work).

So, what’s your take on this?  How do you prepare for a holiday, and do you feel free to play with your wardrobe while you’re there?  If you do, does that translate into your everyday life when you return?


Friend Friday: Wearing Your Beliefs on Your Sleeve.

There is a lot of talk at the moment about links between fashion and other social issues. I for one am glad these discussions are being had – we don’t blog about fashion in a bubble, and I think it’s thrilling to see what a  statement we can make when we band together. This week’s Friend Friday asks: where do our (feminist) beliefs fit into our wardrobe? Read more Friend Friday posts here.

Do you think there is an incompatibility between feminism and a love for fashion?
There shouldn’t be! There seem to be some daft and pervasive ideas that the ‘frivolity’ of fashion undermines the seriousness of feminism. I think you can support equal pay and wear high heels, just as I think you should be able to wear your own clothes without being harassed. Fashion as an industry has quite rightly been called into question for its role in important social issues, such as low self-esteem in young women and exploitation of women workers, and these are questions that still need to be addressed. But as fashion-loving or fashion-conscious feminists, we are in the perfect position to raise awareness of these issues and speak out when we disagree. Let’s move on from tired old stereotypes and take this thing forward!

FFB’s Feminist Fashion icons – proof the two can co-exist.                                  By Franca.

With the fashion industry still being a male-dominated profession, how do you think it would differ if women played a larger role?
When the power players of the industry, ie Queen Viv and Miuccia Prada refuse to identify as feminists, it’s hard to say! There’s no denying that female designers have played an increasingly significant role in the last couple of years, Phoebe Philo’s role in the ‘new minimalism’ being an obvious example, and Donatella Versace aside, there is a case for women’s designs heralding en era of less obvious sexuality. Male style blogger Arash Mazinani recently wrote a post about male designers ‘bringing the sexy back’, and while there’s no denying that Tom Ford et al produce some seriously hot clothes, I’m happy to get less of that on a plate – I’m more interested in clothes that are designed with the wearer in mind.

Marni AW11 – my kind of sexy.

How is your self-image and the way you carry yourself informed by your beliefs?

I’ve gone from hiding myself in sweatshirts to emulating fifties filmstars and back again, in line with my developing opinions. I discussed my ambivalent feelings in a recent post, so I’ll quote it here:

Do you think clothing/makeup/hair helps communicate the truth about yourself or are those things superfluous add-ons?

I don’t think they are add-ons as much as extensions, or in some cases – let’s be honest here – enhancements. I certainly don’t advocate buying into a ‘stereotype’ (see my post on Girl Tribes!) but think the beauty of fashion is that it gives us chance to show various ‘truths’ about ourselves; the chance to experiment with colour and silhouette is a fun and creative process. 

Fascinators: fun…and not just for weddings.

There is more to each of us than a love for fashion, how do you incorporate every aspect of yourself into your blog?
I think that comes over time. I felt uncomfortable ‘leaving out’ my feminist beliefs, but with questions like this and the newly-established Feminist Fashion Bloggers I feel I am now bridging that gap and hitting my stride. That said, I don’t think there’s any need to incorporate every aspect of yourself. I once likened the blogging world to a big social event, and I believe that analogy holds: it’s up to you how much of yourself you want to present to the world. Keep the rest under your hat – you’re entitled.

How do your beliefs colour your wardrobe?

Friend Friday: Colour Wars.

This week’s Friend Friday is all about colour – and let’s face it, those of us enduring the dismal days in the UK need an injection of vibrancy. I for one am very excited about the upcoming colour-blocking trend; I loved the collections at Gucci and especially Aquilano.Rimondi – I haven’t been so behind a trend since Prada’s Spring 2000 collection (the one with all the pleated skirts and ostrich skin). So put on your shades, people…and off we go!

What colour dominates your closet? 

It used to be black, but after succumbing to pressure I began to branch out into jewel tones: emerald, plum, deep sapphire… I found that wearing them on my bottom half made the transition a whole lot less scary.

Love pink and red together.
I would never wear pastels, white, or neon colours…and neutrals sap all the colour out of my already-pale skin.

If money weren’t an issue how would you change the colour emphasis in your closet?

This used to be an entirely black selection. Can’t believe I own that much pink…

I have become obsessed with cobalt and Yves Klein-esque blues. They are stunning shades, and they make my hair look redder – it’s a win win situation chez Bossa. I have a coat, jumpers, skirts…and of course my beloved vintage silk dress:

So if I had a real influx of cash, it’s most likely that I continue to turn my world blue. Or dip my toe into the neon pond by investing in a pair of this season’s Miu Miu shoes.

What is your mantra about mixing colours? 
For me, it’s got to be all-black or multiple jewel colours. I love tan leather with everything. As for what one shouldn’t wear…try as I might, I find it difficult to wear any combination of black, brown and navy, which is a total leftover from my very colour-conscious mother.  

Plum, navy, forest green, tan. My kinda combo.

For you, how do you incorporate colour into your outfits? 
If I’m feeling brave I will wear multiple colours together. If I’m feeling slightly less brave I’ll pop on a pair of coloured tights. If I’m all-out chicken I’ll perk it up with a necklace or some shoes…

Which blogger(s) do you think do a good job of incorporating colour into their wardrobe? 
Without a doubt: Franca, of Oranges and Apples. Her colour choices are fabulous, quirky and brave. Every outfit post makes me want to applaud. She is, also in my opinion, the mistress of coloured tights; she almost tempted me to buy some orange ones the other day. Don’t fret, my dears – I said almost…

Franca, my Colour Guru: and these are some of the lower-key outfits…
What about you, fellow fashionistas? 
How does colour feature in your wardrobe?  

For more information on Friend Friday, click here
To read all the other participants’ posts, click…yes, you guessed it: here.

Friend Friday: small fish in a big pond?

Some very pertinent questions for Friend Friday today, along with a gratuitous shot of my over-the-knee red suede boots (they first garnered a mention in my New Year’s Eve post).
1. Have you ever looked at someone’s blog and thought yours will never measure up? 

I’d love to pretend that I lived in a Bossa-shaped bubble, blissfully unaware of ‘better’ blogs…but it just ain’t true. I think it’s natural – especially for those of us with a competitive spirit – to compare your own blog to the those with larger readerships, sleeker designs or truly original voices. But in the end you’ve got to keep your head, and use it as impetus to keep your own blog going from strength to strength. If I ever need a boost to the old ego, I look back on my earliest posts – it reminds you how much you’ve learnt so far, and how much more potential you have.

My very first post – very succinct!
2. Do you (did you) feel pressure to meet some kind of undefined standard for fashion bloggers? 

Definitely – when I started blogging life was easier, as I had no idea of the sheer talent knocking about! A lot of the offerings on IFB’s Links a la Mode, for example, make me more aware of a standard I want to reach. But ultimately it’s my favourite blogs – those that are knowledgeable, engaging, often witty and occasionally vociferous (Veshoevius, I’m looking at you) – that make me want to up my game. I believe that’s healthy. My sister would say “that’s a Capricorn”. 

3. Many established fashion bloggers are also extraordinary DIYers, bakers, and crafty people. Do you think you need to combine all of these things to be successful at blogging? 

No, I don’t think it’s essential – how overfacing would that be? Success surely comes from blogging on subjects that you have a passion for, and those alone. Of course, there’s no denying that showcasing any special talents can give your blog an edge. It also gives your readers an insight into your lifestyle, which most people seem to enjoy, and can help to differentiate you from the tons of bloggers out there. I occasionally include posts on art (sometimes my own!), but I’ve actually been wary of doing so in case it dilutes the tone of the blog. Maybe I’ll make some further forays in that direction this year… What you have to remember, though, is that everyone else’s blogs contain carefully-edited elements of their lives – and what you do and don’t include in your own blog is your choice. If you start trying to incorporate elements that aren’t you, it’s easy to lose your feet. And you need those for wearing nice shoes.

4. The most successful blogs are the ones that have their own personal voice – how are you developing your voice or how did you find yours? 

Ah, the ‘voice’ question. I think it’s a little like love – you know when you’ve found it, but until then it remains an elusive and intangible goal. It strikes me that the blogging world is often like a large party with all the social interplay that entails: there are those for whom ‘socialising’ seems effortless – they can speak to many people and remain popular; there are those who are more tentative, and need a while to ‘warm up’ and hit their stride; and there are those who stay in the corner, determinedly being themselves and attracting gradual yet loyal attention. Having said that, I do think it’s an organic process, and it’s natural that each of us will develop a voice, and continue to develop that voice. The key is to keep writing posts – even if you don’t publish them – as I think it’s the only way to hit on your special brand of magic. And if all else fails: I heartily recommend a dry Manhattan to loosen up your inhibitions…

5. Toot your own horn… what’s one thing you do that is unique to you and your blog? What gives your blog an edge? 

Can I even answer this?! Last year I felt all brave, and sought out feedback from bloggers I really respected. One of them told me they liked the “Does the Do” vibe…!  Now that isn’t obviously definable, of course, but I like it! Topics and outfit posts aside, I still believe the unique personality of a blog is its initial ‘hook’. In an already saturated world of blogging, showcasing some personality in Mrs Bossa Does the Do is what I’m aiming for this year. That and more photos of pretty vintage dresses…

What do you think is the most important way to keep your readers coming back?
And do you ever succumb to the ‘measuring up’ curse?!

Friend Friday Guest Post: Size Matters.

For this week’s Friend Friday, the lovely Cynthia from Be Fabulous Daily has written a guest post for your delectation.  
Click here to read my guest post on her blog ( there may be a delay, as we’re in different time zones!). Enjoy!

Mrs Bossa xx

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A few weeks ago I posted a personal style retrospective and mentioned in passing that, during grad school, I had started buying my clothing somewhat oversized. Reader Terri suggested that I should write about why I thought I did that.

Then, while I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago, I posted this outfit,

which prompted a comment (also from Terri, who likes to ponder the interesting stuff — you should read her blog) that the conference was bringing out a side of me that she had not previously seen. Well…maybe that was the side that sometimes gets mistaken for a man.


Yep. I’m a tallish girl (5’7″). I have always primarily worn flat shoes (for a lot of years, I wore 8-hole Doc Martens almost exclusively). I walk with a long stride. I have wide, square shoulders — no gently sloping Victorian cameo shoulder-line here. Put a blazer and pants on me, and no matter how much makeup I’m wearing, someone’s going to panhandle me using the wrong pronoun. I got addressed as if I were a man by a street dude on the boardwalk in Biloxi, wearing that same (quite girlie, IMO) red corduroy blazer that’s pictured above. There’s just something about my body and my body language. Despite being a 36D with a near-ideal “hourglass” 40/30/41 set of measurements, I can very easily read as ambiguous.

So on to Terri’s question. Why wear oversized clothing? In graduate school, I wouldn’t say I was deliberately “butch”, but I definitely worked my size by wearing oversized clothing that increased my perceived mass. But in light of the above, shouldn’t I be dressing to minimize myself however possible? The answer is, it depends on what my goal is. If my goal is to be perceived as dainty and feminine, perhaps I should dress to minimize. But what if my goal is to be perceived as a successful scientist and a leader in my field?

We all know from numerous studies that being tall results in increased lifetime income. This is true both for men and, to a lesser extent, for women. Another thing we know, from anecdote if nothing else, is that increased bulk is perceived as serious. A friend of mine recently told me of a good friend of hers, a smart and talented but very slight Asian man, who was shooting to move up in management status in a biotechnology company, was essentially told by the powers that be at his company that he was too small to be in management. Among the large thick-bodied American silverbacks, he did not have sufficient weight to have authority. As a young woman starting out in the world of science, I had to do something to create weight and authority. So for years, I’ve worn slightly larger than me clothing to create a larger than life persona. For a while, I even gained quite a bit of weight to fill the larger clothes.

But there are other reasons behind my oversized style, as well. I’m very resistant to sexualizing myself or my clothes. I grew up in the Midwest, among pretty conservative and privacy-loving people. I reached adulthood before the current trend of 5″ heels and high hemlines hit. I feel pretty strongly about appropriate attire. There’s no reason on earth for me to be sexy from day to day — it doesn’t serve my main goals, and might actually harm them.

So now it’s gotten to a point where, if I put on the traditional trappings of “sexy” femininity, strappy dainty shoes, lacy clingy fabrics, little clothes that expose a lot of skin, I feel like a gorilla in a ballerina costume. Steph recently wrote a long post about finding the styles that suit us both inside and out. I don’t know if this external style is the most flattering to me as a woman, or if it’s somewhere that I consciously wanted to go and considered all the implications of, but at this time in my life the style where I’m most at home is large and graphic and authoritative and not too sexy.

For more about why I dress the way I do, check out Be Fabulous Daily.
Do you transgress against parts of the gender ideal when you dress? How? And why?

Friend Friday: Is copying the highest form of flattery?

This week’s Friend Friday post (organised by Kate, of Modly Chic) is about copying – how would you feel if another blogger copied you?!

1. What are the ‘unwritten rules’ about copying content that we bloggers should all abide by? 

Don’t copy! Be inspired, yes, but don’t lift someone else’s content – and always link back to the post that inspired you. Yes, there is a lot of content out there. No, there are no trademarks. But this is a supportive community, and blatant copying would undermine that.

2. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But when is a post imitation and when is it copying?

It’s hard to be completely original in content, format AND style – for those who manage it, kudos. But to copy all these elements just ain’t right! If you don’t have an element of originality, it’s copying: you can’t get away with writing the same post with just the odd tweak.

There are a lot of fashion blogs out there, and finding your ‘angle’ is one of the biggest challenges.  Take outfit posts, for example: you can do ‘daily wear’, or ‘look at my bargain finds’, or ‘something for you to drool over because you can’t afford it and I can’, but essentially they are all posts of people wearing clothes, so it’s essential that your unique style comes through. A lot of bloggers, myself included, like to do a run-down of certain high street collections, and in this case I think you have to have a clear ‘voice’ or an unusual take. Kate at Make Do Style does this well – there is a lot of humour, knowledge and variety in her posts.

3. Taking another blogger’s idea (perhaps for an outfit, or DIY tutorial) is pretty common in the blogging world. Do you think it is necessary to credit the original source?

If you can credit the source, do. Not only is it good form to reference anything you post as content, it’s also only fair to direct traffic back to the person who inspired you. Pictures are more problematic, of course, but I think we should still acknowledge that it came from ‘somewhere’. Jen from A Little Bird Told Me does this really well, I think – she occasionally posts outfits inspired by other bloggers, but she always acknowledges this in a positive way. It’s inevitable that we are inspired by each other’s approaches, and each other’s sense of style – that’s one of the reasons the blogging network is so fulfilling.

4. How have you improved your blog by comparing it to other blogs? Have you made changes due to something you have seen others doing?

The blogs I’ve been reading lately seem to be taking a more ‘cerebral’ approach to fashion, which I’m really enjoying. I think the standard is being raised all the time because of the sheer size of the blogging network; Friend Friday has been a great way of making you aware of other bloggers work, and IFB’s Links à la Mode introduces a real element of competition (when I first entered a post, there were about 25 entries a week – now it’s more like 100). It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times, but I decided early on to take a positive approach; it’s the perfect opportunity to ‘up your game’ – a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone!

5. Have you ever had one of your posts copied by another blogger or publication? How did you handle the situation?

It’s never happened to me – I always imagined it’s more of a problem for the higher profile bloggers (like the recent incident with Coco’s Tea Party, where the content was just lifted and passed off as her own – bit of a risk, no?!), but I suppose the rest of us are more vulnerable as we don’t have the same weight of readership as witnesses. I’ve very occasionally read posts that really remind me of something I’ve written, more in format than anything else, but we are all trying things out and finding our way, and I’m sure I’ve been more heavily inspired by some people than I realise. I recently wrote a post on Vogue that was triggered by Penny Dreadful Vintage and I felt uncomfortable enough about that…so I imagine if I was ripped off I may not handle it well…

How heavily are you ‘inspired’ by other bloggers? 
Do we need to acknowledge every starting point for our posts 
or is it all fair game? 


Friend Friday: Mrs Bossa in 10 Random Facts.

For this week’s Friend Friday, organised by the lovely Kate from Modly Chic, we were asked to give our readers ten facts about ourselves. Up to press I haven’t ‘given’ much of myself on Mrs Bossa Does the Do, so here I go – with bated breath… 

1) When I was 6 years old my main ambition was to be the youngest ever published author. I read the Garden Gang at the time, written by 7 year-old Jayne Fisher, and thought I could do better…! Years later I wrote a complete horror novel and a ‘humorous’ novel inspired by Trainspotting. Both awful, might I add.

Grace Grape was a bit sexy, wasn’t she?!
2) I have a shark phobia. Most people aren’t keen, I know, but my fear meant I couldn’t get in a bath for years…!

3) I’ve done a parachute jump. It was completely out of character – no-one was more surprised than me – but one of the best feelings EVER.

4) I can do the complete rap of ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ by Salt ‘n’ Pepa. No other comment necessary, I feel.

5) I used to do weekly dancing competitions. You know the type: fake tan, sequins, backcombed hair…it’s probably just as well I couldn’t find a photo. I was once in a team called ‘Primitive Desire’, where we wore tiger print and thongs. I was 11.

6) I adore Jewish music, particularly Klezmer (the frantic stuff people can’t help but dance to) and Sephardic/Ladino.

7) Last year I was an au pair. One of THE toughest jobs I’ve ever done – kudos to you mothers!! I will always love that child though – my maternal instinct has been on overdrive ever since.

8) I occasionally ‘tread the boards’, as the saying goes. I once even made it on to the cover of Amateur Stage!! What an irresistible taste of fame!

9) I can rarely listen to cello music without crying. I used to play, but not well enough to make people cry…

10) I am a total Lord of the Rings geek. I could talk about it for ages. This guy helped:

I’m not as bad as some, but I do know some Elvish phrases…What? Come back!!!