THE TIGHTS

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I have a love/hate relationship with hosiery.

I dislike the way they look with certain styles. I hate it when they snag on your way into work. I find it intolerable when you arrive home to find them down by your knees. I really don’t like it when people ruin a perfectly good outfit with them. I hate that only a size large in Primark fits me properly. And I despair when people wear coloured ones.

It has to be said, however, that the positives far outweigh the negatives when it comes to these skin-tight accessories.

They are my reliable go-to on a weekday morning in the depths of winter and something I pine for, come May, when the weather is no longer cool enough to pull them on. They are the key to wearing dresses when my legs are too pale to expose to unsuspecting commuters. They are the answer to those ‘what to wear’ dilemmas when I’ve woken up later than I should’ve for work. They make miniskirts wearable and, Christ on a stick, let’s hear it for the options: from fishnets, polka dots and patterned tights to your standard pair of black, 80 deniers (never nude) for those days when you just need a bit of cover from the cold. Tights? I’m not sure what I’d do (or wear) without them.

It might seem strange to love something so trivial but when you hate your legs as abhorrently as me, tights become your best friend, autumn/winter your favourite season and an organised hosiery section more heavenly than a well-stocked gin bar.

Here’s to tights, in all their non-nude forms.

You the bomb.

 

THROW THE GOOD KIND OF SHADE

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Kate Moss is my style icon.

I mean, it’s not like I actually dress like her or anything but everything she wears, I want and she is basically my queen for life.

Anyway, if you, like me, are in love with her too, then why not bid on a pair of her sunglasses to become a) infinitely cooler and b) raise some cash for charity?

Specs Appeal 2016 is now live and they want you to bid on sunglasses that once belonged to the likes of not only Kate Moss but Stephen Fry, Emma Watson and Annie Lennox (amongst others) in order to raise money to help partially sighted children in poverty around the world see again.

Read more about their amazing work here. They can one hundred percent explain it all a lot better than I can.

The one thing I will say? Get bidding. The auction closes on Monday 5th December at 8pm GMT.

Good luck and donate generously.

THE HALLOWEEN

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Ah, it’s that time of year again where we Google what we’re going to be for weeks ahead of the 31st, searching for a costume that is the perfect combination of sexy/scary, before forgetting to buy one altogether and having to concoct a makeshift one from whatever’s left in Wilko, resulting in basically a non-costume. We will then creep off into the night before downing more alcohol than usual, behaving in ways we normally wouldn’t and encountering more dickheads than we thought humanly possible.

It’s painful, why then do I love it so?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that Halloween costumes that are acceptable for 27-year-olds seem to be very few and far between and the desire to dress up is wearing thin. If you, like me, still don’t have a clue what to go as to that overpriced club night or likely-to-be-quite-messy house party on Saturday, then here are my suggestions to you:

Mexican Sugar Skull

Cultural appropriation arguments aside – for these are desperate times – a Mexican sugar skull costume provides late twenty-somethings with a hint of sophistication to stop you looking like a complete plonker with enough fright to pay homage to the holiday. Age-appropriate indeed.

Scrubs and Blood

Not at all sexy, but if you’re planning on heading out for a hefty supper before the celebrations commence, then you can certainly let it all hang out in these bad boys. Comfort combined with costume effort – basically what being 27 at Halloween is made of.

Cannibal Cavegirl

Done properly, this can actually look pretty great – but you’ve got to go the whole hog: think a full head of back-combed hair, a dress made of animal print fur, bones in your hair and blood around your mouth.

Wednesday Addams

Black dress (preferably with a white collar). Pigtails. Monday-before-coffee-face. Simple.

Slaughtered Beauty Queen

This is definitely one for a more glamorous occasion – although only worth the effort if you have actually been invited to a half-decent Halloween party, such as Jonathon Ross’. Invest in a second-hand cocktail gown, plastic tiara, coat yourself in blood and you’re good to go.

Finally, A Dead… Anything

Basically, if you’re struggling with what to wear, dress up as something… a chef, a baker, a painter and then just, sort of… make yourself look dead.

This Halloween, if you think you’re too old, the truth is, you probably are, but if you feel like pressing on regardless, please promise me this: that you won’t go dressed as a cat or a bunny – or basically anything with whiskers; that you won’t just wear a onesie and call it a costume and that you will refrain from going as a member of ISIS, an aborted baby or a bloody tampon. You’re not funny, you’re an idiot and belong in a rugby club at a university in Devon.

If in doubt this Halloween, just cover yourself in blood and drink too much – it’s worked for me in the past and is probably what we’ll all end up doing anyway.

Have a good one.

THE BEACH BODY

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Lena Dunham once said that she detested being called ‘brave’ by critics of the hit show Girls because they were basically saying that it must’ve taken a lot of courage for her to get naked in front of a camera looking like ‘that’. She said that being brave required you to feel scared, which she didn’t when it came to being naked on camera, so she rejected their praises.

I sort of see what she’s saying.

I just don’t neccessarily agree with it.

To me, being brave isn’t simply doing something you’re scared of, being brave can be doing something that the world is scared of, otherwise known as, ‘breaking the mould’, because the rest of us feel like we can’t. This is the reason I see her as courageous. Not because her figure is horrid – but because those who she’s being compared to by all and sundry are donning that unattainable, softened by lighting, fixed by filters look. And Lena? She’s rocking reality when so many of us find it difficult to do so ourselves.

Her boobs aren’t symmetrical (because whose are?), her vagina isn’t bald (because we all have a choice) and she isn’t a size zero (because she likes to eat). Dunham is brave for baring all on screen because, in a world where it is so easy (and tempting) to alter reality, she has decided to keep it real. For change to happen, people have to be ‘brave’ to ignite it and Dunham is doing it, whether she likes it to admit it or not.

And I think the rest of us could learn from her.

Women have obviously felt a pressure to look a certain way for years now, which doesn’t seem to be about to change, unless you have the financial means to buy out The Daily Mail or Now Magazine and ban body shaming, but something that we can control is what ‘normal’ looks like. I’m not telling you to stop adding filters to your photos or to cut down on the makeup if it makes you feel good but just be brave by being you and you will inspire the rest of womankind to do the same.

During the summer, Ryan and I decided to head to the beach. When we got there, it was hotter than I had expected, so I took off my jeans and sat in the top I was wearing and my not-so-beach-ready pair of too-big, black M&S knickers I had on underneath.

Lovely.

Now, although I am a size 10 – 12, I am very self-conscious of the cellulite that spreads across the backs of my untoned thighs. I drink gallons of water a day, walk everywhere and exercise semi-regularly. I eat salads for lunch, scrub, exfoliate and moisturise but it just won’t shift.

You might be wondering, at this point, how I ended up sitting in my pants then?

Well, I took my jeans off on the beach that day, not because I love the way I look, but because, as I nervously scanned the sand to see who I might be exposing my dimpled bum cheeks to, I noticed a group of girls in bikinis who were enjoying themselves. I envied them for looking so great on the beach, for throwing their heads back and laughing and sitting cross legged looking like poster girls advertising ‘The Perfect Summer in North Somerset’ as if it were no big deal that they had barely any clothes on. I felt jealous that they were enjoying the light breeze that would wave over the beach instead of sitting there sweating in their jeans, like me.

On closer inspection, because I am female and this is what we have sadly been trained to do, I noticed a dimple, a roll, lumps and bumps on these women. And so I should have. These were normal women, enjoying a normal day out with their normal friends: not a bunch of airbrushed models in a glossy magazine.

And that’s when I realised.

It was time to take my jeans off.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it wouldn’t have been a completely thoughtless process for any of these women to undress on a packed beach. They were likely to have hated bits of their body, just like I do and would have brought a cover up to hide the parts that they didn’t like. So they, like Dunham, were brave for keeping it real and baring it all without a filter or a svelte size six under their summer dresses.

In truth, their act of bravery on the beach that day led me to be brave.

And when the next lady who set her towel down next to me questioned whether she should take her clothes off and lay in her pants while sipping on a San Pellegrino and tucking into her favourite book? I hope she glanced at my not-so-perfect thighs, thought, ‘fuck it’ and whipped her trousers off, too.

We, as girls, can easily quash the body ideals that are shoved into our faces on a daily basis. In fact, there are many who already are – but we need more people to join the movement (and be brave!) for it to really take off. The fact is, the more we see real body shapes and sizes around us, the less normal unattainable will become and maybe one day we as women can just… be.

Think of it as a sort of ‘Pay it Forward’ for women.

Be brave and the rest will follow.

THE CLOBBER

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From the kick flares I just had to have to the reduced Chloe dress I recently bought for one of a thousand weddings I’ve got lined up this year, it’s official: I am addicted to shopping.

I’ve indulged in the Zara and ASOS sales to the point that I now know the DPD driver’s name and I can identify every click and collect store in the local area. Forget cocktails or partying, it’s clothes – particularly the kind bought for a reduced price or found lying at the bottom of a bargain bin – that have become my new addiction. Just the other day I realised that, in one shopping trip, I had bought four pairs of shoes: two boots (the exact same pair but in different colours), a pair of metallic trainers and some flat gold sandals. As I struggled to mount the train home, convincing myself of their individual worth and working out their potential cost per wear, I realised that I had probably gone too far. I was now justifying my addictive splurges and something had to give.

But then I realised.

Although I have definitely noticed an unquestionable increase in my spending lately and have absolutely fallen a little more in love with sifting through rails for hours on end, I’ve come to realise that my love affair with clothes isn’t actually quite as new as I had first thought. In fact, far from being in our honeymoon phase, high waisted skirts, baggy jumpers and black jeans and I are committed.

And I have to say, our relationship is getting better with age.

When I was younger, I would slip on any pair of adult shoes I could lay my tiny hands on. Heel or no heel. A delight to the eyes or even a vulgar wedge: I would claim them as my own and clomp around the house, leaving behind my scuffed navy Start-Rites and relishing in my new and improved grown up footwear.

As I got older, like most teenagers, I experimented with style. I went through a – not quite so Kate Moss in the 90s – grunge look, which can only be described as gross yet distinctly unforgettable. I had a bad fringe. I had a good fringe. I really loved my blue, flowery clogs. I dabbled in vintage and retro, trekking over to Brick Lane each Thursday to spend my pennies on tat that I thought was cool, basically because I had found it on a rail at Rokit. I was actually so obsessed with preloved for a while that when I fell for a pair of red ankles boots in a size 7 (two sizes too big for me and, of course, being vintage, they didn’t have them in any other sizes) I bought them anyway. And, in a typically teenage bout of stubborness, I wore them until the soles wore through, gripping my toes as I walked.

Then came university.

As probably the poorest student in Exeter (which really wasn’t that hard), I wasn’t able to splash out on the clothes that I actually wanted to wear, so I played it safe and (at the very least) tried to blend in. So, baffled by everyone’s desire to wear heels and a dress to clubs that cost no more than a quid to enter, but not wanting to break the mould, I found myself dressing up in sky highs and body con just to impress. During these years, between the ages of 19 and 22, I was at my least confident. I would regularly refuse to go out because I had nothing to wear. I would wail in front of my full length mirror, leaving behind a room that looked as though it had been burgled 5 times over as I sifted through everything I owned and, with a wardrobe bursting to capacity and draws stuffed to the brim, I couldn’t understand why. But it was all because I was buying and collecting clothes that I thought I should wear as opposed to what I wanted to wear.

And then I graduated.

Returning to London is where I regained a sense of self, re-ignited my long-lost city style and remembered that wearing trainers was okay. Not only was I far more comfortable on a Friday night, I was actually more at ease in my own skin because I was decorating my body the way I wanted to. And that’s something I think people forget when critiquing the fashion industry: it might be a billion dollar, size zero heralding power house, but wearing the clothes that you love and finding your own style? So underrated when it comes to positive body image and confidence.

These days, I quite literally wear what I want. The majority of the time you’ll find me in jeans and a t shirt. If it’s cold, I’ll have a fur coat on. I mix old and new. (A little) designer and lots of high street thrown in with some (but not enough) second hand steals. I still nab clothes from mum’s wardrobe when she’s not looking and I continue to own too many pairs of shoes. But for all this dedication to the cause, I’ve realised that whenever people ask me what I’m into, it’s as if I’m on autopilot: writing, reading, music. That’s all I ever say. But, in actual fact, fashion is a huge part of who I am (and probably of who you are) today. Fashion can transcend time, but it can also document it. One item of clothing can take you back to a different era and a pair of heels can remind you of an evening spent with friends you might have otherwise forgotten.

I enjoy shopping, styling, rummaging. I love putting pieces together that make my boyfriend crumple his face so hard I think he might stay like that should the wind change. But I also get a kick out of him being surprised by pieces I’ve pulled together. I love sharing clothes, swapping clothes and talking about clothes. I appreciate form, shape and cuts and I love how finding the perfect fit makes you feel a million bucks (excuse the cliché).

I’m not saying I’m Henry fucking Holland, nor am I saying that you’ll see me enrolling for CSM in September, but I think it’s time I accepted the fact that one of my greatest passions (if you will) is fashion.

It’s an art form, a confidence builder and a chance to express yourself.

And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

THE GLAMOUR

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I wear jeans.

That’s it.

Jeans and boots. Jeans and sandals.

Winged eyeliner and scruffy hair.

Flat shoes and denim.

Whether it’s a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon, I dress the same. Long gone are the days of spending a couple of hours getting ready to go out on a Saturday night, toying with eyelash glue and worrying about whether or not I’ve shaved my legs; I now take no longer than thirty minutes to leave the house, regardless of where I’m going. Granted, frequenting the likes of Peckham, Deptford and Brixton doesn’t really allow for anything other than comfy shoes and a rucksack, but I’m happy with this way of life. You know, the easier way, the less need for two make up wipes and fifteen Blister plasters way.

But I must admit: I sometimes miss the glamour.

When I was younger, I would have killed to go out in flats every weekend. My friends were staunch advocates for heels and dresses and I always felt as though I had to brave sore feet for a bit of height, better legs and to aid in my teenage attempts to look a little less like a foetus when trying to get served in Wetherspoons. Younger me would be oh so envious of older me and my endless opportunities to wear comfy clothes and have a good time, but twenty six year old me is starting to feel a bit samey. A bit blokey. A bit bogstandard. After years of yearning for everyone to convert to wearing converse on a Saturday night, I’m starting to question whether or not I should’ve been careful what I wished for.

When I picture the women I party with, I see boots. Trainers. Duster jackets. I see a lot of black. A lot of high necks. No glitz. No frills. And don’t get me wrong, I think they look great. But where did the femininity go? One of my favourite things about being a woman is watching other women experimenting with fashion, make up and style. I love that I have boobs, hips and a bum. In fact, I think they’re cause for celebration. But somewhere on the road to emancipation, we seem to have lost the glamour. Which I get, because we’re making a point, but can’t we have both? A friend of mine wore a backless top the other week and you’d have thought she had walked into the party butt naked from the reaction she got. She looked hot. But not because she was showing some skin. She just looked feminine. And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating that. Even if it is for just one night a month.

My friends and I were discussing this lack of glamour over dinner the other evening and we subsequently decided to arrange a night out where we drink expensive drinks, wear stilettos and style our hair with tongs in order to relive our seemingly more glamorous youth. We spoke – at great length – about sipping from straws and tanning our legs. It’s two weeks later and we’re yet to book in a night like that, but have managed to find the time to buy tickets to gigs, have dinner at a pop up and book a trip to a literature festival. None of these require too high high heels and a night bus home. They just require friends. And, ironically, flat shoes.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The glamour hasn’t actually vacated my life, it has just shifted and looks a little different now, that’s all. As it happens, the glamour I used to know wasn’t actually so glamorous at all. In fact, I hated wearing heels and a dress and I was always really cold.

Although, from the outside, I might look increasingly like an extra from This is England and less like a pin up from the 1950s, the decadence of my late twenties is, in fact, immeasurable in comparison to my younger years. Being able to afford to drink drinks that I actually like and not worry about facing a night bus home due to the birth of the omnipotent Uber is the height of glamour in comparison to a sausage in batter on the N11 at 4am, I’m sure you’d agree.

Perhaps a glamorous lifestyle doesn’t have to look like a photoshopped still from Keeping up with the Kardashians? Perhaps I’m learning that the key to authentic glamour is finding out what suits you and then wearing it with a smile?

Marilyn suited low cut A line dresses, Gisele looks great in anything leggy and I suit jeans and a t shirt. Each to their own, I guess. So here’s to being glamorous, in whatever way that means to you.

THE BODY

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I love food.

I have never had a problem gorging on carbs and rarely count calories. I always thought that I was actually an Italian woman trapped in a freckled body and felt superior because I was one of the few girls in my year who wasn’t obsessed with what I ate. I had this idea that I was the cool girl, the one who ordered spaghetti on a date, slurped until her heart was content and never split puddings. Ever.

But what I lacked in obsession, I more than made up for in neglect. I used to be skinny and only ever used to move my body to shuffle to the dance floor, drifted from shop window to shop window and only ate vegetables because I had to. I would eat a cheese and pickle sandwich everyday after school, after snacking all day, and no one could understand where it all went.

But since I turned 25 and completely lost the ability to break down anything fattier than a carrot stick, I decided to give my body the leg up that it needed. In addition to buying a yoga mat – and actually using it – I’ve started juicing; making glasses of goodness that kick coffee’s arse in the pick-me-up stakes each morning. I cycle, I walk, I sit down less and I’ve started wearing heels again. Not only do they make me look taller than normal and feel a little more glam than when I’m in my jim-jams, they give my calves a workout when I get down and dirty on the dance floor.

Now, although I’m pretty laid back about what goes in my mouth (don’t), pretty much only eat when I’m hungry and give my body what it craves – even if that is a bar of Whole Nut -one rule I do abide by is that I absolutely never weigh myself. This isn’t just because the last time I checked (in 2005) I weighed eight stone and I would like to continue to pretend that I am stuck in that weightless, pubescent tunnel, but because it doesn’t matter to me what the scales say. As long as I don’t have to burst a blood vessel trying to fit into my beloved black skinny jeans and I can still cycle across London on a Sunday without passing out, then I’m happy.

Loving our bodies shouldn’t just be about pounds and ounces and although we’d like to say otherwise, most women my age tend to focus primarily on what’s staring back at them in the mirror. I love to try out the latest MAC lipstick as much as the next person and have an unhealthy obsession with clothes, but I cannot stress enough that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so please, do not neglect your health.

You might be young, have hair like Rapunzel, a bang-tidy bod and your nails might be lacquered every Tuesday, but that’s not what’s going to keep you going for the next 30 years, is it? Just because we are young doesn’t mean that we are immune from life’s curveballs, no matter how invincible we feel after a few glasses of gin. Prevention is so much better than cure, so speak to someone if you are not feeling 100%. Go for all of your check ups – even if it means cancelling on friends – and have a timely route around for lumps and bumps, because no one else is going to do it for you… well, unless you ask nicely.

I, myself, have been feeling a bit fuzzy in the head as of late, so have been accepting advice from wherever it’s offered. One chap suggested to me that I would only be able to move forward with things and exercise a positive mental attitude if I explored what is good for my body. “Sort out the physical”, he said, “and the rest will follow”. And he was right. A few vitamins, some freshly squeezed fruit juice and some serious work outs later, I feel a lot more like myself. Actually no, a better version of myself.

I urge you to do it too and do it now; after all, once the arthritis sets in, there’ll be no Zumba for anyone.

Here’s to health and happiness. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

The Follicle

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From hair loss and hair cuts, to the fuzz between your legs and the strands sprouting from your bonce: we’re hair obsessed.

I have always been partial to the longer haired gentleman, and I think if more women were honest with themselves, they are too. It’s something to do with our sexual appetites harking back to the Stone Age- forget pecks, biceps or even triceps, give me a head of hair and I’m putty in your hands. Teamed with a beard? You don’t even have to know my name. Blame science, I do.

It therefore pleases me that one of the most iconic styles of the last year or so, and one of the trends sure to define our lost little generation is the ‘mun’ or man bun. This, to me, reigns supreme in follicle fashion; so much so that I think it should be mandatory for men to don one for at least a month of their lives. Why should top knots be restricted to women only? I’m all for equal rights and if we can do it guys, then so can you.

For women, it’s fringes that are coming to the fore. Put off for a while when a guy mate of mine at uni told me that he could never understand why women had them:

“Why ruin a pretty face?” he asked.

I didn’t (and still don’t) even know where to begin.

I’ve always loved having one. They frame my face more than Kim’s contouring ever could and they add that certain something to an outfit that a hand bag just can’t. But as with most great fashion or beauty fixtures, they come with their perils and fringed females must always think ahead: staying over at people’s houses requires either a full bag of bobby pins to curb the curl; hats are pretty much a no-go if you’re headed anywhere you’ll need to impress, and rain… well, just stay inside. Deschanel and Byrne make it look so easy but I can pretty much guarantee that they have a team of twenty to make those facial curtains look so seamless.

And what do we hide under our bangs? More hair, of course. I’ve always had fuller, very dark brows – unlucky me until Delevigne hit the big time- and I now walk around like a boss, only tweezing when things get really bad, or my fringe grows out. But I don’t believe they’ve ever received so much attention; from drawing them on to waxing them off, we’re really quite distracted by those little sweat guards. But as one who is quite clearly pro-hair, I must stress something I feel quite strongly about: the fact that they are called browS. It’s for a very good reason. We should all, no matter what gender or how painful the upkeep, have two. The forehead is no place for a caterpillar- except for Frieda Kahlo’s of course; hers seems like the perfect habitat.

So, in a world obsessed with beauty, let’s come together to celebrate being low-maintenance and hairy; something we rarely (except for Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts) do. And lads, if Leonardo DiCaprio is doing something, then don’t ask questions and just follow suit- the mun is paramount. 

Oh, and FYI, Primark do hair ties for a pound. Thank me later boys.

 

The Beard

970941-beardsAs a small child with a fair-haired father, I would bawl and back away from any dark haired men with a bit of facial fuzz who came anywhere near my pram.

Oh the irony.

Although beards are quite clearly having a moment, I have been enjoying their existence ever since I first watched Teen Wolf.

Some girls wince at the thought of stray hairs getting stuck in their teeth and their toes curl at the prospect of food getting caught in their man’s moustache. I beg the question: “What is so wrong with saving a few crumbs for Ron?” Hamsters store them in their cheeks, hipsters store them on their chins. If nothing else, beards are efficient.

On an arguably shallower note, they’re hot. Most men, as I think even they will agree, look like unborn foetuses when they are clean shaven. The common excuse I hear about having to grin and bare it is that their bosses won’t have it. Tell them to do one. It’s the 21st century; if we are in charge of our ovaries, you should be in charge of your chins. Fact.

A definitive downer to the beard however is that they are deceptive as hell. Boys, you know when you see a hot girl in the summer wearing oversized sunnies and think “phwoooooar!”, only for her to take them off and be utterly disappointed? Yeah that. Beards are like a blanket for the face. Ladies, prepare to be fooled. Beards have the ability to make even the Barlows of the world look attractive, as we have recently noted. Cue One Direction.

My boyfriend has a beard so big he practically looks like the missing link. In fact, one of his pals even questioned him as to what it was like before electricity was invented. Drunk women also have the desire to touch his face a lot. Young children point and stare.

But despite all of the hecklers and over friendly females, there is a plus side. If he even thinks about moaning about my prickly pins, all I have to do is point at his face and laugh.

I am aware that it is a matter of taste and, as Gosling has demonstrated, there is still time in this world for a lack of facial follicle. But think low maintenance lads and let that beard run free. It’s what God would’ve wanted.