The fashion-free challenge

27 Jan

Anyone who has been in my presence will be well aware of the huge amount of time, money and energy I devote to my clothes. I don’t bother with designer labels, but I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the contents of the Topshop website. I can accurately guess the price of most things in asos, and if all my t-shirts are in the wash it’s not unknown for me to just buy some more. It’s safe to say I’m not exactly known as “on trend”, I wear what I like and what suits me rather than the latest thing, however if a dress, coat or top catches my eye I HAVE to have it.

Recently I have been trying to cleanse my wardrobe of all the clutter 5 years of disposable fashion buying has caused. I kept coming across things I had forgotted I owned and I realised just how much stuff I have. Thanks to that realisation, and the fact that I am now trying to save up a significant amount of money for my wedding and house, I am making a pledge. I will not buy any new clothes for the next 12 months. Now that sounds quite scary, so here are the rules:

  • I will not purchase new or 2nd hand clothes from 1st Feb 2012 to 1st Feb 2013
  • If I am given vouchers for a clothes shop I may buy clothes with them, but only up to the value of the voucher
  • I can swap clothes with friends in a “Swap Shop” type situation, but cannot part with money for them
  • I may not get around this by renting clothes from the likes of wishwantwear.com
  • I must make the effort to sell clothes that no longer fit/suit me on Ebay.
  • I can buy clothes as gifts for other people and receive clothes as gifts
  • Accessories are also included. No handbags, scarves or wallets!

Certain exceptions apply:

  • Where specific clothing is required for an event that I do not currently own (Black tie etc.) I may buy clothes, but only after attempts to borrow clothes fail
  • If I only own one of something (nice work suit) and something happens which makes said item unusable, it may be replaced but only after attempts to fix are unsuccessful
  • I may buy shoes for work, but only those under £40 and only when the current pair become unusable
  • Certain essentials such as tights and underwear are exempt, although expensive underwear is out of the question

How am I going to do this I hear you ask? Well, first of all, I will obviously need to go cold turkey on all clothing websites such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge etc. This will also require me to unsubscribe from their marketing emails in order to remove temptation.

I’m not a huge fan of actual shopping as in going to the Trafford centre etc, however I will avoid shops in order to avoid this further temptation.

I’m hoping this removal of unnecessary spending will filter through to the rest of my life too, although I’m just going to tackle clothes for now. I’ll keep you all updated on how this is going, and I promise to be honest about any slip ups. Hopefully there won’t be any, as at the end of the 12 months I should be able to buy some really nice stuff with the money I save…MY WEDDING DRESS!

It will all be worth it in the end. :) I would appreciate some moral support from you all, I sense this will be a very tough challenge.

The chiffon mist…

13 Jan

For those of you who have been living under a rock recently, I got engaged to Mike over Xmas. It was a really romantic proposal and the ring is lovely. Needless to say I’m unbelievably happy and have been walking on air over the last few weeks. Now, in the past, when watching friends and colleagues planning their weddings I’ve often thought it was ridiculous how stressed out they got. I kept thinking “it’s only a bloomin’ wedding’ and I secretly laughed at them (sorry!). Now however, I totally get it. I’m becoming a nightmare bride already, you could say the chiffon mist of wedding madness has descended…

In the last few weeks I have dipped my toe into the infinite ocean of wedding planning. I’ve looked at a few venues and dresses online and gossiped with friends about the type of ceremony and reception I want. The problems started almost immediately and I have to say that even though we don’t have a clue when we’ll get married or where I am already worried about it. Our wedding date will be very much dictated by Mike’s work schedule. If he’s sent to Afghanistan this year, which is a possibility, it would probably mean a summer 2013 wedding. If he’s sent next year (which is more likely) then it will be a winter 2013/early 2014 wedding. Because we haven’t got much control over these things until we know his tour schedule (wow, that makes it sound like he’s in One Direction or something…) we are having to leave a lot of the concrete planning for a much later date, leaving me to worry about the ridiculous details.

The stress, which I was convinced would not affect me, started with a strange misunderstanding about who would pay for the wedding (I thought we would save up, Mike thought my parents would) my parents’ financial situation means them contributing several thousand pounds needed would be completely unrealistic, Mike and I are saving for a house deposit as well at the moment so funds are extremely tight for us. So that’s stress number one, we have f*** all money and a wedding to plan some time next year. Weddings are hella expensive. I sort of knew this. I didn’t realise however just how much I would be shelling out for even a basic wedding. Between the dress, food, drinks and venue we’re talking at least £4,000 for something really very modest indeed. I don’t have the facility to save up enough for that within the time frame and I certainly don’t want to get into debt over my wedding. Hardly a nice start to married life! So what does that leave me with? That leaves me with what I like to call “My Big, Fat, No Budget Wedding”

This will involve:

  • Dress from Monsoon/Coast/House of Fraser or similar
  • Midweek or Friday ceremony
  • Minimal flowers
  • Small Wedding Breakfast
  • Small drinks budget
  • Mike getting married in his dress uniform – although I would have insisted on this anyway, not a fan of the morning suit look on grooms.

The photographer is the bit I’m most concerned about. They all seem to want about two grand! That seems a huge amount of money to me. I was thinking we could do the whole thing for a couple of grand, it would seem not.

Turns out I have delusions about my own emotional stability too. I’ve already cried twice about the damn thing. I doubt I cried twice in the whole of last year, and already I’m an emotional wreck.

Why is all this? I think I have a vague idea. Firstly, I’m an only child. My mum LOVES weddings. She’s definitely not the sort to try and make me do what she wants, but I’m aware of her expectations and aware that she will want a nice wedding she can tell her friends about. That’s a definite pressure point, she loves me to death and keeps saying I should do what makes me happy, but I know what she wants and I want to make her happy.

Mike has certain pressures within his family, certain members don’t get on with certain other members, this makes deciding on who to invite very difficult. (My theory is to invite everyone and tell them to behave or feel my wrath)

I have been to some gorgeous weddings over the years and don’t want to unfavourably compare mine with anyone elses. There’s all this pressure from the many shows, magazines, bloggers and merchants who all ram it down your throat that your day must be special and that for it to be special you must spend a gazzilion pounds. Our wedding will be the most special day of my life, that is a given as I’ll be marrying Mike, the only man who has ever really made me happy and we’ll be with our friends and family. That in itself means the day will be fantastic. I’ve realised that’s the important thing and all the rest is icing on the cake. That reminds me, £750 for a wedding cake? Are you having an actual laugh? I’ll make my own you robbing b*******!

Small, simple wedding with close friends and family. A few drinks and a dance. Don’t buckle to pressure for anything you don’t want or need! I’ve written this so I can read over it in the future and remind myself of what is important and what is unnecessary. Please forgive any mental ramblings. I will try not to bore you all with weddings if you aren’t interested. If you are interested I will probably talk at you a lot. Just smile, nod and say “I’m sure whatever you do will be perfect”

Thanks!

Bread, cheese and leg waxes

26 Oct

I bring you all bad news.

The retail giant and nemesis of Sam, Tesco is now going to be offering beauty treatments. Take a moment to think about that will you.

Not happy with selling:

  • groceries
  • dvds
  • cds
  • books
  • electrical goods
  • make up
  • perfume
  • financial products
(To name a few.)
Tesco will now be offering in store beauty treatments through Regis salons. This means that you can get your eyebrows threaded while you pick up a pint of milk, or your nails done when you dash in for a sliced white.
You may think to yourself “So what?” (especially if you’re a bloke) but if you consider what this could mean for the beauty industry, and think about what Tesco is doing to our country at the moment it’s a scary thought.
Tesco is a huge company, they have expanded into Europe and Asia and make so much profit it hurts my eyes to look at it. They don’t need to expand into beauty, they are doing just fine without it. The news that 3 of their stores are offering their customers this service leads me to only one possible conclusion…they are getting a bit greedy. (possibly I should say greedier…)
The prices these salons will be offering are below what most salons will be able to compete with. At around £12 for a haircut and £15 for full leg waxing, the smaller salons will no doubt lose business. Now I have no doubt that Tesco will claim they are making beauty more accessible to those suffering under the recession, but let’s be clear on this, there is nothing noble about running a price war with a tiny salon. I know there are many people out there who would jump at the chance to pay those prices, but if that’s the issue speak to your local salon and see if a junior or trainee can do your treatments, they’ll be supervised and no doubt cheap as chips.
Celebrate your local salon and boycott Tesco! We have a no Tesco policy in our house, I suggest you adopt a similar one, lest we all end up driving Tesco cars, insured by Tesco, living in a Tesco house, wearing Tesco clothes, eating Tesco food, styling Tesco hair and filing Tesco nails.

Magazines, a woman’s worst enemy…

21 Oct

Between the ages of 15 and 23 I bought a copy of every single edition of Glamour, Company and Cosmo. I read each one cover to cover and pretty much believed and took in everything. I can’t tell you the number of “wonder mascaras” and “life changing shampoos” I bought as a result of the beauty pages. I read and marvelled at the true stories and raised eyebrows at the celebrity interviews.

About two years ago I had an epiphany, I fell out of love with women’s magazines. The very idea of them is frustrating. They may have accurately represented women 30 years ago, but to be honest, although I am interested in hair, make up and men/relationships, they are not the core things I want to read about. I read about them independently now, from various sources across digital and print media.

I have transitioned my beauty reading to Sali Hughes’ excellent weekend column in The Guardian and have bought some actually useful products as a result. The thing about magazines is, they are heavily reliant on their advertisers for content. They will have agreements with all the mega brands that take out the full-page spreads and “Sponsored Features” that the products must be represented elsewhere in an article. That means the eyeliner by company X the beauty editor is raving on about on page 125 is only being featured because company X pays them a six figure cheque every month. Putting out a magazine is hugely expensive, so I can see why these people have to make these deals, but it is nothing more than lying to their readers. Sali Hughes is always very clear about not being coerced, sponsored or paid in any way to big up one lip gloss over another, so you can actually trust her advice.

Remember the trend for vibrating mascara (not a euphemism) about 2-3 years ago? I do. Beauty editors across the land encouraged women to buy mascara with wands that buzzed and shook from side to side. This was supposed to emulate the way make up artists apply mascara to clients. by using a criss cross action. Now I know what you’re all thinking. What kind of idiot thought that up and why wouldn’t you just use the criss cross action the make up artists use rather than spend £30 on a mascara that buzzes like a lack lustre sex toy?

There was a fairly big uptake on the mascaras and then a huge backlash. Fads are forever coming and going in beauty, and the magazines are huge culprits in this. Everyone has now returned to normal, mascara wise and I await the next big trend with interest. Now I wonder why the likes of Maybelliene, Estee Lauder and Lancome were able to gain glowing reviews. It really is a mystery *Cough* MASSIVE ADVERTISING BUDGETS *Cough*

That’s part one of my rant. Part two is about sex, love and men. Cosmo was, no doubt, the magazine associated with women having sex for fun. Coupled with better and more easily accessible contraception, Cosmo led the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s. Where as most women’s magazines before had been about knitting patterns and making a lovely pie for your husband, they were now about orgasms, multiple orgasms, more multiple orgasms and maybe a quiz called “Which Charlie’s Angel are you?”

Now I am not against casual sex. Not at all. I have engaged in some less than formal sex myself from time to time. But let me make a statement that will no doubt be met with some arguing and intake of breath. Women are not as good at no strings as they think they are.  It’s a genetic, evolutionary thing. Women naturally get more attached to the person they are sleeping with than a man does. An anthropologist will explain much better than I could, something to do with men needing to spread their seed and women not. Sex is more of a serious issue for women as they would be the one lumbered with a pregnancy if the contraception failed.

I agree that we needed to reduce the heavy moral stance on sex. Sex is, after all, good fun. I do not believe though, that it is often possible for sex to just be sex. One person (usually, but not always the woman) will end up hurt. Women’s magazines, particularly Cosmo, have tried to get the message across that women can have sex just for fun and leave it there. I don’t know many women who can do that. Two girls I was at uni with thought they could. One of them was trying to escape a fairly troubled past and the other covering the pain of a break up. It didn’t go well for either of them and after a promiscuous spell they both felt much worse.

Magazines not only make women think they can have sex with anyone with no consequences (yes I know they always push the safe sex message – that’s one good thing they have done for women) but they also make all women think they should be absolute animals in bed. Every edition of Cosmo, Glamour and Company held one or two features on how to please your man, how to have mind-blowing sex, how to give the perfect blow job etc etc. Now obviously some of these tips were useful and some of them have certainly won me some Brownie points, but the sheer number of them just means we place a huge amount of importance on how good the sex is we’re having. To slightly misquote Woody Allen, “Bad sex is like bad pizza, it might not have been that great but at least it was pizza.” Sex is always good if you’re having it with someone who knows the basics. I certainly don’t expect to be swung from a chandelier. Maybe that’s just the settled part of me speaking, but I just don’t think it’s possible to have a new position every week, or a new way of doing this, that, the other. Sex is sex and has been for the last few thousand years. Let’s not mess up a formula that works. The most ludicrous example of this reinvention of the wheel was probably the time I read about a technique that claimed to be able to give your boyfriend a multiple orgasm. The one time I tried that with my fella at the time I was asked what the hell I was doing. I’m pretty sure they just made up the tip (which I won’t share with you) and left it at that. I wonder how many other women attempted it…

Diets are part 3 of my rant. THERE’S ALWAYS A SODDING DIET! They always claim you can lose a huge amount of weight with minimal effort. The only diet that works and is sustainable is to reduce your calorie intake, eat some healthy veg etc and do a sensible amount of exercise. That’s all I’m saying on that matter, apart from the annoying way magazines claim to promote inner beauty and “Real Women” and their curves yet allow their advertisers to use skinny models…I have nothing against skinny models, I’m sure some of them are naturally that thin, I do object to the massively mixed message this puts across though. Be proud of your curves, but lose weight so you look like this 17 year old Ukrainian who hasn’t eaten since last Wednesday.

So, in conclusion, magazines are not my friend any more. I feel much happier and less pressurised since I binned them, I don’t worry about my sex life, weight or hair anything like as much as I did.

The F Word….

16 Sep

Feminism…

I am feeling compelled to write this post, as it seems more and more people consider feminism a dirty word. I mentioned feminism in passing yesterday in work, and a girl about my age with similar political views looked at me in shock and said: “Are you a FEMINIST?!” It was as if I’d admitted to being a baby killer or Scientologist or something.

Feminism is not:

  • Bra burning
  • Not shaving your legs
  • Hating men
  • Not wearing make up

As a feminist, I simply think women and men should treat each other with mutual respect. Yes, women should be as respectful of men as we expect them to be of us.

I recently read Caitlin Moran’s “How to be a Woman” and in that she states that we are all “The Guys”. Men and women have to co-exist, and so should do so nicely. It’s no extra effort to be polite to someone, no extra effort to open the door for a group of people. I don’t object to people opening the door for me, as I open the door for other people whether they are women or not.

I think a lot of feminism is common sense. As a woman who has been educated to believe I am equally valuable in the workplace and equally important within the home, it is a struggle for me to accept that some people disagree. I believe myself and my peers to be intelligent and reasonable people and it riles me to know there are some people out there who think I would be better served chained to a sink popping out kids.

Feminism has been subject to an awful lot of bad press lately, with everyone assuming that as a feminist I dislike men. I love men. My boyfriend is a man. There are very few people in this world I dislike, but the thing that will make me hate someone the most is being impolite or patronising. Those who are the enemy of feminists (or at least this feminist) are the people who talk down to me, are rude to me, or assume that since I am a young woman I have no opinions worth knowing and little intelligence. I read the papers, I watch the news and I read around 2 books a week. I have opinions, I know things about life and I am worth talking to.

That doesn’t mean to say that a woman who doesn’t read the papers or take interest in current affairs isn’t worth listening to, just that people see me and often assume I’m less intelligent than I am.

This leads me to another point. Should feminists wear make up and mini skirts? I am a great lover of make up. I wear it because it improves my confidence. I don’t know any men (straight men) who wear make up. Does this mean women who wear make up are wearing it solely for men? I don’t think so. There is plenty of stuff I wear that my boyfriend hates. Gladiator sandles, big sunglasses etc. I wear them because I like them. I wear mascara because it makes my eyes look bigger, lipstick because…well I’m not sure. I know my boyfriend moans when I wear lipstick as he gets it all over him when we kiss.

Some women do, undoubtably wear make up in order to attract men, you only have to watch Snog, Marry, Avoid to know that. Most women I know agree that they wear make up as a confidence boost, or to improve their natural looks. I don’t have the definitive answer here, I know I wouldn’t ever go on a first date or a night out without make up, so that suggests I do wear it for men, but I wouldn’t put it on just to go to the supermarket and my boyfriend sees me without make up all the time.

I am rambling on a bit here, sorry! I think I should finish with a bit more Caitlin Moran wisdom. Mayor Giuliani of New York City widened the city’s “Broken Window” theory subscription. The Broken Windows theory suggests that if a building is left vacant for a period of time, it only takes one broken window for the building to quickly become occupied by squatters, tagged with a huge amount of graffiti, or even burnt down. Giuliani introduced a zero tolerance policy to crime using this policy. No small misdemeanors were ignored.

This is the policy I think women should adopt. We need to introduce a zero tolerance policy to even small amounts of sexism. This doesn’t mean you should scream at someone if they hold the door open for you or lecture someone for being patronising. It means you should explain, calmly, why certain things bother you. Politeness is key. Remember, we are all The Guys. Letting small things pass leads to larger problems.

That’s my angry rant for now. I’m sure I’ll have another one soon. I like a good venting session.

Whoops…

14 Aug

Well, I wonder how many bloggers write just one post and never return. I was almost one of them. I have had an absolutely mental week, mega project at work that has been 12 months in the making has ratched up a gear and my boss is away so it’s fallen on my lap. I am very sleepy right now.

I’ve had a really lovely weekend. Mike was here, he was his usual self (sarcastic, funny, clever, romantic on the sly) and as we are both extremely skinted we have had a very low key weekend. Saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Saturday. I was pretty surprised as it was a bit more intelligent and entertaining than I thought. There were some implausible parts though, of course! I’m a soppy animal lover as well, so got pretty upset when the apes were fighting with people and even more distressed when the gorilla was fighting a horse! Aaaanyway. I am not a movie critic so I won’t continue. You’re all capable of making your own minds up and it’s worth the price of a cinema ticket.

In terms of other things that have happened lately, there have been the famous riots. I find it hard not to work myself up when discussing these sorts of things. Obviously the looters were opportunistic idiots who would struggle to write a paragraph properly and enjoy intimidating people. My point is they weren’t born this way. If I had been born into the kind of poverty they had, with parents that don’t care and teachers who can’t discipline and don’t inspire me, then where would I be. I’m incredibly fortunate to have had parents who encouraged and supported me and teachers who pushed me to reach my potential. If I hadn’t had that it could have been my face on the news. Someone needs to get in there at grass roots level and get these kids to understand right from wrong and appreciate how their actions and words affect people. Their parents need serious help and re-education otherwise we’ll never break the cycle.

That’s my 2 cents on that anyway.

In more light hearted news, the riots affected my gym workout. There was me, running happily on the treadmill listening to Glee (don’t judge me) when the nice gym man came along and said they were closing 2 hours earlier because of the riots and we’d have to go. Quite annoying as the gym is right around the corner from the police station, so if anything did kick off they could have been there within 30 seconds. Oh well. Did another army style run today, much improved on the last one. Actually managed to run this time and didn’t moan much either. So 2 gym sessions and 1 run, plus half a Davina DVD on Thurs night. I had to stop halfway through as I was feeling really ill, and I was really ill the next day.

I think I have realised I am no good at blogging. I need to become better/more interesting.

 

Hello blogging world!

7 Aug

I have decided to leap into the mid 2000s and start a blog. I don’t have a very interesting life so I suppose I will be mostly yammering on about what I have had to eat (lots), what exercise I have been doing (minimal) and the dreams I have (odd).

So today then. I suppose I should start with a small explanation about my life. I’m 25, living in Manchester in a house near the cricket ground with my 2 housemates Sara and Di and their dog Sasha. It’s a nice little house and very cosy. I like living here and I like cooking for us all.

I work for an outsourcing company in their business development and marketing department. It’s a nice little company to work for with some funny characters.

Recently I have become slightly obsessed with exercise. I have been doing the Davina workout DVDs for about 6 weeks now coupled with the gym and running. I am mostly doing this to make myself a bit fitter and to fit into a gorgeous backless dress I bought (without showing back fat!). I’m wearing the dress for my friend, Helen’s 30th next month, so I need to keep up the momentum. I’m quite impressed by how well I’m doing and how good I am starting to look. I haven’t really lost weight, but I seem to have lost inches. I should really buy a tape measure to validate this.  The wake up call for me was when my boyfriend (super fit, in the army) took me for what he deemed a ‘light jog’. I almost died. It was horrible. I was almost instantly out of breath and had a burning stitch. I am now happy to say I can run quite easily at a moderate pace for about half an hour, a great improvement. I also have abs which I find quite exciting. I am aiming to be able to do a race next year like the Manchester 10k. Very ambitious at the moment but you never know.

I’m running low on inspiration now. I’ll come back tomorrow and update the millions of fans I will no doubt have by then.

 

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