Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Hourglass...

Dress - ASOS
Bag - New Look
Shoes - Primark
Dress - Boohoo
Bag - Charity shop
Shoes - Primark

This past week I was told I have "the perfect hourglass figure" and I didn't know how to feel about it.

It's the end of the year which means exams and revision, yes, but it also means socials and balls. After opting out last year, this year I attended my subject ball, as well as our burlesque glitter ball. Anyone that knows me knows that I love an excuse to dress up. Getting ready for an is always my favourite part; I love the process, I love fully indulging in the fantasy and drama of formal wear (or any kind of wear really), I love allowing myself to take 2 hours if I want, and go all out to make myself feel incredible. And getting ready for these events was no different; I spent weeks finding outfits, dabbled in fake tan for the first time, did face masks, did my nails, and sat there with my ritual of gin and RuPaul's Drag Race. Everything went to plan, but gradually over the past year, the process has felt less and less calming and more confrontational. I was nervous of the photos and seeing myself stood next to others, who I would never judge as harshly as I judged myself. I loved my dresses and I'd been excited to wear them for weeks, but I was scared for the confrontation of seeing my body in them, and the realisation that this is my adult body, this is what I look like.




I've said it to my friends a lot recently, but I wish 'thicc' had been a thing when I was younger. Growing up in the 2000s, the only body shape that was celebrated in pop culture was thin, athletic, slender and straight up and down. Think of women like Paris Hilton, Kate Moss, the Olsen twins, all the young disney stars. All beautiful women, but all the same shape; a shape that was never going to be me. And even in my family, my mum and sister both fit this mould of tall and slender, so when I suddenly got these hips I was confused.

Before the time of the Kardashians and Chrissy Tiegan, there was really just no representation of curves beyond 'plus sized'. So when suddenly my size 10/12 hips didn't match my little size 8 top, the only associations and labels I could attach to my wide hips was fat. I felt I was big and needed to lose weight. And obviously I know now that no matter how much weight I lost, these hips won't go anywhere. But with no role models, little early teens me didn't get that. I then grew into the indie fashion fangirl I am today, loving women like Alexa Chung, Francoise Hardy, Jane Birkin; beautiful women with bodies vastly different to mine. And so I grew up with the niggling, lingering sadness that I will never look like my icons, a thought that translated, somewhere along the line, into I'll never look right or my body will never be skinny or normalised or would never meet the standard. I always wanted to by straight up and down, lanky and twiggy. But instead I'm an hourglass.

I envy the younger generation that are coming of age in this time of wider representation. Although not without their downfalls and issues, I wish I had grown up with the Kardashians, with Ashley Graham, Rihanna, with women like Adele and Lorde and all the women doing amazing things and coming in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I wish I'd always known that is beautiful, and all shapes are amazing and glorious and equal, and shape and size are actually different things.

Because I'm only know figuring that out, and learning to not hear 'hourglass' as a negative or a statement on how my body is different and therefore inferior.  Only now at 20 am I starting to accept that my body was not made straight up and down, and that is beautiful. I'm only just starting to accept that this body is just as good and worthy as any others, and that my hips look amazing in a body con dress and maybe some other things just don't flatter me or do me justice. When my friend called me hourglass I was confronted with the realisation that that's exactly what I am! I'm curvy, with hips and a bum and thighs, all topped off with small boobs. I'm a wobbly line rather than a straight like from hips to waist, but I know deep down I have a lot of love for that, I'm just working on fighting off all the clouds first, all the social pressures and preconceptions and cruel labels I placed on myself.

I looked good. I had an amazing couple of nights dressing up and celebrating with my friends who I love and who love me, who I compliment wholeheartedly and regularly, and who compliment me back. And in the end, I love the photos, and each time I look at them I feel less confronted and more comfortable with the fact that this is my body, my adult body in my twenties. It's not what I wanted at age 13, but it's glorious and I'm learning to love it and accept what it's become.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

20...

 

This is me at 20, in the 3rd decade of my life. I'm no longer in my teens, nearly finished my second year of university and on the cusp of being forced into proper real adult life.

Cliche but this was the quickest year of my life, I feel like I barely saw it go by so after celebrating and recovering from the celebrating, it's time to reflect.


Last year I set these goals for myself, and without realising I've smashed them, for once I actually met my own goals. Maybe I am growing.

I voted in my first election, started taking my mental health seriously and respecting my emotions, joined burlesque, made a whole new lil family of friends, read a lot, made a lot, and been more in love than ever. I feel pretty achieved. But what now?

In true Carrie Bradshaw style, I'm turning to cosmo. Not a cosmo, though I wish it was. Cosmo suggests 8 questions to reflect on each birthday. Lets begin.

What do I like about my life?
My friends, my family, my relationship, myself, my degree. I like how absolutely hilarious I am.

What are some things I want to be different by next year?
I'd like to have a clearer image of my future, and be confident in my ability to make that happen. I want to be more independent, more social, braver, and excited about the future. By next year I'll have pretty much finished uni and right now that's absolutely terrifying, by then I want it to be less scary hopefully.

Who are the people who most add to my life?
My friends - they all provide something super different that I need and love them for so much. In the last year of my life I've finally formed my dream little circle of besties who are all hilarious, supportive feminist babes who make me feel super mega loved and constantly boost my ego.

My boyfriend - my ultimate bestie who keeps me safe, defuses all my life crises and always knows what I'm thinking. In the last year he's made me brave and pushed me to experience and slowly crawl out of my comfort zone. Also he's fit and just looking at him adds to my life.

My mum - our relationship has grown and changed so much this past year, and I'm now slowly morphing into her when she was my age in the 80s. I don't know what I'd do without her.

What is the most important habit or activity to add or subtract from day-to-day living?
I'd like to add more alone time to my day to spend being mindful and reading and taking care of myself. I'd also like to dedicate more time to cooking proper meals, and getting into a proper routine with uni work before my final year.

I've said it a million times but I'd like to spend less time on my phone, who knows maybe I'll actually do it this year. Probs not.

How would I rate my life in the realms of career, finances, relationships, growth, fun, and lifestyle?
Finances - Don't ask me I'm a student.Relationships - 10 10 10s across the boardGrowth - 7, I'm getting thereFun - Either a 2 or a 8, never at the same time. I'm either cry laughing or in a corner rocking in stress.Lifestyle - 8, leaving room for it to get better.

What is something I can do to fix the area of my life that's most lagging?
For my finances, next year I'm going to track my spending, meal plan better, and do more socialist at home. For fun, I want to be more spontaneous, balance my uni work better, and keep fighting my phobia of sickness so I can go out more. 

If there's a gap between where I am now and where I want to be, what's one step I can take now to close that gap?
In the next year of my life I'm going to give 100% effort to everything I do. I'm going to take opportunities and give them my full attention and put my whole heart into them.

I also want to regain confidence in my writing, and be more motivated to write more including on this blog.

Stay tuned to see if I actually manage any of these things!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

How I Practise Self-Care...

Self care can be difficult at the best of times, but sometimes when you're away from home at uni living a hectic student life, it can feel pretty much impossible to truly take time for yourself. With housemates, flatmates, and endless work figuring out little things you can do to properly relax is essential, trust me. In first year I went too long without learning how to practise self care at uni, so now I consciously dedicate time to myself whenever I start to feel myself slipping. Lately, that's how I've been feeling at the end of a long term of strikes and stress, spring semester is always hardest. So I thought I'd share my self care routine for when I just need a day to rejuvenate.


First, and this is important, I don't set an alarm. I'm constantly thinking about work and being productive, so I pretty much always have an alarm on to get me up and going. But when I know I need some time to ground myself, I let myself sleep until my body wakes up, I don't plan anything for the morning and give myself that time to be slow and get ready for the day at my own pace.

When I do get up, I don't scrimp on my skin care and I make myself a morning coffee to sip on while I do my makeup. I know some people couldn't thing of anything worse than putting makeup on when they're down and struggling, but I find the whole process so grounding and going through my set routine is such a mindful activity for me. I like to take my time, sip my coffee, watch some Netflix, and do any kind of makeup that takes my fancy. I know looking good makes me feel good, so on my worst days I normal do some of my best makeup as I'm in no rush and I have no motivation but to make myself feel 10/10.


My relationship with cooking and food isn't a calm one, but when I'm sad there's something indescribably healing about a home cooked meal. Yeah some days I just want to go out and get food brought to me without the faff, but when I'm focusing all my energy on feeling good, I try to force myself into the kitchen. On this day, I re-created my fave meal from my fave cafe in Sheffield; pho. Simply fry up some tofu, and cook a packet of noodles in veg stock with spring onions, mushrooms, and chilli. Season with anything you can find and a splash of soy sauce. Enjoy. The most warming, comforting meal you could ask for and full of goodness. When you're feeling down, you'll won't regret the time spent making yourself a meal like this.


After fuelling myself, I try to get on with my day and go out. Whether that be heading to a lecture, seeing friends, going to the library, or just walking to the shop, I always try to go out and do something that will make me feel productive. But no matter what, I always come back and have a bath. A Lush bubble bar, some candles, music and a book are musts for this step. I take as much time as I want and soak all my troubles away with a good book. At the moment I'm reading Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh and it's amazing, I'm only half way through by already I see my perspectives of my food issues being challenged. I recommend, go and grab a copy if you want a self help book that isn't boring and whiny like most are.


After washing away my woes, I settle down for the evening. When I'm feeling down I like to buy myself a small treat for the night, just a simple pleasure like a cake or a drink. So on the night I take time totally to myself and reject the guilt that often comes from not hanging out with friends. I like to just sit and watch netflix, or watch a film for my course so I can still feel a little productive even while I relax. I make my room vibey with plenty of lights and candles and just zen out, heavenly.

It's so simple but so effective and so necessary. Self care doesn't have to be expensive face masks and yoga, it can be as simple as a bath and a scone bought especially for you and only you, doing all the small things that make you feel your best and give you space to be fully grounded. Work out what makes you feel best, and regularly give yourself time to do nothing but that.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Burlesque Is Feminist...

Photographs by James Reilly



When you think burlesque you probably think Dita Von Teese, that film with Christina Aguilera, pin ups and stripping. And honestly I thought that too until I starting doing it, so it's no surprise I get so many questions about it. Whenever I post anything I get so many questions asking what I'm doing, and even more messages complimenting my confidence and girls wishing they could try it out. So lets talk about it today.

My uni has a burlesque society and after wanting to join all through first year, I finally went along at the start of this year and fell instantly head over heels in love. I knew it'd like it the second we started when we were all asked to introduce ourselves and say the thing we like best about your body. The dance studio was bursting with support and love, and I'd been craving that environment for a long time. And now about 5 months on, I look forward to classes each week, feel 10x more body confident and I've made the most loving group of friends.

Burlesque is feminist. Our rehearsal room is full of empowerment, both of ourselves and each other. Our focus is on ourselves, fulfilling our ideas and fantasies, ensuring we all feel completely comfortable and safe, boosting ourselves, and doing what ever we want to do. We choose our own names, we plan our outfits, our routines, we choose our songs, we decide if or when we remove clothing in our routines. We set the tone, we are in charge and in control of everything. We talk a lot about the male gaze and where we fit into the sexualisation of women, and Poison defined it perfectly; "We capitalise off the so-called 'sexual' nature of our bodies, we charge weak men to come and gawk at us all the while they shift in their chairs, wishing they could look such a strong and self-assured woman in the eye." Burlesque is about power, doing what you want, and celebrating your body. It's the female gaze.

I've never felt empowerment and support quite like that I get from my burlesque troupe. I honestly feel like there's a level of closeness that can only be achieved by constantly seeing each other pretty much naked, you can't be shy or reserved once someones helped you stick things to your nipples. Obviously there's a lot of vulnerability in burlesque, and coming from someone with a lot of body issues, there's some serious hurdles to get over. But the team makes it easy and fun. When I first joined I wanted to be like them, I was in awe of their confidence and their bond, and now within only a short amount of time I feel so integrated and comfortable around them, and they're my sisters in confidence building. Need someone to moan to about the patriarchy? Want to talk through your body problems with people guaranteed to empower you? Looking for female friendship and support like no where else? Join a burlesque club.

I am not a very confident person, I can hardly even answer my phone. But the other week I got on stage alone and performed. Admittedly I've always loved lingerie, but that's all. In all honesty I find my body super confusing, like I don't really know it or what I actually really look like. I couldn't tell you how many hours I've spent in front of a mirror trying to decide whether I look good or bad, or stressing over imagined weight gain. One day I'll worship myself, I'll love all photos of myself, I'll think I look amazing and strong and beautiful, then the next I'll actively avoid looking at myself or I'll sit and tear myself apart finding flaws in everything. So really it's quite strange that I love burlesque so much. Although nudity is a part of burlesque, I don't see it as the focus as you can't actually see yourself. It's all above movement, doing things that make you feel beautiful and sexy, and taking on a persona that's a hyper-confident version of yourself and allowing that to take over. You can't see yourself to criticise anything about your body, you can only feel your body moving, move to the music and hear the crowd screaming in support. I think I love it because surprisingly there's no space for you to self-criticise, in our rehearsal room there are no mirrors there's only each others support. Since doing burlesque I'd say that I've actually started to care less about my body image and I'm gradually learning to not let it other me so much and to accept myself. I've been realising that I've never looked at another woman and immediately criticised her, I've never found anything about another woman ugly or noticed the things that I hate about myself on anyone else. I think every other woman is beautiful and ethereal and magic, so I'm slowly realising that being so cruel to myself isn't fair, and chances are no one else has ever noticed the things I dislike about myself. And being constantly surrounded by beautiful women telling me I'm amazing has definitely helped that.

All in all, I love burlesque. It's feminist, it's confidence building, it's fun, it's freeing. It's about control, and vulnerability, and friendship, and support. And you might think I must be super confident and self-assured to be able to do what I do, but it's a product of my environment; girls supporting girls.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Vintage Leather Dreams...






Jeans - Next
Jumper - Primark
Earrings - Miss Selfridge
Boots & Jacket - Vintage
All of my dreams have come true after discovering this perfect, genuine leather jacket for £10 in a vintage shop. I've been longing for a classic leather jacket for ages but I'm very picky about the styles and didn't want to contribute to cruelty by buying a new jacket, so finding this one in exactly the style I wanted and amazing quality was a stroke of luck.

I don't remember the last time an item of clothing made me feel so confident. I wore this outfit on just a normal day; uni, lunch with a friend, a life drawing class, then to drinks with my boyfriend, but I felt incredible all day. I felt totally comfortable and also sassy af strutting around the city in my vintage leather. And like this outfit isn't anything special, I'm not breaking new fashion ground or revolutionising anything, but I felt beautiful. I talk a lot about confidence and body positivity, and I think a lot of people assume that always relates to lingerie or being confident naked, but this simple jeans and jacket combo made me feel body confident. My legs looked slim, my boots made me look tall, I love this jumper on me etc etc. After wanting a leather jacket for so long, I finally got to fulfil my HAIM sister, 50s rocker cry-baby daydreams, and I felt amazing.

Put down retail therapy and consumerism all you want, but you can't deny how good something new can make you feel.