Sunday, 28 August 2016

Bath

For a Londoner (or an adopted Londoner like myself) the idea of getting out of the capital city is always bliss. Despite the fact we've chosen to live in one of the most incredible cities in the world we're always talking about the need to get away from the smog. Alongside London and my hometown Oxford, the other place I often visit in the UK is Bath. It's a beautiful little city famed for it's Georgian architecture, Roman baths and Abbey, and also manages to be the most painfully middle class place you could possibly imagine. Seriously, I'm called Belphoebe (after a character in an Elizabethan epic poem) and even I'm going to lose my marbles if I see another Emma Bridgewater plate, patchouli ginger hybrid candle or child named Reuben in this blinkin' place.  vintage bath 6
Outfit wise, I manage to clash quite spectacularly with the Bath architecture. I actually found these trousers in a charity shop here, they're the exact kind of style I love and could only really be described as 'jazzy' or 'snazzy' or 'Bel could you please wear some more sensible trousers because these ones are hurting my eyes'. Coupled with my favourite coat, this little number that I picked up for about £6 in Berlin, I have managed to transport myself straight back to the 1980s. Seriously I look like I'm about to present an aerobics programme which if you know me is a pretty hilarious prospect.
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Shirt - H&M
Trousers - Charity shop
Socks - Blackwells
Shoes - Converse
Bag - Kanken
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Thanks to dear Mumpo for taking these pictures for me!

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

On Body Positivity

TW: This post talks about body image, eating disorders and food

Whilst writing this post I've almost felt as if I've been intruding in a place that isn't meant for me. Body image is a ubiquitous and controversial topic, one that can often be subject to extremes and seeks to exclude rather than include (such as the narratives of 'real women' or damaging phrases like 'real women have curves'). I've been fortunate in my lifetime to not have significant body issues, but I have had my fair share of insecurities and self hatred, some of which have been tied up with the way I look. I don't want to be perceived as brave, rather I would just like to talk about my own body, because it's mine and I can do that, and because it helps me to make sense of it when I feel it is revolting against me, on those days when I don't feel so pretty or so healthy.

I originally wrote this post as a sort of body confidence journey, from the negative to the positive, but recently, after a swimming trip with friends, I was struck by how I wasn't quite as confident about my body as I had thought. I looked at the pictures taken on the day and felt anxiety about how my stomach and my thighs looked, that I was somehow misshapen. This signified to me that our relationship with our bodies can change over time, and I wanted to talk in some part about how my perception of my body has changed since I was a teenager.
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I have always been tall, and for that I'm really lucky, but I'm not wiry. I've referred to myself as 'big boned' so many times that I've lost count. As I grew older I felt that I was different from the other girls in my class. I was taller than most of the boys back then, and I felt out of place, both lanky and dumpy, not as small, graceful, feminine and elegant as my friends.

During my teenage years I would pour over women's magazines, following diet tips, convincing myself that I needed to lose weight to become someone better, believing them when they said that a celebrity had 'ballooned' from a size 8 to a 12. But I was a size 12-14, and this celebrity was the same height as me. Was I fat? I would quickly do the maths in my head, calculating BMIs and learning weight conversions. I became obsessed with the Jacqueline Wilson book Girls Under Pressure where the lead character Ellie suffered from disordered eating. I read the book Skinny Bitch whilst on holiday, a really foul publication that sought to make you feel as bad as possible about your eating habits. I would curiously visit pro-anorexia sites, where they would list reasons to starve yourself until your collarbones became more prominent, so that you would be light enough for boys to pick you up, so you could disappear almost completely.
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I was a follower of the thigh gap craze. I would stare at my legs obsessively, trying to stand in a certain way so as to form the non-existent gap. For some reason, a thigh gap meant a better life. I was limiting myself, a very young person who didn't understand how to eat healthily and who was led astray by fad diets, a young woman who couldn't truly believe that her worth may come from things other than conforming to societal standards of beauty. It took me many years to learn that, and because it is so deeply ingrained I still slip up.

Now I look back at photos of me at the ages of 13-16, and I feel sad. I was much thinner than I am now yet I remembered how much I would torture myself about how fat my legs were. Now I love the fact that I am tall, but not skinny, not straight up and down, but curvy, with bits of fat I can squeeze when I'm feeling anxious (anybody else do that?) Truthfully I sometimes look at my stomach and wish that it had more definition, but the scar on my stomach from an operation I had as a child means I will always have an extra roll when I sit down. I have spots on my back and prominent veins on my legs. I have chicken pox scars on my forehead and acne scarred cheeks. I have always loved the details of people's faces and bodies because they tell a story, and what I love in other people I am trying to learn to love in myself, or at the very least accept.
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I'm truly no longer interested in being the ideal body type, because I understand the lies fed to me by women's media, that my body isn't meant to be like that. Right now I am making changes with my diet and exercise to make me feel better about what I'm eating and generally feel more energetic and healthy in myself. The whole experience has taught me to look at my body differently, to not torture myself but to ensure my body is getting everything it needs and that I'm doing things that will make me feel happier in the long run. I've learnt to embrace the little things, like the way my muffin top looks in a pencil skirt, and the way my butt sticks out in joggers. Of course I do have those days, like when I'm wearing a bikini, where I get pangs of anxiety about looking a certain way.

I often think about this moomin quote when I refer to body positivity (I mean, what could be better than getting self confidence tips from moomins?) Accepting your body for what it is and how it makes you feel is a form of protest. As women we grow up being told that our bodies are not ours, that they must fit into labels and sizes, that they must be sexually attractive from the top of our heads to our toes. I love my body not because it is absolutely perfect, but because it makes me feel both strong and soft, it means I can walk up hills until my legs feel like jelly, and I can nourish it with food that makes me feel great (and I'm not just talking about broccoli kids). When you look at what your body does for you you realise there are so many more things to love than a flat stomach or a thigh gap, that so called 'imperfections', such as scars or spots or fat and bones, make you unique. I don't think body image is a linear narrative with a set conclusion, but with more compassion and understanding it is one you can have a great relationship with.

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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Glamour Clown

This playsuit is probably one of my best purchases. The print says 'about to perform in the circus' whilst the style makes me think of Old Hollywood glamour. It reminds me of a dress I wore to a wedding as a three year old that had a clown ruff and huge dots all over it, I guess I've always been quite invested in the clown look. Essentially it makes me want to swan around a party with a glass in my hand whilst telling stupid jokes whilst squeezing my flower badge at unsuspecting guests, or something, I went too far with the idea. I fell in love with it the minute I saw it in Monki on Carnaby Street (which is one of the prettiest shops I've ever seen) and I'm so pleased about the fit. I thought it might be a little more baggy than this but the fact that it's a little more shapely round the hips and thighs makes all the difference. I've paired it with a rather more daring bralet but I also think it would look good with a plain or stripy t-shirt. monki unif 7
Playsuit - Monki
Bag - Choies
Shoes - Converse
Glasses - Unif via Depop

I was really feeling this outfit and a woman even came up to me to interrupt mine and Luke's photo session to take a photo of me to take back with her to Los Angeles! That or I'm going to end up on Reddit or 4Chan as a dumb hipster stereotype, I don't know, you take any exposure you can get these days.
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Credit goes once again to Luke.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Dress I've Been Waiting For

What is it about celebrity and designer collaborations with high street stores that sends people into an absolute frenzy? Remember the crowds of people waiting outside the flagship store for Kate Moss at Topshop, and the chaotic rush at H&M after the release of their Balmain collection? I even felt inclined to buy some pieces from Beyonce's sportwear collection Ivy Park despite the fact that I am hilariously inactive. Perhaps it's because these collections make something accessible to us that we never thought we'd be able to wear or afford, converting priceless couture and celebrity style into everyday pieces. The limited edition nature of these collections also creates a sense of urgency, as we only have a short space of time to get our hands on it, and it sells out in a second. And really, who even WERE you in the Summer of 2007 if you weren't wearing the Kate Moss pansy dress? hulanicki topshop 7
Dress - Barbara Hulanicki for Topshop via charity shop
Shoes - Converse
Sunglasses - Unif via Depop

This particular dress was one of the central pieces of the Barbara Hulanicki for Topshop collection in 2009.  I missed my chance to get my hands on it, and the only sightings of it since have been on Ebay for double the original price. Imagine my joy when I found it in my local charity shop, a halo of light appearing around it, for just £9. I really couldn't believe my luck, it's probably the best thing I've ever discovered in a charity shop, it truly was a holy grail moment (and let's be honest, dresses really do take on a religious significance for me sometimes). On the phone the other day I tried to describe it to my friend as a mixture of dinosaur chic and moon crater realness, and I hope you can kinda, sorta understand what I mean. The dress itself is so incredibly flattering and fits like a glove (although safety shorts are most definitely needed). It all goes to show that good things come to those who wait, and even though I'm a bit late to the bandwagon on this one, I don't think this dress could have come at a better time for me.
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Photo credit once again goes to the wonderful Luke

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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Mesh Shirts and Mermaids

It feels like it's been a while since I shared an outfit post with you, and I'm pleased to say that this is a pretty quintessential Bel outfit - lots of Unif, pastels and oh, the coolest bag to ever grace my shoulder. I noticed this beautiful creation from Skinnydip a while ago, they create the most fun, imaginative bags in so many different patterns and shapes (have a gander at my Krusty the Clown one) so when the lovely folks at Octer App contacted me to ask me to try out their service, I jumped at the chance of finally making it mine! Basically it's a service where you can shop simultaneously at loads of high street and luxury brands selling everything from clothes and beauty to homeware, and there is so much choice that it is overwhelming! With a shell theme and a holographic sheen, this bag really does tick all the boxes for me. unif skinnydip 6 warm
It was a super hot day when I wore this, and it's one of the few times his year where I didn't have to wear tights, exciting stuff! The dress and the top are both Unif (bought on Ebay and Depop) I didn't think they'd work together but this outfit is actually one of my favourites! It always pays to take style risks kids. I adore this mesh shirt although it has got me into some tricky situations recently, such as literally getting stuck in a girl's novelty animal backpack at a Grimes concert and in my nose ring when I was taking it off (#hipsterproblems). I love the way that the tie dye dress looks at the back, it's slightly longer than the front and I think it creates a really pretty effect.
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Top - Unif via Depop
Dress - Unif via Depop
Bag - C/O of Octer
Shoes - Asos
Sunglasses - Primark
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My face is pretty much an advert for Sleek Makeup at the moment, I'm completely obsessed with their stuff! The lipstick is from their Matte Me collection, a wonderful true red that sits pride of place in my extensive collection of red lipstick. My favourite lipstick before this was Lady Danger by Mac but I'm trying to stop buying makeup tested on animals, so Sleek is a great (and much cheaper) alternative. My highlighter is from the Solstice palette that I see every other blogger raving about, and for very good reason! It makes me feel so shimmery yet crucially not oily, and I love the elven and ethereal effect of it, it honestly transforms your face.  unif skinnydip 11
Thanks to Luke for taking these photos of me! Check out his new blog where he'll be talking about the various challenges of being a teacher alongside some pretty smart gig and tv reviews!

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