Monday, 10 June 2019

I Bought My First Bikini* - Why That Matters And Why It Doesn't

(*in a long damn time)

A few months ago, when talking to my best friend about my fitness journey, I casually noted that I previously had been deeply ashamed of my body and I saw her sharp intake of breath in shock and her eyes fill up with utter sadness and hurt. I thought nothing of hating myself but she, being one of the people who loves me most, was incredibly pained by the cavalier way in which I talked about being cruel to her best friend. It gave me pause to acknowledge how fucked up my way of thinking had been and made me love her a little more for how much my suffering clearly affected her. I mean, obviously, I already loved her but the people who cry for your pain as if it is their own are the real keepers in life; remember this.

In many ways, when I started out with tackling my on-going issues with how I looked, I was going about, and thinking about, things in completely the wrong way. My value systems were completely messed up and favoured aesthetics and societal pressure over taking care of the only vessel I have, or will ever have, to occupy in this life. As time went on and I moved on from eating slightly better and walking home from work everyday, to mild exercise, to being able to run 5km in under thirty minutes, to running and doing circuits multiple times a week, I felt my body change. Firstly, my anxiety chilled the fuck out in a serious way. Then I felt more energetic. Then I noticed muscles I never knew I had. Everything got easier. I was fit for the first time since I was an actual child and it all became about being fit, about being strong, about being able to do all the things I wanted to do, and about being healthy and investing in myself and some longevity. 

However, it's not like I suddenly forgot all about wanting to look different and I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy the reappearance of my cheekbones, my clothes fitting better, and not having to worry about people seeing the hidden shame that I felt my torso to be. But that was all just a bonus. What did really change was how I weighted the importance of, and how much less brain space I devoted to, worrying about how my body looks. I still don't have a "perfect" body and do you know what? I don't give a shit. I recently went running with my dad on the roads around our family home and as I am pretty much an (less determined, less innately kind, less good) exact little replica of him, I'm also a serious sweater when I exercise. So, as it was a hot day, I (me, yes, me) went running in public in a (double-layer because my tits came in real strong at 13) sports bra and leggings. I didn't cover up with a baggy hoody. I knew that I still have some belly fat that I'm self-conscious about, that won't budge, and, yet, loves to jiggle around, but I said, "Screw it." I don't owe it to anyone, including myself, to have a "perfect" body. Pretty much everyone else but me cares very little about how "perfect" my body is. And it was hot and I sweat a lot. So, fuck it.

In a similar vein, I recently bought my first bikini since that one time in college I had an aneurism and I thought that the high-waisted bikini sets advertised so appealingly in American Apparel would make me suddenly skinny and hide my multitude of sins with their high-waistedness. Spoiler: They did not. And so the suit was relegated to the bottom of my bra drawer. Since then, I have worn one-piece suits exclusively and felt very uncomfortable even with their relative and comparative amount of cover/protection/safety blanket. As a person that partially defines themselves by their sense of style, clothes have always been a shield but swimsuits have not allowed me to make the edits and flourishes with my body where I want to. Swimsuits don't play by the regular rules of the game of hide and reveal of clothes. But now, now that I care less about owing it to others or myself to look a certain way, and now that I am proud of how I have honed my body through time and sweat and commitment, and now that I don't feel the desperate need to hide myself like some dirty secret, I bit the bullet and thought I'd try it one more time. I still got something simple, functional, made out of recycled polyester and made for swimming and climbing and jumping and not just posing but it bears a flash of very noticeable shocking whiter-than-white Irish skin around my torso that can't be missed. 

I don't look perfect it in but I don't need to and I don't need to own that imperfection either. As Editor of Irish Tatler magazine, Sarah Macken noted in piece in the most recent issue of the aforementioned publication, it is great to see people who provide a beautiful alternative to the traditionally media and societal defined ideal "beach body", but some of us can also just have bodies that are ours and not a political statement. Some of us are out there changing the world but some of us can also just be. So, I'm going to be in my new bikini, around the people who love me; around a mother who is simply glad we are all healthy, a father who is proud that I've taken control of my life, siblings made of almost all the same stuff as me who don't give an eff about how I look. It's not going to be motivational or a statement (because who needs another white, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-gender, conventionally not unattractive woman in her twenties complaining about a little excess fat around her middle or trying to hijack the body-positivity movement that is far more needed, and better represented, by others?!), it's just going to be me on my personal journey, being. 

Friday, 24 May 2019

An Ode To Thinx

Unlike my mother, I didn't think I was dying when I got my first period. There weren't secrets and there wasn't shame in our house by the time I was growing up and I was well-informed and prepared when it happened. Although, I was cross that I had to wait the excruciatingly long period (hah) of a few years after I first asked what pads were at three before my mother would get into it all with me.

However, in saying that I was prepared, I tell a bit of a lie. I understood the mechanics. I knew what I would need to do but I was not ready for the familial burden of painful, heavy periods that would befall me. I was not ready for the trauma of publicly bleeding through white pants (I now own none as I cannot play that game anymore) far from clothes stores the second or third time I had my period and having to spend the rest of the family outing with a sweatshirt tied around my waist and my butt as close to walls as possible. I was not ready for the unpredictability of my cycle that made me and my first boyfriend constantly stress about the potential of my being pregnant (I never was and understood intellectually that I often skipped months or had cycle changes but ask any woman and that's the immediate thought she has if she's a second late). I was not ready for hormonal acne to take the place of teenage acne, ensuring that my skin has never truly been clear. And I was not ready for the hormonal changes in my twenties that have completely changed my cycle and symptoms a couple of times now.


I don't think any of us are ever ready for these things but we have to muddle on because menstruation - no matter how messy, painful, or annoying - was never presented as an excuse (certainly not in my personal experience) not to get on with things. We still have to go to school, act half normal, go to work, be pleasant, and not talk about it or complain. Now that I'm a little older, I've kinda of said "eff that." I'm more open, talk about it all the time, and I'm determined to beat the squick about the topic out of certain men in my life because all of the menstruators around me know plenty about my trials and tribulations and mishaps and pain. I'm not embarrassed to toss pads in my shopping basket, or to leave them out in our bathroom (despite my sister admonishing me for potentially offending the sensibilities of my male housemate), liberally throw around the phrase "on the rag," or to turn down my Dad's offer of his running leggings as they were new and I couldn't guarantee there wouldn't be a "spill on aisle four" (he's the most precious about it all and is getting my most targeted normalisation campaign).

However, in saying all of that, there are instances where my personal beliefs and stances need to take a bit of a backseat. I currently work in an office in which there are only a few of us and I am the only woman. There is a professional boundary there and no public policies or established cultural tone on the topic for me to feel comfortable bringing things up or even to be relaxed about things. When I'm in agony for the first two days of menstruating, I kind of have to play it down. And I used to have to put pads in my pocket or behind my back going out the door to the bathroom because I don't want my preaching and personal beliefs to make such an intimate and casual work space awkward.


Thinx have kind of fixed that problem for me. I just pop 'em on and everyone is none the wiser. In fact, sometimes I kind of forget about it myself. I can't believe I'm saying that and it blows my mind but: I often pull the underpants down, (after the initial two days of pain, obviously) only to remember that they're those special ones. I don't have a big thing wedged in my knickers, sometimes making sounds I'm not too keen on, as a constant reminder. I just have these comfy underpants that I actually really like the look of.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. If you've never heard of them, Thinx is a brand that makes reusable, washable cotton underwear with an absorbent lining in the crotch that allow you to go without using any other menstruation products. I had heard about them years ago but - and here's the only real catch - didn't have the funds necessary for the initial investment as they cost over 20 quid a pop and you need a few pairs, obviously. I was also wary about how effective they might be as that old bleed-through trauma lingers but call me converted! I cannot believe how good they are! I have not had a leak, don't feel uncomfortable or dirty, and get right through the working day no problem; hours of wear without a concern and, as I pointed out earlier, so comfy I sometimes completely forget that I'm on the rag.


The real selling point for me, however, was that I have been making a lot of changes in my life in order to be a better citizen of this planet and I could not stand how much waste this one part of my life was generating when I was doing so well in every other part. I had never been a tampon person so when a bunch of my friends started using moon cups a few years ago, I was jealous, but I just knew that if a tampon was a no-go, then a menstrual cup was utterly out of the question. Thinx are the perfect solution to all of my tree-hugging and comfort-loving concerns.

When I ordered my first batch (and I plan on getting some more soon), the postal service arrived at our office building (where I get everything delivered) so early that the mail room and security guys hadn't gotten to work yet. This sent my order to the nearest collection centre, which is about a forty minute walk away and a Dublin-is-not-well-connected-good-luck-finding-a-useful-bus-route-when-it-doesn't-even-exist distance away. In addition, it noted on the slip of paper that I had gotten caught for customs (amounting to the cost of another pair) for the first time in my life. To say I was annoyed is an understatement and I kind of regretted the whole affair. However, since getting my hands on them, I've been singing a very different tune. These guys are game changers. I'm obsessed and have ranted to every menstruator I know about them.


Honestly, I really can't say enough good things about the brand. All of my qualms have been completely eradicated and I'm converted. So, if you've been thinking about making your life even more eco-friendly and you have to deal with periods, then you should check them out. I'm personally a fan of the black bikini brief sized up because I love me a good pair of granny knickers - although these are a pretty slick and fancy version.

Right, well I've probably overshared and will likely get told off by someone in my life for going into so much detail to strangers on the internet but, fuck it, they're just bodies doing what some bodies do. May you bleed safely and as comfortably as possible.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Bar Shampoo, Brushing Your Teeth With Dirt And Other Failures And Successes In Making A Zero-Waste Beauty Routine 2019

A few weeks ago I wrote about the changes that would happen on this blog and the ways in which I had changed, myself, in how I related to objects and consumption. I have drastically altered the way in which I buy and use beauty products, in particular, as I try to consume in a more sustainable and ethical way and it has lead to some ... interesting ... experiments, results, and failures.

I. Buying Less

This is the most important change in my routine and the most crucial for anyone trying to consume more responsibly. Buying less is the easiest way to be kinder to the planet as it uses less resources to make, package, and deliver products and leaves you with less waste afterwards. Many of us buy things without even thinking about it, not entirely finishing something before moving on to the next thing, abandoning one product for something we've seen used or advertised. However, in an attempt to correct my chaotic overconsumption in the past, I've been buying only what is absolutely necessary in my routine. This has also simplified my routine. No more random skincare items infused with the trendy ingredient of the moment or some gimmicky fad but, rather, only the basics: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturiser, sun cream. And you'd better believe I'm cutting things open and using every last drop.

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 18.42.21

II. Shopping My Stash

Continuing on from buying less, I've also been rooting through presses and drawers and rediscovering things I forgot I had and making sure to finish them all. Something I was already doing, it has been further bolstered by the inspiration of Estée Laundry's daily #shopmystash posts in which the self-described "anonymous beauty collective" shares followers' pictures of the products in their routines and how they are doing with their own journeys towards being more sustainable. Also, for independent, unbiased information about beauty brands, beauty news, discussion about diversity and ethics in the industry, deep dives into various trends and issues, and more, you should give EL a follow as they are one of the most important pages atm for anyone interested in the area.


III. Bar Shampoo

I noted my attempts to switch out products for items with less or no packaging over on Bean a while ago. One of my first trials was the switch to bar shampoo from Palm Free Irish Soap. In theory, it's perfect, right? No packaging at all, relatively cheap, long-lasting, and it smelled nice. However, sadly, it was a case of something being too good to be true. 

Now, perhaps, if you have some sort of different hair texture, bar shampoo might work for you. Maybe if you wash your hair less often than me, if might work for you. Maybe if you're a more meticulous person, it might work for you. But from day one I hated the bar shampoo and it clearly hated me in return. On first use I lathered too much and I couldn't wash it all out. I thought I had been thorough in rinsing but the horrid, greasy mess I woke up to said otherwise.


Moving forwards, I used less and less of the product with each wash and that yielded better results but it still drastically affected my hair. Prior to bar shampoo, my hair was incredible; soft, silky, and impossibly shiny. When I brushed it, my friends would marvel and say it was shampoo commercial hair. Only now is it returning back to that state, a month after abandoning my bar in favour of refillable shampoo in glass bottles from The Glass Dispensary

Great in theory, in reality bar shampoo just isn't an option for lots of us, particularly those with lots and lots of very fine long hair that requires daily washing. However, the Glass Dispensary's refillable bottles are a great alternative and mean that you still aren't generating any waste. 

Oh, and don't worry, I didn't just throw away the shampoo bar. It still smells nice so I used it as regular soap instead.

IV. Brushing Your Teeth With Dirt

Georganics, dental care, products,  2018

Okay, so I obviously wasn't actually brushing my teeth with dirt but another of my swaps was for toothpaste. Toothpaste tubes and the difficulty in recycling them really, really triggers my anxiety. I don't know why it is so especially strong for this particular item but it is. Therefore, it had to be one of the things I focused on finding an alternative for. 

Years ago, I used Lush's toothpaste tabs - which are little tablets you chew up and then add water to with a wet toothbrush - but I really hated the texture and never went back to them. In an attempt to find a better alternative, I tried Georganics' glass toothpaste pots. A natural toothpaste, the texture is a bit different to your regular toothpaste, more crumbly and drier. Pair this with the fact that I was using the charcoal variety in their range and you might be able to see why it felt as though I was brushing my teeth with dirt. It's great for whitening and does a decent job cleaning but I really missed feeling minty fresh while using it. Plus, I dreaded the texture and hated using it. It made brushing my teeth a real chore. I want to try the peppermint flavour next and see if that is any better but I have to say that it's not my favourite experience I've ever had, overall. With few better options, however, I guess I'll just have to learn to put up with it all. 

V.  Getting Rid Of Disposable Cotton Rounds

This, I think, has been my most successful swap. I have traded disposable cotton rounds for reusable ones and they're great. I've heard of others not liking them but I tried them anyway and I'm into it. I actually think they drink up less of my toner, allowing me to use more and waste less of it, stretching out the life of that product too. They are also pretty low maintenance and my pack of five is perfect for using a side each night and then throwing however many I've used in the wash with my clothes. I always having some clean ones lying about and never have to worry about running out. 


All of this has been a bit of a learning curve for me and I'm always trying to find more sustainable options and do better. While some of the experiments that I have undergone on this journey have been vaguely disastrous or unpleasant, I do think I owe it to the planet to go through a little discomfort. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal or that much of a sacrifice. And, perhaps, you can use my experiences and anecdotes to help yourself get started too...except with some things to keep in mind and avoid.

Let's all do our best and try to be better!

Monday, 18 February 2019

London Fashion Week AW19 - Highlights, obsessions, manners, and frustrations

I do London Fashion Week each season. Have done (almost without exception) for four years now. It is almost always wonderful, dizzying, leaving me breathless and vibrating with renewed passion and excitement for weeks after the fact. And, at this stage, I have designers I have personally followed, in some cases since their debut, for years. I have favourites and friends in the industry and I'm always discovering new, intriguing brands.

Being in London twice a year for fashion week also gives me a chance to see friends who live in the city and gives me access to eateries, stores, museums, and more that I have to admire from afar in between visits. It is a heady mixture of fashion, reunions, and hectic touristing. And I am also, technically, working. As you can imagine, it is exhausting. But it is always worth it. Mostly.

This season, for me, was dominated by Irish and Asian designers working from London. NATALIEBCOLEMAN being back at LFW herself and on the schedule was a highlight and seeing Katie Ann McGuigan get the British Fashion Council support she deserved delighted me while Xu Zhi's presentation literally blew me away with its beauty and both Gayeon Lee and Jamie Wei Huang both presented collections I wanted to shop immediately.


I started out with the Jamie Wei Huang show and was delighted by the location; the extremely lovely Garden Museum, which is located in an old church not far from Westminster. The crystal-clear morning sun was illuminating the first blooms of spring around the headstones and in flower beds in the churchyard as we stood outside and waited to be let in. I managed to snag an empty seat, despite the fact that I had been originally allocated a standing invite (a fact I'm salty about as I've been covering the brand for years and actively seeking out to attend and cover them but I like the work enough not to get overly put out) and quickly forgot my childish complaints as I fell into the charming school days theme of the show. Taiwanese Indie Band No-nonsense Collective blasted over the soundsystem as a distinctly nostalgic-sounding and energetic soundtrack, exam answer sheets were laid out on benches as the show notes, and a parade of male and female models with tousled hair, blushy cheeks and a slightly dishevelled look in tartan twinsets, asymmetric longline suits, unisex sweaters with hand embroidered check cable in the brand's signature bold shades of blues, reds, white and combinations of the above, reimagined macs and puffers with built-in backpacks, and more, passed by. Tartans, checks, knitwear, big coats...all very much staples of novels about British boarding schools but reimagined and a little more rebellious. The net result? I felt like I was watching the cool kids walk past me in the school corridor and, boy, did I want to join in!



Next, I rushed my butt across the Thames to the Gayeon Lee presentation, where I found things very prim, proper, and perfect. Hairbands, ribbons, elegant pointed shoes, and dainty little handbags, starched and pleated shirtdresses, hems to just past the knee or to the calf: it was a collection as pristine and put-together as I sometimes dream of being and will never be. But made more interesting and modern by slightly longer sleeve-lengths, handbag handles with Lee's signature geometric shapes, cut-outs just above the hip, and masterful use of tucking, gathering, and pleating to create sleek, form-fitting silhouettes. Lee's woman is elegant but she is not dowdy in the least, a line that is always hard to tread but is done here with ease and great taste. As I noted in the beginning, it was one of the collections I most wanted to fill my own wardrobe with, which is not always an indicator that a show is good or not but a place to start.



Friday was busy and chaotic and I did go to some other shows but was not particularly blown away again, until (and you really will have to excuse this continued pun), I got to the Xu Zhi presentation. This, however, was where my nice smooth streak of calm was blipped this season. It always happens, such is the way of fashion week. There is always chaos, crowds (bigger or smaller than forecasted, leading to messes in either scenario), and a lack of manners that boils my blood. The word has obviously spread as the brand has grown and the masses turned out for the theatrical presentation in which Xu Zhi Chen's models were blown about on a cold windy morning, strangers each going about their days on their way to their respective destinations, tied together by garments with elements in common, connecting and interacting here and there. This heavily conceptualised presentation required space for the models to act out being blown away, to come together in embraces, to walk about as if they were going about their days normally. As there was no clearly marked out space for the crowds of observers, the large mob kept clashing and interrupting their flow. I did my best to avoid their path and let them past but one very surly-looking model shoved past me twice, glaring at me as I apologised to him. Not that I could blame him, even if he were cross with me or merely acting out some character. The clamour to "get the shot" was unbearable and it was a crowd without normal presentation etiquette, or so it seemed. The collection itself, however, was a delight, as was the concept. The room was simply overly-full and overly-excited. But I was feeling the giant fuzzy coats and matching oversized bucket hats, the lacy, see-through bucket hat down over the eyes on one model, the fringed skirts, dresses, tops, and bags, the perfectly just-oversized suits. It was all slick and yet just a little chaotic. Wearable and theatrical. Opposites in the best sort of way.



I finished day one at the University of Westminster grad show, picking out some potential future talent before heading to the Dior exhibition in the V&A because, why not? I was in town anyway. The next morning, however, I sadly missed my first show because it was at half nine in the morning, which is just gross during fashion week when you're up late (doing social media until 2), have to dress up somewhat, and need to actually get there from wherever you're staying. At least be civil and have a two hour presentation if you're starting at half nine on the Saturday of fashion week. A catwalk at that time should be illegal. Trying not to be deflated at my own laziness, I took time to explore the designer showrooms and interview jewellery designer Ellis Mhairi Cameron for Bean (keep an eye out!). Then the Katie Ann McGuigan presentation began, delighting me once again with Katie's fearless and expert use of the most joyous colour you ever did see. I was at her LFW debut and this was her on-schedule official LFW debut, which made me very secondhand-proud if her. This collection was inspired by the Bosozoku "Speed Tribe" biker subculture in Japan in the 80s and 90s. The idea of an all girl underground gang is a serious mood and the beautiful combination of heavy monster shoes, sporty cuts, intense layering, and heavy leathers with breezy organzas, a palette of lilac, mint, ochre, navy, and jade, tulle, gingham, tie-dye, and rose patterns, is striking. The effect? A need to be initiated into said gang immediately.





For the rest of the day, I decided to forego lots of invites for shows that I wasn't feeling or felt I was just in a very different demographic to and, instead, spent the day meeting friends. I had one other show in the evening and my childhood bestie and I decided to part ways for it and reconvene afterwards for dinner. This, perhaps, was not the best choice as, is often the case, later weekend shows can turn into an overpacked party where manners go to die. As is also often the case, clearly FAR more people than could fit had been invited. I had a seated ticket but, by the time I got through the door, there were few seats left so I tried to find a good place to stand instead. I could have been a dick and made a fuss about it but I didn't because what's the point? It wasn't any of the attendants' faults and they looked stressed as it was. Sadly, a trio of American men attending the show did not seem to feel the same way and I watched them ask some girls who were seated in front of me if they had seating tickets. When the girls said that they did not, they made them move, only to stand in the spots in front of said chairs for a better view (when you're that far back, you're better off standing) and block the line of vision of everyone behind them. It was a room of people clamouring to be important, to be someone, to be seen to have been there, and to publicise the fact, and this is exactly the worst side of the industry. It made me feel ill and sad for everyone involved. The desperation and rudeness, and willingness to push anyone out of your way is not my thing. I left as quickly as possible.

My final day began with the NATALIEBCOLEMAN SISTERS presentation, which was stunning and breathtaking and everything. I literally cannot stress that enough. In a darkened room, a circle of women sat, sewing, chatting, at work, together in sisterhood, different ages, sizes, and races. At their feet were scattered roses all over. They wore Carrickmacross lace, handmade by Natalie's longtime hometown collaborators, silk, linen, hand embroideries...women's work, a history of female legacy, celebrated and raised up once more. Caravaggesque lighting illuminating the angelic curls, impassive faces, and beautiful garment details of the diverse cast as they worked at stitching, leaned on each other or on an artful stack of books at the centre of the room. The presentation celebrates sisterhood, the bonds of women, and the importance of these bonds, more than ever, in these turbulent times. Shown in collaboration with the United Nations Sexual Reproductive Health Agency, 25 years after sexual and reproductive health became a fundamental human right, there will also be a capsule collection of printed scarves, hoodies, sweaters, and t-shirts (all sustainably and ethically produced in organic cotton), with 10% of profits going directly to the UNFPA. Once again, I'm Natalie's biggest fangirl, wishing I could afford an organza confection to live in.





On then to another show I went, having missed one I was excited for due to schedules being too tight. Upon arrival, I discovered the type of event normally fine but disastrous at fashion week; trying to liquor a crowd up in a sunny court early on a Sunday afternoon, an hour behind things, and with no explanation for the delay or hope for anything better. I had to bounce early, grumbling and unimpressed, in order to make my next appointment, with no idea how long the rest was going to take and no one who seemed to know themselves among those working there. Another major bugbear of mine: you just cannot mess with people's fashion week timetables! It's very poor form.


To end things off, I somehow just managed to make the end of the Underage presentation, of which I loved the punky Rocky Horror Picture Show vibes but arrived too late to really experience. I did like the Edwardian coiffing, Japanese-inspired tailoring and fabrics, creepy specs, clashing of fabrics and textures, and overall hedonism and romance of it all. And with that, I was pushed out the door so they could prep the space for the next show and made my way to the airport after a fashion week filled with incredible collections, lots of rude people who need to respect those at the event to work and who need to learn some etiquette, overly-crowded venues unable to cope, stressed employees trying to manage, fun times with pals, great food, a stellar museum trip, and the feeling, as per, that the whole thing is all really very strange...

Monday, 4 February 2019

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Being The Change And Changing This Blog

Changes are coming...

Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
How the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

Turn and face the strange
Don't want to be a richer (wo)man
Turn and face the strange

There's gonna have to be a different (wo)man


Shortly after my last post on here, reports on the state of the planet came out and I had pause to really stop and properly look at myself. I was busy with Bean Magazine, that much is true, but my absence was largely because when I did look at myself, my whole axis shifted and I realised I couldn't go on the same way anymore. Which was probably for the best, anyway, as I had long-since lost my passion for blogging as I was doing it. So, what happened? I faced facts.  The cold, hard facts I had been furiously running to avoid for so long. See, I often consoled myself and said that I was doing enough for the world, that I wasn't as bad as others, wasn't consuming as mindlessly, wasn't creating as much waste, wasn't making as many unethical choices, wasn't blah, blah, blah...

Rewearing and shopping vintage have become cornerstones of my attempts to do better for Mother Earth

It was all excuses and, in some cases, blatant lies to myself. I was living a life that is far, far from sustainable and my main vice was clothing and beauty products. 

But, because of social media, because of blogging, I always had someone to compare it to, others to normalise it, and a whole world of press samples and freebies that made me lose all touch with reality. Micro-bloggers of the world, we really do have a lot to answer for because the gal (or endless gals and guys and other folks) you follow on Insta being no different to you blurs boundaries. You think, "Well, if she's doing that, so can I. If she can afford it...If that's the norm...." and so on. Or you don't actually think that outright, not in so many words, but the endless stream of products and things and clothes being pushed on socials numbs you to what is reasonable. You lose your mind. You want a taste of the nice things you see in lives that seem no different to yours. 

However, there are two things to bear in mind: 1. With gifting, rather than sponsoring, it is hard to know how much someone online can actually afford on a financial level and how much they are receiving. So, from a practical point of view, allowing a perceived standard of lifestyle of others online to set your bar for living is dangerous and not very realistic. 2. Even if you can afford/access this lifestyle of endless consumption: should you? The rampant procuring and tossing aside of things, a mindless pursuit of new shiny things, turning a blind eye to the mark you are making on the environment and lives of workers...are these things glamorous? Are these the lives and standards we should aim for? From my point of view; no, they're not. Because the momentary fix that a bauble offers was hurting my soul. Ignoring what I know is right in favour of what looks pretty in a picture felt good for a second but lingered on my conscience.

So, I changed. 

Vintage loungewear from Space Out Sister, one of my new vintage obsessions...

I rarely buy from the high street now and avoid buying first-hand altogether as much as I can manage. I don't accept nearly as many PR packages as I did before, though they had already calmed down after the madness of the height of Irish blogging that was a few years ago anyway. I shop carefully for groceries, necessities, etc, day-to-day to avoid unnecessary waste and barely generate any anymore. Most importantly, I consider things more. I don't look at things the same way. I treat objects with respect and don't purchase them willy-nilly to be later tossed aside in favour of something else. But I do, of course, acknowledge in all of this the immense privilege in my being able to make these choices financially and practically as I have no dependents to think of and am relatively comfortable in life. 

All of this, of course, put my whole blog into question as it had been. How to blog about beauty if you aren't trying anything new? How to blog about style if you're rarely buying clothes? How to blog full-stop if you aren't focused on things and consumption? 

And these questions, in of themselves, showed how far gone I was because blogging doesn't have to be any of these things. Growing your presence, trying to keep up, trying to be someone, proving you're worthwhile, it all got really tied up with numbers and money and social media. Most bloggers I know have long since abandoned their actual blogs in favour of Instagram. Everything has become a hashtag and homogenous and the same. A race. A game. The picture of a perfect life and person. Commodifying ourselves. And for whom? Brands and companies, using us to make money by churning up this endless need to seem like we're doing okay, to present the world with a smiling, perfectly contoured, spot-free face.

Makeup is not bad, in of itself. Fashion is not innately evil. I still love these things. I still love and admire plenty of other bloggers but I'm done with the rat race and the chaos. I'm done with the soullessness and the craziness. I'm done with being numb and not pausing to think for myself. I also still love blogging and Instagram, for all their flaws, but these things can be used to be creative and unique, not just to sell. I started my blog to showcase my own voice and point of view. I talked about shows I was never going to be invited to just because I loved fashion so much and I had thoughts about them, even if no one else cared or read it. I studied design history so I wanted to apply my knowledge to styling in shows I nerded over. I was simply passionate about the topic, not trying to impress anyone else. I never expected anything. I didn't think I'd be given things or get paid. Of course, my day-job is as a writer, too, now and people doing this as a job need to be able to live but blogging is tied to oneself in an intimate way and all transactions in and out, therefore, should be carefully considered. 

So, after thinking about it for a while, I realised my mistake. I had let that go; that innocent passion, that unique point of view. Which is why I'm returning to my roots and also looking to share my newly renewed passion for being better and more sustainable and more ethical. 

I'm now lucky enough that I do get to go to those shows I once dreamed of and I'll still cover fashion weeks (London Fashion Week is in a fortnight, y'all, and I'll be there as per!) and I do still find personal style fascinating so I'll share outfits and vintage, secondhand, ethical, and sustainable clothing exploits from time to time. Ethical and sustainable beauty is hugely important to me and something I'm always learning more about, so I'll cover that process too, for sure. Mostly, I want to get back into more long-form writing and thematic articles on fashion, culture, society, self-image, and how all of these things intersect. In the coming weeks, you can expect articles on refillable beauty brands, fashion week, getting the most wear of pieces through clever styling, social media and my self-esteem, and much more besides. 

Pieces like high street powder-blue suits won't be among my purchases going forward...

I'm actually really looking forward to WE&B 2.0. I think it will be refreshing for myself, if no one else, more fun to create, and more engaging for you (if anyone is still coming back to this wee blog of mine). 

If you want to see me attempt to remember myself and past convictions, try and get a bit more grounded, and break from the hamster wheel that blogging has become for many, please do come back and check it out. And let me know what you think about all this, too. I'd love to hear from others and if I'm not alone in these frustrations. I've heard it talked about in general but not from anyone directly.