Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve! Yay! :-D

Just a short post to wish all of you a very merry Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah, I hope you have a wonderful time and I wish you every happiness in the new year. You are amazing! <3

Who Do You Want To Be Today?: A Review

When I was first starting to explore the world outside of Goth fashion, it's fairly safe to say I was a little confused. I felt like I didn't know who I was; my identity had been wrapped up in fashion and blogging for so long that I didn't know how to figure out what I liked. The upshot of this was that I ended up buying a whole bunch of those really cheesy style guides from such luminaries as Gok Wan (yes, yes I went there).

From most of these I learned very little, other than that your average style guru's idea of unique and quirky was very different than my idea of unique and quirky, and that the supposedly classic and stylish things I 'should' be wearing were not at all what I was interested in. Nevertheless I persevered, and continued to flick through the most appallingly boring celebrity style guides whenever I came across them.

I did, eventually, find one style guide that I thoroughly enjoyed, which remains on my bookshelf to this day. I like to flick through it for inspiration when I don't have any ideas for what I'd like to wear, and whilst it's definitely best taken with a pinch of salt, I really like that unlike others of its ilk, it actually encourages readers to break the mould and try something new, fun, and different.

Believe it or not, this book is by Trinny and Susannah. I had flicked through some of their incredibly tedious passages in their other books on colour coordination and dressing for your shape and decided that they were taking all the fun out of building a wardrobe and getting dressed in the morning. (Not that colour coordination or dressing for your shape is a bad thing in itself. I just don't need four books on how to do so, thanks.) And, What Not To Wear? Don't tell me what to wear, bitches, I am capable of deciding that for myself (and if sometimes it's a disaster, at least it's my disaster).

I picked up the book because of its title and tagline: Who Do You Want To Be Today? (Be Inspired To Dress Differently). Whilst generally I want to be myself today, I liked the tagline, and the essence of this book is literally that - it presents a variety of looks and styles, with a description, moodboard, examples and a how-to for each, ranging from the Audrey Hepburn-esque Gamine to the Isabella Blow-inspired Avante-Garde Eccentric (also including Diva, Rock Chick, Androgyne, Sophisticate and many more).
Source: Google
Personally I fell in love with the description of a Boho girl - 'those carefree girls with the wind in their hair and daisies between their toes. They don't stick to decaf coffee. They don't worry about matching their shoes to their handbag... they just go where the music takes them. A boho chick [...] mixes her clothes into a delicious concoction of alter egos, eras and styles. Her socks and earrings will be odd and she will have reminders written all over her hand. A boho's life is one big Glastonbury... music, mud and freedom.' - with a dash of Avante-Garde Eccentric - 'a little madness is required, backed up by a fierce individualism that wages war against a congealed high street' - and perhaps a sprinkle of Diva for date nights and special occasions.

It's not a serious book or a lifestyle guide (in fact some of the outfits featured border on fancy dress), but it is a bit of fun and it certainly helped to bump-start me out of a creative rut. I would recommend it to those looking to feel a bit less 'samey' or who are as confused as I was; I like to have a signature look rather than change my style from day to day, but it helped me pinpoint what sort of styles I was drawn to and what felt like 'me', which of course is the first step in creating a wardrobe.

What books help you feel inspired?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Suddenly, Christmas

I'm really not sure how Christmastime snuck up on me this year. I mean, Tesco brings out the mince pies just before Halloween and the shop where I work starts stocking Christmas cards in August. There are plenty of early warnings; you'd think that would leave me enough time to get prepared.

This year, I did at least have Christmas cards by the end of October (some pretty ones from Cancer Research and some slightly raunchy ones from Alchemy Gothic), and I even managed to find some very, very Gothy wrapping paper on special offer at Studio a few months back. Apart from one box of liquorice allsorts still outstanding, my shopping is also all done (although next year I'm determined to be more organised and have fancily-wrapped packages with handmade gift tags, posh ribbons and what-not all prepared by the end of November. But we'll see!).

Otherwise, Christmas seems to have taken me by surprise. (Next week? Really? Are you sure?) I have only just started writing my cards, and, eek! need to wrap half my presents by tomorrow as I am meeting a friend for coffee, then going out for a festive-y gathering at the pub. After that I will be away for a little while; I'm going to stay with my uncle in Oxford whom I haven't seen for about the last decade! Very excited! Mind you, since I don't post with tremendous regularity, you might not notice that I'm away...

I do love Christmas, though. I have all my favourite rituals, such as the Grand Christmas Eve Viewing of the Nightmare Before Christmas, the first mug of mulled wine, multiple chocolate advent calendars, dancing to Slade (shaddup, you) and eating all the chocolate baubles before Boxing Day.
Self, a couple of Christmas Eves ago.
This year, in theory, should be my last year of eating Christmas dinner as an omnivore; I have no idea what I'll be tucking into next festive season but I'm glad to feel sure that it will be cruelty (and guilt) free.

I have very little idea of what presents I might be getting, although I know Mum is giving me some money towards pre-ordering a skirt from The Snow Field and Dan (the boyfriend) has been dropping hints about an iPod! :-)

What are your festive-season rituals? Are you an organised shopper? And, what presents are you expecting? <3

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Preparing For 2013 (New Year's Resolutions)

I know that many people don't make New Year's Resolutions, for the very simple and good reason that, if you want to make changes in your life, you shouldn't wait for a certain date - you should just do it. But being the slightly overdramatic type of person I am, I like to have a certain amount of ritual around things, so as it is coming up to New Year anyway, I thought I would configure some upcoming changes I would like to make to my life with the changing of the year.

In 2012, I feel I have already been through some changes as a person. Nothing huge or groundbreaking; just small-but-important adjustments to how I see myself and how I relate to the world around me. These small changes are the foundation for most of the resolutions I am looking forward to putting into practise in the year ahead.

  • Go vegan.
This is probably the most drastic of the changes I want to make. This year I have been trying to be less focused on myself and to spend more time thinking outwards, which has led to a whole waterfall of new views and outlooks, running an entire gamut from feminism to spirituality, environmentalism, random acts of kindness, body positivity and a whole load of things I had taken for granted and never really paid attention to.

As I hunted through the interwebs and the library to try to understand and put into perspective all the new-to-me things I was learning about, I decided to take some steps towards a more eco-friendly, cruelty-free lifestyle. And as I was researching this, I discovered veganism. Obviously I'd heard of it before, but I had never taken it seriously as a lifestyle choice - clearly too extreme, too unhealthy, too limiting to be a viable prospect for a growing woman needing a supportive and healthy diet.

I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian; partly because of the green issues with meat farming and partly because of the horrendous conditions endured by animals bred for slaughter. But on PETA's website [tangent: I have discovered in my research that PETA are not tremendously popular amongst the vegan crowd due to their sexist advertisements and overly-aggressive tactics, but they were the first resource I found when I began looking into veganism] I began to discover that dairy produce and eggs were subject to similiar ethical concerns.

So I looked further into veganism, and to my surprise I found that actually, a good vegan diet is not only incredibly good for you (vegans are, apparently, proven to live longer and have more energy) but boasts an enormous variety of recipes and is not at all as 'extreme' as I was originally led to believe.
I don't have a relevant picture, so here is a photo of me and my cat. I feel this is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
I am using the time between now and January 1st to ease my way into a vegan lifestyle, using up the meat and dairy products I have left in the house (I am on a very tight budget; waste is a no-no) and beginning to replace household products and cosmetics with vegan alternatives. I have just done this week's food shop and am proud to say I bought no animal products whatsoever - for exactly the same amount of money as my usual weekly grocery run.
  • Write a novel.
I have really fallen out of the habit of fiction writing; with six (awful) vanity-published novels to my name, I'd love to get back on board and get back in the swing of gloriously cheesy pulp fiction tomes.
  • Get up earlier.
Imagine what I could do with all that free time in the morning. I could sew. I could write. I could go for a calming stroll in the spring sunshine. I could actually eat breakfast for once.
  • Stay de-junked.
In all aspects of life. No more hoarding. No more buying stuff I don't need, don't use and really only 'liked' because it was there when I wanted to blow some cash and get my spending fix. Also no more hiding bank statements in the cupboard without opening them. No more letting paperwork stack up. I will be buying a Filofax... and I'm not afraid to use it.
  • Stop buying clothing from chain stores.
Perhaps this is a resolution I could have done with making in my Gothier days. No mass-produced, boring, sweatshop crap. At least if I buy my mass-produced sweatshop crap from charity shops (I'm also giving the OK to buying handmade, organic, FairTrade and vintage) I know my money is doing some good.
  • Keep a book journal.
  • Go abroad.
I've never been abroad. Ever. Unless Wales counts. Even then, that was a decade ago.
  • Exercise regularly.
I have a body. Bodies like moving.
  • Craft more.

Are you making any New Year's Resolutions? What, and why (or why not)?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Things I Love Thursday: Cruelty Free

It's been a little harder to be cheerful this week as I have had a constant dull headache for the last four days. But really, it's been another wonderful week! And with (supposedly) nine days left to live, it would be a shame to take it all for granted.

[Tangent: what are you guys thinking about alleged upcoming end-of-all-things on the 21st of this month? I read a book this week that was lent to me by a friend, called HOPE: Healing Our People and Earth which theorises that rather than the end of days, on the 21st we will begin to experience a 'cosmic shift' towards a collective consciousness and a more peaceful, mindful existence. I think I'd much rather a cosmic shift than explosions, zombies, fire and death, so I'm rooting for that one myself!]

Doomsday aside, this week I'm celebrating:
  • A beautiful shopping trip with my bestie at Winchester Christmas Market. We went down in the late afternoon when it was just starting to get dark, so all the chalets and stalls were lit up with little twinkling lights. The market is in the grounds of the cathedral which makes the whole atmosphere absolutely gorgeous. I bought some lovely things, including a fairy figurine from Fairyglass.
  • Making my New Year's Resolutions. It's a long list this year (but the first time in a long time that the list hasn't included 'lose some weight') but if anything that makes me feel really good because I actually have goals and things that I want to achieve and do.
  • Going cruelty-free. It's such an obvious thing to do that really I'm amazed I'd never thought about it before. I have always bought cosmetics that say 'this product not tested on animals' but I read recently that this is not always reliable (because the product might not have been animal-tested, but the ingredients might have been - very sneaky!). I ordered a free copy of The Little Book of Cruelty Free so that I have an at-a-glance handbook to take with me when shopping.
  • Fab support and advice from you guys on my style dilemmas! The wonderful Courtney (a shooting star in the shape of a woman, if I may borrow the phrase) wrote this post about her own similar rut and how she dealt/is dealing with it. (Courtney's post contains boobs and is NSFW.)
  • Working through my reading pile. Because of this very annoying headache I had a day off work this week (I am currently functional, but earlier this week that was not the case). I couldn't look at TV or computer screens so I got down to some serious reading and ploughed my way through four and a half books off my unread pile. I saw an article about how many books the average person reads in a lifetime; I'm hoping to outclass the optimum of 22,000. Unfortunately I haven't been keeping count, so one of my Resolutions for 2013 is to keep a book journal.
  • I have been spending a lot of time on this Pinterest board, and highly recommend it. It really makes me feel great about myself, and the articles I have read that are linked to from here are equal parts heart-warming and heart-rending. (I actually came across the Stop The Thinspo board when I was searching for pictures of skinnier women to beat myself up with, and it stopped me in my tracks, gave me a hug (metaphorically) and put me on a much better path.)
  • Shopping. Or rather, looking at shopping in a new light. I'm not buying things because they're 'Goth' or because they're this or because they're that, but because I need them, or because I really like them and they speak to me on some level. I thought that buying things I like would mean buying more, but actually, when I narrow it down to things that I really, genuinely like (again, not because they're this or that or because I'm hoping they will make me more this or that, e.g. Gothier, sexier, more stylish) I have become very picky and am buying *gasp* hardly anything. Shocker.
  • Getting in contact with old friends. I dropped my best friend from school (she moved away, and I left school) a message on Facebook and we are going to start writing proper, old-school snail mail letters to each other. I am usually awful at replying to letters but I'm going to really make an effort from now on!
  • My dreads starting to lock up! Today is day 71 and they are getting pretty tight and knotty. (They are also very loopy still but if anything I think that's cute...) I love how they feel, I love how they look when they are freshly washed and I have to say it, I'm proud of myself because I would never have dreamt that I would spend 71 days with terminally messy hair. I'm super-excited about having mature dreads but I am enjoying every part of this process.
  • My dad. I have a pretty awesome dad. At times when I was younger we struggled to connect but now we see each other twice a week - on Saturdays for lunch and on Mondays for dinner, followed by a TV schedule including Salvage Hunters and Never Mind the Buzzcocks (gotta love Buzzcocks!), juggling lessons, and general chit-chat. I really love our routines. El Daddio is also considering starting a blog. I am trying to talk him into it.
What have you gorgeous people been up to this week? <3

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Style Evolution

Several of you have asked for outfit posts; however, I have to be honest and tell you that I'm not really sure right now where my style is going! I feel almost as though I'm bombarded with so much inspiration that I don't know what to do with all of it, and at the same time I really just like to be warm and comfortable so often I'm falling back on that old staple of boots, jumper and jeans.

I definitely don't have what could be called 'a style' right now. I've been hoping that as I clear out my wardrobe and mix in new pieces that I really love, a personal style will emerge from all the bits and pieces I'm hanging on to. So far, though, it hasn't happened! There have been a few disasters... no, I won't be sharing pictures of those! Let's just say that harem trousers do not look good with boots, and that you can have too many pastel colours in one outfit.

As previously mentioned, I've bought a style journal, and have also been taking daily outfit snaps and making notes on them (e.g. what I liked about the outfit, what I didn't, how comfortable did I feel in it, etc.), so fingers crossed that this more organised approach will help me get more in tune with my personal style.
This one, I love.
Ironically, I find that if I browse through my own Tumblr I can see that, despite often feeling as though I don't know what I like, I do have quite a strong sense of my own preferences. I just have to work out, somehow, how to distill the essence of my Tumblog into a functional wardrobe!

Of course, I am well aware that in the grand scheme of things, what I wear or don't wear and how I choose to present myself is actually pretty unimportant, which makes me feel a whole lot better when all I can find in my closet that doesn't have me going "asdfghjkl;" with anxiety is a fleece and a pair of skinnies. Without wishing to sound too pretentious, there is a whole world out there to explore, and it doesn't care what I happen to be wearing!
Not sure about this one. It's OK but not quite... there. I think maybe I'm trying too hard to be quirky.
On the other hand, a quote that I adore is "Life's too short to wear boring clothes," which is why I am continuing to pay attention to my style. It's just good to remind myself sometimes that it actually doesn't matter.

Have any of you guys ever found yourselves in a similar rut? How did you deal with it?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Body Positivity

Earlier this year I discovered the body positivity movement, and I think it's fair to say that it changed my life. Whilst I have never been overweight by more than half a stone, give or take, I went on my first diet at the age of eleven to fit in with my friends at school, whose packed lunches were made with Weight Watchers bread and who went to an aerobics class in the evenings to lose weight.

I found the world of diets and calorie counting to be grown up and glamorous. I made a scrapbook full of skinny models and diet tips from teen magazines, and bought exercise videos from charity shops. I don't remember losing any significant amounts of weight until my mid-teens, at which point I ended up visiting - and being talked down to by - a fairly unpleasant eating disorders specialist at the local mental health unit, (I found her so patronising that I never went back), but I spent most of my teenage years preoccupied wth weight, exercise and beauty.

This year, after the usual rounds of obsessive dieting and frantic gorging, I resolved that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. I don't want to have my entire life revolving around the scales, and I don't want to spend my entire existence hating myself and my body.

The times I remembered being the happiest weren't when I had spent hours doing my make-up or when I reached an even lower weight but when I let myself go and had fun with my friends, got so wrapped up in having a good time that I forgot what I looked like and forgot that I was supposed to be perfect, supposed to be always striving for beauty and thinness.

I began to wonder if being 'pretty' was worth being hungry, being grouchy from hunger and low self-esteem, being unable to relax or indulge and listening constantly to my own judgemental inner critic, the little voice that, unless action is taken to stop it, runs a constant, carping commentary on one's own appearance and that of every passing person unfortunate enough to fall under its gaze.

Stumbling across body positivity on the internet and starting to learn about it helped me begin to try to embrace myself, every day, no matter what, and has marked the start of a new chapter for me. I have started to listen to my body instead of suppressing or ignoring hunger pangs. I don't beat myself up for not being 'strong' enough to work out for hours on an empty stomach. I have stopped categorising foods as 'good' or 'bad' and I don't forbid myself anything that I really want to eat.

In fact, now that I can see how miserable my attitude towards my body - encouraged, let's not forget, by multi-million pound beauty, diet and advertising industries - was making me and how much better I feel from day to day just by being kinder towards myself, I often wish I could give my wonderful, successful, clever, talented friends a shake when they chastise themselves for wanting dessert or tell me for the umpteenth time that they are too fat or ugly. It's become 'normal' to hate yourself, and I hate to see my amazing friends sucked into that.

I still have bad days - an off-the-cuff remark at the pub can still see me sobbing over Next Top Model and binge-eating stollen, and sometimes I am fragile because it was easier to bury negative feelings or discomfort under calorie-counting and meal-planning than it is to confront them - but on good days I have more energy, am more relaxed and more inclined to get out of the house and have a good time.

I have learned that I'm not perfect, but that's OK. One day at a time I am learning how to love myself and my body, and if I can, you can too. <3

(Inspiring websites: Stop Hating Your Body, Operation Beautiful. For help and support with eating disorders: b-eat.)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Things I Love Thursday: Frosty Mornings

One of my goals as part of my life overhaul has been to become a more positive person. I don't mean that I walk aound grinning like a buffoon (well, actually, I do do that), but just that up to a certain extent we do have a choice of how to face life and all its challenges, and I'd rather spend as much of my time as is realistic enjoying myself rather than sulking or beating myself up about minor details that I can't change.

I started writing gratitude lists on Stripy Tights but never really got into it. I have also been keeping them in my personal journal - one of my New Year's Resolutions is going to be to do this every day. Even if it's a really, really rubbish day I might still have had a lovely cup of tea in the morning or seen a beautiful sunset, and whilst that won't make up for the absolute pants-ness of the rest of the day, it's still worth cherishing. Or so I feel.

So without further ado, this week I am grateful for:
  • Frosty mornings. It's really really cold out there, and whilst you may not catch me out-of-doors without four jumpers and thermal undies, it is utterly beautiful when the frost sparkles in the sunlight. I also love how clear and pale blue the skies are on sunny winter days.
  • Feeling festive. I'm not quite getting into the swing of all things Christmas yet, but I have a friend who utterly adores the mince pie season and it's hard to get my 'bah, humbug' on when she's around. Bring on the Christmas jumpers (I'm looking for a non-chainstore one if I can find one, and if it's a cross-eyed reindeer, all the better!) and earrings with bells on!
  • Clearing out. Yes, I'm going on and on about it, but it's just so refreshing! Today I'm going through the inspiration folders on my computer, clearing out and reorganising. (Virtual reorganising counts, right? It totally counts.)
  • Tis the season for hot chocolate! Have been working my way through the festive hot drinks list at Boswells cafe, and also enjoying mulled wine at the pub instead of my usual rum and coke or Desperados.
  • Making friends with other people who actually read books. I love meeting new people who are readers because we can do things like gabble inanely about the upcoming Hobbit film, make obscure book jokes and laugh like drains, and possibly even best of all - book recommendations. I get very excited about this sort of thing, you know.
  • Finding the perfect present! I don't stress much about Christmas shopping because I don't shop for a huge amount of people - only my nearest and dearest. Because I like to think I know them so well, it's usually a breeze to get it all done and always a thrill to find that perfect present.
  • Buying new products from Lush. I've been making the effort to go green with all my cosmetics, and whilst handmade is fun and buying from independent companies on Etsy and finding small shops squirrelled away around my hometown makes me feel a little saintly, Lush will always be my first love for beauty products of all kinds. I really want to work there. Lush Overlords, are you reading this?
  • Having a carpet. Seriously, I will never take warm toes for granted again. In fact, whilst we're on the subject I have a great deal of love for my big fluffy beanbag in my reading corner as well. Yes, I made a reading corner. I don't think I've ever been so happy.
  • Spending lots of time with my very best friends. I don't know if it's impending Christmas or impending Doomsday that's making us all so soppy, but I'm loving it. ^^
  • Listening to other people's iPods. One friend in particular has the best music taste - drum'n'bass followed by the 28 Days Later theme followed by Less Than Jake followed by Beethoven followed by some random latin jazz ska thing (he did tell me what they were called but I forget). The upshot of this madness is that we all drive home from the pub singing along obnoxiously to Call Me Maybe and then looking around anxiously for zombies as the 28 Days Later theme swells.
Jo and me on my 21st birthday. This photo makes me laugh so much!
What about you lovelies? What made your week? <3

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Mori Girl and Dolly Kei

Today, I went to Southampton to visit the German Christmas Market, and couldn't quite resist popping into the bookstore. I was looking for a book journal, but I found myself a Style Journal from Moleskine. I would highly recommend such an object to those of you looking to a) clear out unwanted clothes, b) develop your personal style and c) actually get organised. My lovely journal has separate tabbed sections for all-important things including a complete wardrobe inventory (eek!), tracking outfits, and - inspiring this post - notes and photos of styles and 'trends' (Moleskine's word... not one I am hugely fond of) that have captured your heart.

As I was flicking through the pages with glee and wondering what photos I could fill up those oh-so-tantalising blank spaces with, I decided to pop online and share my current most inspirational styles with you. ^^ Here are one or two to get the ball rolling.

Mori Kei/Mori Girl
This style originates from Japan, and has a focus on natural fabrics and nature; a mori girl seeks to capture the essence of a girl who lives in the forest. Wikihow has a lovely description; "Mori girl has developed not only as a style but as a lifestyle as well! Quirky girls who love vintage clothing, pocket watches, tea, moss or going snooping in grandma's attic will feel right at home in this style." (There is also a darker offshoot known as Black Forest Mori Girl.) As of yet I know very little about the style but I love the entire aesthetic with lots of gentle, romantic layering.... ooh! <3
For more, see MonMonMori.

Dolly Kei
Dolly Kei is also a Japanese style, taking inspiration from vintage and historical Eastern European clothing and of course old porcelain dolls, with a whimsical twist. I really can't get enough of those fairy tale layers and antique-y elements.

See Dolly-Kei.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Know Thyself

I was clearing out my favourites tab this week (it's a big job, believe me) and I came across a blog post from Eco In Black that I had bookmarked a while ago. This post is entitled Good Goth Keeping, (aka Know Thyself), and it's basically the start of a set of challenges to help flaily types in emotional crises, such as myself. (OK, OK, I don't know if that was quite Eco's original intent, but... that's what I'm doing with it. Eco wrote, "I realized I lost most of my sense of self. Understand: I still know what kinds of movies I like, the books I want to read, and that I still love Goth. But there are things missing, like a sense of direction, sense of control, or a even a hobby, really," and I practically exploded with relief when I read this, because this was exactly, exactly how I have felt throughout most of this year.)

The post linked to above incorporates tips one and two, which are as follows:

1. Assess your physical baggage and the psychological will follow. Get out of your own way.

2. Write. Write something. Write anything. Write. Everyday.

I already keep a good ol'fashioned paper-and-ink journal, so the writing part is not tremendously difficult for me. When not journaling I am often blogging (duh), and yesss, one of my goals for the next few months is to finally start working on some fiction projects again. I haven't approached fiction in more than a year, and as it was my first love and my whole reason for being for, oh, most of my existence, I figure it's time to give it another shot and stop letting it get pushed to the bottom of my priorities pile.

Assessing my physical baggage is... harder. I have been redecorating my lair for the better part of a year now; it's taking so long because of the sheer amount of STUFF that I have. I have gotten rid, so far, of FIFTY THREE bags of clothing, books, and miscellaneous junk. Fifty. Three. How I even managed to physically fit so much - OK, I'll say it - crap into my average-sized-to-small bedroom is beyond me. No wonder I couldn't move in there. It was getting claustrophobic. I couldn't stand to be in my own living space because I just felt overwhelmed by the volume of STUFF.
As things were.
Finally, now, I am getting somewhere with the redecoration project. I have new furniture. I have a carpet. My walls are painted (with a little help from my friends - I threw a painting party). I am really starting to love my room, although it is still a little untidy and looks somewhat like a very disorganised library.

The only downside is that I am still sifting through the junk. The trouble is that I am a hoarder, and I attach sentimental value to every damn thing. But as Eco very wisely says, "Going through the physical stuff allows the mind to go through the psychological stuff. I encourage you to get rid of the things you are lugging around to facilitate your getting rid of the ideas you're toting with you."

Currently, I am toting a lot of crap that I don't need. I look forward to being free of it. Even clearing out my favourites tab made me feel... lighter.

I am resolving to really be ruthless about my junk-sorting, to free myself of every damn thing that has no use and brings me no joy. I would like to thank Eco for motivating me to get back to work on de-junking both my space and my mind. There are so many more productive ways I could be using my headspace.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Bare-Faced Cheek

Part of my re-evaluation of myself, my style, and my lifestyle was taking a good, long look at how and why I was choosing to present myself in a certain way. Those of you who followed me on Stripy Tights... may remember that I was beginning to question my choice to wear make-up - a lot of make-up - every day (Is Make-Up A Mask?).

I soon came to realise that I felt I had to wear make-up. It may have started out as a choice, a positive, fun way of expressing myself visually, but after caking myself in product day after day for several years, it had become something I relied upon to feel attractive. Not only that, but I felt I had to keep putting on more and more if I wanted to upgrade from 'socially acceptable' to 'pretty'.
After this realisation, I came to hate the fact that I felt I had to cover myself in make-up each morning just to leave the house, just to be found acceptable by strangers. Frankly, the concept of 'pretty' is something that seems to me to be a bit overrated - why should we have to apologise for our differences and cover up the flaws and features that make us imperfect, perfectly natural human beings?

Don't get me wrong, I like looking 'nice' as much as anyone, but I don't want to be brainwashed into believing that it is necessary for me to conform to a standard of 'beauty' just to be able to show my face. After all, even the models in the advertisements that sell us our favourite products aren't as flawless as the finalised, airbrushed, Photoshopped images that we are shown.

I spent a good month during my time away from blogging living entirely make-up free. At first I felt horrendously self-consious and embarrassed, especially at work in a customer-facing role, but after a few weeks I began to relax and feel comfortable with my naked face. I stopped feeling that looking 'pretty' was so overwhelmingly important; with the right products, or enough of them, I could transform my face into a Barbie doll clone - or I could come to terms with my actual looks and stop buying into the concept of perfection and the industry that teaches people that they, themselves, are not good enough as they are.
Bare-faced cheek!
And that was the final realisation that I came to. No matter what we look like, whether by society's standards we are 'pretty' or 'ugly', we are all beautiful. We are products of nature, and just as you never see an 'ugly' sunset or an 'ugly' lion (yes, I know you are all going to spam me with images of ugly lions now... but never mind, hopefully you're following my train of thought here), how can you have an 'ugly' person?

I am choosing, personally, to disregard the concept of 'pretty' and instead just have fun with make-up - when, and if, I feel like wearing it - instead of using it to create an image of what the advertising industry wants me to wish that I looked like. I do enjoy wearing make-up, whether to create crazy effects or just highlight my features, but I also find it relaxing to not worry about it!

What about you? Does anyone have any thoughts?

(Suggested reading: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.)

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Whitby Goth Weekend

The Goth Weekend was an incredible experience, but not for the reasons I thought it would be when I booked the tickets as an enthusiastic darkling. Rather than the official events and the other Goths, I was captivated by the creativity of the traders (we attended the Bizarre Bazaar, the steampunk market at The Rifle Club and several other assorted small markets we found in our travels around Whitby), and the atmosphere of the town itself; a charm and a strangeness about the place that I am almost at a loss to describe.

I felt almost like the town, watched over by the solemn, brooding presence of Whitby Abbey, rekindled a dormant spirit in me that I hadn't realised was lost: a faith in mystery and magic, a sense of the unknown and unseen all around us. I fell in love with the winding streets, quaint buildings, hidden alleyways and salt air.

Dan and I stayed in the Argyle Hotel, where most of the WGW guests are regulars who help each other dress up for the evening events and who take breakfast together in their black pyjamas and bat-patterned socks. Our room was in the attic - from our window we had an undisturbed view of the abbey keeping watch over the town below.

The train journey had been fairly arduous, a ten-hour affair leaving us tired, hungry and fairly cranky, but nonetheless we dropped off our bags and headed out straight away for food and a spot of sight-seeing. It was Halloween night, and couldn't have been more romantic - there was a light drizzle falling as we ascended the infamous stairs to Whitby Abbey (chili-spiced hot chocolate clasped firmly in hand) for an evening wander amongst the gravestones of St Mary's. We ended the day with a walk along the pier and a quick trip to Jumping Jack's, a 1950s-themed diner, for hot dogs and - in my case - an ice cream sundae as big as my head. Possibly my favourite Halloween ever, despite the utter lack of a costume!
The rest of our trip continued in similar vein - we missed one club night that we had planned to attend entirely because we were so intent on a conversation that we lost track of time - although I spent far too much money in the markets! Unfortunately I suffered a couple of migraines whilst we were there which meant we also didn't make some of the bands I had wanted to see, although I did scrape myself out of bed to see ten minutes of Alien Sex Fiend before I had to give in and return to the hotel. I was determined that I wouldn't miss them!

I loved how much the shopkeepers of Whitby contributed to the event - almost every stall and shop was selling some kind of Goth-themed product or had hung a 'Goths Welcome' sign; even the charity shops had decked out their windows with corsets, bustles and other spooky regalia. The restaurants were in on the act too; I treated myself to a bag of purple Whitby Goth Floss on the seafront and downed a Howling Goth Chili Burger at the Hatless Heron. My favourite place to go, however, was a lovely coffee shop called Sherlocks, decked out entirely in, well, you guessed it, Sherlock-themed decor. Beautiful and cosy! We had breakfast there one morning and for me it was a highlight of the trip!
Another highlight included fangirling over - I mean, meeting! - artist Anne Sudworth, whose work I've admired with all my heart since I saw a piece on her in a magazine. Not only did I buy myself an unframed print of her work 'Night' for my reading corner, but Dan bought me a copy of her latest book and she signed it for me and gave me a hug. I probably made an ass of myself and could only gibber incoherently for about half-an-hour afterwards, but it really made my day!

Music-wise, it was a delight to finally see the Fiend, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Mesh, Fangs on Fur, Inertia and Bad Pollyanna - I came home laden with their CDs. :-) Of course I had too much cider and danced badly - what would you expect? ;-D
In short, a trip definitely worth the taking, and I do hope that I will be able to go again in future. Also cannot recommend Dan more highly as a travelling companion, I enjoyed it all the more for him being there.

(P.S. I hope the images on this post are OK; I've used Tumblr as Google says I've reached my upload limit... oops.)

Life as a Recovering Goth

Hello there! As an introductory post this is somewhat unusual, I suppose, but I have a strong feeling that most of you reading this will know me from my older, Goth-oriented blog Stripy Tights and Dark Delights (or, as it was known once-upon-a-time, The Ultimate Goth Guide). It seems strange to be posting in a new place and introducing myself all over again, but as my interests have grown and changed it seemed unfair to dump new posts on top of followers who were looking for Goth-specific content alone.

Before I get started on regular(ish) blogstravaganzas, I thought I'd go straight for the nitty-gritty and talk about the changes that occured to make me reconsider my time as a Goth blogger.

Are you still a Goth?
Goth specifically? No. Dark culture is still something I hold dear, but the 'Goth' label began to feel a bit restricting, and I have branched out a little. I still consider myself very firmly 'alternative' and enjoy experimenting with varied subcultural fashions running the gamut from punk to Lolita. Although many areas of my life have a definite dark tinge, I don't generally call myself  a Goth.

Was it just a phase?
I'm inclined to say no - hopefully that's not just my vanity talking! By some (or many?) people's standards, of course, I never quite made it as a 'real Goff', but being a black-clad spookster for the last six years certainly made a big impact on who I am as a person and how I saw the world. Whilst I may no longer always feel the need to wander around beclad in a melancholic darkness (not that I was ever particularly melancholy - nor were most of the Goths with whom I became friends), making the choice to visually express the parts of myself that rose to the fore through dark culture was comforting, cathartic, enjoyable, challenging and fun.
Of course, those aspects of me that drew me to dark culture still remain and are still celebrated - I am an avid bookworm with a particular fondness for dark faerie tales, the paranormal, Gothic literature and, yes, vampires; I find cemeteries beautiful and peaceful; I adore dark fashion in all, if not many, of its manifestations; I have an enduring fondness for fantasy art, particularly with darker aspects... etc, etc, etc. None of these, of couse, are particularly 'Goth' traits, but many of those who associate themselves with dark culture, if not the Goth scene specifically, will know where I am coming from!

As long as the part of me that drew me to dark culture in the first instance remains, I will still thoroughly enjoy such cliche activities as hanging bats from my ceiling, stomping around in my New Rock boots, tearing up my fishnets and kicking back with a glass of absinthe. (Needless to say, my taste in music continues unchanged - although those guilty pleasures are no longer so guilty!) Which is why I don't personally look on my time as a devoted darkling as 'just a phase' - it was, and is, an enormous part of who I am, no matter how I do or do not dress.

What happened?
I started to feel disillusioned with the Goth scene around January this year, and that feeling grew until I was definitely sure that Goth was no longer a label I wanted to apply to myself, to the point of giving up blogging and taking time off from the internet to evaluate who I really was (cheesy, I know!), how I wanted to express myself, and essentially, whether the life I was living was the right one for me.

For me, the trouble with belonging to a specific subculture is that I felt I had to live up to other people's expectations of what a proper Goth should be if I wanted to 'earn' the label, which after a while felt limiting and uncomfortable. I learned that I prefer a more fluid, general descriptor like 'alternative', because there were things outside even the most vague boundaries of dark fashion drawing my attention, and I didn't want to just shut off the side of myself that wanted to (for example) wear florals and no make-up.

As I blogged back in March, "Long-time readers will know that crimping personal tastes to fit labels is certainly not what I'm about and never will be. I was reminded of those slightly awkward adolescent years when I tried to buy the 'right' clothes to impress the 'right' people, and something inside me rebelled against the idea of reliving a time when I didn't feel good enough to be accepted for who I was. The Goth label had begun to feel a bit redundant; I still loved most things about the fashion, music and culture but I no longer felt sure that the tag applied to me. I liked having the freedom to experiment with fashion, the quirkier the better, and experience different styles and genres of music without feeling like a fraud for calling myself a Goth."

I spent most of this year ricocheting between trying to reconcile my darker tastes with my newfound appreciation for other styles, and trying to shoehorn myself back into the Goth box (now there's an image!). For many people, Goth is more than a fleeting event in their lives - it works with most parts of their identity and fits them like a second skin. For me, sadly, it became only a smaller part of a larger whole.

What will you be blogging about now?
Oh, Goth stuff... ;-)

Well, yes, probably, some of that. Once dark culture has a hold on you, it never fully lets go! However, I don't intent to tout myself as a Gothy expert - simply what I am, an enthusiast and appreciator of that style and subculture.
I'm afraid there will also be some personal stuff; some over-excited and gleeful notes on styles that have captured my attention from week to week (teapunk! Apparently this is a thing!); crafting and DIY, as I'm getting more and more into it by the day; book reviews; and, well, you'll have to wait and see what else I've got up my sleeve!

I don't expect this blog to achieve the success that The Ultimate Goth Guide once did (more by luck than judgement), and I'd like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who came along for the ride and who gave their support. <3 If any of you do choose to stick around, that would be delightful, and I look forward to sharing my journey with all of you!

Many hugs and sparkly bats!
Amy xxx