I wear short shorts

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I have basically spent every weekend this summer wearing this pair of shorts. I love them and I love how I look in them.

They haven’t always been shorts. They were once a pair of jeans that I cut off when I got bored of them. My Mum suggested I’d cut them too short. I probably rolled my eyes at her.

Once upon a time I used to be self-conscious about wearing short shorts. As you can see, I have quite big thighs and a fair bit of cellulite. But I love my legs. Why? Because they mean I can WALK and RUN and CYCLE and DANCE and a whole load of other things that I am so grateful for. And the more I wear shorts, the more I like how my legs look in shorts.

Other women, including those with much thinner or more muscular thighs than me, have told me how lucky I am to be able to go out wearing shorts. Everyone can wear shorts. Like those widely shared instructions on how to have a bikini body (have a bode, put a bikini on it), my guide to wearing shorts are basically to just fucking wear the shorts. Yes, the first time (and maybe the next) requires some bravery. But it soon feels normal.

And today? I’m wearing shorts when I haven’t even shaved my legs in several weeks. Shocker.

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5 things I’ve learnt from not buying new clothes

  1. Mostly, we shop because we can and not because we need to. It’s easy to go out and buy something new when you feel as though you don’t have anything to wear. But also, it’s been quite easy for me to put something together from what I already own. After a “but I have nothing to wear!” meltdown, it takes about two minutes of looking through my wardrobe to find something that I do have to wear. I’ve learnt to stop and think like a rational person, trust my style (rather than faddy fashions) and that throwing money at a problem is not always the best way to solve it.
  2. It’s easy to hide behind new clothes. The times that I’ve broken or seriously considered breaking my no new clothes resolution is because I’ve had a date or a job interview i.e. an occasion where I’ve been trying to impress somebody. Obviously people do judge on appearances, but real confidence comes from your self-esteem and not from a hot new outfit. Within a few days it will become an old outfit, and then you’ll have to buy another to get a new boost. Having to show up in old clothes has been good for building a new kind of confidence.
  3. It’s easy to fix things. Without the option of replacing them I’ve adjusted clothes that didn’t fit anymore, sewn up holes and basically done all the mending that’s been on my to do list for years. It wasn’t as difficult or take as long as I thought it would. It’s quite empowering to realise you don’t have to pay someone else to do this, or pay to replace something. Consumerism is a choice.
  4. Less is more. Weirdly, not buying new clothes has led to me giving more stuff away. It’s as though not constantly adding to my wardrobe has given me the space I needed to evaluate it properly. Instead of solving my lack of inspiration by buying something new, I’ve had to answer the question “why don’t I want to wear this?” Slowly, I’m getting rid of the things I’m not excited about wearing and feeling as though I have more to wear and not less (I guess because I now just see all the good stuff).
  5. You can convince yourself you need anything. But most of the time we just don’t. Not buying new clothes hasn’t been an inconvenience at all. I’ve managed to find myself outfits every occasion that’s come up. Not shopping for new outfits has saved me time, money and headspace – instead of worrying what I need to shop for I know I don’t do that and make do with what I have. There might be something I do need eventually, but having to make do with what I have has made me realise that I could probably keep making do indefinitely. Which is actually a little bit surprising.

Project 333 update and some thoughts on fashion

So I completely failed at Project 333 because a) I moved house half way through and it seemed more straightforward to unpack everything and b) I chose the wrong clothes. There were plenty of items in my original selection that I didn’t wear, but I also gave into the craving to wear things I had packed away and gradually started to pull things out again. I don’t feel too guilty about this because a) why should I? and b) I learnt some lessons about the types of things I want/need in a wardrobe.

I also failed in my attempt to not shop. I treated myself to a couple of investment pieces (winter coat and boots) that made me feel great. Again, I won’t feel guilty about this because life is a bit more complicated than buying stuff=bad not buying stuff=good. While fast fashion and mindless consumerism probably is bad, investing in your own style and self expression in a thoughtful and responsible way is necessary for a good life.

I recently read a wonderful story on the ReFashioner blog, which sums up my feelings exactly:

“I recently bought myself a present: a beautiful pair of washed lambskin Helmut Lang jeans that nearly cut my bank account in half. I’ll be honest, it was wildly irresponsible of me and I’m not advising anyone do the same. But I had just come out of a hard break-up, so I invested in myself and splurged on my now beloved “Freedom Pants.” I suffered no buyer’s remorse because when I close my eyes and envision myself at my happiest and most fulfilled—the person I want to be—well, I’m wearing those pants! 

That is how fashion can be powerful: As a form of self-expression, not as mindless consumerism.” Katie Patwell

5 Things I’ve Learnt Whilst Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

Faced with moving abroad in a few months, and generally wanting to live a more focused less cluttered live, I’ve spent the past few weeks sorting through my wardrobe. My dream is a capsule wardrobe of a few good quality items that all work well with each other. It’s a work in progress, but thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learnt so far.

1. It’s important to know what your style is. Look at blogs, magazines, people on the street – work out what you like and what you don’t and learn to trust your gut. Create a scrapbook or pinterest board (here’s mine!) to help articulate your vision. It will make decluttering a lot easier if you already have a clear idea of your dream wardrobe.

2. Only keep only the things that make you feel amazing. If you catch sight of a reflection of yourself and don’t think you look great, the outfit you’re in has no place in your wardrobe. I’ve been “trialing” clothes I haven’t warn in ages. I wear them out and if I feel self-conscious, frumpy or uncomfortable they go straight into the “donate” pile when I get home.

3. I need to keep a range of colours. Some people might be able to wear just one colour for the rest of their lives: I can’t. Even though the laundry was easier, a few weeks of wearing just blue and black was depressing and I became desperate for a bit of colour.

4. Don’t sacrifice femininity in pursuit of simple. I tried wearing jeans and t-shirts without jewellery for a really minimal look. While this look might be great for some people, I just felt plain and unattractive. I learnt that it’s worth keeping some things that aren’t strictly necessary, but are necessary to feel great.

5. Accept who you are. I started to feel guilty about missing make-up and jewellery but I’ve come to realise that a love of sparkly things is part of my personality and I shouldn’t try to quash that. While it’s important to me that I have make-up free days, I shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to wear it most of the time. Unlike some minimalists, I won’t ever get beyond caring about clothes because I am a bit vain and my mood depends what I look like. It’s important to reconcile different aspects of your personality: I am outdoorsy and I am intellectual but I’m also into clothes and jewellery and fashion.

I’m still learning about this stuff, so please comment with your tips.

On Feminism, Environmentalism and Fashion.

Oh just look at the amazingness of this coat that I bought today.

I was only walking through the charity shop as a short cut back to the house.

I also bought a jumper and a dress, which I do love by I am most excited about the coat.

But why? As a (relatively) outspoken environmentalist and feminist people I know are always surprised at my excitement over clothes.  I am made to feel guilty about it; I try to keep it hidden.  But for as long as I can remember I have loved looking at the pictures in Vogue, rummaging around second-hand clothes shops, and had a full-to-bursting wardrobe to prove it.  This guilt must end.

Feminists dress in feminine clothing, they enjoy fashion.  And they don’t, we are as varied as you would expect a group of people to be.  All you need is a belief that men and women are equal and should have equal opportunities.  You can even be a man.  Wow.  Pretty obvious you would think, but it’s amazing how much time I seem to spend arguing about this.  You don’t even need to own a pair of Doc Martins.  (But it’s okay if you do).

Now obviously there are issues with the fashion industry, which is not always a feminist friendly place.  Fashion magazines don’t actually do women many favours.  But the fashion industry is not the same thing as clothes or clothes making or creative dressing.  And I do feel as though I am opting out of it by  choosing not to shop on the high street.  But I am also sure that there are lots of feminists who work in fashion.  To suggest otherwise, or that a fashion career in anti-feminist, is a little like claiming that since vegetarians have objections to certain foods and certain farming methods then they should not eat anything at all.

You don’t have to be wearing sackcloth and hemp to care about the environment.  Honestly.  It’s true.  In fact I might be wearing the leopard print coat to Camp for Climate Action.  Over my smartest suit, just to confuse the police.

As a side note, I find that “hippy look” just as pretentious as designer clothing, considering that if people really weren’t trying hard then they would be wearing jeans not long skirts with bits of mirror attached.   Anyway.  That’s irrelevant.  What is relevant is that there isn’t anything intrinsically destructive about clothes, just the way that they are produced.  So recycling (i.e. second had shopping) or freecycling your outfits can easily fit alongside environmental beliefs.

Again, there are obviously a few issues around attaching so much value to material possessions, and this is one of the thinks that I spend a lot of time thinking about.  But clothes are less to do with possessions than self-image and creativity and experimenting with the way in which you present yourself.  I wouldn’t deny anybody this pleasure.  I certainly enjoy putting together “new” (second-hand) outfits.  Can I really call myself a non-consumer when I am so hooked on “new” clothes from charity shops?  I’m still not sure, bit at least I am thinking about it and that has to be something.

Slow Fashion

Identifying what she sees as the problems with ethical fashion in this week’s Observer Magazine, Polly Vernon says ‘Ethical sourcing and production is a lengthy process.  While main fashion rushes on, defining and responding to the will of the catwalk, the street and Agyness Deyn, ethical fashion plods behind it, hoping vaguely that people will want to wear sun dresses in muted shades of sage the year after next.’

Call me naïve, but this strikes me as a problem with fashion rather than ethical sourcing.  The length of time it takes to source the materials for and to create an item of clothing should be the thing that defines the changing window displays on the high street, as opposed to the changing whims of the fashion industry defining how quickly we can create clothes.  Thinking about it logically, fashion should fit in with our human time scales rather than having us running around in a panic, forcing children in Uzbekistan to be taken out of school to pick cotton and women in Bangladesh to work around the clock without so much as a toilet break (or a living wage).   I’m sure if we all clubbed together we can help stop this nonsense.  You don’t really need to be buying new outfits each season, or even every year.  Those stampedes in Topshop just make us all look a little like idiots.  Come on now girls, really.

Stephen Bayley seems to agree, writing in The Times today, ‘Because it depends on the excitation of new desires that will inevitably, as the system demands, be replaced by even newer desires in three months time, fashion is an affront to all notions of sustainability, decorum or good design.  If something is responsibly made, efficient and beautiful, you would neither want nor need to throw it away.’

Talking of slow fashion, this week I finally finished the skirt it’s taken me about three years to make out of second-hand ties.  There is no reason at all why it should have taken me this long, except for laziness, which I suppose is a good a reason as any.