There's a phrase that my dad has spouted so much throughout my lifetime that it is now etched into my brain: 'big mouths cost lives.' Delivered in a certain context, uttered in Dad's bellowing cockney tones, it's a phrase that carries a great deal of resonance. The negative connotations of drawing too much attention to yourself (or, to put it less tactfully, being a bit of a gobshite) have stuck with me, leaving me feeling mortified whenever I have to talk about myself at great length. My most traumatising childhood memories stem from those terrible 'team building' exercises at the beginning of the school year, wherein you're forced to face your similarly spotty peers and blurt out an 'interesting or unusual' fact about yourself. I'm definitely not alone in feeling this way: being self-deprecating and awkward are inherently British traits.
However, as someone trying to forge a career in writing (go ahead and laugh at my youthful optimism), my aversion to talking about myself has proved to be a struggle. I'm already contradicting myself by writing this blog post but, honestly, I am a private person. I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores of it, but it takes me a while to open up to people. Pouring my heart out on the internet, then, feels jarring. I hate the idea of coming across as some effusive, over-confident gal when, in reality, I lose a lot of sleep worrying about whether my friends/colleagues/family members/pets actually like me. As a freelancer, my course of action when submitting pieces to commissioning editors is very much a case of reading through my work, then re-reading it, then re-reading my re-read and re-reading it again until I am confident that I haven't overexposed myself with too many descriptive adjectives. Sometimes I read my published work and cringe because I feel I've inadvertently presented myself as a dick.
When I first started putting my writing on the internet, I didn't share it at all because – somewhat tragically, in hindsight – I was worried about what people would think of me. I was worried that my friends would laugh at me because, while they were spending their evenings revising for GCSEs, I was avoiding revision by spending time writing about things I'd seen in Vogue. I was worried that my parents, who are scared of technology, would think I was weird for telling a bunch of strangers which dresses and records I wanted to buy with my pocket money. Even now, the thought of certain people reading my self-absorbed streams of consciousness makes me feel uncomfortable.
This fear of being judged is totally human, of course, and certainly not specific to any profession or gender, though being young and female does leave you feeling particularly exposed at times. As The Guardian's huge report on its comments section summarises, "articles written by women attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men, regardless of what the article is about." The report goes on to reveal other glaringly obvious facts, most notably that fashion writers are more likely to receive inappropriate comments on their work than, say, someone writing about sports or politics. As long as the Daily Mail Fashion Finder exists, fashion writing will always be typified by Kardashian wardrobe analysis and pointers on 'How to wear' something (insider tip: just pull it on over your body and, unless it's strapless, it will tend to sit where it's supposed to), and I've learnt the hard way that a lot of people automatically think you are vapid because you like to write about clothes. As Pandora Sykes says, "Just because I can report on the seasonal iterations of a denim hem at length (pun intended) and have a raging Gucci habit and probably, whether or not they get uploaded onto the internet, take a photo of myself/shoes every day, doesn’t mean that I think that there is nothing in this world more important than fashion."
It's not fashion's association with being harebrained that bothers me, though. It's human to assume and presume, and there aren't any points I can make about this issue that haven't already been covered in the hordes of pre-existing essays by inflamed fashion journos who want to be taken seriously. I'm tired of feeling awkward about sharing things on the internet. Sometimes I just want to write a massive blog post about having a crap week but then I realise I just can't, lest someone accuses me of being a self-absorbed, whiney millennial who needs to get a grip and stop sharing the minutiae of her life. Then I write about fashion and let my personal opinions slip into my prose too much and, suddenly, it's all about me, me, me. Again.
One reaction to the cult of oversharing is to simply not participate in it. But when you want to make a career out of being creative and you can't rely on nepotism to give you a leg up, you need to share your work online. You also need to do it with conviction. It's hard, though. When I do find the guts to share my own work on Twitter, I cannot ever bring myself to say, "Please read this piece I wrote! I'm really proud of it." Instead, along with other 20-somethings who want to call themselves writers but are too scared to do so in case they are exposed for their terrible writing, I will post the link along with some spin on the now-ubiquitous "I wrote a thing." By categorising hundreds of carefully interwoven sentences as a mere 'thing' then, if it's crap and if nobody reads it, it doesn't really matter because I didn't care about it anyway. It was just a thing I wrote, guys... nothing to see here!
Imagine how ridiculous it would have seemed if Nora Ephron just 'wrote a thing'. There shouldn't be any shame in writing about things that you're passionate about – be it clothes, food, television, music, romance, sport, animals, education, or just your own silly-yet-glaringly-ordinary anecdotes – no matter how ridiculous other people might perceive them. It sucks to see Lena Dunham so often vilified for writing a brutally honest book about growing up and being female. It's a great shame that Melissa Broder – the writer behind the hugely popular @sosadtoday Twitter account and a book of essays of the same name – has been called out for 'faking' and 'exaggerating' the depression and anxiety that has plagued her since her early teens, all because she had the balls to express herself online and view her own situation with a sense of humour. If you didn't laugh then you'd cry, right?
I'll always love to write because, no matter how terrible and vacuous strangers on the internet might say my writing is, I love the catharsis of it. I can't make small talk to save my life and I'll never be the kind of person who can comfortably, soberly turn up to parties without knowing anyone. I can, however, write quite well about my awkward experiences, and express myself more elegantly – and honestly – through a pen and paper than I can through spoken words. It's difficult being introverted in a world full of extroverts; sometimes you want to scream just for the sake of making yourself heard. Like any art form, writing serves as an indomitable mouthpiece to people who feel they don't have a 'voice' (at least not one of prominence) in the real world. Writing gives me the opportunity to make myself heard, so I will continue to do it. I just have to learn to get past the 'I-wrote-a-thing' mentality. There shouldn't be any shame in doing something you love.
Dolly Alderton published a brilliant piece on growing up and womanhood on Red a few days ago. "There's not just one type of woman you can be," Alderton says, which rings so true in a world of Instagram filters – and filtering in general – that can really skew the average young woman's brain, making her believe she has to fit the same cookie-cutter credentials as the images projected to us by the media.
I say 'media', but the blame can't be placed solely on the naughty press any more. Other 'regular' women now have the ability to (unintentionally) make us feel bad about ourselves online by presenting exaggerated body and beauty ideals. And doesn't it hit us harder when a 'normal' person, rather than a famous person, posts a ~lit~ selfie on the 'gram? Celebrities have personal trainers and heaps of money – we've read enough exposés on celebrity photoshopping, we're not stupid, we already know they're lying to us – but if the pretty girl you go to uni with has a gaping thigh gap, huge tits and a flawless complexion, why can't you look like her, too? I mean, you breathe the same air as each other and everything! But it's important to keep in mind that nobody looks hot 24/7 and, outside the realms of in-jokes and the phenomenon of the Ugly Snapchat Selfie, nobody in their right mind is going to post a picture of themselves make-up free (NB: actually make-up free, not just sans eye make-up) on the internet in an attempt to receive the most modern form of gratification: likes.
It's easy to get caught up in the world of Insta-perfection. I like Instagram, but it's enough of a double-edged sword that I consciously avoid getting sucked into it; 5 minutes in, it tends to makes me feel bad about my mediocre life, face and body. One could argue that Instagram can help girls with their insecurities. Thanks to the power of the Internet, girls can connect with other girls that they can relate to. At its best, Instagram has a great community feel. Friendships and girlie love-ins spark up constantly thanks to Instagram, and perhaps the rush of receiving an Instagram notification is 'sober' Generation Z's answer to taking a hit.
At its worst, Instagram can be terrible for anyone with insecurities. Young women now feel it's OK to upload pictures in their underwear because it 'empowers' them and pushes their feminist beliefs. It's great that you love your body and you have every right to show it off, but whatever happened to being humble? Before I get jumped on by anyone, let me just state that I am a feminist. I believe that every woman, by nature, is a feminist. Why feminism is seen as a trend nowadays is baffling – it's just a simple matter of equal rights, surely? Why would any woman NOT want to be treated equally to men? But if feminism is all about equality, how is posting practically nude pictures on Instagram helping push these equal values?
Last month, Jill Filipovic published an article for Cosmo, titled How Kim Kardashian Killed the Term 'Empowerment', which hit the nail on the head." Dubbing empowerment an "empty word", Filipovic goes on to say the following (this is a long quote, apologies, but she puts it better than I ever could): "Women and girls receive the persistent message that being beautiful, sexy, and happy with your body depends on other people — men, mostly — thinking you're hot. It means being an object of sexual appeal for the visual gratification of others, not a sexual creature in your own right. It means your body is a stand-in for sex (when we say 'sex sells,' what we actually mean is 'women's mostly naked bodies sell things'). Sexualised images of women are everywhere, but the very things that would actually allow women to have sex for pleasure (easy access to contraception and abortion, sex education in which boys and men were taught that female pleasure and orgasm matter as much as their own) remain politically and socially contentious."
I'd understand over-exposed selfies better if slews of men were posting pictures of their crotches. But that's not a thing. Men don't stick topless, post-gym selfies on Instagram with the hashtag #empowered. If my boyfriend threw it into conversation that he felt 'empowered', I'd be confused. Disagree with me all you want, but let's be frank: most of the time a girl uploads a raunchy selfie, they're definitely doing it for the 'gram. They want the comments. They want the attention. They probably genuinely believe that Kim Kardashian is empowering women. Oh, and I class 'raunchy' as any selfie you wouldn't send to your parents or your grandparents – not because I'm a prude, but because if you're so empowered by that picture of you wearing a triangle bra/side-boob-baring swimsuit, why not share it in the family Whatsapp group? Thought not.
I'm writing this mini-essay because I recently heard the sad story of a close friend's 17-year-old younger sister, whose perception of 'perfect' girls on social media has led to mental health problems and crippling insecurities. Furthermore, as someone who has the physique of a prepubescent boy along with pale skin, annoyingly thin hair, a Jewish nose and a fun bout of hormonal acne every month, I've personally experienced how negative social media can be on the female psyche, especially during those delicate teenage years. So this one is for any girls out there who would rather read books, write things, be quiet and blend into the background. And it's one for the girls who want to play with make-up even though they don't look like the girls in the tutorials, and the girls who want to wear the low-cut dress even if they "don't have the boobs" for it. Take heed Dolly's advice, because there really isn't just one type of woman you can be.
I'm not one for trends. Dress me in Breton stripes, black jeans and a camel coat every day for the rest of my life and I will die a happy lady. When I was a fashion student, 99% of my peers started the year making an effort with their clothes before slowly sinking back into a wardrobe comprising entirely white and black, with the occasional 'fun' accessory making an appearance every now and then. I like to think that wearing the same nondescript get-up day in, day out is a kneejerk reaction to having trends shoved down your throat every day. Fashion Month, then, doesn't really make my heart sing. But covering it is part of my job. There are certainly worse jobs than looking at pretty clothes, and London is my favourite of the four fashion capitals.
The only ongoing theme running through Chris and Tammy Kane's work is the slew of rich memories from their council estate upbringing in Glasgow. Every Kane show, then, retains a little bit of that Glaswegian grit and has a slightly unbalanced, gone-off feel to it that forces you to look at the clothes again and again – and then once again for good measure – until you truly realise their brilliance.
Kane's AW16 collection takes us on a trip from staid oversized coats in camel and grey to asymmetric cuts, fluttering ribbon dresses and the kind of smushy florals which, knowing Kane, are deliberately jarring. Simple, clean-cut Céline this is not. While I generally loathe gimmickry and enjoy a good laugh at ridiculous micro-trends, Kane's plastic rain bonnets (designed by Stephen Jones, natch, and tied just-so under the chin) instantly became the latest dumb fashion thing to impress me. The Christopher Kane rain hat falls in the same ilk as the £1100 Louis Vuitton laundry bag and another of Kane's forays into questionable accessories: branded cable ties, which, yes, people are actually wearing on their necks, hair... everywhere. These accessories are so stupid that even people who hate them are going to talk about them. Smart, right?
Speaking of savvy business moves, Kane once again decided to pepper his collection with things that normal people would actually want to wear (and also have a better chance of being able to afford). This time it was the letter K, emblazoned onto beige and black jumpers in a Ye Olde English-style typeface. Until a Christopher Kane perfume hits the shop floor, accessible, easily recognisable, Instagrammable pieces like slogan knits will do a good job of boosting profits and attracting the yoof. Well, when you're backed by one of fashion's most powerful luxury conglomerates and have exciting things like print ad campaigns and a flagship store to fund, you can't just get by selling weird-sexy cocktail dresses and awkwardly proportioned shoes.
I also enjoyed the following shows...
Labels: Show/collection reviews
One of the things I love most about Fashion People is the way they will unabashedly defend some really bad stuff just because it's been sent down a catwalk. The typical go-to lines they like to use include "it's art" (if you don't 'get' it then go off to read Heat Magazine like the uncultured peasant you are!) and "it's so conceptual!" What does conceptual even mean, am I right!?!
I'm not even going to touch on catwalk stunts here because, to be fair to Rick Owens' misfired attempt to glamourise the hell out of 69ing and the humble fireman's carry, fashion shows are all about generating brand awareness. Yes, just to clear that up: contrary to popular opinion, Fashion Week is not about selling clothes. It's about selling dreams. And if you want Fashion People to see your brand as edgy, cool and current, there is no better way to do that than by forcing your models to simulate oral sex on the catwalk.
So, when I refer to Dumb Fashion Things I like, I'm talking about all the slightly weird, largely impractical stuff that fashion editors shove onto the shopping pages of magazines, knowing full well that their readers will lap it up and keep the advertisers happy. Despite being openly cynical about fashion and frequently going through phases of declaring I am 'over' shopping (lol), the fashion industry remains a fascination of mine. There are definitely days when I decide I want to go back to school and try to carve out a career in dermatology, but at the end of the day I don't know what I'd do without fashion in my life. For every part of me that likes slagging off Karl Lagerfeld, there's always going to be a part of me that justifies expensive purchases with the 'cost per wear' theory. Lame but true.
Now please enjoy an insight into my mind by perusing my fashion whims.
You know when you have a massive spot on your forehead and you apply loads of red lipstick in an attempt to draw people's attention away from the spot? I feel like Dion Lee's SS16 face jewellery – or any eccentric 'accessory' on the catwalk in general – is a similar distraction technique, but for hiding boring clothes instead of spots. Regardless, I am a big fan of this look, which basically says, "I am too glam to eat, drink or use my facial muscles." So. FASHION.
I was in two minds about posting this because I really don't understand why Phoebe Philo decided to take mink (ew) and then dye it baby blue when she could have just conjured up some fun faux fur to line these sandals with. In principle, however, these babies have the potential to be the comfiest shoes in the land. I have seen cheaper, faux fur alternatives on offer elsewhere – which I would totally buy , along with all the other ugly things I lust after, if I broke up with my boyfriend (sorry Dan!) – and I am just using this picture because it was Céline's SS13 collection, after all, that sparked the trend for weird trans-seasonal footwear.
Prior to last year, I would never have classed massive costume earrings as a 'dumb fashion thing'. I like wearing them with the most basic of outfits and pretending I'm Edie Sedgwick loafing about her New York apartment on a Sunday. To me, excessive earrings are the epitome of tacky glamour. However, today they make the list because one of my pairs of super-sized ASOS earrings once tore my earlobes a bit and I got some sort of infection from the cheapo metal. I will continue to wear them, though, because what is style without pain?
The Charlotte Simone 'Huggy' is beautiful, a bit daft and pretty impractical, so I fell in love with it immediately. The Huggy is described online as a "versatile snood", so you can obviously wear it around your neck like any other snood, but this one is superbly stretchy and seems to be best worn over the shoulders. This sort of fluffy upper-arm constriction automatically makes the Huggy very chic – like all of the best fashion pieces, it looks cute, makes women feel slightly inhibited and costs £350! ***Adds to mental wishlist***
Labels: DUMB FASHION THINGS
Confession time: I wasn’t one of the cool girls who got on board with faux-furriers TDS when they first set up shop. In fact I hadn’t discovered the brand until around two months ago, but I’m already very much in love. Like all good love affairs, TDS has certainly kept me on my toes. Instead of dangling their wares in front of us 24/7 like most other fashion brands in our ever-connected age, TDS drops a new, limited edition collection on their website every few weeks. And by ‘limited edition’, I mean that each fluffy bomber jacket is a complete one-off. As you might have guessed, these jackets sell out very quickly – think Balmain x H&M, but on a smaller scale, with nicer clothes – which means that, if you are lucky enough to grab one online, your TDS jacket feels very much like your baby (well, you basically fought for it after all) and you want to take it everywhere.
I receive compliments whenever I wear my TDS ‘Toya‘ bomber (see above for pics. Please excuse my use of my phone’s grainy selfie cam – I have laryngitis at the moment so am doing a lot of hanging out in the house on my own as I physically cannot speak). As someone whose style is very minimal, putting on my layer of faux fur cosiness every morning makes me feel like the Cool Fashion Girl I’ll never be.
I spoke to Lettie Pattinson – one half of TDS’ mother-daughter design duo – about fun fur, social media strategies and the enduring appeal of bomber jackets.