Woo hoo! There’s a chill in the air (occasionally) and the September issues have been bought and consumed. I am ready to move forward and experience new coat joy. And what joy is in store!
Not only is the coat pink trend from last year carrying through into this season – confirmed by none other than Elle’s Lorraine Candy - but I managed to snap one up for a mere £14 from Matalan. OK, I bought it in July and it was a complete punt, but still, a coat for £14? I think that’s an epic win in anyone’s book.
This is most definitely a fun coat for me, as in all likelihood I won’t be able to wear it in a few months (or even next week, judging by the current pregnancy appetite) but also because it is so trendy, being pink n’all. Having said that, it does some rather snappy detailing.
The collarless shape and zip fastening help to streamline the coat so it doesn’t appear too fussy. Adding a blunt shoe, like the Birkenstocks I’m sporting or another ugly-style sandal, will help to de-girlify the coat if sugary isn’t your bag.
Clearly, I’m in casual mode here but I’m looking forward to the first real nip in the weather so I can sling this on with some tailored black trousers and a brogue. A statement handbag, such as a fabulous structured handbag, would complete the look rather nicely thank you very much.
Flick through the A/W 14 Next Directory and you’ll find awesome, editorial-esque images providing plenty of new season inspiration.
Who doesn’t want a hi-low trainer with smart coat ensemble?
A tousled pony tail with a wear-with-everything shirt?
To be able to look like Anja Rubik in a slouchy knit, pencil skirt and metallic flats? No one!
But flick a page or two and Next majorly loses the plot.
Had the stylist had an embolism at the point at which the outfit with the grey skirt had to be constructed?
And would you believe that culottes are actually bang on trend for next season after the frankly ridonc blouse and high heel combo?
This is the problem with a store like Next: it tries to appease so many women that it routinely lets down all of them. I have many stylish things from there, not least a pair of leopard print slip-on trainers and some slim-leg cuff trousers. I couldn’t live without either but when I go into their stores I’m left cold.
So much comes down to the edit of stock in individual stores, which is why I’m willing to forgive the various branches near me. But the directory? C’mon Next, you have some awesome stock and you ruin it constantly with weird, never-been-fashionable-and-never-will pairings. And you have Joan Smalls, Anja Rubik and Jessica Hart modelling for you. Jeez.
P.S. Have you seen the array of awesome flats they have ready for next season? Yummy. I think the oxblood patent brogue is calling out to me.
Earlier this year, Elle UK was tackling feminism and the idea that it needs to be rebranded. To be totally fair to them, this has been a very open debate, over a number of issues, and I have been impressed with the quality of the discourse and the intelligence with which Elle has engaged with the subject. Elle UK is my favourite magazine aimed at women in this country as I happen to really enjoy the writing, and I find a lot of the fashion and style quite accessible. But it is still a fashion magazine, and while I give it props for even opening the debate up (or, in fact, acknowledging feminism at all), I did balk at the idea of rebranding feminism. But feminism has a number of image issues, and that’s undeniable.
I think that when we talk about the waves of feminism, that that can be the actual point when someone with a vague interest in equality and potentially in identifying as a feminist, feels crushed beneath the weight of ‘academic feminism’ and leaves the whole debate. Of course we need to discuss what feminism means, both personally and on a global scale, and there is huge value to academic debate. But as with any subject, and this more than most, feminism can feel inaccessible and opaque, and if you throw in the various class issues that feminism has, and its traditional exclusion of transgender women and women of colour (buzzword: intersectionality!), a woman can be faced with a concept that feels so deeply entrenched in the mire of humourlessness and worthiness and stereotypes of being robust and potentially hairy that they give up. And if they are a person of colour or working class, they probably gave up a long time ago. Making feminism relevant is essential. As much as I have some quite serious issues with the pseudo-feminism of Caitlin Moran, she and others like her have opened up a debate and a conversation about feminism, womanhood, and what it means to be a feminist. It turns out, just like any other principle or belief system, feminism is what you make it…
So why do I mention the many waves of feminism when I’m clearly going to be talking about clothes? It is so very easy to view feminism- or any radical movement like it- through the eyes of women who can have things like jobs, or the choice under the law of whether to have sex with the man they happen to be married to. Essentially, it’s easy to view feminism through the eyes of those who are already benefitting from it. And modern feminism does have a lot of problems, and some of these wonderful, spirited women who had the conversations and shouted loudly about concepts most people had not ever thought of before, had some opinions that don’t sit well with a lot of modern feminists. We should stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow women, not judge them for their clothing, their failure to be perfect feminists, their genitalia. It’s not too hard for me to see why feminists thirty and forty years ago dismissed the struggles of transgender women, and why some still do. You were born men, haven’t you had all the chances already? But feminism, if it is about one thing, is about equality: we do not win our battles by forcing others down. You are a woman if you know you are a woman! Up to a quarter of people subjected to domestic violence are men and talking about that doesn’t sit well with many feminists, I’m sure. Two women a week are killed in this country by their partner or ex-partner, and a WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ mentality is tiresome and unhelpful. But if we truly value equality, there has to be room around the table for everyone; the conversations are just too important to be exclusive. Gender is about more than just genitalia and some problems affect us all.
So of course there have been waves of feminism; with any movement you sketch out your best guess and it evolves. Previous versions will not be perfect. However, my aim when I started tapping away was not to write about intersectionality or the evolution of feminism. Others can do that much better than I. It was to mention these things in relation to the choices that we are now entitled as women to make, and hallelujah for that. I made no resolutions this new year but I am trying to snark at other women-people in general, really- a bit less. And oh how I have loved to judge a woman who wears leggings as trousers! Lo, that dress is not for the likes of you madam, you resemble a trollop! It’s exquisite. And fantastically bad for the soul, and for other women. It’s wonderful, comforting, lazy thinking that requires no critical thought, no interrogation of your own views and assumptions, and it’s often just a little bit classist, for me at any rate. There’s no spiritual nourishment in verbalising your criticism of another woman’s appearance or behaviour, just a vague realisation that my own self-esteem must be in need of a top-up because secure people don’t need to judge others, not like that. I know that there isn’t anything positive in recognising that someone’s podge is showing in their t-shirt, even if tight does look cheap and I will never not think so. It’s your choice to wear that t-shirt.
But if there is a word in feminism in the last five years that needs examining, it is ‘choice’. Respecting other women’s choices: good. Invoking choice as the excuse, reason, justification for acting any way that you want to: not cool. Do what you want, if you must, but don’t cloak it in feminism. A great xojane.com article from 2011 had this to say:
This got me thinking about the phenomenon of “choice feminism,” where women argue that even anti-feminist behaviors are feminist because “feminism is about choice.” If you choose to be on a Hot Chicks Tumblr — or if you decide after the fact that, having been put on a Hot Chicks Tumblr without your knowledge, you will choose to be okay with it — that means the Tumblr isn’t misogynistic, because anything you as a woman choose to do is feminist. In fact, the real misogynist is the feminist who’s trying to tell you that being a Hot Chick isn’t okay.
Choice feminism gets one thing right: You should be able to make the choices that are right for you. And yes, of course that should include the choice to be ogled by strangers, or have your body used as a recruitment poster to bait guys into caring about important causes. Where choice feminism falls down, though, is in assuming that any of those things are actual choices right now.
We don’t live in a vacuum. And this is where I finally get to fashion! In a world where women are constantly- I repeat constantly- bombarded by all the ways they aren’t good enough, aren’t thin enough, oops-not-too-thin-boys-don’t-like-that enough, how can fashion be anything except the brilliant capitalist embodiment of all of that pressure and preoccupation with appearance? And it’s a concept I’ve struggled with, definitely. I recently attended a talk entitled ‘Can fashion and feminism ever be friends?’ where Sali Hughes and Polly Vernon made some excellent sense: fashion is not the same as the fashion industry. We will always create trends, and new ways of dressing ourselves, and we can do these things joyfully without ever buying Vogue. But we can do that too, if we like. If you swap the word ‘fashion’ for ‘style’ it immediately becomes something more personal, an expression of who we are, in our outer appearance. Our appearance is important, but not because we should fit in to some sort of pre-determined category. It’s important because it’s another form of self-expression, a way to represent who we are, be creative, feel good, as much or as little as we want to.
And just as don’t live in a patriarchy-free bubble, we also have rules within which to operate, never more clearly for me than in the world of work. It is fair to say that, with the odd exception, my eight years in the City were marked by black bootcut trousers and an array of very bright- what some cruel people might call garish- tops. If it had a big pattern it had Loz written all over it and if I mention, casually, that there was a big New Look across the road from my office, perhaps the true horror of all I have just described will wash over you like some sort of sewage overflow. At this point in my life I am cultivating a delusion of Scandinavian style; boxy silhouettes, pared-down design, structural shapes. This is not least because I have a) grown up a bit; b) lost a wee bit of weight (to be discussed, no doubt at length, another time); and c) got a job that allows me to exhale. I can be Laura so I don’t have to scream “I’M LOZ AND I HAVE A PERSONALITY UNDER HERE” with a floral monstrosity and a cardi. And in those barren, polyester-tinged times, I was both operating within a strict set of corporate principles and trying to subvert them at every opportunity. Except at client meetings when I’d wear a skirt suit, so you see I was capable of occasional bouts of ‘appropriateness’.
I now have a job in the third sector and there is zero dress-code in our office, if you exclude the fact that working in an un-insulated box regularly dictates your sartorial choices. The freedom is wonderful. And so when it comes to needing to get dressed up for conferences and events, it makes a nice change and I’m happy to go smart, albeit with a twist. And the people I meet at these conferences rarely tire of reminding me that my seven small tattoos can often be that twist: these are some very conservative people. So you see, as a feminist and a person, I enjoy clothes and the versatility of dressing, and I don’t now feel that these are at odds with my principles. Most of the time….
It’s probably fair to say that I’m not great with money. Oh my, yes, I do realise that this doesn’t make me a unique snowflake, or even remotely unusual. When I earned less I was disciplined and wrote everything down, but then as I continued to work in the City and my salary grew, I just seemed to spend up to it. I was no Wolf of Wall Street, this was a life assurance company, so my ‘spending up to it’ was nipping to New Look of a lunchtime and Pret sandwiches. Oh and loads of wine, obviously: nights out definitely did for me.
I loved my team, and I was passionate about managing people, mentoring them and seeing them poached by other teams. And I’ll probably explore why I was so unutterably miserable in my old job in another post, and that’ll be delightful, but suffice it to say that the last year and a half I spent in the City was Not Good, and I definitely indulged in retail therapy to stave off the misery. Which worked a treat! Ha. So when I moved to the charity sector, I had a lot of baggage (and weight) to shed, and while I can barely recognise that person any more – she was a very sad Loz – I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I ‘deserve’ treats, that payday is for nice bits, and that when I have an event or an occasion, an ASOS bargain can and should be just around the corner. I’ve used clothes to cheer myself up and it’s been wonderful, but I don’t need to do that any more and it’s time to take back control.
It’s not hard to imagine that I have accumulated quite a few items of clothing. And while I’m not buying compulsively and stuffing bags under the bed in Channel 5 documentary-style, I don’t need anything. So I’m not buying any clothes until I get paid again in a month’s time, as of yesterday, and when I put it into words that sounds like the stupidest statement because really, who can’t go four bleeding weeks without purchasing a bloody piece of clothing? Well here are the three things that are going to challenge my resolve:
Exhibit a: Skirts. Lovely swirly skirts.
I can’t do skirts terribly well- I’m too tall for them to sit where they need to most of the time, and I feel like my tummy gets in the way of the line sometimes. I have a large-ish arse, which is thankfully quite high but prominent nonetheless, so skirts that flare from the waist – be they A-line or pleated – do nothing for me. I can pencil skirt at a push but that’s with the help of a system of levers and pulleys I don’t even want to think about. There’s more engineering to me in a skirt than the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
But! But. I’m seeing a few of these bad boys around and they’re nodding to a structural, covetably Scandinavian look. Like this H&M crinkle skirt that Kathry has already ordered: black, not too flared, with pockets, and a bargain. Ladylike? Yes. Vans-style skater shoes and sweatshirt (as spotted by Kathry on this blog)? Don’t mind if I do. And ASOS have a lovely fresh, minty collection of skirts they’re currently hawking about, in some neoprene-style fabrics, which to my mind keep everything looking contemporary.
Exhibit b: Super-skinny jeans with a 34” in-seam
This is my current go-to item, and the thing I’m most likely to let the N-word (need) slip when thinking about it. I live and die in super-skinny jeans. When I look at my figure, and squint, I can see that I probably have what someone might generously call an athletic frame under this layer of winter warmth, evidenced by slim limbs, small boobs, and not much curve to me except for the aforementioned derriere. So cladding my stupid legs in very tight jeans and going a little looser on top to hide the tum is a good call for me, especially as other cuts of jean (with the exception of a traditional skinny) can drown or add weight to my legs. And since the boy bought me the magnificent Nike Air Max 90s for Christmas and I’m wearing them to get my steps up every day, I feel that super-skinny jeans keep me from looking too casual/frumpy.
I like acid wash (these Topshop beauts have been worn almost to death) but these ASOS lovelies with a bit of fading and a little rip would be ace for casual and smart, and would look cute with the Nikes, biker boots, flip-flops in the summer, and flats for spring.
Exhibit c: all the sweatshirts
Sweatshirts and jumpers are a slightly new concept to me. I have a pathological hatred for the plain, V-neck jumpers worn with black bootcut trousers that I used to see all the time in the City, and I have often wondered why I would bother buying jumpers when I can wear the things I actually like all year round with a cardigan. Except that they never look quite right, and cardigans seem to fall off my shoulders, and I feel much the same about a black cardigan as I do a V-neck jumper… But this year’s seen a whole host of structured, heavier sweatshirts that I love, and find enjoyably practical without feeling like I’ve compromised completely on style. This plum ASOS sweatshirt with quilting at the shoulder –another item nicked off Kathry, who bought it in the khaki –is a bargain in the sale at £14 but I really, really love this Just Female sweat.
The contrast quilting, and the Danish pedigree, make it a hottie for me, and the structure of it makes the piece acceptable for an evening, maybe even with one of those lovely pastel skirts… It would also go with ultra-skinny jeans but that is of course beside the point.
Right now, I feel strong and righteous and good, and this little bit of window shopping has sated the beast within. Still want a skirt that looks like an ice cream though.