About this time last year I decided not to buy any clothes, not even from charity shops, for a whole year. I tracked back to the date of my last purchase, which was a pair of sandals on 19 August 2013 and pledged there and then that nothing new would be purchased until 19 August 2014.
My original reason for such a rash decision was based on the fact that I had put most of my wardrobe into storage during a major house renovation. As I put away shoes, tops, dresses and skirts I saw things I hadn’t worn or even seen for ages. As the date for retrieving the clothes came nearer I found myself putting together new outfits from my existing wardrobe in my mind. I was excited about seeing my clothes again and thought, “Surely I have enough clothes to last me a year.”
There were other reasons too: I have always been passionate about clothes and textiles. That’s what I studied for my degree back on the 80s when we still made clothes in the UK. I believe that we should treasure our clothes regardless of how much they cost or where they came from. All clothes use raw materials – so even the cheapest cotton top from Primark has occupied farming land at some point in its life. The land could be used to provide food for the local community but cotton is more profitable and so we need to treasure it as valuable. Then there are the people who make our clothes all to often in cramped factories in China, Bangladesh and India. We can’t do much about this situation apart from either buying ethically or ensuring that we don’t take our clothes for granted. They shouldn’t be seen as disposable.
So that’s the politics, how about my year?
Well, it’s been really interesting. At first I felt like a recovering addict. I thought about clothes a lot and lamented not being able to buy new things for my winter wardrobe. This phase was surprisingly short. I then started to feel relieved that I always had something to wear for any event – because it had to come from what I’d got. Even the various Christmas parties were more fun because I didn’t stress over having something new. Instead I took the scissors to a 2 year old Biba dress and shortened the hem by about 4 inches. It suddenly looked more funky and I got lots of nice comments about it. In fact it’s going to be my Christmas dress again this year as I really can’t be bothered to go and shop for a new one, which, to be honest, I may only wear once.
I became more inventive with the way I put things together. New combinations felt like a new outfit.
9 major shopping trips with sisters, daughters and friends were endured but I found these really quite relaxing. I couldn’t buy so there was no pressure to buy. Instead I did research, checking out trends and thinking about what I already had that could be dusted off to look like new. I had some 10 year old burgundy wedges from Jigsaw, for example, that were bang on trend again.
One of my favourite parts of the challenge was altering and making new clothes or bags out of scraps. I made a skirt from the bits left from shortening some curtains and I made a beach bag out of old shirts. I shortened a very serious looking black coat and turned a dress into a skirt. I started to keep all bits of fabric and old clothes. I even bought a special cupboard from a local junk shop to keep all my lovely sewing things in. I call it my haberdashery! I’m still sewing and constantly think about making something from nothing.
Of course I saved lots of money. Some of this was squirrelled away but some of the spare cash was spent on treatments such as Reiki, personal development and fitness courses. I had more money to spend on my children, I had four trips to Amsterdam, to see my daughter Caroline, and I bought her a new washing machine when she moved in with her boyfriend. I could afford a course of treatment for my other daughter, Jo. You can read all about that here – it’s all about how you can recover from Autism.
We often use the phrase ‘retail therapy’ but after my year of abstinence I’m not really sure shopping is therapeutic. I would definitely find sewing or having a back massage better for my soul!
Now the year is up I’m having to restrain myself. It would be easy to buy a year’s worth of clothes in one go. I’ve bought some things that needed replacing like socks, a couple of jumpers and some jeans. And I have found myself obsessing once again. I don’t want the last year to have had no impact on my buying patterns so I’ve given myself a slap!
I’m now thinking about a new challenge where apart from basics like T-shirts and undies I might buy everything second hand. May be see how that goes for 6 months?
Halloween is in only a few days, next thing you know Christmas will be round the corner! This month at Fe-line we’ve hosted #felinehour chats about food, body image, inspiration & motivation. We also announced The Very Festive Fe-line Magazine, which will be a snazzy online magazine and a great way to find out about independent businesses across Oxfordshire. Tomorrow night we’re hosting another Fe-line Drinks event – it’s just a casual meet up and chance for us to all catch up with each other, so come along to the St Aldate’s Tavern from 7pm, Thursday 30 October. Here’s a little round up of what we’ve been loving over the last month at Fe-line:
This month I want to talk about our new acrylic jewellery range at Kinship of Oxford. These gorgeous pieces are designed and made in Bristol by Laura Hunter under her brand name I Love Crafty. Not only are Laura’s designs quirky and fun, but they are of a very high quality, with beautiful finishes and details across the range. I have brought in Laura’s range as part of our Kinship Autumn Winter Circus story which celebrates colour, sparkles, humour and of course a bit of quirky style. If you want to find out more about each piece we stock, hop on over to the Kinship of Oxford website.
My October Paw of Approval goes to the recently opened The Chester pub, tucked away in lovely little nook of East Oxford off the Iffley Road. I went with friends for a drink, which turned into several bottles of wine, dinner and finally being politely asked to leave as the pub closed for the night. The Chester is really bright and spacious, with an uncluttered design and a ma-hoo-sive outdoor area (not really a garden as it’s lacking in grass, but the space will definitely come into its own once winter’s passed). The menu has a couple of classics, like fish and chips or burgers, but is otherwise pretty original with sharing options, stews and a good proportion of veggie dishes too. I’d definitely recommend you go along, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and check out this stylish new OX4 drinking hole soon!
My October Paw of Approval goes to The Costa Sisters, no nothing to do with coffee, these are two videographer sisters, Elena and Sofia who make fantastic beautiful films. I found one of their videos on Gala Darling‘s blog and then went onto their website and lost many hours watching amazing wedding videos. If I had the money I would hire them to follow me around and just make my life into one long visual delight. If my words alone can’t convince you, watch this:
I’ve had a pretty difficult October, Fe-liners. I don’t really want to go into details, but I do want to tell you how amazing, understanding and supportive the rest of Team Fe-line have been. They really have been everything you need people to be when things get tough.
Love & paws,
Experiencing the moment
As you will no doubt have seen, Kate Bush was in the news recently. This caught my eye for various reasons, not least because for her concerts, Before The Dawn, at London’s Hammersmith Apollo – newsworthy in themselves as she’s only toured once and that was back in 1979 – she had asked the audience to refrain from using their phones to film/photograph the show. This wasn’t for the usual copyright reasons, it was because she wanted her fans to experience the show live, rather than watching through the screens of their smart phones.
“We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium. It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iphones, ipads or cameras. I know it’s a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together.”*
Now don’t get me wrong, Fe-liners, I enjoy taking photos on my phone as much as the next girl, but I have to admit Kate Bush has a point here. I’ve often caught myself reaching for my camera or, more recently, my phone when something strikes me as fun or beautiful. I’m so busy trying to capture the moment so I can share it with my friends that it’s very easy to forget to enjoy it myself – I’m sure I can’t be the only one who does this.
In any case, although I was far too late to buy tickets, I was delighted to see Kate Bush performing again and it prompted me to take a look back at her career.
An Amazing Artist
She’s been song writing since she was 11 and by the age of 15 she’d already penned over 100 songs, including The Man With The Child In His Eyes. In 1978, Kate Bush became the first female artist to have a self-penned number one with her debut single, Wuthering Heights. She was just 19 years old.
In her teens Kate trained in dance and mime (one of her teachers being Lindsay Kemp who had worked with David Bowie while he was developing his Ziggy Stardust character) and both have clearly had a huge influence on her work. That is why I’ve used YouTube rather than Spotify to include her music in this post, to get the full Kate Bush effect you need to watch the videos.
What is always so striking about Kate Bush, and almost certainly why she has attained the success she has, is how very different her music and performance style is to everybody else’s. She has always been one for taking her art in whatever direction she felt it ought to go, regardless of how it may be received by the public. Her courage to experiment and push boundaries in this way has not always brought her critical or commercial success, but it has kept her sound interesting and allowed her to move forward. Her 1982 album The Dreaming for example, the first she’d produced herself, was not widely understood and contained a single which failed to even chart; but without the experimentation of The Dreaming, she probably would not have been able to create The Hounds of Love in 1985 which brought her a string of nominations and contained Running Up That Hill, the track that finally brought her to the attention of America.
She doesn’t churn out albums just to please public demand, she waits until she feels that the album is ready and the time is right. I think there’s a valuable lesson there about being who you are and doing what’s right for you rather than being who you think you ought to be and doing what’s right for everybody else. This approach has certainly worked for Kate Bush, alongside her chart success she has a Brit, an Ivor Novello, several Grammys, and received a CBE in the 2013 New Year Honours list.
My Own Memories
There is a very specific time in my life that I associate with Kate Bush’s music; I’m not sure if it was actually the first time I’d heard of her, but it’s certainly the first time I remember hearing her work. Back when we were doing GCSE Art (far longer ago than I care to admit to, Fe-liners!), my best mate and I would sit and sketch things, our soundtrack for said sketching was often Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill, Babooshka, Wuthering Heights; all of these influences were finding their way into my brain and allowing me to chill out and focus on the task at hand (the task that particularly sticks in my memory is sketching an oil burner – don’t know why).
Fe-liners, I am no artist, but that year when we were filling sketch books with studies of random objects, copying painting styles for our final exhibition, and planning what we would be doing for our exam is just filled with happy memories which have all but eclipsed the memories of late nights stressing over my other exams. So the music of Kate Bush will, to me, always take me back to a lovely time spent doing artsy stuff (however poorly) with my best mate (who, I should mention, draws considerably less poorly).
I do now have another lovely Kate Bush associated memory, Fe-liners: the first track I linked to on my first ever #FelineHour was Wuthering Heights.
Wishing art and music to you all,
PS: Since the time of writing, Kate Bush’s shows have finished and she’s put a lovely message on her website which you can check out here.
Since we’ve launched the new Fe-line Book Club I’ve been thinking about what I’ve read lately (or, more like, the lack of books I’ve read!) and I realised that there is one book that has had a big impact on me and particularly my working life over the last year: The Chimp Paradox.
This is a sort of pop-psychology mind-management self-help book – written by the psychiatrist behind the Olympic GB cycling team. As much as I love a good bike ride, the book hasn’t really impacted on my bike and me, but is has transformed the way my colleagues and I communicate.
First read by the Chief Executive of the theatre company I work at, the book has since been passed around all the staff (there aren’t that many of us, to be fair) and revolutionised the way we communicate as a team. The book itself sets out a programme to help you along the route to happiness, and perhaps if we followed it unequivocally we might all be Olympians by now, but whether or not you are setting out to achieve some goals or not, it is as useful book to read as a way of illustrating the way your mind works and how to get the best out of yourself.
To sum it up: every person has a chimp (also known, more scientifically, as the limbic system), and it represents their innermost basic and primal instincts: hunger, fear, territory. The chimp can be irrational and impulsive, it is emotional, it thinks in black and white and it jumps to conclusions. We also have a human (also known, more scientifically, as the frontal lobe) the rational, logical and measured side of our brain. Our human is driven by purpose and the bigger picture, not just day-to-day survival, which is what motivates the chimp.
Although the human sounds a bit more like what we would like to aspire to and be like, the chimp is also a crucial part of who we are: you need both of these components to talk to each other to really function and get the most out of yourself – the aim though is to not let your chimp hijack your human, but for them to work alongside each other.
I now read books and watch TV shows and films whilst thinking about the characters in terms of their chimps and humans. Whether it’s Hannah Horvath in GIRLS or Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, they are both constantly struggling between their chimp and their human – as are our friends, family and colleagues. And once you know how your and other people’s chimps work, you can work better together.
To give you an example: say you get upset because you are not invited to something, even if you have other plans and wouldn’t even be able to make it to whatever you were left out of – that could be your chimp who is upset. If someone continually mispronouncing a word riles you, it is your chimp that cares. Essentially, if you don’t feel in control of your emotions or if you don’t want to feel a certain way, it’s probably your chimp reacting badly to whatever the situation is.
The Chimp Paradox has become so much a part of my day to day that my chimp has a name. He’s called Tim, and he’s pleased to meet you. My colleagues have names for their chimps too. The Chimp Paradox has provided a whole framework of communication for us to work as a team, each of us understand what makes the other tick and how to work to get the best out of each other.
It is quite basic psychology, and if you’ve read your fair share of this kind of stuff then maybe The Chimp Paradox isn’t going to affect you, but it is a good start if you want to have a think about your internal programming, your reactions and desires. The book itself didn’t change me much on a personal level, but having it passed around and shared between colleagues it did change my work place.
Love from Tim &
Most of my recent posts have been about becoming a Mum and what it’s like to be a new Mother. What some of you probably don’t know is that I am also a step Mum and I have a 7 year step son who comes and stays with us every other weekend.
We often hear people saying that they wish that their lives were like a fairy tale and that they want to be whisked off by Prince Charming. But what aren’t very pleasant about fairy tales are the evil step mother.
The step mothers in tales like Cinderella and Snow White are fuelled by jealousy and hatred towards their step child, and they go to extreme lengths to try and get rid of them and cause them harm.
I am very happy to say that my reality of being a step Mum is nothing like this. From the day I met my step son we have had a lovely relationship. One based on mutual respect, we both respect each others relationship with my partner, I don’t try to be his mother, and I am exactly what I want to be to him, a trusted other adult.
There have been difficult times, of course, periods of adjustment, especially during my pregnancy and the birth of his little brother. Having my own child was definitely something that I was worried about, I was worried my step son would be jealous and possibly play up but he has taken to his big brother role like a duck to water. This is mainly because my partner is brilliant, he doesn’t pander to any bad behaviour from my step son and tells him how it is and that honest straight forward attitude means that we all know where we stand.
People’s reactions to me telling them I am a step Mum can sometimes be a little negative, people expect there to be bad blood between me, my step son and my step sons Mother, but to be honest there isn’t. We are all on the same mission, to make my step sons life happy, make sure he is well cared for and make sure he’s loved. I’m not jealous of my partners previous life or that he had my step son with another woman, how can I be? I wasn’t there. Whilst they were having a baby I was off living in Canada, working my way around the world and doing my own thing. I wouldn’t swap that for anything.
So if you meet someone who has a child, don’t write them off, men/woman who already have children, know how to love someone unconditionally, they know how to put others before themselves and they know how to have fun. Also being a step parent is fun and rewarding, children are nice, they are also adaptable and they will accept you into their lives if you give them chocolate, sorry I mean, if you give them love, respect them and most importantly respect their relationship with their parents (both of them).
Love and chocolate, I mean respect,