Return of CSSB!

We’re back, after a short break FUELLED with feminist reading and writing (with a side order of feeling under the weather).

One of the things I read during my break was a fabulous book called Vagenda – written based on this fantastic online magazine by Holly and Rhiannon. I adored reading this book, because it touched on some of the things I’ve been discussing during the Sunday Rants about the evils of the fashion industry and how it tries  to undermine and bankrupt us ladies as a consumer base. They have said all of the things I’ve been thinking and writing and much more besides, and you should all go read it. Now. Go on. Homework time. Chop chop!

As a result of realising that we are far from alone in this, CSSB now has a brand new page: Recommended Reading. As I read things which influence how I think about and write this blog, I will link them up here and please – if you see anything that should be in the list, send it my way using the contact form on the page!

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

CSSB: What Women’s Magazines Want From You

Sometimes, I’m thinking of a post, and then suddenly I see a picture that is truly worth a thousand words.

Pinched from @gayle_andrews on twitter

@gayle_andrews

@gayle_andrews

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CSSB: Body Positivity – Unicorns Vs Rhinos

I can’t decide whether this image is in support of the body positivity ideals or making fun of it.

It does get one thing right though.

Unicorns don’t exist.

If you’re holding up a unicorn as the representative of the fashion industry ideals, you got it absolutely spot on. The Unicorn DOES NOT EXIST. That perfect image that the fashion industry are trying to sell you? Trying to make you strive for? Trying to make you chase? It’s not real. It doesn’t exist. It’s manipulated and altered and changed and tweaked until there is absolutely nothing genuine left in it. This industry is pushing women into chasing a mythical ideal. It is impossible to become a Unicorn. They do not exist. You’re much better of being a Rhino. A real life, genuine, impressive and awesome creature who does not give a damn about whether her bum looks big in this skin or what the other females at the waterhole think of her.

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

CSSB: Mr Shandy Says So Again!

 

After the success of his first posting, which was the most viewed post for a while on CSSB, it would seem rude not to ask Mr Shandy to continue his awesome entries for the Mid Week Man’s View. So it’s time for Mr Shandy to say so. All over again.

Ok kids. Time for Mr Shandy to tell you a story. So is everyone sitting comfortably?

Marvellous.

So, in case you were wondering, I consider myself an incredibly lucky man. There are many reasons for this but one of the main reasons is that I managed to ensnare Mrs Shandy. I am not sure how I manage this, she insists that it’s because I’m essentially a good guy and because I know how to cook. I maintain that it must be that hypnotism class that I took.

Mrs Shandy is obviously a beautiful woman and I will defend that opinion against all comers but every so often, just occasionally, something will happen that will just drive that point home to me in a way that just knocks me senseless. Most of those circumstances aren’t really relevant in this particular arena, but there is one circumstance that is particularly important because of what I want to talk about today.

It was relatively early in our still growing relationship. It wasn’t the first night that we’d spent together but it was certainly one of the first few times that we had shared a double bed. So picture the scene, waking up the morning after the night before, blinking furiously at the sunlight coming in through the window and trying to track down the relevant memories that will tell you why you’re staring at a strange ceiling. You go through the various panicked responses of checking that you have all four limbs, your head (sometimes a negative in these circumstances depending on how much you drank the night before) and your genitalia (It’s a man thing). Deciding that all of these things are fine and in their correct positions (don’t ask), the next stage is to look for clues.

Please understand that this process normally happens fairly quickly in the panic of dawning consciousness.

Then I turned over and there was Mrs Shandy and it was like having an affectionate and loving hammer hit me between the eyes.

She wore no make-up, no fancy hair-do. She had some bed-clothes on but there was no designer label on them. No hand-bag or shoes. In fact she lay there asleep with her hair in disarray and her arms thrown akimbo in the sleep of someone who is used to sleeping alone.

She looked amazing.

Ok, for those of you that are female I will just wait a few minutes while you go off and make that noise that only women can make, normally when seeing small furry animals or someone else’s children.

Then few more moments for you to show these words to the man in your life and say something like “why can’t you be like that?”

The secret is that he is, he just doesn’t like saying it aloud.

But I’ll wait here while you do that.

Take your time.

.

.
Back?

Good.

So what was the point of that?

The point of that story was that a woman is already beautiful and to point out that you don’t need all that crap that so many people insist on smearing all over their faces or submitting their poor innocent skin to.

I’m talking about too much badly applied make-up and tanning in its variety of forms.

I’m going to talk about tanning first of all.

First of all sun beds.

I once worked with a lady who was obsessed with her tan. In fact I’ve worked with several ladies that have been obsessed with their tan, or rather obsessed with their utter lack of tan. But the lady that I’m thinking of took it to a completely different level.

She was a nice looking girl, pleasant to talk to. Good looking if not particularly attractive to me in the way that you can look at a wonderful painting, appreciate that it’s a wonderful painting but not want to hang it in your living room.

One day she came back from her lunch and was sat at her desk and she was fidgeting, obviously uncomfortable and I asked her what the problem was. It turned out that she had spent a little bit too long on the sunbed that lunch time and had accidentally burnt herself.

“But,” says I in my male ignorance. “Don’t those places have rules about how many times you’re allowed to visit each week and how long you’re allowed to spend on the bed at any one time?”

“Well, yeah,” she said looking embarrassed.

Sensing more to the story I moved in for the kill,

“So what’s going on?”

“Well, It’s not getting the job done fast enough, so I actually go to two different sunbed places so that I can ignore those rules and go six times a week rather than the three times a week that each will let me,”

I was horrified.

“Aren’t you worried about little things like, Oh I dunno, SKIN CANCER??”

I bellowed, somewhat embarrassingly,

“Nah, besides I need to get a tan so I look good.”

I swear that I didn’t make that up.

However sun-beds aren’t as bad as the other great evil perpetuated against a lady’s skin tone, that being spray on tan.

Just for the record. I’ve never not been able to tell when someone’s wearing fake tan. It looks disgusting, as though the lady in question is wearing gravy. For all I know they are. Cheap gravy at that.

It looks horrible, in no way attractive and is downright repulsive.

Taking things to their logical conclusion. You and I are getting hot and heavy in the club, we’re both hot and a little sweaty after all the kissy-face and snuggling and whatever else you kids are calling it nowadays. I go to the bathroom to relieve myself of all the beer and tequila that I’ve drunk, look in the mirror and realise that I’m now wearing your fake tan.

Let alone if I take you home and the stuff gets smeared all over me, my sheets and shower.

God, even the thought of it makes me want to puke.

Here’s the thing. Different women have different skin tones. Some times women can have pale, almost translucent skin, and that can be very attractive. Other women can have darker, olive skin tones and that can be just as attractive. Nature made you that way for a reason, enjoy it.

I can guess why women do this leading into summer as well though. Starting in spring, department stores, sun-bed shops. All kinds of places put up the shots for their spring and summer collections and every single one of them, without exception, show these bronzed, beautiful, airbrushed models showing off their fabulous skin tones, that for all I know are airbrushed as well. So clearly this is what you must look like to be beautiful and so you do your best to get into that kind of shape to reflect that.

It’s simply not the case. Your skin looks at it’s best at its natural shade.

Trust me on this.

I also want to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about make-up.

Now, I’ll be the first person to admit that I know Jack and Shit about make-up. As far as I’m aware these strange things emerge from women’s hand-bags, powders and creams and such-like and then for all I know, MAGIC happens and then the woman looks exactly the same while at the same time looking that little bit more beautiful than she did before. For some reason this takes an immense amount of time and the only way I can understand it is likening it to the way that knights would prepare themselves for battle, strapping each piece of armour to their bodies before carefully moving on to the next piece of armour and so on. This coupled with the fact that some women describe this as “putting their war-paint on” makes the comparison fitting.

I know nothing about make-up.

However, I do know what it looks like when it’s done badly.

I call it a toffee hammer face.

For those people not knowing what this means, a toffee hammer is a tiny little hammer, maybe the same size as a small kitchen knife used to break up the sheets of toffee in old-fashioned English toffee shops. You lightly tap the surface of the toffee and then it shatters into pieces.
These girls have so much make-up on that it looks like they’re wearing a mask of porcelain that if I walked up to it with my toffee hammer and tapped her on the cheek then the entire mask would just shatter.

This is not attractive.

I’m always worried that if I looked at the girl in question after she’s laughed then I will see the wrinkle marks where the make-up has rolled up in the corners.

Which is why they don’t change their expression.

Ever.

Who would want to date a girl who never laughs?

Not me,

Remember that list I talked about last week, the top list of sexy attributes and I mentioned confidence.

Remember what the other one was.

I thought so.

That’s enough for this talk/rant, but I understand that Mrs Shandy tags these posts, “because Mr Shandy says so,”

I can now only follow that up with.

“And that’s the bottom line.”

 

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

CSSB: shock not chic – inappropriate fashion shoots

http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2014/apr/14/inappropriate-fashion-shoots-violence-racism-poverty?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Now… I know I have written some good Sunday Rants.

BUT I take my hat off to this one!

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

CSSB: Mr Shandy Says So

I have great delight in introducing to you a brand new type of post today. The Mid Week Man’s View.

As inaugural guest writer, I am beyond delighted to introduce my husband, Mr Shandy, who is the first person I turn to as a fount of common sense when I get myself tied in fashion and style knots. He’s also a talented and committed writer in his own right, and I look forward to including his posts here as and when he has the ideas for them.

Why am I including a men’s point of view? Because the fashion industry sells us things we don’t need under the promise that if we use them, we will attract men and if we don’t – we will repulse them. I could take apart these myths myself – and have taken a good stab at doing so for some of them – but sometimes it’s good to hear from the supposed target audience for these endeavors and see what they thing!

So without further ado – here it is. Mr Shandy says so.

One of the occasional problems of living with Mrs Shandy, other than the cats trying to jump on my crotch with their claws extended and the extreme danger of coming home to discover that she’s in the middle of watching some kind of girly movie that makes me honestly worried that I might turn into a full blown woman, is that she will occasionally suggest, ever so sweetly, that she would find it extremely helpful for me to write her a post for her blog.

Hello, Mr Shandy here. You may have guessed.

Unfortunately, I have several problems when it comes to writing a style blog post in that my sense of personal style is laughable at best. When confronted with this, Mrs Shandy very kindly suggested that my sense of personal style is much better than I give myself credit for (notice how she butters me up) and that I always have something to say on the matters of feminine appearance.

“But why would your readers give a hoot about what I think about what makes a woman attractive or not?” I asked one day when she was being particularly insistent.

“Well, because you’re a man and therefore you are, by definition, a different viewpoint.”

I didn’t really have an argument to that point so here I am.

So I suppose that in order to put these comments into context I should tell you a little bit about myself and where I’m coming from.

I am a straight man in his early thirties who likes his clothes comfortable, preferably clean and relatively hard wearing. I own numerous plain t-shirts, several pairs of jeans and jumpers that are chosen for warmth rather than any pretense of style. I own two suits, one good one for important occasions (tellingly bought for me by Mrs Shandy) and an older cheaper one, made from the remains of several other suits, that I wear on those rare occasions where my job requires it.

I own three pairs of shoes. One set of boots for general day to day use, a pair of shoes for those formal occasions that I mentioned and a pair of trainers for those horrible moments where it becomes necessary to do some exercise. My coat was chosen on the basis that it keeps me warm and dry. I am overweight (Mrs Shandy would object if I described myself as fat) and very, very bald, which limits my hairstyle choices to comb-over, pony-tail or buzzcut. I chose buzzcut.

So what do I find attractive in a woman?

Well women are naturally attractive as a whole, so I find this difficult to define.

No really.

Once, while on a quiet day in work my colleagues were talking about their ideal physical type for a partner. Various female members of staff argued for muscles, cuddlyness, bum, arms tall, short etc. The men debated the benefits of breasts, legs and bums (men tend to have less imagination than women when it comes to these kinds of debates). I hadn’t joined in the debate and eventually my boss turned to me and asked me whether I was a leg or a breast man. After first checking that we weren’t talking about chicken, I declared that I was a woman man, I like the entire package.

In my time I have been attracted to tall girls, short girls, large ladies and skinny waifs. I’ve liked long hair and short hair in the entire spectrum of colours, and I honestly cannot answer when someone asks me “What’s your type, Mr Shandy?” because as far as I can tell, I don’t have one. Women are graceful, delicate, smooth, warm, soft and just generally awesome from the tips of their toes all the way up to their fully stretched out hands.

But it never ceases to amaze and amuse me the lengths that they will go to in order to appear attractive.

The rules seem complex and bewildering to me. Why that pair of shoes is better than this pair of shoes? What is the exact skin tone that is most desirable? What is the perfect hairstyle? How much flesh should be flashed? DOES MY BUM LOOK BIG IN THIS?

I find the shoes thing particularly strange. I was once cornered at work by two women who were arguing over a pair of shoes. I swear I’m not making this up. The two women were debating which pair of shoes one of them should take back. What seems to have happened is that one of the women had gone out shopping, having decided to treat themselves to a new pair of shoes on their lunch-break in an effort to lift their failing mood. But on the way back from the shop with one pair of shoes in her bag she was walking past another shop where there was a sale on. I understand that something genetic happened and she blacked out (her description, not mine). The next thing she knew she was she was inside the second shop and buying a second pair of shoes because, and I quote “I needed to get them in case someone else got there first.”

The problem was that she could only afford one of the two pairs and so she had to take one of them back to get the refund. (It also seems to me that clothes shops have a different set of criteria for giving refunds but that’s a completely different question.)

The woman in question hadn’t got the response she wanted out of her friend and colleague and so she turned to me and in a loud voice asked that question that drives fear into men’s hearts all over the world.

“WELLLL?” she demanded.

“Well what?” I responded, looking for the nearest exit.

“What do you think?”

I peered at her for a minute, honestly perplexed, “What do I think of what?”

“The shoes man, the shoes.” She turned back to her friend and rolled her eyes.

“Ummm, what about them?” I was wondering if I could get to the fire alarm before either of the women noticed.

“What do you think of them? Now be honest.”

From a deep and primal part of my brain I gasped out three words.

“I.. don’t… care,” I shut my eyes, preparing myself for the horrible end as the two women eviscerated me. Instead with a muttered curse of “men” they stalked off. But the truth is, I really don’t. I couldn’t care less about brand names for clothes. I couldn’t give a damn about make-up brands or hair-styles or exactly what kind of fake tan the celebrities are wearing this year. I could give a crap about how expensive the jewelry is or who’s advertising it. I like what I like and if it adorns a beautiful woman who I love, then that makes it even better.

So what do I find attractive? What looks good on a woman?

Anything. Anything can look good on a woman, absolutely anything.

I mean it, I’m not teasing you or mocking you. Remember my earlier comment that women as a whole are beautiful…?

There are two conditions to that statement though, and they work hand in hand, although they are probably not what you think they are.

The first is that you feel comfortable in the clothes in question.

There are several very obvious examples of this. The first one that springs to my mind is this….

ahem

GOOSE BUMPS ARE NOT ATTRACTIVE.

It is now many years since I had the money and the energy to go out clubbing but when driving through any town centre in the middle of winter I still see this: girls wearing far too little, shivering their way from one club to the next. They get to the club, have enough time for a drink before they move on, their teeth chattering way. I’m sorry but the only drink that I would be enticed to buy you if I saw you in that state would be a hot chocolate, complete with the taxi fare for the journey home.

Wearing shoes that you aren’t comfortable in is almost as ridiculous. If the heel is too high, or the shoe is too narrow or too tight or whatever, you will end up walking with a limp and by that point, I’m not admiring you or even looking at your shoes, because you will either be forced to take them off and carry them or you will end up wearing yourself out and then need carrying home.

Wearing clothes that are too tight. Do I really need to go through this one?

Ok, as you insist.

Women come in different shapes and sizes. This is a fact and leads to wondrous variety within the females of our species. Some sizes or shapes of clothing are simply not suitable for a particular body shape. Wearing something that is not a suitable shape creates the illusion that you are too fat, often fatter than you actually are and this is quite the opposite of being attractive, in that I for one would run away screaming.

I re-emphasise that I have nothing against larger ladies. Indeed, I have been known to bemoan the lack of ample sized women in the world today (Mrs Shandy has just supplied me with a new word “plumptious” that describes what I’m talking about rather well). However, forcing yourself into clothing that is several sizes too small for you is simply not going to work in your favour.

The shape aspect is valid. I recently went out for dinner with Mrs Shandy and some friends where we saw a girl who was on the slimmer side of the scale, but she was wearing trousers that were meant for someone other than her.  Just because you are size x and the clothing rail says size x doesn’t necessarily mean that the clothing will fit you correctly.

This leads me onto my next thing that makes a lady attractive.

In every list of things that people find attractive that I’ve ever read (and I’ve read many in the doctor’s surgery and on public transport), up there with a sense of humour, every single time, the most common thing that people find attractive is confidence.

Every

Single

Time.

Because if you don’t have the confidence to carry off your outfit then it won’t look good. If you’re too busy worrying about what people will think, about whether it fits right, or about whether or not someone else is wearing a better brand of skirt, I guarantee that you don’t look good.

My suggestion is not to care about these things.

Trust me on this.

If you decide that you don’t care what other people think, if you simply wear what you’ve chosen to wear and damn what other people think, then I promise you that it won’t be them that people will remember about the party. The girl who was wearing the trousers that didn’t fit? The ladies wearing the clothes that are a size too small? The girls shivering in their club wear in the middle of winter? They all know that their outfits don’t work for them. That lack of confidence is fatal to any outfit.

I was once privileged to see something at a Ceilidh dance. A lot of people had got themselves all dressed up to the nines, male and female. People were drinking and chatting and the band started playing. The poor band leader had a terrible job trying to get these overly self-conscious people up to dance in some way that wasn’t hidden by disco lighting, fake smoke and lots of other people.

Then as I watched as a group of people got up to dance. They stood up, finished their drinks and started to dance. They laughed, they shouted and yes, they fell over and looked a little silly, but then they got back up, their dresses and suits in disarray, giggling at themselves, at each other and most of all at the people who were watching them with disapproval and more than a little envy on their faces.

As I watched, the first few dances finished and the group broke up for a rest. Some went to the toilet, some went to get another drink and still more sat down to get their breath back before getting up for another dance.

I will leave it to your imaginations as to which group had the most attention from members of the opposite sex. Was it the people who didn’t want to dance because it might muck up their appearance? No, it was those people who knew they looked fabulous anyway.

Confidence. If you know that your jewelry looks nice on you. If you like your own hairstyle and colours and know that your clothing suits you and not some super-model that you are trying to emulate, then I swear that you look fantastic.

There are many more things that I could say but I think I’ve written enough for now.

So to summarize.

On those rare occasions that Mrs Shandy asks me that most dreaded of questions “Well, what do you think?” I always tell her that if she’s comfortable and confident in it, then it’s perfect.

Now she’s probably going to get me to write a sequel.

Sigh.

He’s right you know. I am going to get him to write a sequel. And I want to hear from more men too! Get in touch and let me showcase your pearls of common sense in the Mid Week Man’s View!

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

CSSB: ‘Flaws are Ok’

So the lovely Becky sent me a link to this article today:

http://www.glamour.com/beauty/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2014/03/stressed-about-your-skin-lorde.html

A lovely young lady called Lorde called attention to the photo-shopping of her skin to remove acne marks.

Lorde

The caption: “i find this curious – two photos from today, one edited so my skin is perfect and one real. remember flaws are ok :-)”

Now I need to go find out who Lorde is. Searches online Oh right that’s who she is.  Fair enough. I’m not really into celebrity culture, but I am all for a young woman in a visual industry who is willing to tell people that ‘flaws are ok’ and point out when she has been photo-shopped to within an inch of credibility. Especially when she draws the line between ‘perfect’ and ‘real’. That sort of honest is commendable.

So far, no rant worth material.

Right up until you spot this below the article:

cellulite

 

Do you know what Cellulite actually is? It’s dimpled flesh. Usually found around your legs and hips. It’s caused by fat deposits under the skin which occur after puberty is over.

A whole industry has sprung up around this natural bodily occurrence, offering ways for women to remove Cellulite from their bodies. However, not one of them has been scientifically proven to work.  Not the treatments, not the removals, not the exercises, not the special drugs or supplements or vitamins. None of it.

Why do they want to convince you that you can remove this cellulite?

Because they say that it looks bad.

And you know what the greatest con of all is?

Cellulite is normal. And not harmful. It does not actually need to be removed.

An entire industry has sprung up convincing women that they should take expensive action (that doesn’t work) to remove and reduce parts of their body (which are completely normal and not harmful at all) just because they say that it doesn’t look very nice.

And this website has the audacity to put an advert for this underneath an article apparently praising a young celebrity woman for maintaining that ‘flaws are ok’ and highlighting how ridiculous it is that photographs of her have been manipulated to remove naturally occurring marks from her skin.

The double standard strikes again. Look, look! It’s ok to be normal. But we’re going to thrust this advert under your nose to remind you that we don’t think it’s acceptable for you to look ‘real’ and instead you must strive towards the fake standard of ‘perfect’, by means which are expensive, unreliable and unnecessary.

Urgh…

Oh and by the way… The best way to prevent cellulite occurring include wearing looser fitting clothing, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise and avoidance of stress. So it’s not hard to see why celebrities who work long hours, eat at weird times, don’t get enough nutrition due to enforced diets and spend most of their time squeezed into tight clothing are amongst those who are the most likely to develop it.

Can I suggest that you start reducing your stress by stopping reading any fashion industry articles which claim that you should be removing cellulite? Just an idea.

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

CSSB: The Evils Of Photoshop

It’s probably become obvious by now that I don’t really like fashion magazines.

More than anything I don’t like the way that they alter the pictures of already beautiful women in order to further exaggerate the impossible ideals of western beauty that our society keep chasing.

I’d like to give some examples of how they do this and why it sickens me.

For my example, I am going to talk about Katy Perry.

Isn’t she just gorgeous??

Well, I think so. But this isn’t good enough for the fashion industry ideals. And unfortunately, those ideals have not just infected the fashion industry but EVERY industry. Including music, film, television, anything that revolves around image and trying to sell an ideal to people. Watch this show, watch this movie, listen to this music, BUY THESE PRODUCTS AND YOU WILL BE CLOSER TO HAVING THIS LIFE.

Now, Katy Perry was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine a little while ago. Rolling Stone has a heck of a reputation as a music industry powerhouse, their articles and reviews are respected and listened to. But even they have fallen for the fashion industry ideas of beauty distortion.

This was the original shot of Katy that was taken for the cover.

Now, to me..? She already looks delicious. Beautiful figure, dark hair, huge eyes, and the set up of the shot are all gorgeous. Leaving aside any feminist comments about the set up catering to the male gaze and objectifying women, it is an aesthetically pleasing image of a beautiful young woman. A little on the thin side perhaps, but with hips and a bust and flesh on her body. Her ribs aren’t showing and she doesn’t look emaciated or unhealthy.

Not beautiful enough for the cover of Rolling Stone though sadly.

Photoshop to the rescue and lets look at what they’ve done.

  • Her skin tone has been lightened

  • The light and shade have been adjusted to make her arms look thinner

  • They have taken some of the wrinkles out of her stomach and made it shinier

  • They have enhanced the size and width of her bust

  • They have taken wrinkles out of her bra to make her bust look even fuller

  • Wrinkles from her underpants have been removed to make her hips look smaller

Think I’m exaggerating? Take a look at the comparison for yourself

Before and After

The animated gif which flicks between the two shows things even more clearly:

Shocking isn’t it…

I will never not have a problem with the visual industries using Photoshop to do this. Katy Perry was gorgeous just the way she was in the original photo. I would bet good money that her diet is controlled, her exercise regime is controlled, her style and clothing choices are controlled, her hairstyles and makeup are controlled and her general image is overseen by experts on a permanent basis, to make sure that she looks as gorgeous as humanly possible all the time. This woman makes her living, ostensibly, by singing. Her looks shouldn’t be important in the first place. But this society has made them so.

And that still isn’t good enough.

They still have to raise the bar to the impossible. Even for Rolling Stone magazine.

Tell me again which part of this is acceptable. Because if any of it is, I simply don’t see it.

 

*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*

CSSB: Kids with fashion taste?

Ooooh! Oooh! Look! It’s one of my favourite article types. Fresh from the Femail pages of the Daily Mail:

Naomi Watts

 

I resent giving the Daily Fail the link for the page views so I’ve just screen shot the article instead.

It’s one of those ‘Oh look, she’s so pretty, she’s so glamorous – we’ll show you how to look the same for less!’ articles. And dutifully they have found copies of the shoes, bag, bracelet, dress, lipstick and necklace.

The cost for the copies, the cheap version of the outfit, comes to £507.80

Oh, ONLY £507.80??? Let me at the stores right now for an outfit costing that much – said no fiscally responsible woman on an average budget EVER.

There’s one other little gem that I want to share from this article though. And it’s a quote about the luscious Naomi and her choice of dress, which she wore to the Oscars this year.

Naomi Watts dazzled on the red carpet of the Oscars in a white, floor-length Calvin Klein number picked out for her by her two sons.

I’m assuming anyone who reads this nonsense has the faintest clue how old Naomi Watts’ sons are, but I didn’t so I had to go look it up and Wiki didn’t disappoint. Born in 2007 and 2008, the little darlings are 7 and 6 years old.

The Daily Mail wrote a grand total of two lines about Naomi’s choice of dress. Why that fact? Why that sentence? Why focus on the fact that her children chose her outfit? It seems such an innocuous little bit of information, but it’s a very busy little sentence doing some subtle and destructive undermining of self esteem in its readers. Let me take you through it bit by bit.

1) It’s a reminder that Naomi Watts manages a career like this, and a social life like this and goes to parties like this looking like THIS all while bringing up two children under the age of 10. Wow. So anyone struggling to manage 20 hours a week at work, doing the tesco run, getting the kids to beavers and making a dinner for a family suddenly feels like one hell of a disorganised mess next to this gorgeous blonde superwoman. Yes, here you are, another reminder that you are not perfect, your life is not perfect and the way you look certainly isn’t perfect. This is perfect – and this is not you.

2) I’ve been shopping with kids. And I’ve attempted to get ready for parties in the same houses as kids. And neither has been a pleasant experience, and I’m not even a parent! I have yet to find a child of that age who can give an unforced opinion on what anyone else other than themselves should wear and their own choices are often dubious (I’ve seen at least one Spiderman at a wedding and at least one Fairy Princess on a day out at a muddy farm yard, both wearing those grins of deep satisfaction that only come from a long won victory in a war of attrition with a parental figure who doesn’t give a damn any more so long as they are wearing clothes.) The fact that Naomi has two kids who apparently care about what she wears and can stand still long enough to make a decision for her and agree with each other on the matter also makes her look like super-mum. Another kick to the average woman’s self esteem.

3) Not only that, but a 6 and 7 year old managed to pick out a dress as beautiful and flawless as that. What did you wear to your last office party again? Oh yes, right it was that disaster of a red dress which wasn’t the right shape for your bum and those black tights with the ladder up the thigh right? Oh dear. Well, at least Naomi Watts’ children have better taste than you facepalm Feel that self esteem sinking lower and lower down the ladder. It’ll be on the floor with your worn out shoes soon.

Now, call me a cynic, but don’t try to tell me for one second that a selection of dresses and matching accouterments hadn’t already been selected and laid out by a personal assistant, stylist, manager or agent in advance. Yet somehow that doesn’t get a mention. The image created by just those few choice words is that somewhere in an immaculate house, two happy and rosy little boys spent an entire afternoon watching their beautiful Mummy flounce through her dress choices in her bedroom, offering cute little opinions and settling on the White Calvin Klein before heading downstairs for milk and biscuits.

The image created is cute, and sweet, and awww worthy. But I doubt that the image is anything like what actually happened. In all likelihood they both picked the white one having shared a glance which, unknown to the parent/assistant, clearly said ‘If we pick the same one we can get out of here, go eat ice cream and get dirty in the park, and Mummy seems to like that one…’

I don’t object to the image. What I don’t like about the Daily Mail’s selected fact choices are the fact that they make other people feel like their own lives, families and clothes are lesser things. And the cynic in me does wonder if they are chosen deliberately for that reason. Because fanfare don’t worry! There’s a cure for that sinking feeling in your boots and stomach! See, we’ve found these lookalike items JUST LIKE what Naomi was wearing and they only cost just over £500 for the whole outfit…

slow clap Well done Daily Mail. Well done. Maximum destruction in minimum wordage dressed up to look like a cute story.

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CSSB: Looking Bridal

It feels a bit like the run up to Wedding season at the moment. Wedding fayres are everywhere, my sister Ms Moo seems to spend every other weekend at them advertising her services and the radio is full of adverts for wedding services.

I got married last September after two years of planning. And it dismays me to see how much other people spend on their wedding day under the illusion that they need to do so.

I occasionally watch ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’. It’s a guilty pleasure. And I watched a lot of it during my wedding preparation, as much so that I would know what NOT to do, rather than what to do. For those who haven’t seen the programme, a bride and bridegroom to be are separated for three weeks and the groom is given £12,000 to plan the wedding. Everything from the venue to the celebration to the dresses, cake and entertainment. The only thing he can’t do is tell the Bride.

£12,000 is roughly two and a half times what our budget for the wedding was. Including our honeymoon. People ask how I did it. Particularly how I managed the way I looked. So I figured there might be a post in that idea for any brides-to-be who are planning their own big days. So here are my top tips on how to look your best without bankrupting yourself in the process for the sake of one special day and one big party.

1: Invest in a good photographer

What’s going to last, apart from your memories, after the day is over? (Apart from your marriage, natch!) Photos. Wherever you are making economies, do not make this one of them. You will need a good photographer. If you want to look your best forever in everyone’s memories of your wedding, including yours, then you will need them. I hired a professional photographer, but I was very lucky to already know the fabulous Miss Rain, who runs Luna Photography, as my sister’s business partner. Miss Rain was spectacular – pleasant, discrete, thorough, friendly, approachable, professional and – above all – willing to listen to what we actually wanted without pressuring us.

If you’d like to see her work, here’s an example:

All together now... Awwwww.!

All together now…
Awwwww.!

 

2: Don’t think you have to go to a wedding dress shop to find THE DRESS

I love my wedding dress. I loved wearing it, I loved the way it looked on the day and how it looks in all of Miss Rain’s delicious photographs.

It cost considerably less than £200 and was made to measure to my exact specifications, with alterations for the colour of the lining and the trim. My dress had no corset, I could dance, drink and dine without feeling like I was about to burst out of my clothing. And yet I still felt like a wonderfully elegant Bride.

When you are thinking about your wedding dress, make sure that you do your homework. Look at the photos online before you go anywhere near a sales-woman’s patter.  And do this ALONE. Make sure you get what you want, what suits you personally both in terms of style and personality.

It might be that your perfect wedding dress is not what you would think of as a stereotypical wedding dress. There was one design that was really popular when I started looking:

We've all seen this  sort of dress in the magazines, right?

We’ve all seen this sort of dress in the magazines, right?

Bare shoulders, low back, corseted, long train, figure hugging…

I could not look good in a dress like this if I tried. I am not thin, blonde, shaped like this or able to function without eating and breathing. So I decided to go look elsewhere. I didn’t go into a single wedding dress shop, because the dresses in the window all looked like this. And if that was the best they had to offer, I didn’t want it.

If you feel the same, I highly recommend looking for small businesses who will make your dress as YOU want it, not talk you into a dress you didn’t really want. I found my dress designer on Etsy, after spotting her shop on Ebay. My bridesmaid’s dresses were made by the delicious Boo Boo Kitty Couture. And they cost less the be made-to-measure for the girls than it would have cost to hire them from a high street boutique.

Team Bride - with added ice creams!

Team Bride – with added ice creams!

3: If you can stretch to a makeup artist – DO!

Yes, we can do our own makeup. We do it every day. But this is not every day, and it is the day when everyone will be looking at your face. This is the day when it is better to have the best of quality makeup rather than the stuff we put up with and have to nip to the loo several times to replenish during the day at work or the night out. You won’t have time to do it, you won’t think to do it, and the last thing you want is bleeding lipstick, smudged mascara or flaky skin as you get hot, dry and busy during the day.

I did have a makeup artist in the form of my sister. She was generous enough to do the makeup as my wedding present, but honestly – I would have found the money for her if she had anything else in mind. All of us looked amazing, all day. No shine, no smudges, no rogue colours clashing. No smears, no flakes. I looked just as fresh at the end of the day as I did when I started out in the morning.

I could have bought the products myself, but that would have cost a fortune in and of itself, and I only needed it for one day. Also I wouldn’t have had a clue how to put it on properly. And that is more than half the battle.

4: Once you’ve found one thing you like, ask the place where you got it for other suggestions. And ask everyone you know for recommendations. You don’t have to take them. But there might be some good gems in among them!

My dress designer recommended the person who made my tiara.

My sister recommended Miss Rain and Boo Boo Kitty Couture.

My mother-in-law found someone she knew to make The Cake. My own mum made the Other Cake.

One of my oldest friends drove me to the wedding and the reception.

My bridesmaid’s sister designed our invitations.

My husband’s colleague was in a band, who played the reception and allowed us to have complete control over the set list.

One of the things that made our day work was that all of our ‘suppliers’ – many of whom were friends – worked together as a team and were aware of what each other was doing. We paid the people who provided services for them (or they were provided as wedding gifts in lieu of us having a gift list). But we knew exactly what we were getting, and because of that it was tailored down to size rather than us having to up our budget to get the elements we wanted.

5: Look for small suppliers

My floral hoop, the corsages and the decorations were not made by a flower shop, or a professional florist. They were put together by an ethical gardener, from Pixee Garden Maintenance. Why? Well, because she knew exactly what sort of plants and trees would be in bloom and in flower at that time of the year and she had access to organic, affordable and fresh material.

When you pay a florist, you’re paying for someone to put natural products together in a fake way in order for them to look natural. If you want flowers, you can just have flowers. If you know what sort of look you want, you might want to think about putting it together yourself. The flowers are for one day, your bouquet will be the centre of attention for all of one hour, tops.

6: Consider comfort and practicality over style when it comes to your feet.

Here’s an idea. Your dress will, 99 times out of 100, be a long dress if you want a traditional wedding dress. So your feet will be covered. Hence – why are you forcing your feet into delicate little high heels which will hurt like holy fuck by the time you are wedded?

My shoes were from Shoezone. They cost £5, they were flat slip ons. They were comfortable, elegant, suitable for one day’s wear. Good for dancing, good for walking.

Far better than something like this, which was the first image that came up when I searched for wedding shoes:

Oooooh lordy!

Oooooh lordy!

Walking down the isle? I’d have been walking into A&E in those!

7: Go with what you know for what people won’t see

Continuing a similar theme – how much does the average bride spend on her underwear?

Too much. That’s how much. Yes there’s something sexy about wearing nice underwear under your wedding gown and knowing that your husband (HUSBAND!) is the only person who’s going to see it, but that’s no reason why your bank account needs to hurt. Some of the sets I looked at were as much as £70 (!) which was half the cost of my dress…

Having swallowed my pride, along with my notions, I took myself off to Matalan.

Less than £20 later, I had new tights, a matching bra and pants and a new silky slip. Everything a bride could need. They were new, fresh, pretty, with bows and little ribbon bits, trimmings of lacy material and – most importantly – I knew that the Matalan brand sizes would be exactly right for my shape and size. I didn’t spend the day tugging at my waistband, pinching my waist, fidgeting with bra straps or feeling like I was being manhandled out of shape by my own clothing.

8: Second hand is good enough for accessories.

I spent a long evening trawling through the Ebay listings for handbags. I got through 129 pages with 50 items on each page, before I found what I wanted. A wee bag in cream with a flower and leaf design. It cost £5.

The fact that someone else had used it before me did nothing to detract from its suitability for the job. It looked just as beautiful with my dress and the rest of my outfit.

IN SUMMARY

When you’re a bride, the last thing you want is to spend the day itself feeling fake, artificial, uncomfortable and uncertain about anything to do with your clothing. Unfortunately this seems to be what’s required now and an entire industry has sprung up perpetuating this high cost version of the fashion industry myth that looking good is expensive.

I had a wonderful wedding day. My makeup looked great. My dress was what I wanted. My bridesmaids looked amazing. My decorations were gorgeous. The photographs were, and still are, amazing and something I will treasure forever.

SpikeKate28-09-13-367

I did not need to spend a fortune to achieve any of this. And neither do you. You just need to think a little bit outside the box.

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