Thursday, 28 January 2016

2015 Style Manifesto / 2016 Style Goals

This post is inspired by a fantastic blogger, Sary at The Walrus Room; I'm smushing questions from two of her posts into one. A little while ago, Sary posted a round-up of her favourite outfits from 2015, and she asked, "How do you feel about your style this year? What does it say about you?" And in her first post of the New Year, she asks about our style goals for 2016.

So firstly, what was my style in 2015?
Probably the best word to sum up my style last year would be 'confused'. I spent most of 2014 tossing around concepts to see what worked for me, ending with a kind of wannabe-fashiony minimalist look early in 2015. I was aiming for a sort of Parisienne-chic look and just ended up feeling a bit boring and board-meeting-ish. From there I segued into a folksy boho style for a little bit (bralettes ahoy!), but I felt that led to me focusing far too much on how I looked on Instagram and whatever. Trying hard to be trend-aware never works well for me, to be honest.

This led to me stepping back from worrying about style and embracing my nerdy roots. With a side-order of feminism and body positivity, this actually worked really well for me. By putting my interests first I was able to build some kind of a personal style from the ground up. It's not groundbreaking, seeing as it consists largely of graphic tees and jeans, but it works for me. By the end of summer, I felt like I had a style I was really happy with and a wardrobe I could actually enjoy.

Some of my 2015 faves. That one orange T-shirt gets about. It's a men's tee I got for 94p in a charity shop like two years ago.

2015 Style Manifesto

  • Grab clean-smelling tee and jeans off floor
  • Throw on accessories and probably too much perfume
  • Converse and combat boots with everything
  • What is a hairbrush?
  • Cardigans!

How do I feel about my style that year?
Amused, I guess. I'm pleased that I found a comfortable 'style' that works for me, but it does make me smile to see that I've essentially reverted to a slightly more foul-mouthed, more tattooed version of my ten-year-old self. I'm glad I remembered I never set out to 'be stylish'; it helped me reset back to just having fun and enjoying myself. Accepting myself first and moving forward from there has helped me feel more confident and compare myself less to others.

The only things that niggle me somewhat are that I basically lived in jeans for the entire year - I have loads of skirts and dresses but I don't often wear them - and that I'm such a basic bitch, but to be honest at the moment I value practicality and comfort (warmth! ease of movement!) most highly.

What does it say about me?
Haha, depends who you ask! I hope it says that I'm comfortable, a bit bookish, don't obsess about my appearance, have a sense of humour, and like things that are a little bit different. I wear my Star Wars and Batman shirts a lot so that's a pretty good clue as to some of my interests!

What are my style goals for 2016?
I'd like to add a bit of edge to my look; changing my hairstyle for a more alternative colour was the first step (upgrading from nerd to nerdpunk?). I want to add more DIY elements, maybe just some pins and patches. And as mentioned, get out of my jeans from time to time!

It's about time for another clear-out - I've noticed that there's a few things in my wardrobe again that I'm not wearing, mostly harder-to-style pieces, tops that don't fit quite right, and a few impulse buys from Topshop that make me feel a bit try-hard.

I'd also like to buy less from chain stores, mostly for budget reasons and also because I've noticed that, with a few exceptions, the things I buy from Topshop, New Look et al are the things I wear least. Most of my regular staples are from Etsy or other sites like RedBubble and Society6, or from charity shops.

Some of my inspirations for the year ahead are: Jerina Laaksonen, megababe artist Mab Graves, and Sherri DuPree Bemis.

Listening to: RU Mine - Arctic Monkeys

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Do You Have To Dress Alternative To Be Alternative?

I'm not sure how to approach this topic... my thoughts are all in a jumble, and I'm not entirely convinced that I can untangle them enough to address this post in any kind of sensible way. But this is something I've been mulling over in my mind for a while - a year or so, I guess - so I'm going to give it a try.

Being 'alternative' has been a big part of my life for a very long time. As a kid I felt different - whether I was not accepted by the majority of my peers because I felt myself to be different, or whether they noticed I was a bit weird before I did... it became, in my mind, very clear that there was an Us (weirdos, boffs, freaks and geeks) and a Them (you know. The Popular Kids).

The Us and Them thing became an important factor in my life. In my teens, the 'Us' was me and my partner (in our respective guises as a burgeoning mallgoth and a long-haired metalhead) and our friends (a fluctuating assortment of nerds, baby punks, metalheads and other oddballs) and the 'Them' were the local chavs (or townies as we called them then), who hassled us in one way or another on a regular basis. Instead of being a badge of shame, being one of Us, being different from the tracksuited morons we regularly came into contact with, became a mark of pride.

Instead of being unaccepted because I was a bit odd and liked reading, I had decided for myself that I didn't need Them to accept me. Being alternative, to me, meant that I was glad not to be one of Them, and my dress sense, music taste and preferred activities were not only no longer something to feel self-conscious about or to hide (as I had felt in my pre-teen years, trying hard to fit in), but now actively making me something separate.

This mindset continued throughout my teens and into my early twenties. I adopted 'being alternative' as part of my identity, and enjoyed deliberately dressing in a way that marked me out as 'somebody different'. I wanted people to know that I wasn't being force-fed mainstream pop culture; that I had found my own interests and sense of identity outside of mass marketing and the everyday. At times I felt quite militant about it - I wasn't above making snide remarks about 'mundanes'.

When I branched out from Goth into what I now think of as the Flailing Years, careering from one potential subculture to another, and failed to find another scene that felt like it 'fit' me, for a while I became disillusioned with the alternative scenes in general. The things that irritated me in the mainstream (elitism, bullying, body shame etc) were still rife in the alt scenes, at least locally, and I wanted a break from it.

So first I tried 'being normal' for a while, blending in. It was fun at first, I guess because it was new and different, but not only was building a new, would-be-trendy identity hard on my bank balance, it wasn't great for my self-esteem either. I felt like I was being put into competition with other women. Whether this was actually the case, or whether it just seemed to me like younger, trendier, cooler girls with better eyebrows were smirking at my wannabe ass I really don't know, but it seemed that way. I felt like I had back in late primary and early secondary school, when I was always two steps behind the trends and rushing to keep up, to impress the Popular Kids (or at least dissuade them from setting my hair on fire with a Bunsen burner). It reminded me why I chose to remove myself from that whole situation by striking out into 'the alternative' in the first place.
Little Miss Normal! I don't have many pictures of me in more recent years; when I stopped blogging I stopped taking outfit photos. This is me (in Paris) circa 2013, just after I cut off my dreadlocks.
And for comparison, me in 2010.
As regular readers will know, I started again from the ground up - reminding myself what my actual interests and favourite things were, and constructing my identity around that, rather than starting with a fashion style or a 'look' and then exploring the related subculture. At first, during this process, I didn't really think of myself as alternative or otherwise. My interests being largely book- and media-related, I got quite interested in 'nerd culture'; fandoms, cons and so forth. I rekindled my interest in feminism and what it meant to me. I was also reminded of my roots in the alternative scenes and I am now starting to take another look at what had previously interested me in Goth, punk and other related subcultures. (I don't want to immerse myself again into a single subculture, but I did enjoy being a little more visually creative than just jeans and T-shirts. I want more DIY elements in my style, and funkier hair. My Pinterest board for my personal style is here, for the curious.)

However, my forays into the mainstream and back again made me re-think my Us and Them mentality. The friends I remain closest to are a mixed bunch; none of them fashion followers, predominantly self-described nerds, one or two Goths. Whilst the majority of them do not dress in a particularly alternative way, they each have an individual style (which, I might add, seems to have evolved by accident rather than obsessive use of Pinterest) and like things which are a bit different. This got me thinking that being 'alternative' is more than having a sidecut and a pair of cool boots. It's more about a different way of thinking, of looking at things, of accepting one's passions, whether trendy or otherwise. Of not just doing what is dictated to you.

Now that I write this out, it seems fairly obvious. Fashion isn't the be-all and end-all of any subculture. But it took looking 'normal' to show me that sometimes the people that are most 'alternative' and unconventional are not the ones who look it. Simply put, I feel like a shit for occasionally assuming that people who weren't as spooky as me were automatically 'less alternative'. So, I suppose, what I'm asking is:

  • what is being 'alternative' to you?
  • why do some of us want to mark ourselves out as being other than the norm? Because it's fun to be weird? Because the mainstream is oppressive? Because we have special snowflake syndrome? All of the above?
  • can you look 'normal' and still be alternative? (Are some of 'Them', 'Us' in disguise?)
  • is blindly following trends in the alternative scenes really any different than following mainstream trends? (DO people blindly follow alternative trends? I have such mixed feelings on this - I don't know if there's a definite answer. I mean, if that was the case for somebody, you're choosing to look different, which I think is always great, but you might still be getting dressed in the mornings according to what somebody else higher up the fashion food chain thinks is cool, rather than expressing something that's uniquely you. Or shaming people who aren't as kewl and different as you. Are some of 'Us', 'Them' in disguise?)
Would love to get some other people's thoughts on this! I'm hoping we can get a discussion going. I don't suppose there is a solid and definite answer to what does or doesn't make a person alternative, but I'm interested to know what you guys think about it. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

Inspiration Station: 18/1/16

Time for another round-up!

Of course, at the time I was beginning to compile this post, the big news just hitting social media was the death of David Bowie, aged 69. Bowie was a true legend, a household name for almost all of us; the Starman will be very much missed. (My personal favourite Bowie persona was his role as Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth, which I rewatched this week for the 8574th time (roughly).)

Another icon who left this month was the amazing Alan Rickman, aka Professor Snape. Honestly, January, I have no words... what are you doing to us?! :'(

Articles I've Enjoyed

The Emotional Stages of Finding Your Personal Style
Oh, how I know these feels. To the best of my ability to tell, I think I'm there now - or mostly there! - and yes, I did go through all of these stages. Some helpful tips and advice here too.

This White Feminist Loved Her Dreadlocks - Here's Why She Cut Them Off
An interesting, thought-provoking read.

The biggest threat to feminism? It's not just the patriarchy
I also found this discussion of 'choice feminism' an intriguing read, speaking as someone who does invest more weight than I probably should in the decision of, say, how much make-up to wear on a given day.

The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter
A paradox: I suffer in the cold, but the top places on my travel wishlist are mostly in the Arctic Circle. I am fascinated with the far north. I enjoyed this article not just for its practical tips for cold morsels like me, but for its glimpses into Norwegian culture.

21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You're Depressed
The best one of these lists that I've ever come across. I hope some of you will find this useful.


Recommended Reading

  • I'm getting back into Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series and I forgot how much I enjoy them. 
  • The Body Sacred by Dianne Sylvan. Body concerns can often rise to the forefront in the new year, and whilst this book might not be for everyone - it's primarily aimed at Pagan cis women - I did find it helpful and would recommend it for other women struggling with body image.


Listening To

  • You, Me and the Bourgeoisie by The Submarines
  • What Baby Wants by Alice Cooper (featuring Ke$ha as the devil!)
  • Lost Boys by The 69 Eyes
  • The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen


Lusting Over



Geeking Out

New Star Wars, obvs. Haven't been to see it yet; tickets have been sold out in my area since the get-go. However my boyfriend thinks he knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who can get us tickets so hopefully soooon! In the meantime I get to play spoiler-dodging, which hasn't been easy. :-/
Deadpool movie! Coming in February! Could not possibly be more excited. Hoping I have better luck with Deadpool tickets than we did for Star Wars. :-/
One of my most amazing recent charity shop finds has been the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. I got the deck and companion book for less than £3 and I can't express how gorgeous it is. It's an absolute pleasure to work with such a beautifully illustrated deck. Does this count as geekery?
My fave, Guillermo del Toro, announced a new film in development, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I love del Toro's films so very, very much, although I'm pretty sure he is the reason I sleep with a light on.


Style: Icons and Current Ponderings

  • I love the style of the artist Mab Graves. I follow her on Instagram and as well as being insanely talented, she always looks pretty much perfect.
  • Veronica Varlow is fabulous as always. So excited about her upcoming Tarot book!
  • I am head-over-heels for Sary's style from 2014
I've started on new hairstyle progress! Typical - I spent two years growing my hair, only to cut it all off again. What can I say - the girl can't help it! Also it's been so long since I had long hair that I discovered I now find it immensely annoying. It tickles my neck, it's forever in my mouth, and it's not as flattering on me (I don't think) as shorter styles. I was ready for a change.


My Month
L-R: Herbs, candles and other witchy goodness that came in the post (mostly from here), fungus growing on the old apple tree stump in my garden, new hair, old hair (I take too many selfies, so sue me), going-out make-up that I was quite pleased with, reminiscing about good times with my girls Bronwyn (left - a proud new mama as of this week!) and Kate.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Silver-Haired Freak

Two posts in one week? What the waaaht? Well, I'm a little over-excited! Because, new hair!
Before...
After!
(Yes, I am wearing the same outfit in photos taken a week apart. I wear this T-shirt a LOT.)
I have been excited about my hair appointment since before Christmas, and I'm delighted to have finally got there! I feel so much more like myself. This was done by my incredibly patient hairdresser and good friend Dani and took six - SIX - hours. A bleach bath, a full head of foil highlights and a fresh cut and blow-dry. Bless that woman, not least because this is only part one of my restyle - I have to wait a fortnight between bleachings, but it's going even lighter, and Dani is going to put a colour on for me as well. Currently I have a very light ash blonde with a silver/violet toner.
But I love it! I spent ages growing my hair out and I really liked my ombre balayage, but this style feels so much more like me! Back to the scruffy pixie creature I secretly am ;)

Edited to add a bunch more low-quality phone photos, because I'm a vain bastard:
Half-girl half-goblin
I have such a strange nose!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Wish-I-Wasn't-Broke-List

Woke up this morning from a dream that I was buying myself a Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt from a punk shop in Camden, which segued nicely into the thought: "Oh, I should replace my lovely tartan trousers. They were so comfy and warm. And they did good service. I wonder if I can still get them from the same place." Then I woke up a little bit more and remembered I have NO spare cash just now. The Birthday Season is coming (several of my closest friends and my boyfriend one after the other, and then what will be - with any luck! - our twelfth anniversary in May) and I've got very few shifts at work in these quiet wintry months.

So I thought I'd better write a list of the things I *ahem* need to treat myself to, if and when things are a little more lucrative.
Wish-I-Wasn't-Broke-List

From the top:
1. New tartan trousers. Not quite the same as these; my favourites are the fuzzy old-school ones from Tiger of London. My last pair were worn right out until they finally ripped quite spendidly up the arse in the middle of my workplace. :-/

2. Willow-pattern Doc Martens. I want the eight-hole boots not these shoe things. Every time I have enough money they're out of stock in my size!

3. Striped skinny jeans.

4. Cat jumper.

5. Hobbit Hole scented candle.

6. You Shall Not Pass knickers. I have been after these for a while but the postage makes me cringe.

7. Giant floral knickers. I love my big 50s-style knicks.

8. Hobbit jumper.

9. TokyoMilk Dark body souffle.

10. 'OK, But First Coffee' T-shirt.

11. More witchy books!

12. I love these platform boots but I have absolutely no clue where to find them. Sadness.

13. A new hair colour.

14. A new black eyeshadow. Goodness only know where mine has gone.

15. Perfume from For Strange Women. I can't decide which one I want most!

16. Another alt perfume, because I can't get enough.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

TILT: Post-Festive Season Edition

Hello everyone! Hope you have been having a good 2016 so far. I'm excited to be posting the first TILT of the new year!

Here are some recent things that made me smile, laugh or just feel something:

  • a neighbour's chubby grey cat that likes to come into our porch and sit with me on the doorstep while I have my first cup of tea of the day. 
  • having my first ever driving lessons with my dad. It's a nice thing to do on a wintry Sunday morning. I used to be really nervous about driving but late in the year I suddenly thought, "I can do this now," and applied for my provisional license. I've only had three lessons and I'm not going to be in Formula One any time soon, but I've roughly got the hang of stop and go. Kind of. I'm really enjoying it, anyway.
  • my Christmas gifts! I hate to brag but I was really spoiled this year. I got some great films, some DVD box sets (I don't watch much TV on a day-to-day basis but I am a total box set junkie; I love to marathon-watch things), a great quantity of books (aw yiss), some perfume (Angel by Thierry Mugler), a beautiful personalised notebook, embossed with 'Amy's Ideas' (from my partner Dan), goodies from Lush, LOADS of chocolate, Star Wars merch, comics (my dad got me Rat Queens!), Amazon vouchers, Cards Against Humanity (YES), scented candles (I love joss sticks, candles, anything like that), cute socks, raspberry vodka and much more besides! The only downside is that it's hard to convince myself I should probably study when I have books to read and Hobbit films to watch. >.<
  • busting out the sequins and stockings for a festive outfit, and spending Christmas Eve with my boyfriend. 
  • getting an A on my first tutor-marked test paper for my English Language course.
  • befriending nice dogs at work. My colleagues and I encourage customers to bring their furbabies into the shop so we can make a fuss of them.
  • the caramel fudge hot chocolate at Costa. Total mouthgasm. Possibly the best thing I have ever drunk. *gently slides into a sugar coma*
  • this poem.
  • my Cryptozoology Tracking Society T-shirt from Maiden Voyage. It fits just right, the print is everything I could ever want, and it glows in the dark!

Perfect gifts from my boyfriend.

A photo posted by Amy Townsend (@wildlavendergirl) on

Saturday, 2 January 2016

My Year In Books: 2015

Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2016.

Books are one of the most important things in my life. People come and go, but a good story is forever. Reading cheers me up, calms me down, keeps me sane. So when I was looking back at the year just gone, thinking about a post to sum up the whole shindig, I wasn't terribly surprised when I noticed that a lot of the high points of my previous year were, in one way or another, book-related. And so, this post was born.

Firstly, I feel that I should explain to you that I have three major rules in my approach to reading:

  1. I never DNF. (Did Not Finish.) I nod wisely when people point out that life's too short to slog your way through a book that you're not enjoying. And in fact I totally agree. But it's a quirk of mine that I cannot stand to leave a book unfinished. Even if it's the worst piece of shite that ever disgraced a bookshelf. Even if it takes me years. I will finish it. 
  2. I never read a good book only once. A lot of my friends and fellow readers are happy to read a good book once, and then send it on its merry way to another human who, hopefully, will enjoy it just as much. I don't do that. Average books? Mediocre books? Sure, they go to the charity shop. But my favourites? Oh no. Those I collect, curate, hoard like a mad dragon, and re-read sometimes several times a year.
  3. A story is a story; words are words. Comic books and graphic novels are 'real' books. Novellas are valid. Short stories are valid. Poetry and essays are valid. e-books are valid. Audio books are valid. And when not reading any of the above, it's a solid bet that I've got a fanfiction tab open on my phone's browser. I don't do book snobbery.
With that said, this was my 2015 in books:

Total books read (including re-reads): 144
I usually manage about 100-110 so this was obviously a good year. Mind you, I haven't tackled that many chunky books and I've been reading more comics, manga and novellas, so that's probably why.

Changes
I've been recording what I read in journals and notepads for the last three years or so (including re-reads), but this year I got GoodReads. I never thought that an app would actually enhance my enjoyment of reading, but it's great. The recommendations are on point. I can keep track of what I've read and - better yet - what I want to read. If I hit a weak point in a book, I can pop onto the reviews and see if others have noticed the same thing. I can see what my friends are reading, which has led to a whole load of new discoveries - for example, one friend noticed I was into comics, and lent me Saga. Now I'm hooked.

Speaking of which, another change in my reading habits this year was a swing away from traditional novels back towards comic books. I was nutso about comics when I was younger - my dad had a whole stack of old-school Marvel in his junk shop that I used to sit and read during the holidays - but had drifted away during my teens. Rediscovering the genre through friends' recommendations has been really exciting.

Lastly, this was the year I got a secondhand Kindle. I'm very cautious about what I put on there - free e-books and Kindle-exclusive novellas for the most part, because frankly if I can get something as a physical book, I will. I don't dislike e-readers, but I feel it supplements my paperback mountain rather than replacing it.

Low points
Of course, the biggest and most obvious low point for bookworms of 2015 was the death of Terry Pratchett. I'd love to say something poignant, but I've nothing to say that hasn't been said already, and better. Terry was an absolute genius writer; if you've never read anything of his I'd recommend my favourites, Reaper Man, Hogfather and Equal Rites.

On a less emotional note, I did read some books this year that were slightly disappointing. Of course this is only my personal opinion, and a professional critic I am not, but to name a few:
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. This one has been really popular and I wholeheartedly expected to like it... but I didn't. Celaena was such a stereotypical sexy female badass that she felt really 2D; I couldn't connect with her. Nevertheless I will give the rest of the series a go, because I really WANT to like it.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I loved the concepts here but was disappointed by the execution; there was very little tension or atmosphere, awkward first-person narration and the characters were practically cardboard.
Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice. Not written by Neil Gaiman, but a concept of his. I actually would like to see a more Gaiman-y take on this idea by the man himself, because this one was disappointing. Gratutitous violence splattered over a simplistic plot does not a good comic make. 

I also cried my eyes out reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. A great book but it broke my heart so badly I'm not sure I can continue with the series. Ouch. :( 

Standouts
Neuromancer by William Gibson. I read this before when I was much younger and found it a bit hard going - this year, I loved it. I've been trying to incorporate more sci-fi into my reading repertoire and this was a favourite, although it's now in the hands of my boyfriend, who likes a slice of gritty cyberpunk.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I have adored this series since picking up Daughter of Smoke and Bone on a whim, so finally reading the conclusion of the trilogy was fantastic. I did feel the conclusion was a little rushed after all the build-up, but it didn't diminish the overall awesomeness of this series for me.
Welcome to Night Vale, the novelisation of the brilliant podcast, was one of my most-anticipated books of the year, and it didn't disappoint. 

This Book is Full of Spiders was one of my earliest reads of the year and I thought it was bloody brilliant, so of course, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, David Wong's first non-John and Dave book, was a source of much excitement for me. However, I noticed that I seemed to enjoy it more than a lot of reviewers, so make of that what you will. 

One of my favourite moments of the whole year was sitting in a coffee-shop-slash-bookstore with my better half, drinking coffee, eating cake and reading Soppy by Philippa Rice together.

This was also the year I got my second book-related tattoo, quoted from Instructions by Neil Gaiman.

Other big hitters for me this year were: the Rat Queens comic, The Neon Court by Kate Griffin, Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near, the aforementioned Saga, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding, Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint and Lips Touch by Laini Taylor.
A corner of my room; that top shelf is where I keep my very favourite books.
2016
I have a massive to-read pile for 2016, but since I left my job in the secondhand shop I will no longer have quite the level of access to cheap books that I did, so it gives me chance to shift some of the heap. Top of the pile are The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, because I love me some Holly Black, and finally finishing The Lord of the Rings (I haven't read the last volume!) .

I'm looking forward to Gala Darling's Radical Self Love; I missed it when it was out briefly last year but it's coming back again in 2016.

So what about you guys? What did you read last year? Most-anticipated read? What did you love (or hate)? Best book-related moments? And what are you excited about for 2016? Hit me with your best shot.

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